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Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon for Leica M: Best 35mm M Lens Yet?

Pre-order Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon (black) or Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon (silver) for Leica M at B&H Photo.

An in-depth technical discussion of the new Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon for Leica M is now published in Guide to Leica.

Includes MTF charts: full series from f/1.4 to f/16 on Leica M as well as f/1.4 - f/8 on Sony A7x cameras, field curvature chart at f/1.4 and f/4, the first five apertures of vignetting, distortion, effective aperture and DoF at the periphery discussion. Technical but highly instructive basis for understanding its performance.

With 1/3 the distortion of the Summilux, superior control over field curvature, more uniform and higher contrast wide open, more uniform sharpness sharpness across the field, absence of lateral color, no focus shift, the technical prowess on paper is confirmed by yesterday’s field shots showing.

The in-the-field performance at f/1.4 is very impressive, which means that the famed Leica 2010 35mm f/1.4 Summilux-M not only has competition, but now appears to play second fiddle to the ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon.

Sample images will go up later today, as many as I can do while packing for my trip on which I’ll be doing much more work with the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon.

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon for Leica M

The new ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM for professional reportage photography

The ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM is latest member of the ZM lens family

OBERKOCHEN/Germany, September 16, 2014

The ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM continues the success story of the ZEISS ZM lens family and sets a new standard in the market.

First, it is notable for its very high speed. With a maximum aperture of f/1.4, the lens creates a pleasing bokeh, which optically enhances the background as the main composition element, while at the same time directing attention to the main motif in the foreground. The ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM, which is optimized for digital sensors, also stands out for its excellent flat image field. Thanks to the Distagon‘s optical design, the lens delivers high resolution across the entire image field.

Very fast and precise – the ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM is a “storyteller”. The main motif becomes the focus, whether it’s a portrait, a group of people or an everyday scene. Details are recognizable, as well as facial expressions, movements of the body, and surface structures. At the same time, the focal length of 35 millimeters captures the surroundings, placing the object within its natural context. If the photographer wishes to direct the viewer’s attention even more, he or she may compose the picture with the large aperture of f/1.4 with a low depth of field, thereby separating the focused motif from its background.

In poor lighting conditions the ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM is also a top performer. The large aperture ensures the photographer is independent from the ISO limitations of his camera. The lens also has excellent focusing characteristics when the light is weak.

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon schematic

For generations of photographers, individuality, rangefinder camera and a no-compromising optical quality have been an inseparable combination. The focal length of 35 millimeters is, and remains, the ‘basic lens’ that should not be absent on any camera with an M-mount.

In classic rangefinder photography, short focal lengths such as the ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM have advantages over longer focal lengths when it comes to focusing, because the picture seen through the optical finder corresponds almost completely to the motif actually shot. The limitation imposed by the viewfinder frame is negligible for the composition of the image. With this angular field, image dimensions still remain natural. The combination of an elegant-reserved rangefinder camera and a 35-mm lens puts the photographer at the center of the action – not too far away and not too close. It is not for nothing that this system has always been the standard tool for discerning reportage photographers.

In addition, as a member of the ZM family of lenses, the ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM has all of its assets. Complex measures inside the lens minimize any stray light that might occur. Die T* anti-reflective coating from ZEISS guarantees a very high degree of flare control.

The aperture consists of 10 aperture blades and is therefore almost circular. The iris can be set in steps of 1/3 through the precise and sensitive notch mechanism and with exact photometric increments. The easy-to-grip focus ring with an ergonomic finger rest enables fast, precise focusing. The mechanical quality is outstanding; the focus operation is smooth, with a large rotation angle. And the robust all-metal barrel guarantees a long product life in the rough everyday life of professional photographers.

“For the M system there is today almost no alternative to the Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM. It is the best ZM lens that you can get under these conditions,” assures Christophe Casenave, Product Manager with ZEISS Camera Lenses.

The ZEISS Distagon T* 1,4/35 ZM will be available worldwide, in silver and black, starting in the fourth quarter of 2014. The expected recommended retail price is €1,679.84 * or US$ 2.290,00* (excl. VAT).

More information can be found at

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon @ f/2.8

Available in black or silver.

Daryl writes:

Was I surprised to see your review today.

I ordered the lens this morning after looking at the MTF curves and your review confirms my initial thoughts about a phenomenal lens.

Another great surprise is you have upped your game again, thank you, and I want to read all the information you have posted on this lens. Are you working with on the new data?

DIGLLOYD: I had a few days to prepare the material (MTF and other charts are courtesy of Carl Zeiss). My very own copy (silver) showed up less than 24 hours ago, but I got right on it and shot it last night. Examples coming shortly.

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