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A Visit to Zeiss, and back

Get Zeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

Traveling to and from Germany is/was not a relaxing thing: heading there, I went 31 hours with no sleep, which is pretty rough on me. Arriving in mid-afternoon in Aaelen on Wednesday, Ming and I went non-stop with scintillating conversations at Zeiss till fairly late (dinner was nice too but we “geeked out” there as well!). The next day we did the same, and Friday was more relaxed, but still fruitful.

Before going back, I fell asleep exhausted at about 4PM Friday, sleeping fitfully through the Friday-night rock concert below my hotel room, rose at 2:30 AM unable to sleep, and from then it was 24 hours before I got back to SFO on Saturday. But I did get some sleep on the way back, which helped a lot. Still, I slept 14 hours last night, which I have not done in many years! It felt good to get back on the bike today too.


Ming Thein has a superb writeup on the visit in A visit to Zeiss and thoughts on the Milvus line.

I spent much of my time there with Ming, most of it with the Zeiss team with special access and discussions—very enjoyable and productive. We could not document the lens assembly areas and such, but we were both pleased and excited about what transpired, and our shared line of thinking about product directions was well received.

We both took (only) the Sony A7R II with us. The simple fact of travel reality is that the A7R II and Batis lenses travel nicely. As well, the Sony can take just about any lens using an adapter (I took a Novoflex adapter for Nikon lenses).

The team at Zeiss is impressive in its camaraderie, and the vibe that results is something not so common in many companies. Zeiss has the zeitgeist of a modern collaborative team intent on making terrific products. I felt at ease there, and I wish to thank everyone I met at Zeiss for the generosity of their time, particularly you know who you are.

We got a firsthand look at how MTF testing is done on the Zeiss K8 (the K9 is a dog and only used to test anti-slobber lens coatings), along with insight into a certain brand-new fast prime (not Zeiss) showing an obvious “bad sample” symmetry problem. And then we saw just how good Otus is, including through the difficult blue area of the spectrum as well as through a 360° rotation of the lens (symmetry check)—mighty impressive.

Ming shot the Leica Q for his version of this image; I used the Batis 25mm f/2 on the Sony A7R II. This image is a case where even 42 megapixels generates some moiré. Image has been perspective corrected.

Zeiss main headquarters
f7.1 @ 1/1000 sec, ISO 100; 2015-09-09 23:06:26
Sony A7R II + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

[low-res image for bot]

Zeiss also makes lenses for chip-making (UV lithography). We were told that the current lenses must be manufactured to tolerances such that if the lens were the size of the country of Germany, it would deviate in its surface by no more than 3mm!

No Sony adapter for this puppy!
f3.5 @ 1/160 sec, ISO 100; 2015-09-09 23:25:32
Sony A7R II + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

[low-res image for bot]
Planetariums are a good business apparently
f5.6 @ 1/80 sec, ISO 100; 2015-09-09 23:30:20
Sony A7R II + Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon

[low-res image for bot]


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