James K writes:
I just bought a mint condition Zeiss ZF.2 28mm f/2 Distagon on Ebay.
My first test resulted in interesting image. There is a very pronounced 3D like effect that I don’t remember ever seeing before. Am I imagining this?
Curvature of field in abundance. It is an odd lens. Wide angle but with a large close-up focusing range. What images would require this ability?
The lens is not very good at anything over 30 feet.
[a few days later]
I take back the “not much good over 30 feet" comment. I like this 28mm lens.
DIGLLOYD: the Zeiss ZF.2 28mm f/2 Distagon is a classic reportage-style lens that at heart is a film-era design, which I deem most appropriate for environmental portraits and similar. See my previous discussion of the Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon as well as Outdoor Portraits (Yosemite) and Environmental Portraits.
There is indeed a 3D effect to its rendering which I like very much. I would liken it to some Leica M lenses, which are well-loved for this effect. And yes, field curvature is part of this effect. My main complaint is that I would like to see an improved version which corrects LOCA completely, and SLOCA better.
I would not consider it the best choice for architecture and classic landscape photography, though it can deliver lovely images nonetheless. There are not really any better alternatives—28mm is a poorly served space. In fact, on the D800E, it easily trumps the Leica M Monochrome with Leica’s 28mm. So it has reserves enough to be a winner over much more expensive gear. Still, I prefer using it at close to medium range. Close-up, it is great fun; see Examples — Close-up.
Modern lenses optimized for a flat field such as the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 don’t have that same feel as the Zeiss ZF.2/ZE 28/2 Distagon. If one wants a flat field, it is best to stick with lenses designed for digital (recent designs). But that same higher level of correction will “draw” differently and may not be preferred by all—some users will pine for the classic look. This is why owning several lenses of the same focal length is not duplicative at all (chosen wisely at least).
As for sharpness at distance, choice of focus matters. See Lundy Canyon Beaver Dam for a distance shot (as well as other examples in the review). One can never be sure of a used lens either.
The entire apertures series for this image is found in Four Aspens, Late Dusk.