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Shootout: Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon vs Leica 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 Elmarit-SL ASPH vs Leica 24-90: Downed Aspen in Lee Vining Creek (Panasonic S1R)

See my L-mount mirrorless wishlist and Leica M wishlist.

In Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon Aperture Series: Mosaic I stated:

This series shows that the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon can nonetheless outperform native lenses (!) when stopped down, in spite of the serious damage to its performance caused by ray angle effects of the sensor cover glass. See MTF on Mirrorless Cameras for just how serious the damage is. One wonders what Zeiss could do for a native design.

This series is remarkable in that by f/5.6 to f/8, total performance across the field stomps on the performance seen with native lenses for the Panasonic S1R, albeit with the downside of accentuated field curvature. It is by far best total performance I have yet seen of any lens yet tested on the S1R, including two Panasonic LUMIX S and three Leica SL lenses (April 2019). Which is astounding, to say the least.

Actually, field curvature does not turn out to be that much of an issue, the ZM 35/1.4 still delivering a better edge-to-edge sharpness where intended. At least one reader took my comments out of context, to be clear: wider apertures suck on the ZM 35/1.4 due to ray angle, and I’m talking about edge-to-edge in the nominal plane of focus at f/5.6 and f/8, which incorporates all factors.

Skepticism can reasonably be expected from Leica SL shooters, both from cognitive commitments to Leica optical prowess as well as from dumbing-down the lens resolution to a 24 megapixel sensor.

As I strictly avoid assertions I cannot back up with proofs, I now present a 3-way field shootout in diglloyd L-Mount Mirrorless:

Shootout: Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon vs Leica 16-35mm f/3.5-45 Elmarit-SL ASPH (Panasonic S1R)

Includes images at 24, 47 and 124 megapixels, all downsampled from the 187MP Multi-Shot High-res mode images, plus crops and black and white renditions.

This example is a prime example of what is possible in Multi-Shot High-Res modeblack and white shooters should take special note of the incredible detail and image quality and total freed0m from noise. From what I can tell, the results here are better than (single shot) medium format quality of any size.

Cognitive dissonance can make heads explode, so Leica fans are forewarned as to the findings. However, the comparison has nuances and more than one consideration, and there are good things to say about the Leica 16-35mm f/3.5-45 Elmarit-SL ASPH at 35mm. The Leica 24-90... not so much.

Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 was mounted on the Panasonic S1R using the Novoflex Leica M Lens to Leica SL/T Camera Body.

f8 @ 1/4 sec Multi-Shot HighRes, ISO 50; 2019-04-23 18:38:43
Panasonic S1R + Leica 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 Super-Vario-Elmarit-SL ASPH @ 35mm
ENV: Lee Vining Canyon, altitude 7600 ft / 2316 m
RAW: Enhance Details, LACA corrected, distortion corrected

[low-res image for bot]
f8 @ 1/4 sec Multi-Shot HighRes, ISO 50; 2019-04-23 18:38:43
Panasonic S1R + Leica 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 Super-Vario-Elmarit-SL ASPH @ 35mm
ENV: Lee Vining Canyon, altitude 7600 ft / 2316 m
RAW: Enhance Details, LACA corrected, distortion corrected

[low-res image for bot]

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