Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 50mm f/2 ZF (ZE) (on Canon EOS) - Lab Test / Review - Analysis
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (Full Format)
Saturday, 24 July 2010 12:50
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The Makro-Planar produces only a slight degree (~0.8%) of barrel distortion which isn't really field relevant anymore.

The chart above has a real-world size of about 120x80cm.


The Makro-Planar may not be as fast as a conventional standard prime lens but it suffers from a similar amount of light falloff at max. aperture (2.2EV). The vignetting is still visible at f/2.8 and you've to stop down to f/4 in order to resolve the issue.

MTF (resolution)

Macro lenses tend to be great performers and the Zeiss is no exception to the rule. At wide-open aperture the lens is already extremely sharp in the center whereas the borders/corner are a little softer but still in very good territory (just). The quality increases gradually the more you stop down and the global peak is reached around f/5.6 with an excellent center-to-edge quality. Diffraction is the limiting factor beyond f/8 so even Zeiss cannot fool physics. However, the results are still usable even at f/22.

Below is a simplified summary of the formal findings. The chart shows line widths per picture height (LW/PH) which can be taken as a measure for sharpness. If you want to know more about the MTF50 figures you may check out the corresponding Imatest Explanations

Chromatic Aberrations (CAs)

The Makro-Planar produces a very minimal amount of lateral CAs (color shadows at harsh contrast transitions). This is not field relevant and an excellent performance in this category.


The quality of the bokeh (out-of-focus blur) is naturally a major aspect for a macro lens. The Zeiss lens does a very good job here. The inner zone of out-of-focus highlights is very evenly rendered. However, the discs deteriorates to a "cat's eye" shape at large apertures which is less pleasing than the circular shape (which is achieved at smaller apertures). The blur in the focus transition zones is very smooth.

Bokeh Fringing / Longitudinal Chromatic Aberrations (LoCA)

There's a some bokeh fringing (greenish/purple halos in the focus transition zone) at f/2 but it's not overly disturbing. The issue is somewhat resolved at f/2.8 and not really relevant anymore from f/4 onwards.

Move the mouse cursor over the f-stop marks below to observe the respective LoCAs
f/2 f/2.8 f/4


Just like the rest of the Zeiss Z-series the Makro-Planar 50mm f/2 is not a lens for mainstream users due to the lack of AF. However, to put things into perspective - AF is not a killer feature for macro lens anyway but then you may also argue that its very large max. aperture may be sufficient to substitute a conventional 50mm lens.

Quality-wise it's an impressive lens offering a very high resolution till diffraction takes its toll. Lateral CAs are basically non-existent and the little amount of barrel distortion is not field relevant. At f/2 there's some vignetting which can be disturbing in some scenes so you should either stop down or resolve the issue during image post-processing. The bokeh (out-of-focus blur) is generally very smooth and buttery.

A comparison to competing macro lenses is a little difficult. On the upside the Zeiss is a full stop faster than but on the other hand the max. object magnification is "just" 1:2 which may be a somewhat limiting factor for macro enthusiasts (that's also true for the Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 macro though). So you gain and loose a little in terms of flexibility. The price tag is comparatively steep at around 1100-1200€/US$ so you really have to have an itch for such classic lenses.

Optical Quality:    
Mechanical Quality:
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