Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 ZF - Review / Lab Test Report
Lens Reviews -
Nikon / Nikkor (APS-C)
Page 1 of 2
Lens kindly provided for testing purposes by Peter-Cornelius Spaeth!
Carl-Zeiss is one of the legendary brands in the business thanks to a history
dating back to the very beginnings of the optical industry. Regarding the number
the key designs it can almost be described as its cradle (established in 1846).
The company was a major player in the photography market till the late 1970s when
the well-known Japanese competition started to introduce AF SLRs and
Contax (run by Kyocera) didn´t follow. Zeiss remained active and successful
in other optical markets (inc. medium format lenses) but fell asleep regarding
its consumer (35mm) photography business till a new prince (Sony) kissed snow-white
(Zeiss). Thereafter it made Boooom and we´re now seeing several new products from
Zeiss for Sony (ZA) but some of the all-time classics were made available Nikon (ZF)
and, a bit weird, M42 (ZS) users. These classic lenses are designed in Germany
but made by Cosina in Japan under Zeiss quality control.
In the scope of this review we will have a look at
the Zeiss Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 ZF, a manual focus standard lens compatible to
the Nikon F(Ai-S)-mount (therefore ZF). The original symmetrical
Planar design was invented in 1896(!) but its various incarnations survived
the storms of time. In fact it is the most successful and most copied design
in the business. "Planar" originates in the German word plan ("plane"
in English) and refers to the flat reproduction characteristic (minimal field
By today´s standards the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 ZF is a bit of weirdo - it is
a brand new lens yet it doesn´t feature AF nor an electronically controlled aperture.
Reads: the lens has an automatic aperture but you have to stop down via the
aperture ring on the lens (1/2 stop steps) which means that it is not
compatible to the consumer-grade Nikon DSLRs a la D40 or D70.
However, it works just fine e.g. in aperture-priority mode on the D200. As
mentioned above the lens is actually manufactured by Cosina and Cosina has Nikon-compatible
AF lenses in their line-up so it remains a bit of mystery why Zeiss didn´t
take advantage of their expertise here. It would have broadened their
customer base substantially.
The build quality of the full-metal Zeiss (brass with chromium-plated brass
front bayonet) just screams quality. The fluted focus ring feels exceptionally
well damped. The lens does extend when focusing towards close distances.
The front element does not rotate.
|Equiv. focal length||75 mm (full format equivalent)|
|Equiv. aperture||f/2.1 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field)|
|Optical construction||7 elements in 6 groups|
|Number of aperture blades||9|
|min. focus distance||0.45 m (max. magnification ratio 1:6.7)|
|Dimensions||66 mm x 45 mm|
|Filter size||58 mm (non-rotating)|
|Hood||barrel shaped, metal, bayonet mount (supplied)|