Page 1 of 3
Review by Markus Stamm, published September 2016
Special thanks to Dr. Reinald Rudolphi for providing the lens
Zeiss has been late to join the ultrawide SLR lens challenge, but when they announced the Distagon 15mm f/2.8 in 2012, the price tag alone left no doubt that they are really serious about it. At the time of this review, more than 3 years later and with a just announced shift to the new Milvus product line now facing the end of its product life-cycle, the lens still retails for around 2500 EUR. That's quite some money for a prime lens that lacks AF. For a lot less, one could get the Nikon AF-S 14-24 for example, which delivers amazing sharpness at the same focal length, has AF and on top adds the flexibility of a zoom lens. So why would one even consider the Zeiss?
Well, there are a few things that set the Distagon apart from the competition. It does have a filter thread, for example, so it allows the use of regular screw mount filters, while competing lenses, like the already mentioned Nikkor, often require an optional and usually bulky holder for glass filters because of a protruding front element.
In addition, Zeiss claims to have put emphasis on reducing color fringing, distortion and flare. And then, of course, it's a member of their Classic line of lenses, delivering a handling and haptic experience that no current AF lens can offer. For some that alone might be reason enough to consider it.
We've praised the build quality of Zeiss ZF lenses here often already, and of course the Distagon 15/2.8 isn't any different from its siblings in this regard. From the mount to the petal hood, even including the quite huge front cap: everything is made from metal, the whole thing just feels amazingly solid and like very high quality.
Talking about the hood: it's fixed and not removable. This is awkward for those who prefer to use Lee-style filter holders. But, Zeiss to the rescue: you can have the hood (permamently) removed by Zeiss. At an additional fee, of course.
As already mentioned, the Distagon has a regular filter thread, but requires large (and usually quite expensive) 95mm filters. The front element does not rotate so using a polarizer is possible without any issues.
The physical length of the lens doesn't change with different focus settings.
As all lenses of the Zeiss Classic SLR line, the Distagon is a manual focus lens. However, the damped focus ring combined with a rather long focus throw makes manual focus a joy to use. In addition, the focus indicator in the viewfinder works with the Distagon, too, so there is some guidance on getting focus right, even though this is a challenge sometimes with such a wide lens, especially on a DX camera with a rather small viewfinder. If maximum sharpness is required, a tripod and Liveview should be used.
Thanks to a built-in CPU, the ZF.2 version of the Zeiss is technically the equivalent of a Nikon Ai-P lens, so it offers electronic coupling, camera controlled aperture, EXIF data in the images, etc. In other words: it works with any current Nikon DSLR, entry-level DX cameras included.
|Optical construction||15 elements in 12 groups incl. 2 aspherical elements|
|Number of aperture blades||9 (rounded)|
|min. focus distance||0.25 m (max. magnification ratio 1:18.2)|
|Dimensions||103 x 132 mm|
|Filter size||95 mm (non-rotating)|
|Hood||petal shaped, metal, fixed|
|Other features||Floating system, CPU and camera controlled aperture|