Lens Review
Zeiss® ZF Lenses for Nikon® F-Mount
©Darrell Young

I had the privilege of using three Zeiss ZF® for Nikon lenses extensively during the recent Annual Nikonians Photography Adventure Trip. (ANPAT 2006)

I used the 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm on my Nikon D2X digital SLR camera.


Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2, w/ Nikon D2x

These lenses are manual focus (MF) and might seem like a step backwards to some. However, if you've used manual lenses before, and who hasn't, you'll find these lenses to be like a return to home. You've been there before, and it's very comfortable. Of course, if your camera cannot meter with MF lenses, you'll need to use a handheld meter, or change camera bodies to one like the Nikon D200, or the pro D2 series.

Each lens is very solid in construction with a reassuring weight and feel. There is no plastic in these fine lenses. The focusing rings turned smoothly, fluidly, and without excessive rotation to the focus point. Imagine turning an old bank vault tumbler knob and you'll get the idea for the feel of the focus. Substantial weight and smoothness.

The aperture rings were snappy, with crisp detent action. The extra detent points between the main apertures allowed me to set the exposure more accurately than most other MF lenses I've used.

I fell in love immediately with the 35mm Zeiss Planar due to its nice size, contrast, speed, and bokeh. I want one! I would use it as a "normal" lens on my D2x with its DX (APS-C) sized sensor.


The 50mm Zeiss Distagon lens allowed me to reach out a bit more than the 35mm for images such as this autumn stream in the Tremont area of the Great Smoky Mountains. This is one of the best images I have ever taken, and is one sharp and contrasty image. I feel sure the Zeiss lens added substantially to its high quality. Owning the 50mm would be a pleasure!

The 85mm was especially nice for handholding casual portrait shots. The speed of the lens allows very shallow depth-of-field for subject isolation.

I also used the 85mm Zeiss for some nature shots where I needed the extra pulling power of the short telephoto lens. While not a long tele, this lens acts like a 127mm lens on my Nikon D2x. Juuust right for a medium range nature shot.

A good example is the small cascade shot below, which is so incredibly sharp that you'd swear you are looking through a window.

After shooting for a day with the 85mm, I realized that it is my favorite Zeiss lens. I'll own one of these sooner rather than later!

Zeiss Distagon T* 50mm f/1.4 ZF, Nikon D2x, Tremont
The 85mm is not excessive in size and weight, even with all that beautiful glass grabbing light up front. I also liked the spring loaded metal lens shade on the lens. Very precise! An incredibly nice lens by any measure. Just look at the sharpness in the cascade image below!

Roaring Fork in Great Smoky Mountains with the Zeiss Planar T* f/1.4 ZF and the Nikon D2x

In my opinion, the three lenses are an exquisite set. The cost is not overwhelming, and the quality is outstanding. Owning just one is not possible. All three together are to be desired!

Download a brochure for the entire Zeiss ZF for Nikon lens line here. See Zeiss ZF website here.

Zeiss® Distagon T* 35mm f/2 ZF
Image Specs: Nikon D2x, 4288x2848, JPEG, 8.3 MB, 1/2 sec @ f/21
Download PDF Datasheet
Zeiss® Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 ZF
Image Specs: Nikon D2x, 4288x2848, JPEG, 8.3 MB, 2.5 sec @ f/16
Download PDF Datasheet

Zeiss Planar T* 85mm f/1.4 ZF
Image Specs: Nikon D2x, 4828x2848, JPEG, 7.1 MB, 1/6th sec @ f/16
Download PDF Datasheet

If you want to experience the quality of yesteryear while using a lens designed for today's digital and film cameras, get yourself one or three of these Zeiss lenses. Finally, a lens that can resolve enough to show what fine detail these Nikon® camera sensors actually capture. Your camera will rejoice, as will you, when you see what a prime Zeiss lens will do for your photography.

Keep on capturing time...

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Copyright © MMVI by Darrell Young, a.k.a. Digital Darrell, All Rights Reserved