Zeiss 18mm Comparison
Zeiss 18mm, Canon 16-35mm L II and Nikon 14-24mm AF-S. enlarge. It helps me keep adding to this site when you use these links to Adorama, Amazon, B&H, Calumet, Ritz, J&R and eBay to get your goodies. Thanks! Ken.
Zeiss Manual-Focus Lenses for Canon 15 September 2008
I shot these all in raw. I opened the files at the same size (6,144 pixels wide) in Photoshop CS4's Adobe Camera Raw at default settings.
These are all small crops from the equivalent of huge 40 x 60 inches (1 x 1.5 meter) prints.
Here we go.
Center, maximum aperture:
Lower left corner, maximum aperture:
Lower left corner, f/8:
The Nikon is worst.
Nikon is at a disadvantage because Nikon makes no high-resolution full-frame DSLRs for under $8,000. Thus Nikon has to complete here with the 12MP D3 and D700, which is more of a limiting factor than the excellent 14-24mm lens.
At full aperture, the Zeiss and Canon 5D Mark II is clearly the winner, although the Canon 16-35mm II isn't much worse.
At f/8, the Canon 16-35mm II is a little better.
I'd call this a tie between the Zeiss and the Canon in the center.
All these lenses are sharp in the center.
What makes or breaks a wide lens is its performance in the corners.
Wide-open, the Nikon is almost as good as the Zeiss. The Nikon is plagued by some lateral color, which the Nikon's in-camera processing would probably remove. Photoshop's Adobe Camera Raw isn't smart enough to fix that automatically.
Wide-open, the Canon 16-35mm L II is horrible. This is why Canon shooters used to go to great lengths to adapt the great Nikon 14-24mm lens to shoot on their cameras. If you think this is bad, remember that the 16-35mm L II is a new, improved version of the original 16-35mm L, which was even worse.
Stopped down, the three are similar, with a slight edge to the Zeiss.
Nikon's lens is possibly superior, but it's hampered by Nikon's lower resolution cameras.
What about the Canon 17-40mm f/4 L?
I've compared the 17-40mm to the 16-35mm II before. It is about the same.
What about Nikon's fixed 18mm lenses?
Nikon's 14-24mm is the best ultrawide Nikon has ever made.
On Canon, I'd give this Zeiss lens serious consideration for nature and landscape use. It's a better lens than Canon's own zooms, but then again, if you're shooting in daylight or on a tripod at smaller apertures (like f/8), there isn't much, if any, optical difference.
I'd also consider Canon's TS-E lenses as alternatives to Canon's zooms.
I haven't tried this lens on Nikon.
I prefer the feel of Nikon's 18mm f/2.8 AF-D or 18mm f/3.5 AI-s when shooting Nikon. I doubt I'd get one of these for use on Nikon, even if performance might, or might not, be better. I wouldn't sweat it until Nikon makes a competitive 24MP DSLR where these difference might become apparent. Nikon's flaw here is that as of Decemebr, 2009, Nikon makes no DSLR with more than 12MP for less then $8,000, thus Nikon is a non-player in this market. The 24MP D3X would look much better, but at $8,000, it doesn't play here.
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