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Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 ZM
Leica M Mount Biogon (2004-)
© 2009 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 ZM

Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 ZM in black (46mm filters, 7.4 oz/210g, about $880, also comes in silver). enlarge. I'd get it at Adorama, Amazon, or locally at OC Camera. It helps me keep reviewing these specialized lenses when you get yours through these, links, thanks! Ken.


December 2009     Leica-Mount Lens Reviews

More Zeiss Reviews  


Introduction         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations


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The Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 ZM lens for Leica is superb.

This Zeiss is a little better optically than the LEICA ELMARIT-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH, however this Zeiss is a little bigger, and thus this Zeiss blocks a bit of your finder. The LEICA ELMARIT-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH is so tiny it doesn't.

This Zeiss costs about $880, half of the LEICA ELMARIT-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH, and less than any used Leica 28mm lens, which sell for at least $1,000.

The reason to get the Leica 28/2.8 ASPH is not its optics, it's because of the Leica's superior tiny size.

Zeiss has been a pain in Leica's side ever since the 1930s, and this great ZM lens is no help. It works as well as the Leica lens for half the price, if the larger size doesn't bother you.

A huge advantage of this Zeiss lens is that you can stack two 46mm filters on it without vignetting on full-frame!

Zeiss ZM 28mm f/2.8.

Zeiss 28/2.8 ZM. enlarge.


This Leica-M mount lens works perfectly on every Leica M ever made, from the LEICA M3 of 1954 through today's LEICA M9.

It also works on every other Leica M mount camera, like the Minolta CLE, Zeiss Ikon and those dirty little Voigtländers.

On the CLE, the 28mm frame displays along with the 90mm ticks, same as it does with the LEICA ELMARIT-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH.

On Leicas, it calls up the 28mm frame just like any other Leica lens.


Specifications         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations


Zeiss calls this the Carl Zeiss Biogon 2.8/28 ZM T*.

Biogon is Zeiss' trademark for reasonably symmetrical wide-angle lenses.

More from Zeiss on the Biogon.

ZM means Leica M mount.


Optics        top

8 elements in 6 groups.

T* is Zeiss' trademarks for their multicoating.


Focal Length, Actual        top

Zeiss specifies no actual design focal length.

This Zeiss 28mm is a little bit wider than the LEICA ELMARIT-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH, covering about 2.2% more linearly.

Since Leica specifies the 28/2.8 ASPH at 28.5mm, this puts the Zeiss at 27.9mm.



Zeiss ZM 28mm f/2.8.

Front, Zeiss ZM 28mm f/2.8 at f/5.6. enlarge.

10 straight blades.

Stops down to f/22.

Third-stop clicks.


Close Focus

0.5m (18").

The lens focuses this close, but the rangefinders of most modern Leicas only couple as close as 0.7m, while older Leicas like the M3 only couple as close as 1 meter. You simply guess (or use a tape measure) with these cameras and set it on the lens.

Leica's lenses don't focus this close.


Maximum Reproduction Ratio



Size        top


37.65mm (1.482") extension from flange.

51.15mm (2.014") overall length.

51.26mm (2.018") maximum diameter (focus ring).


46mm x 0.75mm (E46) screw-in filters.



Zeiss simply specifies 51mm long.


Weight        top

Lens alone: 7.397 oz (209.7g), measured.

Hood: 0.620 oz. (17.6g), measured.

Lens and hood: 8.017 oz. (227.3g), measured.

7.8oz. (220g), specified.


Hood        top

Zeiss ZM 28mm f/2.8.

Zeiss 13 65666 Hood on 28/2,8. enlarge.

The precision metal 13 65666 hood isn't included, which is too bad, since it's very nice.

It sells for $69.

It also fits the Zeiss 25mm f/2.8 ZM.

Zeiss' metal hood is much sturdier than Leica's plastic hoods.

This Zeiss hood bayonets and locks. The only way to get it off is by firmly pushing it towards the camera to unlock and then rotating. It is spring loaded so it will never fall off, unlike Leica hoods.


Introduced        top

Announced 28 September 2004.


Shipping since         top



Part Numbers        top

Black Lens: 1365-653.

Silver Lens: 1365-652

Hood: 1365-666.


Scope of Delivery        top

You only get the lens and caps.

The hood is extra.


Made in        top



Performance         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

The Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 ZM is as good a 28mm lens as I've tested. Only the LEICA SUMMICRON 28mm f/2 ASPH might be better.

Zeiss' 28mm f/2.8 for the Contax G is also as good, or a little better.

This ZM lens on the M9 is as good as, and often sharper than, Leica's ELMARIT-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH. I doubt I'd see any difference on Velvia 50.


Diaphragm Calibration        top

The calibration is right-on: the meter in my M9 tracks each full-stop click perfectly.


Distortion           top

The Zeiss ZM 28/2.8 has no visible distortion.

If you blow up M9 images to 200% and drop rulers on them, use a value of +0.4 in Photoshop's Lens Distortion Correction Filter to correct it at 3 meters (10 feet) and at infinity.


Ergonomics        top

Zeiss ZM 28mm f/2.8.

Zeiss ZM 28mm f/2.8. enlarge.

The Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 has great ergonomics.

It's silky-smooth, zero-play focus ring turns with a fingertip.

The aperture ring also flicks with a fingertip.

Unlike current Leica 28mm lenses, there is a focus grip ring for two-finger focusing.

Worse than Leica, there is no finger tab, but instead a small single bump. You can wiggle Leica's tab either way with your finger in it, but need to shift your finger to move Zeiss' single bump.

I find the markings much more legible on Leica. The Zeiss' red foot markings and blue mounting index dot are invisible in practice. These are greatly enlarged and fortified as shown in my product photos here.


Filters, use with        top

I can stack two 46mm filters (10.5mm total ring thickness excluding threads) on this lens with no vignetting on full 24x36mm frame.

Three filters (15.35mm) vignettes a little.

This is great! Few if any lenses allow for more than one filter at a time.

Normal filters work great with the hood.

Oddly, Contax-brand filters won't work with the hood. Contax filters have rings with larger outside diameters which can't fit inside the hood.


Finder Blockage        top

This is what's worse about the Zeiss versus the LEICA ELMARIT-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH.

This larger Zeiss blocks the 28mm finder.

It's minor on the CLE, and moderate on other LEICAs.


Focus        top

I get perfect focus all the time.

The Leica rangefinder offers more precision than the large depth of field of this lens at f/2.8. Focus is always right-on.


Falloff (darker corners)         top

Falloff is minor at f/2.8, and invisible by f/4.

You almost can see a little below at f/2.8, but only because I've shot gray and presented it on a gray background. With actual photos, this is zero.


Zeiss ZM 28 mm f/2.8 falloff on full-frame M9 at infinity:


© 2009 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.


I've left these in color to show that there are no corner color-shift problems on the LEICA M9, even though there is no profile for this lens in the LEICA M9's menus.

I shot these examples with the 28mm f/2.8 ASPH setting. I didn't see much difference to worry about with the other two 28mm settings.


Flare and Ghosts        top

I can't get it to ghost.

You'll set your shutter curtains on fire before you'll make any ghost images.


Lateral Color Fringes        top

There no color fringes anywhere.


Materials and Construction        top

Rear, Zeiss ZM 28mm f/2.8

Rear, Zeiss ZM 28mm f/2.8. enlarge.

This Zeiss is made very, very well.

Filter threads, barrels, aperture and focus rings: Seem like aluminum.

Focus helicoids: Brass.

Mount and mounting grip: Chromed brass.

Markings: Engraved and filled with paint.

Blue index dot: Plastic.


Sharpness         top

The more you know about photography, the more you know that lens sharpness doesn't matter.

On the LEICA M9, this Zeiss lens is a little sharper than the LEICA ELMARIT-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH throughout most of the image at larger apertures. As always, the differences go away at smaller apertures.

I doubt I could see any difference on Velvia 50.

Both lenses are super-sharp, but this Zeiss is a little better. If you saw the results and worried about the small differences, you're probably more of a tweaker than a photographer. (I get in at a classified test range, but there is so much classified hardware lying around that it's too much work to spot it out just to show some boring crops for tweakers.)

Specifically, this Zeiss is sharp all over on an M9, even at f/2.8.

f/2.8: The far corners have a bit lower contrast. They are still sharp, just a little clouded compared to the center. I don't know of any lens better than this.

f/4: It's sharp and contrasty all over.

f/5.6: It gets a very little but better at f/5.6

f/8 is about optimum.

It's so good you'll probably never see any of this in anything but dedicated tests shot at infinity.

In real shots and on film, it will perform pretty much perfectly. Any lack of sharpness will be your fault, not the lens.'


Compared         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

The Zeiss' optics were compared above.

The Zeiss' mechanics are far better than Voigtländer.

The Zeiss' mechanics are on par with today's Leica. Which you prefer will depend more on your preference for anodize (Leica) or enamel (Zeiss) finish.

Leica vs Zeiss 28mm

LEICA ELMARIT-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH and Zeiss 28mm f/2.8 ZM. bigger.

LEICA 28/2.8 11804
Finder blockage
Minor to moderate
Minor to none
Minor (on G2)
Metal, locking bayonet
Plastic, latch-on
Metal screw-on
8/6, 1 asph.
10 blades
10 blades
6 blades
Close focus
Ring or nubbin
Black or silver
Black or champagne
Very good
$880 new
$1,800 new
$1,000 used
$175 used

* Dark red footage distances and blue mounting dot are almost invisible in the field.


Recommendations         top

Intro   Specs   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

This Zeiss allow the use of two 46mm filters without vignetting on full-frame, something none of the other 28mm lenses offer.

If you don't mind 46mm filters and a somewhat blocked viewfinder, this Zeiss ZM lens has extraordinary optics, at least as good as Leica's 28mm f/2.8 ASPH.

For Leica shooters, price is no object, and the smaller size of the LEICA ELMARIT-M 28mm f/2.8 ASPH is money well spent for the added convenience and better fonts used for the markings.

If price is a concern, the Zeiss Contax G 28mm f/2.8 has equally superb performance, and sells for a fifth of the price of the Zeiss ZM. For less than one of these new ZM lenses, you can buy a used Contax 28mm lens along with a Contax G2 body, which is a better camera than anything ever from Leica.

With Zeiss, you just can't lose.

Which would I prefer? Easy: I prefer the smaller size and lack of finder blockage of the Leica 28mm f/2.8 ASPH, especially if I was going to shoot it with other 39mm filter thread lenses like the 50mm SUMMICRON-M and TELE-ELMARIT-M 90mm f/2.8.

On the other hand, if I was deploying this with a set of lenses which used 46mm filters like the LEICA SUMMILUX 50mm f/1.4 ASPH and LEICA ELMARIT-M 90mm f/2.8, I'd grab this Zeiss instead.

I test these on an M9 because it's easier than running back and forth to the lab to see results. Anyone who can afford a quickly depreciating M9 can afford any lens they want, so for the M9, the choice should be made based on finder blockage and the filter size of the rest of your lenses. Your M9 will depreciate by more than the cost of any of these lenses before next Christmas, so get the lenses you deserve.


Deployment        top

I'd buy and use the metal 13 65666 hood.

Zeiss' dinky 46mm front cap is weak. I'd toss it, and plop a real Nikon 67mm cap directly on the front of the hood instead. That's right: the spring tabs of the larger 67mm cap let it fit perfectly on the front of the hood, and protects the edges of the hood at the same time.

For use with color transparency film outdoors, I prefer a 46mm B+W 81A filter.

For B&W outdoors, you want a yellow filter standard, like the B+W 46mm #022.

For color print film or digital, you want a Leica 46mm silver-ring UV filter for protection.

(the old M8 needed a Leica 46mm silver-ring IR filter.)



Many thanks to Alan King for loaning me this to review.


More Information

Zeiss' technical data.


Help me help you         top

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If you find this as helpful as a book you might have had to buy or a workshop you may have had to take, feel free to help me continue helping everyone.

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The biggest help is to use these links to Adorama, Amazon, Calumet, Ritz, J&R and when you get your goodies. It costs you nothing and is a huge help to me. eBay is always a gamble, but all the other places have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.

Thanks for reading!


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