Zeiss 35mm f/2
Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon ZM in silver (43mm filters, 7.9 oz./224g, about $1,005, also comes in black). enlarge. This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially these directly to it at Adorama in silver or in black, or at Amazon in silver or in black, or locally at OC Camera, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Here's the link to the optional hood at Adorama. It helps me keep reviewing these specialized lenses when you get yours through these links, thanks! Ken.
The biggest gotcha with this Zeiss lens is its incompatible 43 x 0.75mm filter thread, making it very difficult to use this lens as part of a system. You'll need to step it up to 46mm, or take your chances and step it down to 39mm to integrate into a LEICA system. Unless Zeiss is planning to introduce this lens in Nikon S mount that used 43 x 0.5mm filters, owning a lens with a one-of-a kind 43mm thread is a bad idea.
The other gotcha is that this lens always blocks your LEICA viewfinder somewhat, even without a hood. LEICA's SUMMICRONs are smaller due to their simpler optical designs, and rarely block the finder. This larger Zeiss 35/2 does block the viewfinder a bit, even without the hood.
There are very good reasons that this Zeiss lens is better optically than LEICA lenses: it uses a more complex 9-element design, and it's 25 years newer than the 7-element LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 and 8 years newer than the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH (7 elements including an asphere).
Zeiss has been an annoyance to LEICA since the 1930s, and this lens only makes it tougher to justify paying more for a LEICA lens.
Zeiss 35/2 Biogon ZM. enlarge.
LEICA lenses use 39mm filters, and sometimes 46mm filters for the larger lenses. This Zeiss takes 43mm filters, making it an odd lens to attempt to integrate into a practical system.
Let's put this to rest right away.
Here are crops from the center of LEICA M9 DNG images at 100% as processed through Apple Aperture 3 at its default sharpening settings.
Printed full-image at this size, these would be about 52 x 35" (130 x 90cm) prints, at least as seen on most 100 DPI computer monitors:
The slight color blips on the branches are aliases, which are caused when the image formed on the sensor is so sharp at a light section is so small that it hits only single pixels at a time. The system creates a funny color, the alias, because by hitting only one CCD well, it is interpreted as being the color detected by that single well. The more color blips you see, the sharper the image.
The LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH is slightly sharper at f/2, while this Zeiss is much sharper than the LEICA at f/5.6.
Zeiss calls this the Carl Zeiss Biogon 2/35 ZM T*.
Biogon is Zeiss' trademark for reasonably symmetrical wide-angle lenses.
ZM means LEICA M mount.
T* is Zeiss' trademark for their multicoating.
Internal Diagram, Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZM. enlarge.
9 elements in 6 groups.
T* is Zeiss' trademark for their multicoating.
Front, Zeiss ZM 35mm f/2 at f/5.6. enlarge.
10 straight blades.
Stops down to f/22.
Angle of View top
38º by 54º (65º diagonally).
Actual Focal Length top
The actual focal length is the same as all the LEICA 35mm lenses against which I compared it. The angle of view doesn't vary.
Close Focus top
0.7 meters (2.3 feet).
Maximum Reproduction Ratio top
Area covered: 43 x 65 cm (17 x 26"), rated.
2.042" (51.84mm) diameter by 1.707" (43.35mm) extension from flange, measured.
7.918 oz. (224.5g), measured.
8.8 oz. (250g), specified.
The precision metal hood (part nr. 1365-667) isn't included, which is too bad, since it's very nice.
It sells for about $85 at Adorama.
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.
Announced at Photokina, 28 September 2004.
Shipping since top
Part Numbers top
Black Lens: 1365-659 or 30 82036.
Silver Lens: 1365-658 or 30 82035.
Scope of Delivery top
You only get the lens, caps and fancy paperwork.
The hood is $85 extra.
Made in top
The Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZM is a newer, more complex and in many ways better optical design than any LEICA SUMMICRON 35mm lens.
This Zeiss is super-sharp, as good as LEICA's best SUMMICRON-M ASPH, and this Zeiss has less distortion than any 35mm LEICA SUMMICRON made since 1969.
The only bad thing about this incredible lens is its idiotic 43mm filter thread. Who wants to carry a second complete set of 43mm filters to support this lens?
Bokeh, the character of out of focus backgrounds, not simply how far out of focus they are, is a little better than average. It's about the same to a bit better than the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 (1979-1996) and LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH to which I compared it directly.
Here are crops from the center of 100% LEICA M9 images, focused on a reference phase lattice at 3 meters (10 feet) with synthetic reference vegetation at 15 meters (50 feet). Printed full-image at this size, these would be about 52 x 35" (130 x 90cm) prints, at least as seen on most 100 DPI computer monitors:
The color balance of this Zeiss is neutral.
The calibration is right-on: the meter in my M9 tracks each full-stop perfectly throughout the entire range, even at the largest aperture.
The Zeiss ZM 35/2 has no distortion.
If you like to enlarge LEICA M9 files to 200% and drop rulers on them in Photoshop, this Zeiss has no visible distortion at 3 meters as tested.
Here is Zeiss' claimed distortion curve, however Zeiss doesn't specify the distance at which it is measured.
Claimed Distortion, percent
Distortion, Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZM.
Zeiss ZM 35mm f/2. enlarge.
Ergonomics are great, except for some minor finder blockage not present with the LEICA SUMMICRONs.
The numbers and their indices are easy to read in any light, except that the red footage markings on the black version are invisible in anything other than daylight. They are much clearer in these pictures than they are in practice. The silver lens is always easy to read.
Focus is silky-smooth, has no play, and slides with a fingertip. There is a raised metal nubbin on the bottom to help you focus with just one finger, as well as be able to set distance by feel in the dark.
The aperture ring also flicks with a fingertip. It has a detents at third stops, and the full stops aren't more deeply detented, so if you count clicks as I do, it can become confusing if you shoot LEICA lenses at the same time.
Falloff is visible at f/2 on a LEICA M9, and goes away at smaller apertures.
I've exaggerated this here, showing gray field shots against gray.
In the LEICA M9, there is no lens profile for this Zeiss lens. It works fine with any of the LEICA 35mm profiles, or with none at all.
These samples were shot with no lens profile, and then with the LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 11 310 11 311 profile. Set different profiles and you'll get different results.
Zeiss' claimed falloff performance:
Relative Illuminance, from Zeiss.
43mm filters? Zeiss has got to be kidding. This is a serious drawback for serious use as part of a larger LEICA system: no LEICA lenses take 43mm filters, so with this lens, you've sentenced yourself to having to carry a duplicate set of 43mm filters.
Any 43mm filter (0.75mm thread pitch) works great, with no vignetting. It works great with thick rotating filters, too.
Sadly, 43mm is a unique filter size. No LEICA lenses use 43mm filters. Nikon's rangefinder lenses of the 1940s and 1950s often used 43 x 0.5mm filters, but since this lens doesn't come in Nikon S mount, this incompatible filter size is this lens' biggest drawback: you'll have to pack a second complete set of filters just for this Zeiss lens.
You can step it up to 46mm to be compatible with LEICA's larger lenses, but then you can no longer use Zeiss' hood, and you'll get more finder blockage.
It probably works fine if you could find a 43mm -> 39mm step-down ring, but I couldn't.
There is minor finder blockage at all distances, even without a hood.
This is a drawback compared to LEICA's much small SUMMICRONs, which rarely block the finder.
Focus is smooth. It's easy to move with a fingertip.
Focus accuracy was perfect on a LEICA M9 at f/2.
With rangefinder cameras, if you get too picky, you'll never be happy. They all vary a little from sample to sample, but this is rarely, if ever a problem with 35mm lenses.
There are no color fringes as used on a LEICA M9.
Rear, Zeiss ZM 35mm f/2. enlarge.
This Zeiss 35/2 ZM is very well made. Leica has economized by using plastic for its focus tabs, while this Zeiss still uses solid metal for everything.
Filter threads and hood mount
Seem like chromed brass.
Barrels, aperture and focus rings
Seem like aluminum.
Matte silver anodized or semi-gloss black enamel.
Seem like brass.
Seems like chromed brass.
Engraved and filled with paint.
Blue index dot
The more you know about photography, the more you know that lens sharpness doesn't matter.
This said, this Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon is among the sharpest 35mm lenses ever made.
The only LEICA lens which is as sharp is the current LEICA SUMMICRON-M 35mm f/2 ASPH.
As tested on a LEICA M9 at infinity in DNG
This Zeiss is already so sharp at f/2 in the center that it can excite aliasing on an M9!
Everything better than at f/2. The center is ridiculously sharp, even a bit sharper than the LEICA ASPH and certainly sharper than the SUMMICRON-M.
The corners are a little sharper than the SUMMICRON-M, but not as sharp as the ASPH.
The center is ridiculously sharp, much sharper than even the LEICA ASPH and the SUMMICRON-M.
The corners are about the same as the SUMMICRON-M, while the ASPH has by far the sharpest corners.
The center is ridiculously sharp, significantly sharper than the LEICA ASPH and certainly the SUMMICRON-M.
The corners are sharpest with the LEICA ASPH, while the SUMMICORN-M and this Zeiss ZM have softer corners.
The corners get sharper in this Zeiss ZM at f/8 than f/5.6.
The center is ever so slightly dulled from diffraction.
The corners get sharper in this Zeiss ZM at f/11 than f/8.
The center is dulled from diffraction. This is the first aperture at which this Zeiss 35/2 ZM probably won't excite aliases on a LEICA M9.
Zeiss's MTF curve for the 35mm f/2 ZM at f/2 (white light, 10, 20 ü. 40 c/mm).
Zeiss's MTF curve for the 35mm f/2 ZM at f/4 (white light, 10, 20 ü. 40 c/mm).
With a straight 10-bladed diaphragm, the Zeiss 35/2 should make 10-pointed sunstars on brilliant points of light.
I've been making comparisons throughout this review, especially my sharpness comparison above.
This Zeiss 35mm f/2 ZM is as good, or better, optically than any LEICA SUMMICRON 35mm f/2, however this Zeiss' ergonomics are inferior due to a queer filter size and more finder blockage.
* Actual measured.
** With auxiliary finder optimization optics.
This Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon ZM is optically superb, but its unique filter size makes it a bear to deploy as part of a larger system. It's also longer and blocks the finder more than any 35mm LEICA SUMMICRON.
I have a real problem with having to buy and carry a second set of 43mm filters to support this lens in actual shooting. I'd pass on this lens purely because of the oddball 43mm filter size, and it has more finder blockage than any of LEICA's 35mm SUMMICRONs.
For people who don't use filters, this is an excellent lens. The LEICA ASPH is sharper in the corners, while this Zeiss is sharper in the center than the ASPH, and has much less distortion than the SUMMICRON ASPH!
If you find the time I take to research all this helpful, my biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially these directly to it at Adorama in silver or in black, or at Amazon in silver or in black, or locally at OC Camera, when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Here's the link to the optional hood at Adorama. It helps me keep reviewing these specialized lenses when you get yours through these links, thanks! Ken.
Arrgh, I hate 43mm filters. I'd consider a step-up to 46mm or a step-down to 39mm, or honestly, I prefer the LEICA lenses purely on their standard 39mm filter size.
For B&W outdoors, you want a yellow filter standard, like the B+W 43mm #022.
For color print film or digital, you want a B+W 43mm UV filter for protection.
Help me help you top
I support my growing family through this website, as crazy as it might seem.
The biggest help is when you use any of these links to Adorama, Amazon, eBay, Ritz and Calumet when you get anything. It costs you nothing, and is this site's, and thus my family's, biggest source of support. eBay is always a gamble, but all the other places always have the best prices and service, which is why I've used them since before this website existed. I recommend them all personally.
If you find this page 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.
As this page is copyrighted and formally registered, it is unlawful to make copies, especially in the form of printouts for personal use. If you wish to make a printout for personal use, you are granted one-time permission only if you PayPal me $5.00 per printout or part thereof. Thank you!
Thanks for reading!