When it comes to the sheer quality of output, ZEISS glass is usually the top of any photographer’s list. Anybody who has been playing around with lenses for a good deal of time either owns some form of ZEISS optics or wouldn’t mind getting their hands on one. This is easier said than done for many, as the cost of ZEISS lenses is usually reserved for the serious hobbyist or professional. The ZEISS Distagon T* f/1.4 35mm ZM is one such lens, which features a highly usable focal length and an old school way of doing things.
This type of lens isn’t for the faint of heart, mainly due to its asking price and it’s fully manual workings. You will have to be quick off the mark to capture impromptu moments.
Although the ZEISS Distagon T* f/1.4 35mm ZM has a very old school look and feel, it’s relatively new, as it was released in 2014. The lens has an all-metal construction and a medium weight-bearing of 381g. Being an all manual focusing lens, the ZEISS T* 1.4/35 ZM has a solid feeling aperture ring, sectioned off in 1/3-stop increments. The focusing ring is extremely smooth to turn, with a ridged surround with a very tactile feel.
The aperture on this lens comes in at f/1.4, which should make it very good in low-light conditions. The optics are wrapped around a Distagon design, which features 10 elements arranged in seven groups. The optical arrangement also includes a pair of aspherical elements, along with three anomalous partial dispersion elements and the renowned ZEISS T* anti-reflective coating. The optical arrangement has a floating element design to retain consistency through the focusing range.
The T* 1.4/35 ZM also has a higher than normal 10-blade diaphragm, which should, in theory, produces more rounded highlight balls. The lens also doesn’t come with any type of hood, which is a bit mean of ZEISS considering the cost of the lens.
The ZEISS Distagon T* f/1.4 35mm ZM in Use
As expected from such a wide aperture lens, there is an obvious amount of vignetting in the corners of the frame at f/1.4. This effect drops significantly by f/4 and, luckily, there are good lens profiles available to correct the effect in software.
The ZEISS Distagon T* 1.4/35 ZM is quite sharp at f/1.4 in the center of the frame, with the mid-frame and corners just a touch behind. The lens starts to get sharper by f/2.8 and really hits its zenith by f/4.
When the lens is stopped down to f/8 the whole frame is tack sharp up to f/11, from which diffraction starts to take a toll. It’s also an idea with this lens to stop down first then focus to make sure as much of the center and edges are as tack sharp as possible.
Although the ZEISS Distagon T* f/1.4 35mm ZM has reasonable flare resistance, a lens hood would have been handy. Therefore, you need to take extra care when the sun is directly in the frame. Barrel distortion is extremely well handled, with only minimal amounts present.
Bokeh is better than expected, as a 35mm focal length doesn’t always need a creamy background blur like a dedicated portrait lens. The inclusion of the two aspherical elements doesn’t take anything away from the smoothness of the background blur, with highlight balls being perfectly rounded in the center of the frame. The edges of the frame have less defined highlight balls, which are only noticeable at very close focusing distances.
When it comes to chromatic aberration, the ZEISS is on a par with other 35mm offerings, showing visible signs of blue and purple fringing on high contrast areas at f/1.4. Stopping down to f/2.8 eliminates this effect almost entirely.
How Does It Compare?
The Sigma 35mm 1.4 DG HSM Art is a very popular choice in the 35mm prime lens arena, with extremely sharp optics. The Sigma lens is also significantly cheaper than the ZEISS, but is also twice as heavy. The Sigma benefit from autofocus and also has a fast f/1.4 aperture. Considering its price point, it provides excellent value for money, especially if clinical sharpness is your number one criteria.
As 35mm lenses are a popular choice, other high-quality options include the Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f/1.7, ZEISS Loxia 35mm 2.0, and the ZEISS Milvus 35mm f/2. From this batch of lenses, the ZEISS Distagon T* f/1.4 35mm ZM definitely holds its own with its f/1.4 aperture and excellent overall image rendition.
However, the realities of life usually come down to how much money you can ultimately throw at a lens. This is why the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 has become such a popular choice as it strikes an excellent balance between cost and optics.
|ZEISS Distagon T* f/1.4 35mm ZM||Sigma 35mm 1.4 DG HSM Art|
|Close Focusing Distance||70cm||30cm|
Despite there being quite a bit of competition from other 35mm prime lenses, the ZEISS Distagon T* f/1.4 35mm ZM still holds up in this department. The lens does have a few negative aspects in the sense of vignetting, obvious signs of chromatic aberration when the aperture is wide open, and the lack of a lens hood would have helped out with some of the lens flare issues at times.
However, the ZEISS Distagon T* 1.4/35 ZM has very good micro contrast levels, and a little stopping down of the aperture makes the lens useful in a wide variety of scenarios. Like any lens out there, the pros and cons are really dependent on your own particular needs. You can’t argue with the usefulness of the f/1.4 aperture and when the aperture is stopped down to f/2.8, it rivals the competition with sharpness levels.
The price point may still be detrimental to some. But when you add up the sum of its parts, the ZEISS Distagon T* f/1.4 35mm ZM is definitely worth the money.