Zeiss T* Makro Planar 100mm F2 on D800

July 16, 2012  •  1 Comment

This is a real 'Tuxedo Lens': you probably won't need it often but if you don't own one, you'll likely want to borrow or rent one from time to time. It is heavy (in a very very well made sort of a way) and it is Manual Focus only but it is also regarded by many as a true reference lens for full frame in this focal length range. If you want to really see what your D800 or E are capable of then, with the wind in the right direction, this is one of the best ways to do it. Click this image to see what a nice sharp lens it is and what great micro contrast it has. It loads in a new tab as a full sized 91% quality JPEG. This at f5.6...


Nominally a macro lens, and very good at that task under certain circumstances, it trades off having a stop faster than most similar focal length macros for having only a 1:2 magnification ratio and a relatively 'far' close a focus range of around 17.5" or 44cm. It has very low distortion. 

_DSC0037 Whilst extremely sharp, that's not the main reason to buy the lens: my 70-200VRII is damn nearly as good at its best (though without quite such good micro contrast) so you'd have to really really want the best available resolution at any cost to use this lens for that purpose alone. Nope. This lens (aside from its Macro abilities) is all about bokeh. Buttery, creamy, smooth, lovely bokeh:





The rub (and it's not like at this price anyone is expecting a free lunch anyway) is that it suffers from fringing, bad, bad fringing, on the D800. And I find it quite hard to know exactly what kind of fringing it is. According to the few reviews I can find, it has very low chromatic aberrations - but quite notable Longitudinal Chromatic Aberrations (LoCas or 'Bokeh Fringing'). However, none of these reviews were conducted on the D800. Now, I am no Human DXO but as far as I understand it, LoCas happen in OOF areas whereas the fringing I see happens around any highlit edge at any aperture until past f5.6 and even then they can crop up until f11 by which time you are into diffraction limitations of the lens' resolution and therefore kinda missing the point of having it. You can treat it but it is fiddly and in some images so fiddly as not to be worth it.

Take a look at this one shot at f2.8...

_DSC0049 It certainly has some specular highlights, and these situations are a no-brainer to avoid with this camera. An untreated 100% crop:

_DSC0049 But the problem can crop up even in non-specular but brightly exposed but NOT blown (in any channel) areas of the same image even when they are in focus:

_DSC0049 LR4 has a great new feature for removing fringing, based on an eye dropper, but it isn't psychic and it can't replace the true colours that were never captured:

_DSC0049 Look how some of the real colours in the tulips have been bleached to grey. 

Now, you can treat this selectively with local area adjustment brushes but it is royally annoying and therefore best avoided: for a badly affected file it can take a long time and not be fully effective.

Some files are much easier to treat, though: one click with the de-fringe eyedropper and it's gone:

_DSC0096 This image is full of subtle fringing, most noticeably in the purple spectrum.


Gone, and without doing too much damage elsewhere._DSC0096

And again, one click and it's gone:

_DSC0096 _DSC0096


Let's take a look at OOF areas:

_DSC0712 Crop:

_DSC0712 Treated with one-click:

_DSC0712-2 But look what that does to the colour of the bluebells:

_DSC0712-2 So this is another file where you'd have to go with local adjustments and get too fiddly for my tastes.

It's a great lens. If it weren't for the fringing I'd happily use it for townscapes, landscapes, portraits, still-life, portraits. It focusses well and easily (the MF ring is beautifully weighted and geared) and it has great resolution that is almost as good at f4 as it is at "the optimal but potentially diffracted on the D800 f5.6". But the fringing is there, so I don't use it that much. Ironically for a 'tuxedo' lens, I wouldn't use it for shooting someone wearing a tuxedo...

Luckily, though, having more or less bottomed out when it will give problems, I use it only when it will shine and for those purposes, I love it. Very, very few lenses have a 'look' as beautiful as this is capable of.

Temperamental but gorgeous. Sigh.

NOTE: Many reviews of this lens on the 20mp range of cameras have had far, far fewer problems with this lens and fringing. Lloyd Chambers review (mostly subscription but worth every cent/penny) first turned me on to the lens and his review of it on the D3X is very, very glowing.

EDIT: I've had a few requests to see the whole of the still life that fronts this post on the main page of the blog. Coincidentally I've also been asked to show some smaller aperture shots. So here's one that should suffice for both purposes. It was just playing, nothing for serious use and I'm no stylist (as is obvious from the ugly angle of the pear!) but it does show that even at f11 this is still a sharp and lovely lens, and that the 'purples' are tamed by then too. It's not as sharp as it would have been at F4 or 5.6 but it probably gives the perception of greater overall sharpness because of the extra DOF. Clicking on it will load a full sized, 91% quality JPEG that you can wander around in if you choose...



Really good article,very informative...
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