Photography News | Issue 34 | absolutephoto.com
Zeiss Germany’s famous lens maker is certainly primed to improve your shots Lens special
Zeiss user: DrewGardner
As a commercial and portrait photographer Drew Gardner relies on Zeiss lenses for the very best image quality, and has been doing so for a long time. “I started taking pictures aged 14 and in fact my very first lens was a Zeiss Tessar!” he laughs. “37 years later Zeiss lenses are still a big part of my photography.” Drew’s most recent foray with Zeiss was shooting golfer TomWatson for Sports Illustrated at St. Andrews. “During the shoot I used the small but perfectly formed Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 on a Fujifilm camera, which has excellent sharpness, contrast and control of flare. I also used the simply brilliant Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 on my Canon EOS 6D. The 85mm is a lens that really takes sharpness, contrast and control of distortion to a new level.” Drew speaks highly of the whole range: “They are superior in every respect to any other lens out there.”
Words by Kingsley Singleton
Founded in 1846 and one of the true big hitters of the imaging world, Zeiss (previously Carl Zeiss after its optician founder) makes all sorts of optical products, from spectacles to cinema lenses, medical instruments and equipment for planetariums. And, of course, there are lenses for DSLRs and CSCs. First there’s the ZM series which sport the Leica M mount, so can be used on Leica cameras, the Ricoh GXR A12 and CSCs via adapters. Then there’s the Z series, which fit several DSLR mounts, including Nikon (ZF), Canon (ZE), Pentax (ZK) and Sony Alpha (ZA). Within the DSLR lenses, the Otus imprint is of particular interest, especially as Zeiss bills it as “the best in theworld”. Available in the ZE and ZF fittings, there are three Otus lenses, a 28mm, 55mm and 85mm, all at f/1.4, and each promising “uncompromising
design and image quality”. Also in ZE and ZF fits are the Milvus and Classic lines; the Classic features nine primes running from 15mm to 135mm and between f/1.4 and f/3.5 maximum apertures; the Milvus has six, from 21mm to 100mm and from f/1.4 to f/2.8 inmaximum apertures. Zeiss’s CSC fast prime lenses are split into the Batis, Loxia and Touit ranges (all Sony E-mount, apart from the Touit lenses which also support the Fujifilm X-mount). The Batis and Loxia lenses are suitable for full- frame Sony CSCs, and while they cover similar focal lengths, theydiffer in that the former offers full AF. Zeiss Touit lenses are optimised for APS-C sized sensors, and comprise a 12mm f/2.8, 32mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/2.8. Zeiss also produces a range of Sony/ Zeiss branded zoom lenses.
Left Golfer TomWatson, shot with the Zeiss Otus f/1.4 ZE on a Canon EOS 6D. Drew says, “I exposed the shot at 1/200sec, f/2. Although I aimed to shoot at f/1.4 and ended stopping down to f/2, the lens still gave me a beautifully dreamy look, while getting just a little more than just his eyes in focus. The thing about these Otus lenses is they unlock potential in your camera you never knew it had. My favourite is the 85mm f/1.4, but because the Otus range is designed and built without compromise it gives me the biggest thrill to shoot with any of them.”
Otus 85mmf/1.4ApoPlanar T* £3300 It might be costly, but there’s no denying the optical quality of the Zeiss Otus range – available for Nikon or Canon DSLRs, the 85mm is a portrait lens for another planet. The lens’s maximum f/1.4 aperture makes shallow focus a breeze and it uses Zeiss’s T* anti-reflective coating for consistent sharpness and clarity. As one of Zeiss’s Planar concept lenses, the lens has virtually no colour fringing in front of or behind the plane of focus and it uses a floating element design for consistent performance throughout the focusing range. A nine-bladed aperture and all-metal construction complete the picture.
Laowa Want some macro-flavoured excitement in your life? Laowa is here to provide it… Laowa is one of the new breed of lens manufacturers offering some very exciting and unique optics. The company was formed by a group of macro photography enthusiasts and optical engineers, so it’s no surprise that two of its first three lenses have been for close-ups. To back that stance up further, Laowa also offers a powerful macro twin flash with flexible arms (the KX- 800). To get the inside track on Laowa’s stance and what photographers can expect from its lenses now and in the future, we caught up with Tony Edwards fromUK Optics Ltd. “Laowa’s objective,” he begins, “is to develop these unique lenses with exceptional quality but at affordable prices. This led to the first lens to be released in the line-up, the 60mm f/2.8 Macro 2:1. That lens, which features a magnification range from 0.1x to 2x (the latter for double life-size reproduction), is ideally suited for rapidly changing macro photography scenes and subjects; for example insects of different sizes. Moreover, for APS-C sensors it also offers a great solution for portraits (it’s macro only for full-frame sensors), and showing Laowa’s commitment to quality, it has a durable metal construction.” Then there’s the 15mm Macro, which is the world’s first lens to offer a wide angle of view and 1 to 1 macro photography with infinity focus ability as well as a shift facility. “This means,” says Tony, “photographers can focus very close to traditional macro subjects and let them dominate the frame, but at the same time include the background, so that viewers get a better impressionof their environment.” It’s an intriguing, unique perspective; and the wide-angle specification also makes the lens very useful for landscapers who want big, detailed foregrounds. “A shift system is added at the rear end of the lens with a maximum adjustment of +/-6mm, to help avoid the convergence of parallel lines which will come in handy for architectural or Words by Kingsley Singleton
60mmf/2.8 2xUltra-Macro £320 Laowa’s commitment to unique and surprising lenses is clearly shown in this 60mmmacro lens. The 2x magnification brings a whole set of new possibilities to close-up photography, as you can reproduce your subject at twice life-size on the sensor without resorting to other accessories, and resulting in masses of unseen detail. This manual focus lens’s closest focusing distance is 18.5cm, but you can quickly switch to using it as portrait lens as it focuses at infinity, too. The lens’s metal construction gives it a durable feel and it also has a rounded 14-blade diaphragm for very smooth out of focus areas.
product photography.” And away from macro, there’s another surprising option in the 105mm f/2 STF. “STF stands for Smooth Trans Focus,” explains Tony, “in reference to its special optical system, which is intended to deliver smooth transitions between crisp in-focus areas and creamy defocused background or foreground areas. This unique manual focus lens has an integrated apodisation filter that provides superior bokeh rendering and crystal clear, tack-sharp images.” Tony sees buoyancy in the sales of Sony E mount, Micro Four Thirds and Fujifilm X lenses and availability grows, with prime lenses especially popular. “These users tend to start off with zoom lenses but due to the ever- increasing pixel counts, they turn their attention to primes. The trend is also towards manual focus and specialist lenses; end users really love these and ultimately they learn more about perspective and composition.” “Laowa’s next lens will be looking to capitalise on that trend even further,” says Tony, “and I’m talking about the soon to be released, Laowa Zero-Distortion 12mm f/2.8. Overall, the future looks very good for a small bespoke lens maker like Laowa.”
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