The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use Part-1

Michael_ErlewineMichael_Erlewine Posts: 14Member
edited June 2013 in Nikon Lenses
The Zeiss 135mm APO: Close-Up and Macro Use

This is not technical review, so don't remind me of that please. There are all kinds of MTF charts and technical details out there. This post is more about falling in love with a lens, which I have not done for a long time.

I am the mentor for the close-up and macro forum on NikonGear (dot) com, but not a professional photographer by my own choice. I shoot nature subjects. I want to say something about this new APO Zeiss lens.

How do I know I have found what is (for me at least) a great lens? Of course there are the photos, but that is not the whole of it. It is when once I have the lens in my hand and am learning to use it that (without thinking) I just find myself daydreaming about it. The new Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO is such a lens.

Its promise teases me, leads me on, and gets me up earlier in the morning. If one can have a love affair with a lens, I am having one with this new Zeiss. And even though Zeiss is made in the same factory as my beloved Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar was, up to now, try as I might, I could not get into the Zeiss IQ, except for some of their industrial and scanner lenses, which I like.

I have read countless reviews of the Zeiss Makro-Planars of which I have the 100mm and 50mm macro lenses. A really good Zeiss review finds me digging out my two Makro-Planars and having another go at them, but within a day or so they are back in storage. As sharp as they are, and they are sharp enough for me, the lack of lens correction somehow makes them (in my eyes) a little too ordinary, especially when I have the CV-125 APO and a couple of Leica macros sitting around. Why not just use the Voigtlander 125mm or a Leica every time? Mostly I do.

When I first heard about this new Zeiss 135mm APO, I did not think much of it since it's not a macro lens and has a reproduction ration of 1:4, not what I am generally looking for. I did note how fast the lens is and f/2 is very good on the eyes, plus a 77mm filter is a good sign. I like large diameter lenses.

But when I saw a couple of posts suggesting that the new Zeiss might be a CV-125mm APO killer, I had my doubts. Not likely, I thought. And at $2200 a copy, I was not about to run out and buy one.

But time tells all, and by increments I kind of pieced together a plausible story that I could sell myself on about why I might just have to try one out. For one, $2200 is less that folks pay for a CV-125mm in good condition. But close-focus at 2.62 feet (.80 m)? That's not very close and I have all kinds of lenses that are not quite close enough, like the Voigtlander 180mm APO, and so on. Yet, 2.62 feet is kind of close for a telephoto, although it is a short telephoto lens.

And so it went, with the evidence gradually piling up to the point that I could no longer ignore it. But what really turned the tide for me is my intuition. I woke up one morning with the hunch that this really could be a great lens.

(to be continue)
Founder AllMusic.com, AllMovie.com, ClassicPosters.com, SpiritGrooves.net, and many others.

Comments

  • Michael_ErlewineMichael_Erlewine Posts: 14Member
    Part-2

    And then there is how I go about buying an expensive lens. I certainly don't ask my wife. First I read all about it, and tell myself I can't afford it. Then I read some more. And again. And there comes the day when I am looking at a review of it for the umpteenth time, and I just buy it. I have no excuse other than that if not now, when? Should I wait until I am old? Hey, I am already getting old. Can my budget digest such expenditure? Well, not well, but screw it. Somehow I will limp by. And I can always sell some equipment. That's what I tell myself.

    Anyway, suddenly I am looking at a screen message "Thank you for your order," and that little rascal inside me is once again in hog heaven. And then I wait. I usually can hear the UPS truck coming down our street, and for sure I hear that big truck door slam and race to the door. I know I have to sign for something like this.

    And the box is soon open and the lens is in my hands. I have bought a lot of expensive lenses over the years. I have maybe two lenses that are not top quality in my whole collection, and I just happened on them. The rest all are very distinguished.

    So this new Zeiss APO lens has gotten my full attention. I can' wait to get up in the morning and read more about it. I get up in the middle of the night, so there is no light to go outside, so I either go to my little studio, read more about it, or write about it, as I am now. When dawn comes, I go outside and fight the Michigan wind.

    As for this APO Zeiss, all the signs are good. The nay-sayers that I have read don't even have a copy of this lens, so what do they know. Those that have it seem to love it. And who cares? My lens needs are kind of specialized, and with the Zeiss I am pushing it beyond what it was designed for and toward my close-up requirements, and it works. Like my CV-125mm APO, the Zeiss just works and works.

    It works at a distance, and it works close-up. It even works well enough with extension, even with a lot of extension, and I hate extension. When I zoom in to the finest detail on my D800E or D7100 (no AA filter), the Zeiss is right there. If I had to guess, I would say it outperforms any camera I have. I am not a techspert, so I can't say with authority, but if I had to bet money, that's how it would go down.

    And here is the clincher: aside from the fact that I cannot get to 1:1 with this lens, I have to honestly say it outperforms my treasured Voigtlander 125mm f/2.5 APO-Lanthar in every way. Certainly it is sharper. As for color correction I can't say for certain, but because don't so those kind of tests, but they must be about equal. Color correction is IMO the key element for me in lenses. Apparently I can see the difference every time.

    And the last (and most telling) word is that when I find myself thinking of shooting, I am now thinking of that Zeiss APO, not the CV-125. And that was at first shocking!

    I have corresponded with Zeiss, and while they won't discuss unannounced products, they are fully aware of our need for an APO Macro Zeiss. IMO this is a landmark lens, and I have some of the best-corrected lenses ever made, including three of the Printing-Nikkors, the El-Nikkor APO 105mm, the Coastal Optics 60mm APO, Leica APO lenses, and so on.

    I am done testing this lens and will begin shooting with it, heavy and cumbersome as it is.

    Anyone else like it?
    Founder AllMusic.com, AllMovie.com, ClassicPosters.com, SpiritGrooves.net, and many others.
  • NSXTypeRNSXTypeR Posts: 2,093Member
    Sounds great, any photos though?
    Nikon D7000/ Nikon D40/ Nikon FM2/ 18-135 AF-S/ 35mm 1.8 AF-S/ 105mm Macro AF-S/ 50mm 1.2 AI-S
  • Michael_ErlewineMichael_Erlewine Posts: 14Member
    Don't know how to post images on this forum. Sorry.
    Founder AllMusic.com, AllMovie.com, ClassicPosters.com, SpiritGrooves.net, and many others.
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
  • Michael_ErlewineMichael_Erlewine Posts: 14Member
    I have posted at some other sites, but I believe this site does not like links, etc. Anyway, they are test shots. Now I will start to really use this lens and try to set up some of them on Flickr.... but it will take time.
    Founder AllMusic.com, AllMovie.com, ClassicPosters.com, SpiritGrooves.net, and many others.
  • Michael_ErlewineMichael_Erlewine Posts: 14Member
    Here are some images on Flickr with the Nikon D800E and the Zeiss 135mm APO

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/98006906@N05/
    Founder AllMusic.com, AllMovie.com, ClassicPosters.com, SpiritGrooves.net, and many others.
  • JJ_SOJJ_SO Posts: 1,158Member
    Looks great, but the flickr quality is not showing the lens' performance. :(
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    Yes, we need a full size image on Flickr...
    Msmoto, mod
  • Michael_ErlewineMichael_Erlewine Posts: 14Member
    More examples of the new Zeiss 135mm APO lens here:

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/98006906@N05/
    Founder AllMusic.com, AllMovie.com, ClassicPosters.com, SpiritGrooves.net, and many others.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    @Michael_Erlewine

    Is it possible to post a couple of full size images on Flickr?
    Msmoto, mod
  • Michael_ErlewineMichael_Erlewine Posts: 14Member
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/98006906@N05/

    Full sized Image, Nikon D800E, Zeiss APO
    Founder AllMusic.com, AllMovie.com, ClassicPosters.com, SpiritGrooves.net, and many others.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    Thank you.... very impressive.....now I will have to go out to see what I can do....with what I have...
    Msmoto, mod
  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    @Michael_Erlewine: I'm a Flickr illiterate... Which one is the full size image? When I click your link, I get to an album. Thanks.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    edited July 2013
    @Michael_Erlewine

    Take a look and see what you think. This is a very quick shot using an SB-800 and diffuser, 105mm, f/2.8 VR Micro Nikkor. LR 4.4 It may have some degradation of the image, but IMO seems close to the Zeiss 135 APO. I will try a couple other lenses and lighting as well.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/fantinesfotos/9231175476/sizes/o/
    Post edited by Msmoto on
    Msmoto, mod
  • Michael_ErlewineMichael_Erlewine Posts: 14Member
    The full-size is the butterfly, right now the first one.

    As for the 105mm, not even in the same ballpark as for quality IMO, and I have a bunch of 105mm macro Nikons.
    Founder AllMusic.com, AllMovie.com, ClassicPosters.com, SpiritGrooves.net, and many others.
  • rmprmp Posts: 520Member
    Hi Michael_Erlerwine and Msmoto,

    I interested in finding the sharpest lens possible, I'm not sure why, but I am interested. Maybe it is just because I have the time to think about such matters - for the first time in my life. So, can you two point me toward a way or site to compare the two lenses? Thanks in advance.
    Robert M. Poston: D4, D810, V3, 14-24 F2.8, 24-70 f2.8, 70-200 f2.8, 80-400, 105 macro.
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    edited July 2013
    @Michael_Erlerwine: is the full name of this lens the: Zeiss 135mm f2 Apo Sonnar?

    @Msmoto: Very nice shot...I find it very pleasing to my eye. Looking forward in have a nice conversation on macro photography in a few weeks when we meet face-to-face.
    Post edited by Golf007sd on
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • Michael_ErlewineMichael_Erlewine Posts: 14Member
    There are many videos and some free e-books under MacroStop at this site: SpiritGrooves (dot) net.

    Check it out. Look for articles in the ARTICLES section on sharpness related to APO correction, if you want my view on sharpness.
    Founder AllMusic.com, AllMovie.com, ClassicPosters.com, SpiritGrooves.net, and many others.
  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    The full-size is the butterfly, right now the first one.
    Ah ok, thanks Michael. I figured it out now, right click will give you a pop up menu to choose image sizes.

    This is the direct link (I think): http://www.flickr.com/photos/98006906@N05/9221251579/sizes/o/

    Impressive indeed.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,396Moderator
    edited July 2013
    After some experimentation, which will continue, it appears to me the Zeiss lens is an extremely sharp lens, but not only sharp, it has a characteristic which is lacking in the Nikon 105. I suspect this is the true APO function of the lens.

    I appreciate your contributions here, Michael, my learning curve in macro is very steep. I think it is about time I go read your online books which you have so graciously provided so I can learn how to do this stuff.
    Post edited by Msmoto on
    Msmoto, mod
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