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)
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