WHY BUYING ZEISS LENSES IF YOU CAN BUY LOW-COST SIGMA OR NIKON LENSES?
The price of Zeiss lenses is very high and sometimes they're even twice the price of common market lenses. Therefore, the question of "WHY"? is very much understood. What is so good about them that justifies such a high price for each lens?
Several hours Talc Test for Zeiss lens
In most cases, Photographers' main consideration, certainly for beginners, in buying a lens is first of all its price. I certainly think that this is the right thing to do at the beginning, especially when it is still rather questionable whether we will continue shooting. Moreover, we are not always sure regarding what we will shoot, what we like to shoot etc. this is why we often see amateur photographers using more general lenses with wide focus range options such as 18-200, and in some cases, due to lack of experience, we also see overlapping ranges such as 17-55 lens and 18-200 lens. I see it many times with my students. Additionally, they always keep a 1.8/50 lens because this is what most people say they should have – it is considered a MUST HAVE lens – without even knowing what is its purpose. In most cases, it is piled up with dust in their bag…
Photographers who begin working are still trying to reduce costs, since they still lack the necessary income to buy the best lenses at the beginning of the road. Professional and experienced photographers are faced with the dilemma whether to buy Zeiss lenses or remain with the more quality models of Nikon, Cannon etc.
One of the cases against Zeiss lens is the manual focus, and the main argument is its price. in this article, I will present the reasons that drove me working with Zeiss lenses rather than other common market lenses.
Endurance Test for dust while turning the focus rings.
The Auto-Focus problem today is different than that of the past. That is, since once there are electronic contacts, there is focus confirmation and one can certainly know whether the focus is positioned properly. The shutter control is also through the body. Now, you probably ask yourselves why there is no focus engine in Nikon and Cannon lenses, while in bodies such as Sony and Fuji there is Auto-Focus. The reason for this is the law in Japan that prevents manufacturing Auto-Focus lenses to Nikon and Cannon cameras, due to patents registration.
Another argument made by professional photographers regarding the reasons not to buy Zeiss lenses is that not in all cases the lenses are sharper than other brands. Surely, this is true in the case of old lenses, such as the problem with frame corners shading in open shutters, but in Zeiss' new series, that was just released to the market, the sharpness and contrast were both significantly improved. Yet, it is still a manual lens and it is not completely perfect.
So, we ask again – WHY buying these lenses rather than others? While choosing a lens, there are two criteria to consider that make the lens more qualitative – sharpness/contrast and durability. In both factors, Zeiss leaves Nikon and Cannon, and other similar high-profile brands, far behind.
The optics of Zeiss lenses is at the highest level. I can give you an example, when I work with 135/2 Zeiss lens, with completely open shutter, the lens is very sharp, not only at the center of the frame (which happens with other brands). This is not the only Zeiss lens that acts like this; the glasses inside are different than other lenses. They have tremendous ability to correct deforms in wide-angle lenses. Photographers who shoot apartments or landscape with trees know that wide-angle lenses create deformations at the sides of the photo, but it seems that Zeiss were able to overcome this obstacle and they manufacture lenses with minimal or without any deforms.
Nikon D610. zeiss Milvus 35mm f/2. @35mm @f/3.2 @ISO-250 @5sec @501 frames
When talking about the durability of a lens, Zeiss is the Rolls Royce of lenses. These lenses are resilient to falls, blows and weather damages.
Today's most high-quality lenses of Nikon and Cannon, as well as Sigma's Heart series are made not merely of metal but rather have many plastic parts. One of the things that bother me most is that the filters attachment ring is made of plastic and wrong angle screwing of the filter, even for a slight moment, will damage the lens' screwing mechanism and will result in expensive repair. There is no doubt that these companies rely on the fact that the lenses will not live long and that the photographer will buy the new model as soon as it is released to the market, and thus, lenses life should not be prolonged. However, Zeiss lenses are meant to live many years. All lens body's parts, including the sun shield, are made of durable aluminum. So many times I came across second-hand Nikon and Cannon lenses with broken sun shield, and the same goes for photographers that I personally know. Zeiss lenses are not easily affected from blows and in contrast to other lenses, if the lens falls, it will not require immediate repair. Zeiss lenses undergo falls and shakes tests that other lenses will not endure; the lens elements will move, while Zeiss lenses will survive falls tests as if nothing happened.
Zeiss lens is also weather durable, even if it is extreme. For example, in order for dust to make its way into the lens, it has so many barriers to cross that it will not reach the inside. Extreme weather durability is also tested thoroughly. The lenses are resilient to extreme heat and to well below 0 degrees (Celsius). As a landscape photographer, I also worked at the desert in 50 degrees (Celsius) temperatures, so this factor is very important for me. Water resilience of Zeiss is better than all other lenses and you can quietly shoot at the beach, without worrying for the safety of the lens.
In the past, Nikon and Cannon used to manufacture aluminum lenses without all the plastic parts. Yet years had gone by, and the old optics is no longer suitable for modern bodies of today. Zeiss, on the other hand, makes sure that not only the body is resilient but also the optics is both modern and suitable for 50 million mega pixel lenses sensors.
The following film-strip shows what Zeiss lenses undergo before being released to the market. From experience, I can say that Nikon and Cannon lenses will not survive such abuse.
Obviously, some will ask why the resilience of the lens is so important and critical and why one cannot be careful and avoid accidents and blows to the lens. Every weddings photographer knows that his photography equipment is constantly hit and that resilience is a major issue for him. I personally shoot at extreme weather conditions, starting with sand storms, through sea waves and extremely high humidity. Yet, once in a stand storm of powder soil is enough for sand to penetrate the lens or shooting at the beach cost-line and having water splinters that love going inside the lens. One or two exposures are enough to damage the lens. Using these Zeiss lenses I feel truly safe that I can go on shooting for many years at all weather conditions without having to replace them. I know that I have a tank in my hand that is resilient to hits and blows, to weather, and is surely capable of dealing with shading issues, sharpness of all frame (with open shutters). This lens will carry on even when Nikon will manufacture 80 million mega pixel sensors...
And to those of you who held Zeiss lens at least once (and if you hadn't then go to next shop and take some pictures), will understand, even without reading this article, what I am talking about. The lens feels amazing in your hand. You literally feel holding quality and strength. The focus ring slides in the exact rhythm and paste under your fingers and you can easily reach maximum accuracy. When you look into the lens you see amazing sharpness, and one photo is enough to discover the contrast and resolution that the lens creates with vivid colors that you cannot help falling in love. Even when shooting Black & White, the resolution is sharper than any other lens that I ever worked with (and I worked with the best and most expensive lenses that Nikon has to offer).
Nikon D610. zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 135mm f/2. @135mm @f/2 @ISO-640 @1/125
Nikon D610. zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 135mm f/2. @135mm @f/2 @ISO-100 @1/3200