Comparison of New Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Nikon Mount vs. Older Nikon Normal Lenses

Discussion in 'Nikon' started by jeremy, Aug 16, 2006.

  1. jeremy

    jeremy Guest

    When I read all the promotional material on the Carl Zeiss web site about
    their introduction of a new line of lenses in Nikon mount, I could hardly
    wait to get my hands on their upcoming lenses in the M42 Pentax Screwmount
    (I still shoot in M42).

    Well, after reading Ken Rockwell's comparisons, it appears that these
    Cosina-Zeiss lenses aren't really so superior after all.

    One look at his comparison pages on lens sharpness reveals that your choice
    of aperture is, by far, more important than your choice of lens!
    ( He used the
    50mm f/1.4 AI as an example, and he showed images of the same object, shot
    at various apertures. I had always known that lens performance varied based
    on the selected aperture, but seeing these comparisons, rather than just
    reading test results expressed in Lines-Per-Millimeter, really hit home!

    The entire series of tests can be viewed starting at this link:

    What I really liked about this particular series of tests is that he
    actually shows you the images, side by side, so you can see the differences
    with your own eyes, rather than just relying on his personal assessments.

    It was amazing to see how decades-old Nikon normal lenses equaled or beat
    out the new Zeiss normal lens. These tests may not represent the last word
    on the subject, but seeing the photos certainly knocked the wind out of
    Zeiss' sails, at least for me. I guess I won't be trading in my Pentax
    normal lenses any time soon.
    jeremy, Aug 16, 2006
    1. Advertisements

  2. jeremy

    joe mama Guest

    dude...are there two people in these groups with your name? aren't you the
    same guy who last week said how inferior older pentax gear was to the
    "newest" and best of the digital age? now you want a new lens (that in your
    pal's conclusion--not yours--isn't all that great) for a camera you still
    use, but found terrible last week? are an interesting sort. those "unprofessional" pentax lenses
    suddenly are acceptable?
    joe mama, Aug 16, 2006
    1. Advertisements

  3. jeremy Guest

    "Don't worry about your lenses' sharpness. The lens designers already have.
    The lenses you already have are all you need." - Ken Rockwell

    .....the guy should be on the Comedy Channel !!! LOL ;)
, Aug 16, 2006
  4. jeremy

    jeremy Guest

    The site has multiple pages of comparison shots, and as always, some clown
    has to surface and dismiss it all with a one-liner.

    P-L-O-N-K !
    jeremy, Aug 16, 2006
  5. jeremy

    no_name Guest

    If memory serves, Ken Rockwell's comparisons themselves have sometimes
    been of questionable sharpness.
    no_name, Aug 16, 2006
  6. jeremy

    jeremy Guest

    I have two responses:

    1: I haven't seen anybody else post anything about those new Zeiss lenses,
    so this is all there is right now.

    2: I admit that I am unqualified to assess the validity of his testing
    criteria, but he did indicate that he made every effort to test each of the
    lenses under identical conditions. And he actually posts the photos,
    side-by-side, on his website. Readers can see the differences with their
    own eyes, rather than simply relying on numerical scores.

    I was really surprised by the lack of a clear margin of superiority of the
    Zeiss lens over the older Nikon normal lenses. And I was doubly surprised
    by the examples of bokeh. The Zeiss lenses didn't seem to have an edge over
    the Nikons. Given the price of the Zeiss lens, I just expected a lot more
    in the way of results.

    The comparison shots displaying the images at different aperture settings
    were the most revealing to me. Now, if all that Rockwell did was to take
    the same shot, using the same lens, mounted on the same camera, with the
    only variable being the aperture (and corresponding reciprocal shutter
    speed), then it would seem to me that the test was unbiased. The
    differences in sharpness varied widely, based on the aperture used. By
    comparison, the differences between different lenses, at the same aperture,
    were hardly worth scrutiny. A used Nikon normal lens, for under $50 bucks,
    yielded results as good as the expensive new Zeiss lens--and the Nikon build
    quality was better, too. I really did not expect that before I saw the

    If his testing criteria were invalid, please explain where he fell short of
    the mark. To my amateur eyes, everything seemed to be in good order. Too
    bad Zeiss could not have been allowed to critique the comparisons and
    comment. They had made some really wild claims about the sharpness of their
    new lenses--and the side-by-side comparison shots with the Nikon lenses sure
    didn't show any discernable differences.

    Nobody is publishing these types of lens tests anymore, so I'm grateful that
    Ken Rockwell took on this project. I'd never have believed it had I not
    seen the images with my own eyes.
    jeremy, Aug 16, 2006
  7. jeremy Guest

    Wow we are testy aren't we?? :)

    The site also has multiple pages of dribble that back up Ken's rather naive
    view on the lens issue.... and to right of the benefits of CZ glass just
    because some other lens will be good at "some" aperture is just as naive
    IMO. You might as well wear and broken watch... at least it will be right
    twice a day! lol
, Aug 17, 2006
  8. jeremy

    Bandicoot Guest

    Umm, that's a very long way indeed from what Jeremy said.
    Again, you really need to work on those reading comprehension skills.
    Jeremy said that 40 plus year old screw-mount lenses could hardly be relied
    upon for professional use because they are no longer supported by the
    manufacturer for servicing. He also noted that they are better built than
    anything made today and have better optics than almost anything made today.
    On all of which points he is correct.

    Bandicoot, Aug 18, 2006
  9. jeremy

    joe mama Guest

    "Much as I have received enjoyment from my Spotmatics and SMC Takumar
    they are antiques and cannot be considered professional tools. And I've
    grown weary of carrying around all those lenses, filters and accessories.
    It may be okay for those times that I feel nostalgic and want to fiddle
    around with classic metal equipment, but I find that I spend more time
    fiddling with equipment than I spend in actually taking photos. The older I
    get, the less I want to fiddle with equipment and the more I want to create
    photos. It's a dilemma."

    "Much as I have received enjoyment from my Spotmatics and SMC Takumar
    they are antiques and cannot be considered professional tools. And I've
    grown weary of carrying around all those lenses, filters and accessories.
    It may be okay for those times that I feel nostalgic and want to fiddle
    around with classic metal equipment, but I find that I spend more time
    fiddling with equipment than I spend in actually taking photos. The older I
    get, the less I want to fiddle with equipment and the more I want to create
    photos. It's a dilemma."

    "I stand on my assessment that these are no longer professional tools."
    "I am not a professional."

    it's nice to know he has a fan club though. and speaking of comprehension,
    why not look at the cannabilization of the origianl thread.
    joe mama, Aug 18, 2006
  10. jeremy

    Bandicoot Guest

    LOL - Jeremy never said the system was "terrible" - you did. He did say
    that the age was why the lenses could no longer be considered professional
    tools, which is a summarisation of what he has said before in other threads
    about the issue being one of lack of support, not of quality. But he never
    said the lenses were 'unprodfessional' in terms of results, yet that is just
    the meaning you chose to take in your post to which I was replying.

    As I said, read carefully.

    Bandicoot, Aug 19, 2006
  11. jeremy

    jeremy Guest

    Thanks for clarifying what I posted.

    Is ANYBODY still using Takumar lenses professionally? I doubt it. Who
    would entrust their reputation and earning ability to a line that has been
    out of production for 31 years, and which has not had manufacturer support
    for over two decades?

    I'd still rate that gear as "Professional Quality," because it certainly can
    hold its own with all other manual focus lenses out there, but not
    "professional," because the entire line-up is no longer available and
    because factory support and parts are non-existent.

    It would be analogous to a taxi operator that was still using '57 Chevy's .
    .. .
    jeremy, Aug 19, 2006
  12. Apart from anything else, *any good* camera repairer should be able to
    service the Takumar lenses (unless they really need spare parts -
    The *out of production* argument for most classical material is irrelevant.

    It is far more likely that most Pros are unlikely to accept the various
    limitations of the M42 mount.
    Again, most problems with mechanical cameras (& associated lenses) can
    be solved by any skilled repairer, regardless of factory support.
    Chris Loffredo, Aug 19, 2006
  13. jeremy

    jeremy Guest

    Sorry, but I have to disagree. As a long-time Spotmatic aficionado, I'd be
    the last person to be critical of those excellent cameras and lenses. BUT .
    .. . let's face facts: people that make their living shooting
    photographs--photojournalists, news photographers, commercial
    photographers--are not going to use equipment that hasn't had factory
    support in 25 years.

    If you need one of the 27 SMC Takumar lenses that were in production until
    1975, when Pentax migrated to the K-mount, the only way to acquire them is
    on the used market--and even there one cannot find the entire line-up.

    Pentax never produced PC Shift lenses or anything with ED glass in the M42
    mount. Sure there were a couple of fluorite lenses, but try to get your
    hands on one today.

    What professional would rely upon antiques from which to make a living? Can
    you name even one professional photographer that uses old Pentax 35mm gear?
    I don't believe that any such person exists.

    As amateurs, we are free to use what we want, and classic Pentax stuff gives
    incredible bang for the buck. But if I earned my living from cameras and
    lenses, I could never jeopardize it by working with equipment that could not
    be reliably serviced if it failed--or replaced with new if it died.

    Aside from the repair/replacement issue, there is that small matter of
    "progress." Let's be honest. Pros are shooting Nikon and Canon digital,
    with autofocus. They are not messing around with old manual focus stuff,
    except for a handful of specialty photographers that do landscapes or other
    static-type subjects. You won't see Spotmatics at Olympic events, or at
    national political conventions, or accompanying news photographers from the
    New York Times. You'll see it featured at KEH, and the people that buy it
    are not professionals. If Time Magazine needs a few new lenses for its
    photo department, they are not going to be buying them on eBay. That's just
    a fact of life.

    I like legacy equipment, because my needs are quite modest versus those of
    professionals, and because I already have a well-stocked inventory of bodies
    and lenses, making it silly to dump it all and start over. For landscapes
    and cityscapes, for photos of historic locations, my stuff works just fine.
    But a pro would laugh at me if he saw what I carried. Sure, the image
    COULD HANDLE. But I have no misconceptions. If I were covering news or
    sports, my stuff wouldn't hold a candle to what today's pros use.

    I am fortunate that I can continue using legacy equipment--made of
    metal--because my typical subject can be effectively photographed with that
    type of gear. But if any real pros are still using this stuff as their
    standard equipment, I'd sure like to know who they are.
    jeremy, Aug 19, 2006
  14. I still maintain that fully mechanical older equipment can just as
    successfully be repaired by a good camera repair person, apart from the
    unlikely event that unsubstitutable spare parts are needed and the
    repairer has no "parts" cameras (what good classic camera repairer
    doesn't have several "parts" Spotmatics or Nikon Fs?).

    And so?
    The Schneider 35mm PA-Curtagon comes to mind. Also the 28mm version was
    also made in M42.
    Not ED, but, for example, the Carl Zeiss Jena 200mm f/2.8 give the
    Nikkor ED 180mm f/2.8 a good run for its money.

    You seem obsessed with the fact that the lenses *must* be Pentax, and
    forget that many other manufacturers made M42 mount lenses, some of
    which are even even better than Pentax. And M42 lenses are still being
    made today.
    If I did some research, I'm sure I could find plenty.
    A Spotmatic is probably much more reliable and less prone to sudden
    failures than an all-electronic modern wonder.
    And so?
    You're again assuming that PJs are the only kind of "professional
    photographer" - good advertising Canon!
    Again, you don't realise how many "professionals" don't just do sports &
    If the subject is so important to you, Google and you'll find out!
    "I wanna use what them pro guys use.."
    Chris Loffredo, Aug 20, 2006
  15. jeremy Guest

    I agree with you totally Chris.

    Just for the record Jeremy, I am a pro and have just put together an Olympus
    OM series of manual focus lenses to use on my Canon 1DS2. While they will
    prob never see use at a sport event, they will see truckload when I shoot
    landscape or studio product work. ....any craftsman has "the right tool for
    the job" even if it's some old tool that has been handed for generations.

    The same applies with lenses.... there are certain times that only the right
    kind of lens will produce the result that I need. I don't care if it's the
    latest AF or some old vintage thing, if it produces the goods it's in my
    kit!! Oh... there is no problem servicing these lenses either. I just had
    50/1.2 serviced and cleaned yesterday by a local repairer. $50 and it is
    like new and with how I treat my kit, I reckon I will still be shooting with
    this lens in 20 years time!!
, Aug 20, 2006
  16. jeremy

    jeremy Guest

    Hardly an obsession. Just a recognition that times change. I personally do
    most of my 35mm shooting with either M42 or K-mount, but I don't earn a
    living from photography. If I did, I'd go with something that had the
    availability of factory service and factory replacement parts.

    What is so outrageous about that?

    In other words, you really don't know of any.

    That may be correct, BUT they are 30 years old, and things do break down.
    And, when it does break down, what do you tell your editor? I'm going a
    Google search to find a repairman that can fix my camera? That's not

    A pro needs, not only backup equipment, but also manufacturer support in
    terms of the availability of lenses and accessories that can be acquired
    whenever needed. If I needed, say, a bellows and a bellows Takumar lens,
    I'd have to hope that KEH had them in good condition, or that there was an
    eBay auction expiring soon. I cound not get them new from any known source.
    What kind of professional can accept those limitations?
    I submit that a camera can be considered "Pro" only if "Pros" use it. What
    is so uou-of-line with that reasoning?

    Come on! Let's not split hairs over minor points. You may come up with a
    very few exceptions but, in the main, Spotmatics are not being used
    professionally any more. In fact, the trend is clear: the future is
    digital. Film is becoming a niche market. That does not mean that we
    amateurs should abandon film, but people that earn their livings taking
    images are often at a disadvantage when dealing with the delays and
    limitations that film requires.

    Aside from that small segment of photogs that take more intuitive shots
    (landscapes, architecture, "artsy" photos), I don't see any brand of camera,
    much less old Spotmatics, growing. The last bastions of film appear to be
    Zeiss Ikon and LEICA. Nikon stopped making manual focus lenses, as has
    Pentax mostly done. Minolta was sold. Bronica folded up. Hasselblad was
    sold and is now focusing on digital backs. Even Leica SLR is offering a
    digital back. Who is creating new innovations in film cameras? No one that
    I can think of. Old cameras are a mature market, whose growth prospects are

    I believe that most pros that shoot film also do some digital work, but
    there are a lot of pros that do digital only, and would not consider
    dabbling with film. Spotmatics were wonderful tools, but they do not offer
    options to today's professionals. Those of us that use M42 are caught in a
    sort of time warp--they took great shots 30 years ago, they continue taking
    great shots today, but there are new photographic opportunities that those
    cameras cannot exploit. And that, more than any other factor, is why I
    cannot describe them as Professional Cameras.
    I ask once again: who are these "professionals" that stake their careers on
    antique equipment?
    jeremy, Aug 20, 2006
  17. In the last 25 years I've needed professional help for the following
    repairs (Many other maintainance jobs such as foam replacement, lens
    cleaning & meter calibration I usually do myself):

    Rolleiflex TLR CLA - No parts needed.
    Nikon F Photomic - Original spare parts used.
    Nikon FE2 - Shutter replaced with one from a parts camera.
    Rolleiflex 3003 - Electronics replaced with original parts.
    Leicaflex SL - Jammed meter repaired - No parts needed.

    Note that the only cases in which these cameras were unusable (or
    practically so) were the newest (and electronic) cameras; The Nikon FE2
    and the Rolleiflex 3003. They are also the only cameras which have ever
    completely failed me without notice.

    The "broken" mechanical cameras were still usable, albeit with the light

    If you're traveling the World and you camera fails in some small city in
    some weird land, which do you think will be easier to find: A Nikon (or
    Canon) repair shop which stocks circuit board No. 327395847251325x or a
    working Spotmatic in a camera shop window?

    I don't give a ****! You are the one who finds it so vitally important,
    *you* take the time to do the research.
    If they are more reliable, how does their being thirty years old change
    that? Hardening of the arteries? Osteoporosis? Arthritis of the shutter?

    I repeat again, most good mechanical cameras are *much* less prone to
    sudden failure than modern electronic cameras (no electronics and fewer
    parts and functions to go dodgy.
    How many people have posted here on what to do when their electric film
    rewind stopped working?

    A M42 mount bellows and bellows lens can be found in just about any shop
    which carries used cameras (at least in Europe).
    And since I already have such things, I'd assume your mythical "pro"
    would also already have them.
    "Pros" take landscape, architecture, product, reproduction, travel,
    portrait, documentary and many other types of photos. I've been a "pro"
    myself in several of those fields without needing the latest modern
    gadgets and your all-important "manufacturer support".

    "Pro" photography isn't only about freeze-action shots of (American)
    football players smashing into each other.
    Oh yes, we must follow the trends, don't we?
    Do you want to shoot pictures or buy camera company stock?
    What further "innovations" are needed for film cameras? Auto-composing?
    A "say cheese!" audio function?

    Again, I have no interest at all in shooting frozen-action sports...
    Again, why don't you just find out instead of continuing to ask silly
    Chris Loffredo, Aug 21, 2006
  18. jeremy

    DD Guest

    Ken "Knotwell" is the biggest distributor of dodgy lens information on
    the internet today.

    I would take anything that guy says with a bucket of salt. I certainly
    wouldn't place any stock at all in any of his "tests". If it says
    "Zeiss" or "Leitz" on the lens that's all I need to know. I don't need
    some dumbass from SoCal who has a big trust fund and a website telling
    me what's good for my photography.
    DD, Aug 21, 2006
  19. Actually, the Nikon FE *is* an electronic camera and I'm willing to bet
    that their death is electronic-related.
    Chris Loffredo, Aug 21, 2006

  20. I've got two dead Nikon FE bodies that say you're wrong.

    The second ("newer") one was still in mint cosmetic condition
    when it failed.

    Neither of these cameras are worth fixing, really.

    rafe b
    Raphael Bustin, Aug 21, 2006
    1. Advertisements

Ask a Question

Want to reply to this thread or ask your own question?

You'll need to choose a username for the site, which only take a couple of moments (here). After that, you can post your question and our members will help you out.