Wonderfully sharp, beautiful bokeh, but some colour fringing
April 03, 2014
A beautifully built, terrifically sharp macro lens. There is also that 3-D depth perception that I just don't feel is present in the Canon 100 macros.
I have owned both of the Canon 100mm macro lenses, and was thrilled with each of them. They are both very sharp, but don't possess the same "oomph" as the Zeiss. The Zeiss' 3D look is, I think, what separates it.
The best way I can think to describe the difference is that with the Canons you are looking through a window, and with the Zeiss, you've opened the window and are just looking at the scene. (Granted, it is a very clean window).
However, there is a pronounced issue with colour fringing when photographing high contrast scenes. This is certainly much more pronounced than in the Canon alternatives. If you take a picture of a leaf-less tree against a white winter sky, the tree will have a distinct purple glow to it.
The fringing is not a fatal flaw, but you need to be aware of it. Sometimes, slight adjustment to how you photograph something can completely eliminate the problem. Other times, you'll need to do some adjustment in post.
The lens does do an outstanding job, and I was happy to trade my most recent Canon to get it.
Other differences are, obviously, that it does not have autofocus, and as compared to the 100L or most recent Nikon, does not have image stabilisation/vibration reduction. I did find that stabilisation was particularly nice for tripod-free wandering around macro work, and I do miss this. The lens also "only" focuses down to a 1:2 reproduction ratio, which I have not really found to be especially noticeable... but obviously, this will vary with your desired subject matter. (The lens is, obviously, compatible with extension tubes, though).
One annoyance for macro work, though, is that the chrome end of the barrel is easily reflected against reflective subject matter. A filter solves this, but without this it seems like a silly oversight for a macro lens.
The lens also scores over the Nikon and Canon macro offerings with an f/2 maximum aperture, and is still very sharp wide open.
As a walkaround lens, too, focused at infinity, the Zeiss is significantly shorter than either the Canon or Nikon offerings, and turns fewer heads on the street.
I have next to no experience with the Canon 100mm f/2, or the Nikon 105DC, and so can't comment on how the Zeiss compares to either of these non-macro, portrait-oriented lenses. I will say, though, the one time I handled the canon 100/2, I found the minimum focusing distance to be prohibitively large for what I would term "general purpose detail shots" - like a person's hand writing a note, or a tight-ish crop on a person's head.
I certainly find the bokeh on the Zeiss to be wonderfully smooth, as well. I have not used the venerable Nikon 105/2.5 enough, nor used the ZE100 enough for portraiture to really be able to compare these two, but my impression is that this would be a close race.
found this review helpful. Was this review helpful for you?
Report As Inappropriate