For many years, the New Yorker Magnum photographer Christopher Anderson has worked with ZEISS lenses and also regularly works for New York Magazine. On his most recent wanderings through Manhattan, he took the Carl Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 telephoto lens with him. We interviewed him about his experiences with the brand new ZEISS focal length.

Williamsburg Bridge and the East River at sunset.
Williamsburg Bridge and the East River at sunset.

Mr Anderson, how have you fared with the Apo-Sonnar T* 2/135 that you tested for us?

I was blown away by the clarity and sharpness. Look at this picture of the Williamsburg Bridge. With the sun setting, you see a ferry boat coming underneath the bridge. When I later enlarged the photo by 400-500 percent, I was amazed: I could clearly see on the computer screen the expressions on the faces of the people standing at the back of that boat. The same phenomenon happened again with the driver of a van who was crossing the bridge. Hey, you could tell that he was wearing sun glasses! I cannot ever remember even once achieving such detailed sharpness with a similar focal length. And the lens is refracting light in a way that is, well, nothing short of magical. You can see it in the lights on the bridge and the lights on the Chrysler Building in the right of the picture. By zooming in on the image, it beautifully reproduces their roundness with technical perfection and doesn't have any image defects.

Evening atmosphere in Manhattan, the sun disappearing behind the towers.
Evening atmosphere in Manhattan, the sun disappearing behind the towers.

How would you assess the lens in terms of handling? 

For that focal length, this lens is conveniently compact and very easy to use. You can tell that the pure metal and special glass is high quality every time you use it. What I love about all ZEISS lenses is the large rotation angle that allows most accurate focussing.

The play of colour and light on a door in Greenpoint.
The play of colour and light on a door in Greenpoint.

Which New York are you showing us in your pictures? 

This selection shows Greenpoint, the neighbourhood where I live. Strange, even though I have lived in New York for many years, I have rarely taken pictures of what's outside my front door. That has changed ever since I started working regularly for New York Magazine. My daily search for exciting motifs has further sharpened my perception: How do the people feel, what do they experience day in day out, and how is their city changing? Looking through a new lens helps me shift my perspective, especially when the Apo Sonnar T* 2/135 handles difficult lighting conditions as well as it does. I like situations with back-lighting and that moment just after the sun sets. You can take beautifully atmospheric pictures at this time – just like the scenes with the young people on the docks.

Lovers on the docks at Greenpoint.
Lovers on the docks at Greenpoint.
View of the East River and the Manhattan Skyline.
View of the East River and the Manhattan Skyline.

To which field of application is the Apo-Sonnar T* 2/135 particularly well suited?

It is a telephoto lens that you can be really versatile and creative with. During my time at National Geographic, I was able to gain some experience in nature photography, and can confidently say: It is a very good lens for landscape and wildlife photography, because you can use it to take detailed and pin sharp pictures over medium distances. Moreover, I also see it as ideal for creative portraits in advertising, fashion and lifestyle. It will be a joy to use in the future.

Christopher Anderson
was born in Canada in 1970 and grew up in West Texas. He gained recognition in 1999 for a reportage on the failed attempt of Haitian immigrants to sail to the USA.
As the boat began to founder during the night, somewhere in the Caribbean, Anderson continued to take pictures – not knowing if he would survive the sinking. In the end, all passengers were rescued by the coastguard.

Anderson received the Robert Capa Gold medal in 2000 for these pictures. This experience also changed the course of his work decisively in the direction of experimental journalism.

Anderson is a member of Magnum Photos and regularly works for New York Magazine. He is author of both monographs NONFICTION (2003) and CAPITOLIO (2009). The latter received an award as one of the best photography books 2009/10 at the Kasseler Photobook Festival in Germany. In May 2012, his third book appeared, Bleu Blanc Rouge. In early 2013, SON will be published, a picture book about his son.


Current VICE episode of Picture Perfect: Christopher Anderson talks about his New York photography. Some of the shots you can see in the video have been shot with the new Carl Zeiss Apo Sonnar T* 2/135.

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  1. Wonderful work. As a former Magnum Intern, I'm so happy to see coverage of a neighborhood I hang out in often and live not too far from.

    Jealous you got to play with the lens though :)


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