News

Carl Zeiss is heralding a particularly powerful new full-frame SLR lens at photokina 2012.  Dr. Michael Pollmann, Consumer Lenses Product and Program Manager in the Carl Zeiss Camera Lenses Division, is addressing strengths and technical details of the new high-end SLR lens family in a Q&A.

Perfect for high-resolution, full-format digital cameras with more than 30 megapixels such as D800.
Perfect for high-resolution, full-format digital cameras with more than 30 megapixels such as D800.

What is meant by "high-end SLR lens family"?

This is about lenses for full-frame (36x24mm) SLR cameras with manual focusing capability. This family of lenses is geared towards delivering uncompromising image quality for demanding users. The lenses are perfect for high-resolution, full-format digital cameras with more than 30 megapixels such as D800. The combined performance approaches that of medium format systems. If you shoot with the largest aperture, cameras with smaller number of pixels also benefit from much better image contrast.

Will it be a family or just a single lens?

It will be its own family of lenses independent of our current ZE and ZF.2 lenses.

What focal lengths will be available?

Currently, we are developing three prime lenses, with more in the planning stage. We are not ready to reveal them at this time.

How much will the lenses cost?

Since the lenses are more demanding in terms of material selection and construction than our previous ZE and ZF.2 lenses, the price level will be higher. We are expecting prices around EUR 3,000.

For which bayonets will the lenses be available?

They will be available for EF bayonet (ZE) and F bayonet (ZF.2).

The new Distagon T* 1,4/55.
The new Distagon T* 1,4/55.

Where will the lenses be made?

The lenses will be manufactured in Japan. They will be developed in close consultation with our longstanding global production network of trusted partners in the optical industry to ensure that the lenses’ actual performance corresponds to their theoretical optical design performance.

What does "uncompromising image quality" mean?

The new lenses will achieve extremely high image quality throughout the entire picture including edges even at maximum aperture. At the same time, chromatic aberration is extremely low.

How come 1.4/55 is considered a Distagon type despite its standard focal length?

Due to the high performance required, we were looking for a fresh approach. It is true that the Distagon type is predominantly found in wide-angle lenses. This is because wide-angle lenses also require additional design effort in terms of number and arrangement of lenses. Since we were aiming for the best possible imaging performance for the new family of lenses, we decided to manufacture the 1.4/55 as a Distagon. Due to the number and arrangement of lenses, this lens unit is slightly larger in size and weight but uncompromising in its performance.

When will the first lens come to market?

The expected arrival is autumn 2013.

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65 Comments

  1. I'm eagerly awaiting a high performance macro lens with 1X or even more magnification, a real competitor of Canon MP-E super macro lens. I hope someone is remembering the legendary Zeiss Luminar lenses...

    Cristian Arghius

    Reply
    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Dear Josef,
      the new lenses are manufactured as a Distagon and all of our Distagon lenses possess a floating elements design to compensate aberrations at different distance settings.
      Best regards,
      Carl Zeiss Lenses Team

      Reply
      1. Oh boy,
        what shoud one do with a lense for a couple of thousand euros that doesn't even focus. The lense can be as good as it wants - it'll never attract any wedding, portrait, family or otherwise people photographer. To me this looks more like an academic thing.

        Reply
  2. DISTAGON as a design recalls me also field curvature as a (sometimes unwanted) feature of an uneven sharpness distribution across the frame. Will the extremely large lens showed take it into account as well?

    Reply
    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Dear Dino,
      thanks again for your feedback and your explanation. We like that you see your lenses as sort of sons. :)
      Unfortunately at the moment we cannot provide an answer to your question regarding the sharpness distribution. Please have patience with us and come back to us with this question when we release the new lenses, which will be approximately in autumn 2013.
      Best regards
      Carl Zeiss Lenses Team

      Reply
  3. Paul White

    Its such a shame you don't release your manual lenses in a-mount for Sony cameras, if it's Sony blocking this they are just harming sales of bodies and lenses for both Sony and Zeiss.

    Reply
    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Dear Jim,
      these lenses, except for the ZF.2 Lenses, for technical reasons do not possess an aperture ring.
      Best regards,
      Carl Zeiss Lenses Team

      Reply
      1. Please, may you clarify your statement? It's only ZE lenses that won't allow an aperture ring or (as it also seems in your picture) also ZF2 lenses will lose theirs ? Being designed for high count mp cameras (no longer for manual focusing film cameras) I assume the latter is true. Oder?

        Reply
  4. Dear Zeiss, let me express you my warmest appreciation for this idea you had. So far of course we've been impressed by the size and the price tag, but I'm sure we'll be amazed by its performances, the day it comes. I for myself have a 100 ZF2 and couldn't be happier, I can't imagine an even better lens of a FF camera. Compared to everything I had so far, the 100 is a quantum leap forward, so I'm trying to get other lenses with such spectacular performance, namely the 25 and the 35. My apparent "critique" about the field curvature is just to mean how "severely" I scrutinize every lens design before going for it - yet it's a sign of appreciation, as a father would do with his son or a teacher might push his pupils to do as good as they can, no less - Really please don't cease to amaze us. Best regards.

    Reply
  5. Florian

    Hello to the Zeiss team.
    You wrote earlier that the new lenses will not have a manual aperture ring. This was in reply to a question about the ZE version. I guess the team realizes that some people purchase the ZF because of the manual aperture ring and the flexibility to use it on canon and Nikon. Will the ZF Version have an manual aperture ring? I guess some people would prefer not to have such expensive lenses for only Canon or Nikon.
    Regards
    Florian

    Reply
  6. Eric

    What about bokeh?
    Distagon is a formula for wide-angle and bokeh might not be as smooth as with the Sonnar formula.

    Reply
  7. I wouldn't worry about bokeh. DISTAGON 35 is well known for its pleasant rendering, and i saw also nice portraits taken with the 28. Besides the large front lens should ensure a superior and smoother rendering compared to a littler lens. Others may explain the technical reason behind it better, yet, that is.

    Reply
  8. Juan Manuel

    Great. First class Zeiss lenses. That means that, until now, we are buying second class Zeiss lenses. That would explain why the 50mm f/1,4 Planar cost twice and performs almost equal than the Canon 50mm f/1,4.

    Reply
    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Dear Alan,
      at the moment we unfortunately cannot provide further information on such details. We will deliver more details on our blog as soon as we can publish them. Please have some patience with us...
      Best regards,
      Carl Zeiss Lenses Team

      Reply
  9. Great news.
    Quick question - why we still can't see ZA versions of your manual primes? I know that there are AF lenses, but they aren't 1:1 equivalent of your manual lineup, while many photographers shooting with A-mount love manual focusing.
    Do you have any plans perhaps for selling interchangeable bayonets for ZF primes?, as we know that these can be adopted for A-mount by unofficial bayonets.

    Reply
    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Dear Marcin,
      at the moment we do not have plans regarding your suggestions, sorry!
      Best regards,
      Carl Zeiss Lenses Team

      Reply
  10. Emmanuel

    Great ! But a little bit confusing : the price of this new lens sets this new family of lens in front of the compact primes CP2 super speed lenses that Zeiss makes with ARRI.

    Let's say I will to spend €3000+ on the best 50mm/1.4 for a nikon d800E...which one should I get ?

    I could choose the new Distagon from this new family of lenses (please give it a name) as it is made for that purpose.

    But I could also choose a 50mm T1.5 planar from the compact prime family, as it is approx. the same price, and it has a T*XP coating (the Distagon seems to have simple T* ?), calibrated focusing scale (what about the distagon ?), light traps in the barrel to avoid flare (any traps in the new family ?), color matched to all the family of the CP2, 14-blades iris, a very robust housing, interchangeable mount (very cool, will the new family, damn, please give it a name, have an interchangeable mount ?).

    And the Arri/Zeiss compact prime CP2 are advertised as ready for 4K. Cool. 4K is generally shot on super 35 format, with is roughly 1/2 the size of 24x36mm (in area, not linear). So if it is ready for 4K on super 35, it should be ready for 8K in 24x36mm, which is 33 millions of pixel...not far from the D800.

    These are a lot of question, the short question is : which lens is the best for high resolution photography in FF : the Distagon (that I'll have to wait for) or the (available) 50/T1.5 CP.2 ?

    Reply
  11. Richard Lai

    Since this is "High End" lens , extremely high image quality and the price is double or triple above other ZE/ZF lenses ,why not named in APO-Distagon?

    Reply
  12. Guys
    I think the new line will be simply called HE + the mount (ZE of ZF2), although on the yellow engraving of the prototype, nothing is visible yet.
    Second. Probably this is only an early prototype just to be displayed at photokina, probably Zeiss is still refining it and I'm sure if it will be an APO- lens they will remark it, although so far in the current line only the 135 has been designed with such feature in mind (and by the way several lenses by Zeiss are already very well corrected against c.a.)
    No idea for the CP2 / HE comparison. They are also two different designs (planar the CP2, distagon the HE) so one should choose the one suiting him/her better if price range is similar and no other technical issues raise.

    Reply
  13. Emmanuel

    Hm I made à mistake. 4k in super 35 is 5-6k in FF wich is around 22 million pixel.
    But the cp2 lenses could resolve more than this.
    Which to choose between the cp2 and the new lens line ?

    Reply
    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Dear Emmanuel,
      Wow, now that’s a lot of questions. :) We forwarded them to our technical experts. But as almost all of them are at photokina right now, it may take a little while until you get the answers. However, if you are also at photokina, please don’t hesitate to come to our booth and ask them yourself. They’ll be glad to help you :)
      Best regards,
      Carl Zeiss Lenses Team

      Reply
  14. Gabriel

    Autofocus is a must in 2012! Medium format has this basic feature. Are there any plans for future lenses to have it?

    Reply
  15. Simon Dai

    Dear Zeiss folks,

    Thanks a lot for your continuous effort to bring wonderful products to us. I do have a question for you though:

    I have tried the 25/2 and 35/1.4 ZF.2 recently on my D800E, both lenses produce spectacular results at open apertures but I found I can not fully trust the focus confirmation led in the viewfinder. If I go with the focus confirmation dot in the OVF, both lenses will present significant focus shift and that's true after I tried several copies from the shop.

    For this very reason, I'm now shooting the ZF.2 exclusively with live view.

    Could you explain why this would happen and are you planning to cope with it in the new lens family? I can try AF fine tune with AF lenses but there doesn't seem to be much I can do with these manual lenses ...

    Thanks a lot and congratulations to your achievement!

    Simon

    Reply
    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Dear Simon,
      Unfortunately, the AF systems of modern DSLR cameras are not accurate enough to focus/indicate a high-speed lens correctly at full aperture. The depth of field at f/1.4 is shallower than the range which the AF indicator shows to be "sharp". Beside this, the AF systems of the cameras do not take specific parameters of the application/ lens into account (f-stop in use because of the focus shift, lens type...).
      With their own lenses, the camera manufacturers put some individual correction data into the camera's firmware. With 3rd party lenses, such automatic AF corrections are not available. So the AF micro adjustment of the camera could help for more accurate focusing results with the AF indicator when a manual lens is used. The lens itself cannot influence the AF accuracy of the camera body.

      Best regards,
      Carl Zeiss Lenses Team

      Reply
  16. Dear Zeiss,

    i am landscape photographer shooting the Nikon D800E.

    What i am missing is an ultra wide landscape lens with front thread for filter use. 16mm would be a nice focal length and the lens should also have an aperture of 2.8 that it is usable for shooting the milky way. Currently i need to carry 2 Nikon lenses (16-35 f4 for daylight and 14-24mm f2.8 for night shots only). Will you offer something for the landscapers soon?

    Best regards
    Achim

    Reply
  17. Ivan

    2/25 and now 2/135 sonnar, to many lenses, and they are all spectacular! It is hard to choose. Do you plan maybe a compact zoom lens for shooting videos on DSLR? A mf zoom lens in range of 25-85mm?

    Reply
  18. Well, a zoom from Zeiss it's hard to define, since much more than other manufacturers is expected to have a superior performance, thus means a shorter range to keep price low. In the end videographers already have the cp lens series. My guess it might be something in the 25-50 range with a relatively low aperture ( f/3.5 f/4) not to overlap with primes and have a perfect correction on every aspect. It might come.. I guess within next Photokina.

    Reply
  19. ZEISS Camera Lenses

    Dear Emmanuel, this is the answer to your question by our technical expert:

    You wrote: Great ! But a little bit confusing : the price of this new lens sets this new family of lens in front of the compact primes CP2 super speed lenses that Zeiss makes with ARRI.

    That is not correct. The CP.2 and CP.2 Super Speed lenses share the same optical design like our SLR lenses. They have nothing to do with our Ultra Prime and Master Prime lenses we make together with our partner ARRI.

    You wrote: Let’s say I will to spend €3000+ on the best 50mm/1.4 for a nikon d800E…which one should I get ? I could choose the new Distagon from this new family of lenses (please give it a name) as it is made for that purpose.

    CP.2 lenses are not made for still photography, their handling is only good for prof. video purposes with accessories. The best performer in the standard focal length range for still photography on a D800 will be the new Distagon T* 1,4/55 SLR (available from autumn, 2013).

    You wrote: But I could also choose a 50mm T1.5 planar from the compact prime family, as it is approx. the same price, and it has a T*XP coating (the Distagon seems to have simple T* ?), calibrated focusing scale (what about the distagon ?), light traps in the barrel to avoid flare (any traps in the new family ?), color matched to all the family of the CP2, 14-blades iris, a very robust housing, interchangeable mount (very cool, will the new family, damn, please give it a name, have an interchangeable mount ?).

    The Compact Prime lenses have the same T* coating as the SLR lenses. Only Master Prime, Master Zoom and Lightweight Zoom lenses are equipped with the T* XP coating.
    Still photo lenses (also the new Distagon T* 1,4/55) have no calibrated focusing scales - this is just useful for cine purposes. All of our lenses have internal light traps to reduce flare and ghosting.

    You wrote: These are a lot of question, the short question is : which lens is the best for high resolution photography in FF : the Distagon (that I’ll have to wait for) or the (available) 50/T1.5 CP.2 ?

    That is easy to answer: The perfect lens for maximum performance at full aperture for still photography will be the new Distagon T* 1,4/55.

    You wrote: Hm I made à mistake. 4k in super 35 is 5-6k in FF wich is around 22 million pixel.
    But the cp2 lenses could resolve more than this.
    Which to choose between the cp2 and the new lens line ?

    All of our current lenses (e.g. CP.2 lenses, SLR lenses, and the new Distagon) have much more resolution than 4k or 36MP. The main difference between classical optical designs like the current Planar T* 1,4/50 ZF.2 (or the Compact Prime Super Speed 50mm/T1.5) and the new Distagon T* 1,4/55 is the performance at full aperture regarding contrast, flat image field, corner performance and color fringes.
    The "resolution" of a lens is no relevant criteria in practical use.

    Hoping to be of service to you.

    Sincerely,
    Bertram Hoenlinger

    Reply
  20. Emmanuel

    Thank you VERY much for your detailed answer. It seems clear that the new distagon will be the weapon of choice for still photography.
    I still think that calibrated distance scale would be a useful feature in some areas of still photo. Combined with a laser rangefinder it's the easiest and quickest way to focus accurately in many occasions.

    Reply
  21. andy

    The new, high-end lenses are exactly what the DSLR industry needs. The lack of good 50 and 35mm lenses led me to drop my DSLR, so I look forward to Zeiss future offerings. I am sure they will be a great success!

    Reply
  22. De Vos

    Congratulations to the Zeiss team. This 55mm looks truly amazing from the pictures (100% crop in corners) which I saw at the Photokina. Maybe you should publish them here to wet everyone's appetite. Any chance to deliver them earlier? Autumn 2013 is so far away :)-
    Georges

    Reply
  23. ivan

    So basically current line of Zeiss lenses are optimized for size (quality is still the best) new Zeiss line will be uncompromised quality - size of the body or cost of production is secondary - concentrating just on the image quality. A new range of lenses with high production quality for demanding users. Users who care only about image quality and nothing else.

    Reply
  24. Joerg

    Dear Zeiss,
    sad to hear you will not support AF - since you will do a 50/1.4 AF SSM for Sony. Even using f 1.2 AF lenses, I did not recognize the AF issues you described in the previous comment.
    But you know, AF could be turned of, if someone do not like it.
    AF is - in my opinion - a must have. Spending 3,000€ for a new high-quality lense ... without AF. Hmm?
    You have great glas, please give us the option to do AF with your great lenses, and do not forget the ultrasonic motors ...
    Best regards,
    Joerg

    Reply
  25. marco

    Congratulation in advance for these new, high-end Zeiss lenses: Given the cost and excellent corrections, I hope the new Distagon 1.4/55 can have a focusing range with a minimal distance not above 30 cm. It will be a good news!

    Reply
  26. Ben

    I've been hoping for a high-performance normal for a long time. This lens is interesting to me.

    Question - what will out of focus rendering (bokeh) will be like? I find the bokeh of the Zeiss 1.4/50 ZF extremely poor. Will the new lens be better?

    Reply
    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Dear Ben,
      at the moment we unfortunately cannot provide further information on such details. We will deliver more details on our blog as soon as we can publish them - of course including some images shot with the new lens (so you can check out the bokeh for yourself if you want to). Please have some patience with us…
      All the best,
      Carl Zeiss Lenses Team

      Reply
  27. David

    Just wondering whether the design of the new 1.4/55 Distagon includes the "advanced aspheric element", similarl to the new fixed 2/35 Sonnar lens of the recently announced Sony DSC-RX1?
    Thanks,
    D

    Reply
    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Dear David,
      at the moment we unfortunately cannot provide further information on such details. Have a little patience with us, we will publish more details to inform you as soon as we can. Best regards,
      Carl Zeiss Lenses Team

      Reply
  28. John

    I'm not sure why the choice not to make this new set autofocus, especially at that price point. There are existing MF choices for, say, Nikon, inluding Zeiss...and the G Nikkors are excellent and significantly cheaper. At 3K the lens should be everything I might ever want, right? You guys will have to explain the rationale there.

    Reply
    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Dear Mart,

      for an optimal compatibility of autofocus lenses with the camera barrel, a very close cooperation with the respective camera manufacturer is critical. We already have a close partnership with Sony. For SLR lenses with ZE and ZF.2 mount, we have decided to focus mainly on optimizing the image performance and handling for applications with manual focusing instead of starting new partnerships with other partners to develop AF lenses. For this reason, there will soon be no ZEISS autofocus SLR lenses available for cameras of other manufacturers. However, for the mirrorless system cameras (DSLM) from Fujifilm and Sony, we will offer fully compatible AF lenses starting summer 2013.

      Best regards,
      Carl Zeiss Lenses Team

      Reply
  29. Florian

    Zeiss said at Photokina that there will be a standard set of primes coming. I guess a lot of people wonder what Zeiss considers as standard. Without giving precise details, what to expect? A wide and a tele lens to compliment the 55mm?
    These lenses could be a huge success.
    Greetings
    Florian

    Reply
    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Dear Florian,
      sorry but we do not say more about this right now. Stay tuned for further news updates here, on our Facebook page or on Twitter.
      Best regards,
      Carl Zeiss Lenses Team

      Reply
  30. archivue

    I'm a zeiss fan... considering the fact that there's no PC 35mm lense produce by anyone at the moment, i still can't understand why you are not making one (the ZEISS/CONTAX 35PC being the best of the vintage 35PC lens... )...
    45 TS-E or PC-E are just too long for architecture and too short for product
    24 TS-E and PC-E are quite wite, not to mention the even wider 17...
    I much prefer the quite natural rendering of a 35mm for urban landscape, natural landscape and architecture... and to be honest, i'm not alone in this case !
    There's plenty of quite good 50 and 55 lenses... but there's no 35PC at all on the market !

    Reply
  31. With Mart's request I fully second that. Team Zeiss: Please Bring back your the state of the art lenses for Nikon and Canon. No more vignetting wide open, sharp to the T centre to corner, very nominal distortions, flare and banish all the CAs and LoCAs.

    We have been purchasing used and modifying (via Leitax mount) the Leica-R APOs for use with our Nikon D800, 800Es, D4s and Canon 1Dx, 5Dm2 and we wish you will speed up the development for release of your announced 55/1.4 distagons, bring back an improved version of your already quite excellent Contax Zeiss 300mm 2.8 TPP and all the others you eluded to at Photokina. It is a bit disappointing for us to have to resort to using these used Leica-r APOs, CZ TPP when we could have purchased new state of the art Zeiss 35mm FF lenses for probably the same price or perhaps a little more.

    I look forward to your new non- compromising lenses. Already pre-ordered your 135 f2.0 APOs but the vignetting specs. wide open is still compromised.

    Reply
  32. HI guys,

    Great fan here - Having loads of fun with the 35f250f2and100f2.

    I have been researching the market for a good T/S and nothing came about with great satisfaction include those from the optics if schneider (not too sure about the new one recently release)

    Please please, since we're moving into the ULTRA Range- Have a range of T/S lenses!!

    That's one area where Digital Backs on T/s capable bodies are kicking FF Butt big time!

    Reply
    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Hi ronnie,

      Together with our partner Sony, we develop and offer special high performing AF lenses which are exclusively available for Sony Alpha mount cameras, e.g. the new Planar T* 1,4/50 ZA that Sony showed at the Photokina in September. At the moment, there are no plans to offer additional standard lenses like the Distagon T* 1,4/55 to the ZA lens line.

      Best regards,
      Carl Zeiss Lenses Team

      Reply
  33. Kevin

    Given the planned price point of the new high-end SLR lens family it would be good to see them supplied with a genuine quality leather lens case like the ones Leica supply with their lenses.

    Also do you plan to produce a range of lens cases for your existing ZF.2 and ZE lenses? This seems to be the only lens accessory that you do not supply currently.

    Reply
  34. Xenon

    may be ZF.3 is the best name for those prime lens which designed for hi-resolutions cameras and with different industrial design from classic ZF.2

    Reply
  35. gianfranco

    salve, vorrei sapere se c'è in progetto di rilasciare obiettivi ze autofocus. Ho cmprato da poco il 21/2,8 per la mia canon 5d mark1 e vorrei acquistare il 100/2. il 21/2,8 è strepitoso, ma per il 100/2 ho paura della imprecisione della messa a fuoco manuale. Non vedo l'ora di provare il 55/1,4 il 50/1,4 mi ha deluso notevolmente.

    Reply
  36. Mrinmoy laha

    Hi,
    I am using Canon eos 5d Mk3 for landscape , travel and potrait photography, the lens i use is Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM Lens. One source told me there is a zess lens " Carl Zeiss f. Contax N 3.5-4.5/24-85mm " which will deliver much much better result than this canon 24-70 lens with 5D, can you please tell is it really trur? if you have any such zoom lens in 24-70 range which will deliver mich better result than canon 24-70 , please let me know. I am new to Zeiss world.

    Thanks
    Laha

    Reply
  37. mustafanazif

    i almost bought all of carl zeiss lenses...
    i will not write any critique about zeiss...
    but i can say that; "zeiss will make me bankrupt" :)
    and, thanks zeiss...
    since 22 years i used many lenses... and cameras... i can say that; if you want best results, you should use zeiss...

    Reply

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