Hands On: Zeiss 25mm f2 for Canon EF

At Photo Plus Expo 2011, Zeiss announced the new 25mm f2 lens in Canon and Nikon mount. Fortunately, they had a unit available at the show to play with. After a brief test, we were able to secure a loaner unit and a full review will be coming. But here are some quick first impressions of the lens on the Canon 5D Mk II.

Note that this lens was, “the closest pre-production unit to the production version” of the lens.

Tech Specs

Taken from Zeiss’s website.

Focal length 25 mm
Aperture range f/2.0 – f/22
Focusing range 0.25 m – infinity
Number of elements/groups 11/10
Angular field, diag./horiz./vert. 81°/71°/51°
Coverage at close range 219 x 144 mm
Filter thread M 67 x 0,75
Dimensions (with caps) ø 71 – 73 mm, length 95 – 98 mm
Weight 570-600 g
Camera mounts EF Mount (ZE)
F Mount (ZF.2)

Ergonomics

Being a photographer that shoots mostly with prime lenses, using the Zeiss 25mm f2 felt right at home with me. Despite the fact that this is a manual focus only lens, I didn’t mind not feeling my way around the lens for an AF/MF switch. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by another awesome feature.

The problem with many Canon lenses are that there is no effective depth of field scale. Granted, they were designed to be used with autofocus as the primary focusing method; and for that they work extremely well. But sometimes you want a depth of field scale, and Zeiss has that. It comes in use when you don’t have a split-prism screen to aid in focusing.

The lens feels very good in the hands as do all Zeiss lenses. Granted, it is a bit heavy due to the metal construction.

As with all Zeiss lenses, the depth of field scale can easily be mistake for an aperture ring. However, this lens doesn’t have an aperture ring.

Focusing

The Zeiss lens is an all manual focus beast. The focusing of this lens is very smooth and there is enough resistance to provide a very balanced taste. By that, I mean that one can focus from the minimum 10″ to infinity quickly or they can take their time and slowly and painstakingly focus with ease. Depending on your need, it will be satisfied by the focusing ring.

To boot, the lens also has an AF confirmation chip built in to help aid with focusing.

Build Quality

The Zeiss 25mm f2 is built extremely well. With its all metal construction, the lens feels as if it will stand up to the roughest of camera/lens bumps with ease. Even so, I’d want to put a filter in front of the lens to really protect it from anything and everything.

Image Quality (Canon 5D Mk II)

Focusing the lens can be tough at times.

Though the lens doesn’t seem to be super-extremely sharp, the lens seems to offer lots of microcontrast which helps to make whatever is in focus pop out a bit. There is also some very gorgeous focus fall off.

What seems even nicer about this lens (and even quite amazing) is the fact that the color rendition looks very film-like. Though it isn’t perfectly accurate, the colors that this lens helps to deliver when attached to the Canon 5D Mk II seem to look like Portra or very washed out Ektachrome.

For the photographer that appreciates film, you’ll love this lens.

From my quick test, the skin tonality from this lens looks muted. The lens also seems to have a weird problem. Take a look at the bottom right of the image above. Notice how purple the area is right next to Gevon? It wasn’t like that in real life. I also have no idea why that would have happened.

However, the Zeiss reps did say that it was the closest pre-production unit to the real thing.

Correction: The purple is a reflection of the carpet on the trade show floor. We apologize for any errors.

Again, I see some very weird purple color rendition towards the bottom of the image. I will be looking into this further during my full review of the lens.

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