First Impressions: Zeiss Distagon T* 21mm f/2.8 ZE (for Canon)

Zeiss Distagon T* 21mm f/2.8 ZE

For when Canon’s L series isn’t good enough: Zeiss delivers top shelf German-made (well, made in Japan) glass that’ll fit onto your EOS system camera. I’ve always wanted to try out their lenses, to see if the hype was real. So Zeiss loaned one of their wide angle lenses to go nuts with. I’m using it with my trusty 5D Mark II.


Tech Specs

Straight from Zeiss

Focal length 21 mm
Aperture range f/2.8 – f/22
Focusing range 0.22 m – ∞
Number of elements/groups 16/13
Angular field, diag./horiz./vert. 90°/81°/59°
Coverage at close range 18 x 12 cm
Filter thread M 82 x 0.75
Dimensions (with caps) ø 87 mm, length 110-112 mm
Weight 600g – 720g
Camera mounts F Mount (ZF.2)
EF Mount (ZE)

Ergonomics & Build Quality

Sexy focus distance markers

The lens is made extremely well with fit and finish being absolutely fantastic. The build seriously puts Canon’s L series to shame. It is also HEAVY. I don’t mind a camera that weighs a few pounds (I find my shots end up more stable) but some people will get tired after shooting with the lens for a while. The focus ring moves with purpose and there is a nice hard “CLACK” whenever you hit either end of the focus distance range. Which reminds me: As with all of Zeiss’ lenses this is manual focus only. Though in practice with the 21mm focal length I feel you will be shooting at infinity most of the time anyway.

A nice addition is also the fact that there is a depth of field scale that actually works based on a given aperture.

Pretty metal accents

Image Quality

Very, very nice. Check out this close-up crop:

Not really.

Only a smidgen of chromatic aberration

Distortion is very low, but there is a fair amount of vignetting:

Great for architecture

Its very easy to get creative with a wide angle

Now don’t get me wrong: Canon’s L series is the go-to glass for working photographers and enthusiasts alike. Zeiss however manages to best Canon’s lenses when shot wide open, as well as exhibit less chromatic aberration and distortion. Zeiss’  lead shortens once you stop the lens down, but its nevertheless apparently optically superior.

First Impressions

I like this one a lot. There is an extremely luxurious feel to this lens and the quality of the shots is fantastic. You can use it for a lot of things: architecture, landscapes, creative portraits and wherever you’d like a nice, large field of view. Just make sure you’re using this on a full frame camera, or else you end up with a more pedestrian 28mm or 35mm focal length (depending on your crop factor).  Zeiss lenses will cost you but we are talking the difference between driving a Toyota or a BMW here. Stay tuned for a full review where you’ll get to see a lot more of what you can do with this great piece of glass.

Check it out over at Amazon.

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