Zeiss ZM T* 50mm f2 Planar

Looks quite unassuming doesn't it? Doesn't get a lot of attention with its moderate F2 aperture. Its small, compact and (relatively) cheap for a Zeiss M-Mount lens. However this may just be the best lens I've ever used.


Leica M9 Zeiss 50mm f2 Planar

Leica M9 Zeiss 50mm f2 Planar

Leica M9 Zeiss 50mm f2 Planar


Panasonic GH1 Zeiss 50mm f2 Planar

Panasonic GH1 Zeiss 50mm f2 Planar

Panasonic GH1 Zeiss 50mm f2 Planar

Its jaw dropping sharp, even at F2. I knew it was something special when I was focusing it on my GH1. With most ordinary lenses the point of focus can sometimes be difficult to see, and it takes a fair amount of back and forth to find the precise point of focus. Not so with this little gem. As you approach the point of focus it just gets sharper and sharper until it snaps into focus. Its even easy to focus at smaller apertures such as f8, again the precise point of focus is easy to see. It rivals my Lumix 20mm f1.7 "pancake" for being clean wide open. I now have a second lens that I would be perfectly happy to use wide open. I've used faster lenses but only used them wide open in an emergency, because of softness and CA. No such problems with the Planar.

On the M9 it is simply sensational. Extraordinary clarity. It also has a wonderful warm colour balance. All the above shots were taken in very grey light & the colours "pop" beautifully.

Certainly those T* and Planar trademarks have significance for photographers who have ever use Contax gear. They were an indication of quality then and seemingly so now.

Its not quite as well made as a Leica lens, but then not much is. The focusing ring has a typical Zeiss feel, i.e. its a bit "rubbery" However its built like a tank, compared to most DSLR lenses.

I thought my Nikon 50mm f1.2 was the best lens I'd ever used, but now I'm not so sure. A test is called for.

I'll stop gushing now!!


Having just done a test between the Zeiss Planar 50mm f2 and the Nikon 50mm f1.2 on a Panasonic GH1 - I can definitely say that the Zeiss IS the best lens I have ever used - but so is the Nikon! It was an absolute tie. The only differences are the Nikon is fractionally (and we are talking incredibly small fractions here!) sharper in the centre. The Zeiss is fractionally sharper at the edge. It is absolutely of no significance whatsoever. The test was carried out at f2 - f16 which are the apertures both share.
I'm not publishing results because you can only see the differences by staring intently at the full resolution file at 100% on an iMac screen & then its far from obvious. Identical colour balance, both have incredibly low CA, even at F2 and both sets of images look like they were taken with the same lens.

Interestingly the Zeiss gets slightly more in the frame, though that may just be the fact that I have two adapters on the Nikon. Both are stellar lenses - two of the best ever produced. Both I believe are better than anything Panasonic or Olympus have so far produced, with the exception of the Lumix 20mm f1.7. I believe both are sharper than the Panasonic/Leica 45mm f2.8, but not by very much and that lens has other virtues.

So a good result. The advantage for me is that the Zeiss is smaller and lighter. Plus the obvious advantage that its an m-mount lens and is designed for my Leica full-frame M9. It will be sitting on that camera an awful lot.

I have said before that there aren't that many advantages to using legacy lenses on m4/3. I still believe that. These two lenses both do offer an image quality advantage but they are special, very well engineered and optically excellent examples. That it takes only lenses of this quality to improve on what Panasonic in particular have come up with says a lot for their designers and engineers.

With some care and the motivation to test and experiment, m4/3 is capable of results that can impress even the most demanding of users. The images that I can produce with this lens/camera combination are significantly better than I have obtained with many DSLR cameras. I prefer images taken with m4/3 and these two lenses over images I have taken with cameras such as Nikon D3, D300, Canon 550D. They are so much better than the results I obtained with a Pentax K7 (even with limited lenses) Sharper, better colour, less CA.

In many ways this is not surprising. The only difference after all between m4/3 and other small cameras such as the Samsung NX10 and Sony NEX5 is the lack of a mirror.

If you need speed, and lots of fancy functions then DSLR's can provide that. If however you are mostly concerned about image quality and less about the size of your equipment!!! then m4/3 offers an excellent alternative.

Interestingly I seem to be accumulating more equipment as time moves on, but it occupies less space!