As ever with these single sample tests, I can’t guarantee that, for instance, the Olympus f2 here tested is the best they ever made. What I can say for sure is that this sample couldn’t live with the Nikon or the Zeiss.
However, as the salutory tale of two 28mm showed, not every Nikon 28mm is as good as this one, which I really liked. Not just because it was the nicest to use and the most satisfying in the hand, but because it is perfectly corrected, and by far the sharpest of the three at wide apertures, and it’s colour rendering is almost dead neutral – and it’s even the cheapest. That it isn’t more widely used on the 1Ds II I can only put down to entrenched Nikon/Canon rivalry. Great though Canon cameras are, they have nothing to touch this old AIS glass.
But at f8/f11 the Zeiss does magical things. You can chimp the Nikon and Olympus to look a bit similar, but it’s not the same. It’s not a perfect lens: it has barrel distortion, the vignetting at f4 is a throwback to pre-war portraiture, and you really do have to stop it down – but, like a turbocharged sportscar, when it comes good, it is breathtaking.
All in all, I think we have to call an honourable draw on this one: whether you choose the Zeiss or the Nikon will be more a question of preference than performance. Perhaps the best 28mm is a Leica after all?