Resolution (f2.8)

Zone A/B (at f2.8)
Nikon 35mm Shift lens at f2.8 Olympus 35mm shift lens at f2.8 Contax 35mm PC-Distagon Zone A
Nikon 35mm PC Nikkor
at f2.8 (centre)
Olympus 35mm Shift
at f2.8 (centre)
Contax PC Distagon
at f2.8 (centre)
4.5 points 4.75 points 4.75 points

The section sampled here straddles Zones A and B, so it would lie just outside the very centre of a single frame capture. The Zeiss delivers outstanding contrast right from the off, and superb resolution. If this seems familiar, perhaps you’ve compared Contax, Olympus and Nikon lenses before: classically, Zeiss lenses outresolve the rest of the system centre frame at most working apertures; Nikon, and especially Olympus, lenses need a good few stops to warm up, as the rest of the test will illustrate.

Zone C (unshifted 35mm frame corner) at f2.8
Nikon 35mm PC Corner Sample Olympus 35mm Shift Corner Sample Contax 35mm PC-Distagon Zone C
Nikon 35mm PC Nikkor
at f2.8 (Zone C)
Olympus 35mm Shift
at f2.8 (Zone C)
Contax PC Distagon
at f2.8 (Zone C)
4.5 points
4.75 points
4.75 points

Though we’re out in the middle of a fully left-shifted capture here, this sample is in Zone C, where the corners of a 36x24mm frame lie. I’m not sure I can think of any wide angle lens (these just about qualify) capable of drawing such a well-detailed corner wide open as the Zeiss PC-Distagon – just fabulous. In typical fashion, the Olympus suffers from strong spherical aberration at its widest aperture and its performance rapidly declines away from Zones A and B. The Nikon makes a more respectable showing, and if you use the lens unshifted, this is impressive for a wide open corner – but both are a long way from the standard set by the Contax.

Zone D (fully shifted corner: 29mm from frame centre) at f2.8
Nikon 35mm PC Extreme Corner Sample Olympus 35mm Shift Extreme Corner Contax 35mm PC-Distagon Zone E
Nikon 35mm PC Nikkor
at f2.8 (Zone D)
Olympus 35mm Shift
at f2.8 (Zone D)
Contax PC Distagon
at f2.8 (Zone D)
4.5 points
4.75 points
4.75 points

This asks a lot of a very wide medium format lens: fully shifted, wide open – and yet surprisingly, despite the aberration and loss of contrast, the Zuiko’s wobbly focal plane locks in a very well resolved D Zone way out here in the image circle badlands. Remind you of the 18mm Zuiko, perhaps? Softer than the 16-35II and Zeiss 18mm centre frame, but dynamite in the corners? High hopes, then for its stopped down performance. It’s also a very credible result for the PC-Distagon, actually useable wide open at full shift. Evidently the PC-Nikkor just wasn’t designed to work this way.