Resolution (f4)

Zones A/B (centre frame) at f4
Nikon 35mm Shift lens at f2.8 Olympus 35mm shift lens at f2.8 Contax 35mm PC-Distagon Zone A f4
Nikon 35mm PC Nikkor
at f4 (centre)
Olympus 35mm Shift
at f4 (centre)
Contax PC Distagon
at f4 (centre)
4.5 points
4.75 points
4.75 points

One stop down, there’s little to add centre frame: all the lenses are a little sharper centre frame but the Olympus and Nikon clearly lag behind the lovely looking Distagon.

Zone C at f4
Nikon 35mm PC Corner Sample at f4 Olympus 35mm Shift Corner Sample at f4 Contax 35mm PC-Distagon Zone C at f4
Nikon 35mm PC Nikkor
at f4 (Zone C)
Olympus 35mm Shift
at f4 (Zone C)
Contax PC Distagon
at f4 (Zone C)
4.5 points
4.75 points
4.75 points

. . . but the Nikon makes great strides toward narrowing the gap: maintaining a very consistent level of performance through Zones A, B and C by f4, giving Leica-scaring ‘corners’ unshifted. The Olympus is truly a curate’s egg still: the focal plane meanders in and out of sync, looking as bad as this in regions of Zone C.

Zone D at f4
Nikon 35mm PC Extreme Corner Sample Olympus 35mm Shift Extreme Corner Contax 35mm PC-Distagon Zone E
Nikon 35mm PC Nikkor
at f4 (Zone D)
Olympus 35mm Shift
at f4 (Zone D)
Contax PC Distagon
at f4 (Zone D)
4.5 points
4.75 points
4.75 points

You may already have noticed how impressively these lenses handle light fall-off: clearly the image circle of each is bigger (or more sharply defined) than the notional 60mm. The story here is much as it was wide open: the Zeiss further refines its Zone E rendition, exceeded for resolution (if not for contrast) by the Olympus and somewhere at the bottom of the heap the Nikon continues to strive for an acceptable image.

Generally, please note that the differences you’re seeing only become evident when you closely juxtapose near-identical captures: when I review the Olympus image in isolation, it’s not immediately evident that Zone C flaws exist, but the Nikon, whose behaviour is opposite in Zones C and E, makes it clear that something is amiss. Viewed on a print, the Olympus would appear to render the scene much more ‘smoothly’, without sudden bumps and dips in resolution: at f4, everything’s a bit mushy. Strangely, many users of this lens would claim that the image looks fine . . . because nothing stands out as sub-standard until you make the comparison. By contrast, you would definitely notice ‘soft corners’ with the Nikon because they are so unlike the centre of its image circle. The same problem often afflicts Zeiss lenses which tend not to be optimised for wide aperture Zone C excellence. Making these tests is great for disillusioning one about lenses one was previously perfectly happy with.