Introduction

Zeiss CF 25mm f2.8 v Nikon 24mm f2 AIS
[published from flickr tests, november 2006]

Special thanks go to Frank Fremerey who conducted this test on a Nikon D2X using a pre-production test sample number 000009 from Zeiss in Germany. Final production models may of course perform slightly differently. Further images may be downloaded here.

Despite the Cosina slurs frequently bandied about, there is every reason to believe that this has a real chance of making a splash among weak 24mm competition. Perhaps Zeiss have debuted this lens in ZF mount because Nikon’s offerings at this focal length aren’t particularly attractive: their venerable AIS workhorses are reliable but uninspiring performers in f2 and f2.8 guises.

I don’t imagine that ZF 85mm f1.4 sales have been particularly strong: Nikon 85mm f1.4 D users have been justifiably underwhelmed – even confused, insulted – at being offered a inferior manual focus equivalent to a lens whose reputation is almost without peer. Maybe Zeiss is looking for an easier fight at 24mm.

For an f2.8 lens, the ZF 25mm is a big hunk of glass, weighing in at 480g and measuring 66mm in length. However, it is an entirely new 10 element design that shares little with the earlier, somewhat unloved Contax/Yashica mount Distagon of the same focal length. A welcome development is a drastic improvement in close focusing ability: Zeiss quotes a figure of 17cm from the film plane; a hair-raising 6cm from the front element. The MTF charts make fairly impressive viewing, too . . .

Please note that the following test was conducted with an APS-sized sensor – leaving a question mark hanging over its true corner performance, which will be assessed on a full frame Canon body in a forthcoming test. Meantime, let’s see what we can learn from its performance on a Nikon body . . . at least we won’t have to worry about adaptor issues.