Short Tele Comparison Nikkor 85/1.4 vs. Zeiss 85/1.4 vs. Zeiss G 90/2.8 G

ssp65

Member
I am interested in opinions on the above 3 lenses. I know many of you have been ex Nikon users and I have heard that the Nikon 85 f1.4 is one of Nikon's best. So, apart from the obvious advantages of the extra speed, does anyone have experience with these lenses. Bokeh is something I am particularly interested in.
Thanks

Steve
 

contaxrus

New Member
Hi Steve,

As a photojournalist years ago, I used the Nikon 85mm F1.4 because it was company equipment. I owned the Zeiss 85mm F1.4 (West German, non-mm) also. I don't want to disappoint Contax fans, but the Nikon was sharper wide open - where it really mattered for me in low-light work. Also, the Nikon's construction was more robust. If I held the Zeiss barrel tightly while focusing, I could feel some binding. The Nikon barrel was simply stronger. I would have preferred heavier gauge aluminum on the Zeiss, even if it meant more weight.

My experience with the Nikon F1.4 lead me to part with the Zeiss F1.4 eventually, but I kept my 85mm F2.8 Zeiss because I always admired its rendering of highlight tones.

Some of you may have different experiences and it may be possible my Zeiss F1.4 wasn't the best in production.

-Thomas
 

myrra

Member
As for Zeiss 85/1.4 and G 90/2.8 I use both. There are quite differences, although I cannot say they are covered by MTF charts or whatever. G 90 is sharp, with strong color and contrast. I think it was made with landscape photography in mind and this is exactly where it shines. I don't advice to use it for portraits, it's too sharp (note there are different opinions on web too).
As for 85/1.4, I bought it after some struggling with portraiture using G 90. As a "mistake", I used it on vacations as a landscape lens. After using G 90 for over a year, I was not pleased with results from 85/1.4. But as for portraits, it is nice lens. It has some poetic feelings, that is, if you want to create one, but for landscapes, it is somewhat soft.
For bokeh, there are some situations when 85/1.4 is good and others when not. I have no exact data, but seems I have to close up to f/4 to get nice one. Wide open you must take care not to include bright spots in image (distant l&s, shining particles etc.)
G 90 has rather nice bokeh, but as I wrote, I don't advice to use it for portraits.
Myrra
 
R

rickd

I own the same lens pair and agree they're quite different--each also has its uses. Even though the Planar is a decade and a half older design, when you need those two stops, you need them.

I'll note in passing that Zeiss significantly redesigned the 85/1.4 for the N-series. I'd be willing to bet that it exceeds any of the competition available today.

--Rick
 

rico

Well-Known Member
Brave words, Rick, but I doubt the N 85/1.4 will win you any money.

As someone with no social life, I must admit to perusing MTF charts, especially the excellent ones from CZ. In fact, my C/Y lens kit was influenced by those squiggly little lines. Besides the internal focus (nice), the added girth (not nice), and the 800g weight (a bad joke), the N 85/1.4 differs in optical performance from the much-maligned C/Y 85/1.4. By which, I mean the N cannot touch the C/Y, let alone the Canon EF 85/1.2L.

As for Mirek, I can only imagine his 85/1.4 C/Y was used wide-open for his landscapes (or was out of adjustment) because this lens is really sharp stopped-down. For urban landscapes, it and the P100 have the lowest linear distortion at infinity of the entire Contax brand, Biogons included.
 
M

mike_nunan

Hi Steve,

I'd agree with Thomas that if you want sharp images wide open, the Planar 85/1.4 is not the way to go. However, at least it is soft in a "nice" way (IMO). Plus I would take its bokeh over anything else I've seen, and it is bitingly sharp from f/2.8 onwards. If you want performance at f/1.4 or f/2, then the 85/1.2 might be a better way to go, although I've yet to confirm its capabilities there with an actual owner**, and if you wish to buy one you will pay a fortune as you will be competing with the collectors. It's also pretty heavy and bulky.

HTH

-= mike =-

** I've just sent a message to Zeiss to see if they can supply the charts and clear this issue up once and for all.
 

afranklin

Well-Known Member
Hi,

"the much-maligned C/Y 85/1.4"

That's interesting, as all I've heard for this lense is praise, and I'm not quite sure why one would malign it. Just from an MTF standpoint, it's one of the highest scoring lenses on photodo (it's the highest of all the Contax lenses listed), and from personal experience, it's one of the best lenses out there. It's got an amazingly flat MTF, even at 1.4 it really is very good, better than the 50/1.4 and the 35/1.4 at 1.4.

I'd say the 85/1.4 is the best "technical" lense amongst the similar lenses I have (high sharpness and color saturation, in the top for bokeh/tonality), and the Leica 75/1.4 is the best "artsy" lense (great tonality, sharp enough), the Canon is just fast and mushy, but great bokeh ;-). I have the 90/2.8, but that simply isn't in the same peer group in my opinion. The Hasselblad 110/2 is in the same "peer" group and (for 6x6) is a cross between the Leica 75/1.4 and the Contax 85/1.4.

I'd bet anyone who thinks this lense is soft in any enlargement up to (and possibly beyond) 8x10 at 1.4 is seeing camera shake (or incorrect focus), as one would use 1.4 in low shutter speed situations, and focusing is very critical at 1.4.

Regards,

Austin
 

myrra

Member
Well, it's really interesting. If I use only MTF charts, seems there is a little or no difference between G90 and P85 when stopped down. But they create different feel in image and I still think P85 is not landscape lens (note I use sturdy tripod and mostly RTS III - 2 of them - or RTS II with mirror lockup). I guess P85 was made with different goals in mind and maybe it's optimized for somewhat "portraiture" range. Both are great lenses, but I use them in the way they were made for. One more experience for me that MTF charts are not enough.
Myrra
 
M

mike_nunan

Hi Austin,

It must be all my fault that the 85 is "much-maligned". I keep having to apologise for saying this, because I actually love this lens to death, but take a look at the s&le shots at the end of the thread here:

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These are not tight crops, the whole frame encompasses the two shoes with a little bit of border to spare. This level of softness is apparent in a 4x6, never mind anything bigger. I can even see the difference in the viewfinder when I stop down to f/4. This is not to do with shallow DoF or camera shake, the test shots were made using a tripod, mirror lock and self-timer, at a decent shutter speed, and the plane of focus is around the instep of the top shoe in the f/1.4 shot. I made these shots while comparing two different ex&les of the lens, and these are from the better one (not that there was much in it). Also, either I've been unlucky with these two lenses, or you've been unlucky with the 35/1.4, as my ex&le of that lens is outstanding even at full aperture - comparable to a brand new Summilux-M ASPH.

(Addendum: I've just looked at the MTF charts on the Zeiss site, and the 35 looks *very marginally* better at the centre but falls apart in the corners. Strange that, maybe I have indeed been unlucky with the 85's. They were both quite well-used specimens. Austin, can you comment whether that test shot at f/1.4 shows worse performance than you would expect for this lens? Anyone have any other test frames to post?)

Re the Leica 75, I'm very keen on getting one of those for my M. The price is a bit scary though!

Mirek, how would you describe the whatever the characteristics of the P85 are that you don't like for scenic work? Just interested...

-= mike =-
 

nick__

New Member
Isn't the key point that the edge softness at full aperture is, for many, a virtue in a portrait lens? You canrawing the viewer's attention to the eyes of the sitter and soften the background / skin blemishes? Below is a link to an independent review / MTF test of the 85p which says just that. The edge softness is confirmed at full aperture, though sharpness is still good at the centre of the image. The combination of edge softness at full aperture and sharpness across the frame stopped down makes it versatile.

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The site
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offers independent testing and verdicts on all the SLR contax zeiss optics in italian.
 
M

mike_nunan

Hi Nick,

The softness I've been seeing is not just at the edge, it's right across the frame. It can indeed look quite good on portrait shots, but with a sharp lens you can always get a similar effect with a Softar or any of the tried and trusted softening techniques. Also, the depth of field is a bit too shallow at f/1.4 on a head shot.

On a different tack, as I mentioned in a message earlier in this thread, I mailed Zeiss to ask for the MTF plots for the 85/1.2. They have kindly provided the full PDF file for that lens and the 55/1.2 (which unfortunately doesn't include the MTFs) and they have informed me that it's ok to circulate them to anyone who's interested. Dirk, is there a file area here I can post them to? Otherwise, can anyone offer a bit of web space to hold them?

(FYI, yes, it must be a stunning lens judging by the plots!)

-= mike =-
 
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