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WHY zeiss lenses nowadays


New Member
WHY Zeiss lenses??

my question might irritate one or the other contax-zeiss user (i myself work with this stuff), BUT: regarding the 24-36 films nowadays available on the market, there is NO highlight concerning the resolution of films. i mean: when agfa dia direct (12 asa, mnjam mnjam!), kodachrome 25 or ektar 25 were available, the results really astonished me (and many others). blown up to 40-60 or 50-75 cm, the BRILLIANCE and DETAIL RESOLUTION was similar to medium format. simply great.

but if you take a – let's say 100 asa fuji reala (is there a better neg. film today?) the results are ok, BUT DO NOT REPRODUCE THE QUALITY OF ZEISS LENSES. in other words: zeiss is too good for the films, so that i mean it is – maybe – NOT necessary to invest so much money for the best 'hardware' if on the other hand the 'software' (compare bullsh... windows xp...) is medium quality.

what do YOU mean?

greetinx from germany,
dieter o.


Dieter, I agree with your comments to an extent. There is a "law of diminishing returns" with 35mm format. The sad part is that even a mediocre medium format camera can produce a sharper enlarged image than the best optics in 35mm, simply because of the meagre size of the 35mm negative. As I'm sure you know, a 35mm negative needs to be enlarged nearly 7 times to make an 8 X 10 print and once you go beyond that size of print the image starts to degrade no matter whether you use an old Minolta lens or a brand new Zeiss or Nikkor lens. As you indicate, the disappearance of the slower films is another issue. However, I personally find that the Zeiss lenses produce more pleasing images - especially with colour films like Reala. This may have something to do with the ability of the Zeiss lenses to produce better contrast, not just sharpness.


Active Member
Hi Dieter,

don't forget B&W material !

On the ZEISS-website is an article about that topic: Which films are used by ZEISS to test their lenses.
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Well-Known Member
Not sure I agree with this, as someone who has just ditched some Tamron lenses and put his Nikon zooms back in the camera bag, I may be biased !
Just stocked up on CZ primes in the belief of improved quality, ( 18,28,50,85,135) I thought about medium format but the change was to great for me. Plus I had an RX being under used.

What tipped the decision for me was see a Yann Arthus Bertrand (
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exhibition outside the National History Museum in London.

The picture were stunning both photographically ad technically, they were enlarged to over a metre wide ! ! ! and were original prints on Fuji crystal archive paper. They were shot using Velvia on a Canon EOS 1......35mm !
I did not think it possible to enlarge 35mm so much and archive such stunning results. even close up.

I was convinced and gave up thoughts of medium format and stuck with my RX, and bought said lenses.
I now shoot Velvia !
At present I scan and print digitally, A3, ( Microtek 4000tf and Canon S9000) with Vevia the grain is smaller than the pixels, Ie 4000 dpi is not enough to get all the definition out. Perhaps the new Minolta 5400 is required !

Golden rule I always break, use a tripod ! Blowing up 35mm exposes your technique more than medium format, before the short comings in the film. !

Steve T


Just an afterthought. I remembered having come across a couple of websites from companies that still produce slower black and white negative film (ISO 25, 40 50). They are: EFKE Film at
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and Gigabitfilm at
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Active Member
Why Zeiss lenses? I shooted a blue ceramic wall using fuji 400 slide and a black subject on a wite background using velvia 50. All two slides were scanned in a drum ICG scanner and enlarged up to A3 size, and used the blue ceramic wall photo as a background and the other as a subject for a new product box decoration, mounted in Photoshop and printed in offset. Perhaps the fuji 400 enlargement was a little grain, but the zeiss image quality minimized this.

I think Zeiss lenses permit photo enlargement until film grain limit. With other lenses, the limit can be the lens sharpeness before the film grain.

I'm not worried with "a mediocre medium format camera can produce a sharper enlarged image than the best optics in 35mm, simply because of the meagre size of the 35mm negative". A 35mm camera is much more versatile than medium format camera, and, with good optics, allow to make good studio photos having good quality for normal enlargements, and good travel photos, good architecture photos, good people photos... and much more.



You're right but... I shoot a Canon 1V with "L" lenses and love it. Very easy to use. Great from unstable platforms (ie boats) too. That said I also shoot a 645 and love it. It's almost as versatile, in studio and on location. I'm using it more and more. As good as my Canon glass is my 645 reproductions are indeed better. But there's still nothing like looking through a well exposed 4x5 sheet of Velvia!



Joan, I agree with all your comments about the advantages and especially the versatility of 35mm format. I am exclusively a 35mm user, love my Contax cameras and believe most of the Zeiss optics to be the best in the world. I don't own a medium format camera, but I do print from both medium and 35mm formats. My response to Dieter's original message was related to his comments about older, slow-speed films which produced minimal grain in enlargements in 35mm format. Cheers, Rob


I think that if you want to experience the quality of Zeiss glasses even nowadays, you have to go to the limits of one's own capability in photo-technique and at the same time compare results in difficult lightening situations.

If we forget for a moment the MTF charts, then try out the N-lenses with a decent slide film i.e. Velvia. Look at lens flare and colour reproduction. And then try to find these results with any other brandname in the same focal-lenght.

After that comparison, you will have no questions anymore


Well-Known Member
hmmm so if Betrands work was printed up to a meter wide, from 6x6 Velvia chromes and placed side by side with the 35mm what would you do? You would probably be blown away by the quality. Maybe it's the fact he's a good photographer and it matters not a bit which 35mm lenses he used.


Well-Known Member
Sorry for coming into this late!

When you say that you are disappointed with the results from Fuji 100 negatives how what are you viewing in the way of prints? I say this because recently many if not most of the photo labs who produced photographs by means of the old fashioned chemical process are now printing digitally.

I have found the even using a Zeiss Vario - Sonnar and slow film my recent prints have the appearance of being digitally catured images and are not a patch on the prints I had processed last year. (I shoot 90% slides).

I have just placed an old fashioned R-41 produced photograph on the test photos pages which was taken with an old compact using Fuji 100 negative film and also an enlargement of 1% of the it's image area.

It may be that the negative is holding all the information that you remembered, but the processor is not making full advantage of it when converting it to a print.



Well-Known Member

Yes, ! The 6x6 without doubt would look better, but I think the point is hidden in your posting, "Maybe it's the
fact he's a good photographer " exactly, 35mm with or without Zeiss lenses is better than most peoples technique !
Would I have bought a 6x6, maybe not, because I have no plans, pictures worthy, or the budget to start produce prints over a meter wide !......But it proved I had all I need with in my reach to produce A3 / 12x16 prints of superb quality.
To give myself the best chance, and because they are such dam fine items to own and use I stuck with 35mm and Contax/Zeiss, and have really enjoyed the back to traditional approach that a "modern" autofocus zoom set-up denied me.
Plus the issue others have raised on convenience.

The shots I have taken, in Cornwal, recently have the best colour and contrast I have seen, it looks like I used a polarizer, but I didn't touch it ! or any filter. Sharpness is excellent, grain doesn't exist at A3 enlargement, I hand held all them, which I must stop doing, but explain that to the wife and daughter when they are getting impatient !
I'm about to try some B+W, I haven't shoot any for months, and not on the new lenses. So Some PanF and Delta 100 will be tried soon. This I can do wet in my darkroom, should be interesting !


PS Still might tempted by a used Bronie one day ;-)


Well-Known Member
What tipped the decision for me was see a Yann Arthus Bertrand ( >
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) >exhibition outside the National History Museum in London. > >The picture were stunning both photographically ad technically, they >were enlarged to over a metre wide ! ! ! and were original prints on >Fuji crystal archive paper. They were shot using Velvia on a Canon EOS >1......35mm ! he is always using a kenyon gyrostabilizer. 1800(used) to 2500 usd(new). you will not see this on his helicopter-camera-photographer-shots since he does not like concurrence i guess. btw: all his shots are not new. the was a swiss dr georg gerster who started doing just the same 40 years ago-all over the world using nikons. posters were also made but not with the actual quality. most expensive scanners were used. not that new minolta 5400. much better ones. creo-scitex has the best ones.- and here we are talking about tamron zoom-lenses with 2x doublers..its a crazy world- 35mm-photography. using colornegatives will always get better results than slidefilms. resolution is much better. take a loupe and produce posters.


Well-Known Member
Maybe it's the fact he's a good photographer and it matters not a bit which 35mm lenses he used. good in the sense to use the right tools-gyrostabilyzer-best scanner/films. he used slowspeed-slidefilm because it is easier to handle when shooting thousands of aeroshots. with contax 645 one can even go bigger of course. i am looking forward to a 70mm-back.


Active Member
Film format (35mm, medium format...) is a personal choice based on personal preferences, needs or skills. But, IMO, in every format the zeiss lenses assist the good photograph to have the best results. There are some other very good lenses, but, I think, there's something "special" in photos made with a CZ lens.


Well-Known Member
Sorry you have confused me there !

“Uses colour slide because it’s easier to handle aero shoots, colour neg is higher resolution “!

I’ve always been lead to believe the complete opposite, slide is difficult because of it’s small exposure latitude, it also has a wider contrast range.. yes no ?
Slide I thought had finer grain hence sharper and better definition.
If this not the case why id slide used so much !

I take your not fond of film scanners ! ……. I can stretch to Zeiss lenses but drum scanners are another mater ;-)) or gyro what its…….


New Member
thanks for the answers.

take into account:

- e.g. photos of landscapes MUST be of a high resolution and a colour balance (that's the reason why velvia is not the best choice in my opinion: too much bonbon-like colours). here the sensia 100 is superior.
- the lab finishing gets very cheap, but often the results (prints) are dirty, scratched, false colour filters etc.
- the prints coming from slide material is – if you cannot afford cibachrome or high-end scanner – of a medium or even lousy quality
- consequently someone who prefers maximum class has to invest in hasselblad-zeiss or rollei combination, EVERYTHING ELSE IS A COMPROMISE (or you reduce yourself to B&W or Velvia, which relly cannot satisfy me...)
- i am aware of the fact that i focus only one aspect of the queation 'what is a good photo?' - the technical one. but i state that a GOOD IDEA and a GOOD TECHNICAL EQUIPMENT are both relevant. we cannot argue about ideas (except we see the results), but technical pros and cons are worth to be considered. or not?


Well-Known Member
Hi, as been postet before : There is something special with photos taken by a = Zeiss-lenss. I'm using Canon EOS, Pentax, Rollei and Contax (and a Olympus E20 too) and= I did a lot of comparing....(I even tested a Leica but it's got no chanc= e against Canon and Contax, it's very SPECIAL in another way). I'll try to explain : 1. Color is very different, it seems to make more differences 2. Pictures are like 3D, all the other seem to be flat (even the Leica, Ca= non...) 3. Sharpness and contrast : You don't have to take care because every Zeis= s-lens is a top-lens (you cannot say that for every Canon-Nikon-Minolta-Pe= ntax....-lens)

This is only my personal experience with the Distagon 2.8/28, 2.8/35, Plan= ar 1.4/50 and Sonnar 2.8/135. I'll have to try my old Rollei (just bought an old used SL 35 M + E with t= he 1.4/35, 1.8/50, 1.4/85, and Rolleinar 2.8/28, 2.8/135 and 3.5/200) to c= ompare these Zeiss-lenses.