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Zeiss G lenses and portraitspeople pics


I've seena couple of comments on this site suggesting that perhaps the G lenses are so sharp that they may not be optimal for portraits. I shoot a lot of people-pictures (my kids mostly) -- not portraits per se. What do you all think about this with G lenses? Thanks.


> though i do not own or nor experienced the G35 i have heard that it is just > a bit less sharp than the rest of the G lens and could be idea for portraits.

any other comments on the G35 are welcome.
The best portraits I do of my kids are with my G2 (45 and 90) and with T400CN or equivalent. The combination makes 8x10's in my darkroom that Are stunning.

--Jeffrey Steinberg, Scarsdale, NY


Well-Known Member
Sharpness is what you want. G lenses provide. If your doing portraits and the results are too clarified, maybe it's your stylists fault? No stylyst? Get the picture?


Hi Stephen, Just a thought for you. It is so nice to have sharp lenses that if you really do find you like the rangefinder in general, and the focal lengths available, then you can always "soften" your photographs with a filter, but you would not be able to go the other way. You can't sharpen a soft lens. Actually, you can even take a plain filter and smear a little vaseline on the front (on the filter not the lens) and make your own soft filter. a little around the edges with none in the middle, or a soft thin layer across the entire filter, or a moderate layer all around with just a light coat in the middle will all vary the levels of softness you can get from the lenses, giving you softer effects depending on who you are shooting that day. And, after the shoot you can wipe them down and start over. I'd never buy a softer lens unless money made it impossible to get a better lens. The sharper lens is so versatile
Hope this helps? (I don't have the G system - but it's on the long wish list) -Lynn


> Hi Stephen, I agree with Lynn's post. I spent year's putting up with > lenses that weren't sharp, exhibited lots of flair, distortion, low > contrast etc. Contax users don't know they're born with their > wonderful Zeiss glass! I'm so glad I can now afford the best equipment > available - no way would I go back. I think it's actually quite funny > that there could even be threads asking whether the lenses are TOO > sharp! I tell you, that could only happen on the Contax or Leica > forums! Believe me, these wonderful lenses will make a great job of > anything you throw at them. If the picture's poor it's down to you.

> I suggest the technique Lynn suggested, or using something like a > stocking to defuse the lens slightly. I get my best portraits by using > a wide aperture which limits depth of field to good creative effect. > The lenses don't perform quite so well wide open so maybe that might > help produce a more flattering too. I'd also take issue with anyone > who thinks the G35 is a poor lens - it isn't. It may not be QUITE as > good as the other G lenses, but it's still better than most other > makers lenses. Frankly, once it's stopped down to F4 you'd need to > shooting test charts to detect even the smallest fault. I sometimes > think we all get way to hung up on the performance of this gear. It's > excellent, period. Now we've got that sorted out, lets go take some > pictures and stop worrying so much! Best wishes Malcolm


Active Member
> Stephen

Add me to the list of people who are very pleased with the Zeiss lenses for the G2, especially for portaits. I think the 90mm wide open, or closed down one stop, works well for portraits, and is probably softened up a bit by being wide open. And the other thing I have noticed is that the skin tones and colors are just perfect with those lenses. I had a surprise the other day, using Fuji Reala 100 and the G2. What beautiful pictures!

I would agree that super sharp is not always the most flattering for portraits, but another possibility is to blur slightly in the editing program.




Thanks everyone for your advice. I am new to this group and I must say how impressed I am with the all of the incredibly useful information posted here!


I had the same experience with my 45 & 90 - way to sharp for "portraiture." But, I would rather have sharp lenses and soften the image.

There are many ways to soften the image, some of which have already been mentioned. I once took a class on fashion photography and the instructor had a technique that I really like.

Use paper coffee filters. You can just rubberband them over the lens shade or lens barrel. Just make sure to trim the excess paper so it does not interfere with the rangefinding sensors or the viewfinder.


However, the G2 is a rangefinder camera and it will work. The through-the-lens metering system will compensate for the exposure. You can control the diffusion by making different size holes on the filter material. You can add color to the effect by dying the filter paper.



I have found that the digital minilabs nowadays are the great equalizer of all lenses. They will automatically sharpen your pictures, and increase the contrast range beyond what the paper can take, leading to absolutely no highlights or shadows. The color accuracy is awesome, however, provided that the operator does not pretend to be smart and mess with the settings. Not sure if you shoot slides, or take every roll of film to an analog lab, but because of costs I take films to these digital minilabs for proofing on 4x6 all the time. Even a low-end Canon lens would look super sharp on those pictures. Enough for ranting...

Printing issues aside, if we are talking about only the picture taking process alone, I would tend to believe that using a film which is not sharp may solve your problem and work well in portraiture. High speed films such as NPZ.


Bobby and all:
I do not understand how any process, including digital minilabs, and sharpen a picture-increase the contrast, maybe - but how sharpen the image
beyond the capabilities of the taking lens?
Please explain. If true, we are all spending too much for Zeiss lenses.
Michael Gregory


Hi Gregory,
you did not address this to me but I think you will find that they function like a high acutance developer and increase micro contrast along bounderys between diferant tones,or an old fashioned Un-sharp mask ie if you add a negative slightly out of focus mask this reduces contrast every where except the image bounderys, if you then increas contrast to the original gammer the bounderys now have increased contrast hence the image will appear sharper. What this will not do is produce detail that is not recorded in the first place. A lens poseses many qualitys apart from resolution, flat field, control of aborations, evenness of illumination, control of flare and color balance to name just a few. All of these tend to trade off against each other and I find for me Zeiss have reached a balance by long evolution.
hope this is of some help John


Just to add to John's post.... he is absolutely correct, you are not going to improve on what isn't recorded in the film to begin with. I think when you have a decent lens, whether you paid $20 for an old screw mount lens of wonderful glass, or $2500 for the latest and greatest nice glass, you owe it to yourself to find the best processing for what you are recording on film. I think a lot of newbies don't realize that buying the best lenses and shooting good composition isn't all of the battle. If you use low quality processing, you'll lose all the money you spent on equipment by getting inferior prints or slides back. If you do have to use a mini-lab, try to find one where the owner is accessible and who happens to also be an avid photographer who appreciates the subtle nuances of good processing. It does make a difference. I think a lot of the newbies who later say "I tried xyz expensive lens and it wasn't any better than my disposable camera!" are not making best use of the equipment in one way or another, or are being shorted in the processing. That said, be careful in using any lab that enhances your images for you. Know first what your lens/camera is capable of before you hand off your hard work to them. Try shooting slide film at least once or twice, just to see what is really getting recorded on film. It's an eye opening experiece if you have only ever shot negative film and had it processed cheaply. -Lynn


Thanks, Lynn and John -
You make excellent points. When I was shooting for Pix, Inc., NYC I worked exclisively in b&w and did all my own processing & printing. BTW, my pictures are now at Time/Pix, but they appeear to be inaccessible. Anybody know anything about current status?
Thanks again,


New Member
As someone new to the G2 I agree with what Lynn said and am always changing labs looking for good processing that doesn't cost as much as the pro labs in town. Any suggestions for this in the San Fernando Valley area?


Active Member
When using slides (E6), I use A&I in Hollywood for processing. I shoot Fuji Provia and Velvia professional. I buy my film in bulk and I buy mailers from A&I in bulk. It takes one week door to door. You can purchase the mailers on the WEB. I'll repeat what others have said, buy professional quality film, keep it refrigerated until it is used and have it processed promptly with a quality lab. Good luck.


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Well-Known Member
Damn! If I lived in San Fernando, I wouldn't be worried atall about this stuff. The great City of New York made me look for a parking spot tonight for over an hour. It's 8 AM here and tommorw is Sunday. Bloomberg stinks! Although I di get wod that the hoyse next door sold for 630K, Take the good with the bad.


Active Member
Any suggestions as to an equivalent to A&I in the New York area ??
What about these services like Ofoto and Shutterfly ? Are any of them good? It seems like a backdoor way to go digital.


I completely agree with Lynn's points. Well, I also wish to share my experience.

I was indeed able to find a lab owned by a real photographer. They don't call themselves a pro lab even though they charge pro prices. Who cares. They were capable, competent and delivered consistent results. Maybe because they were doing very well ? They started cutting corners, hire inexperienced "operators" for little more than minimum wage and switch to this digital Frontier thing, and now their prints are indistinguishable from that from a grocery store even though they still charge 3 times as much. As for those pro labs, for the ones I have tried, the only difference is price. I hate to admit it, now I am going back to grocery stores again since the good guys has gone downhill and everything else are equally terrible irrespective of how much they charge.

Is it really that hard to print properly ? Ever since Henry Ford and the introduction of the assembly line the strategy has been to rely less and less on the skill of the workers by dividing the process to many simple steps. Actually with the digital minilabs we have made a big step towards requiring fewer skills from the operator. At least the color correction is mostly guessed correctly by the computer. But how come my prints always come out too dark ? (Noritsu, on Fuji Crystal Archive) I kind of expect the computer to use the zone system (albeit in color) like Ansel Adams
because the image is scanned digitally and manipulated. The optimal contrast range can be computed and fitted onto the paper.