It’s finally time to review this tasty piece of glass; the “Infinitely Wide” Carl Zeiss 2.8/15 lens. After licking my chops and drooling on the specs while waiting a couple of months for my turn, I finally received the lens about a month ago and I have to say, it was near impossible to take it off my D700. Zeiss almost had their demo lens go MIA, but my morals kicked in for some reason, dammit! This piece of glass is absolutely beautiful, both in design and in function. I put out a call for shots on the Carl Zeiss Flickr Group page, their Facebook page, and also on Twitter to ask what the community really wanted to see with this glass. After combing through the tons of requests, I think I got most of them in and will detail them below. The majority of my comparisons in this review were done against my Carl Zeiss 3.5/18 lens – and a couple with the Carl Zeiss 2/35. I’ll continue to post shots this week on my Flickr stream (ones I didn’t get around to yet) so you can see some more comparisons. I wanted to keep this post short and to the point for you all today – so thanks for dropping in!
Build / Specs
Those that follow me know that I really drool over the build of Carl Zeiss lenses. Seriously, there is nothing like it out on the market. There is always an eye to detail when the geniuses at Zeiss design these lenses. The aspherical lens (see right) is once again, solid as a tank. And it’s massive structure is impressive at 4″ across the rim (103mm) – but this really allows for that crazy-wide distortion-free shooting. There is a solid built-in lens hood on this which has a great second function of stopping you from smashing in the aspherical dome. The only problem I have with this is I couldn’t use my Cokin filters with it. I hand-held them in front of the lens, but I was getting some nasty reflections on my filters from everything behind me. But the good news is that this lens takes filters! 95mm filters, but none-the less, it takes them and that’s huge. I’ve played with some lesser aspherical lenses in the past (Sigma 15-30mm for one), but they didn’t offer an option for filters.
The focus ring is as smooth as the rest of their lenses, allowing precise focus adjustments. I found I was able to be about 9 inches (0.25m) from my subjects and still get tack-sharp focusing. From wide open at f/2.8 all the way to f/22, the lens performed like a champ. As always, I am not getting all techie here, so you can check out more info on their website. Cut-n-plagiarized from the Zeiss page are the technical stats:
|Focal length||15 mm|
|Aperture range||f/2.8 – f/22|
|Focusing range||0.25 m – infinity|
|Number of elements/groups||15/12|
|Angular field, diag./horiz./vert.||110° / 100° / 76°|
|Coverage at close range||340 x 221 mm|
|Filter thread||M95 x 1.0|
|Dimensions (with caps)||ø 103 mm, length 132-135 mm|
|Camera mounts||F Mount (ZF.2)
EF Mount (ZE)
Obviously, this is what the 2.8/15 was designed for – jaw-dropping landscapes. The shot to the left was taken around 5,000′ (1524 meters) on the road up Mt Washington in NH. I did crop that one for a more cinematic look, but left the foreground in tact. You can see the nice depth of this lens when you view this one large. It was taken at f/9.5 for 1/350 second – ISO 200. No color correction done to this image.
The one to the right was taken free-handed at f/6.7 for 1/350 second – ISO 200. There was some post-work to adjust hues, but really not much. If you click on the image, you can really see that this lens captures a TON of depth and detail without distortion.
When I took this at f/2.8, there was the slightest vignetting in the corners, but nothing distracting at all. But since I wanted this sharp from front to back, I decided on f/6.7 here. Also, you can zoom right in on the leaves in the corners to get an idea of the details in the leaves here as well. I think you’ll be impressed with how the lens performed here.
I also tried to get some varying landscapes in regards to detail and light. So here are a couple more for you to investigate – you can view these full size for you pixel peepers:
Landscape Compare 15|18|35
Below are three shots, taken with the same settings with different lenses to give you a compare point. I’ll let them speak for themselves:
I do not shoot much architecture, though it really proves to be fun, especially with a wide lens like this. Though there is no distortion when pointing straight on at a subject, I found that tilting the lens toward the sky would result in that pinching / tilting effect – which I liked here. This is a shot of the Verizon Center in Manchester, NH – taken during a break in the rain. You can see here how the building and flag poles skew in towards the top. But when I held the lens parallel to the ground, everything straightened out nicely.
Here is an example, straight on to the building (and some hue editing and some really deep contrasts again). Notice how the edges of the building behave here – straight as a needle and the only vignetting was actually put in post-process to bring your eyes to the middle of the screen. The RAW shot is vignette free.
Below is one more image taken at a small run-down church in Auburn, NH. I meant to compare all lenses from this location, but was scared off the property by some irate minister.
OK, this was more for fun. I did have a request for interior shots, hence the first image below. The second one was on the way up Mt Washington – getting in nice and close to exaggerate my truck. Love that sharpness.
OK, I know you are scratching your head here – who would use at 15mm lens for portraits? Me, of course. I hate following rules of photography and like to look at things from new angles. And this lens is fun as hell when doing this:
I have to admit, I didn’t shoot this lens for “award winning images” – rather, I shot this lens to show it off in various environments and lighting conditions. The intent was to show just how versatile and powerful this lens really is. If I were to do it all over again, I would definitely buy this one over the 3.5/18 – for the extra width alone. But add the bonus of distortion free shooting and that extra stop of light at 2.8 – you have yourself a world class lens that can be used for everything from massive landscapes to jaw-dropping interiors. If you’re a serious landscape shooter – there should be nothing holding you back from this lens. You need it in your arsenal. It’s the most fun I have had with a lens in a long time.
Once again, I am not affiliated with Carl Zeiss or Nikon – I am just in love with what I have and love to share the information I have gathered through hands on experience.