SHG/HG VS Zeiss ?

Started Mar 8, 2013 | Questions thread
philosomatographer
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Re: SHG/HG VS Zeiss ?
In reply to Jeepit, Mar 11, 2013

Your question is not easy to answer at all, primarily because Zeiss makes lenses for full-format 35mm that allow you to shoow images with very shallow depth-of-field, great for creative use. There are simply no Olympus equivalents to:

  • 24/25mm f/2.0
  • 35mm f/1.4
  • 50mm f/1.4
  • 85mm f/1.4
  • 100mm f/2.0 Makro Planar
  • 135mm f/1.8 or f/2.0

With that being said, at "equivalent" apertures (i.e. say f/2.8 on the Olympus SHG lenses, f/5.6 on the Zeiss lenses) the SHG lenses are in most cases superior to the Zeiss lenses in terms of resolution, and freedom from light falloff. The Olympus SHG lenses are literally as technically-perfect as the come, a feat only equalled now by Zeiss with the new Distagon 55mm f/1.4 (which is huge, just like the SHG lenses - i.e. Zeiss also applying the principle of telecentricity at the cost of size).

If you take the creative possibilities of really shallow DOF out of the picture, the Olympus SHG lenses are, in my experience, superior - not only from an imaging perspective, but also build quality / weather sealing / autofocus speed (some Zeiss lenses, like the Sony 85 1.4, is truly dismal in that regard, and others are manual-focus only). No current Zeiss lenses are weather-sealed, the Olympus SHG lenses don't fear even complete immersion in water (for short periods!) or severe dust and mud. Simply a class above.

The Zeiss manual-focus lenses have a very typical "Cosina" look and feel, very much like the cheap off-brand 1970s manual focus lenses (made by the same manufacturer) - and distinctly inferior to the manual-focus Nikkor lenses (I use both the Zeiss and Nikon lenses on my Nikon F). They sure impress people only used to wobbly zoom lenses though.

My biggest disappointment in the new Zeiss lenses came when trying the Distagon 35 1.4. It's not only gargantuan, but its optical performance is distinctly weak for the size and cost (it's much larger than it's autofocus competitors, or even a 24-70mm zoom). A thoroughly B-grade optical design that only really makes sense on film, where you are not counting pixels (something I do all the time, though). I feel that many of the Zeiss lenses suffer from a similar fate - nice, solid, but nothing special optically.

That's just the opinion of somebody who's used them and settled on the Olympus SHG optics in the end. Your mileage may vary.

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