D800 with Zeiss 21 & Nikon 14-24

Started May 19, 2012 | Discussions
DvD5
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D800 with Zeiss 21 & Nikon 14-24
May 19, 2012

I finally got around to testing my 14-24 f/2.8 Nikon and 21mm f/2.8 Zeiss Distagon on the D800. I thought the results were pretty interesting.

Please keep in mind, these were not to be artistic shots... All of these shots were done on a tripod with 3s shutter delay. Manual WB. Focus using live view at 200% for every shot.

In each case, the Zeiss is on the left, Nikon on the right. All images at 100% unless otherwise noted. All processing is identical between Zeiss & Nikon (ACR).

My first impressions are that both lenses give the wrong color rendition: The Zeiss is too green, the Nikon too magenta. The Nikon shots appear to be more saturated.

(not 100%):

First, I looked at bokeh. Shooting at f/2.8, these lenses are remarkaby similar in terms of sharpness, out-of-focus highlights. They both show nervousness in the stems of the flowers in the shot below.

Here's the detail in the above image at f/2.8

Next, I looked at sharpness for use in landscape shooting at f/8, f/11, and f/13. The Nikon takes this one at f/8. The Zeiss is softer in the 2/3 frame region on each of several tests I performed.

The two lenses were about equal in the center, the Nikon slightly sharper in some corners, Zeiss in others. Nikon shows more CA.

Left frame edge @ f/8:

Right frame edge @f/8:

Center @ f/8

Corner @f/8

By f/11, the softness in the mid-region of the Zeiss has pretty much disappeared, and the two lenses are neck and neck.

edge @f/11:

Corner @f/11:

At f/13, the results were pretty much indistinguishable.

Overall, I was impressed by how well the Nikon matches up agains the Zeiss. IMHO, either of these two lenses is capable of very high quality large prints.

My summary:

Nikon:

Advantages: Sharper than the Zeiss 2/3 out from center at f/8. You also get 14-24mm. Autofocus (though not a big advantage for landscape). Much less distortion at 21mm.

Zeiss:

Advantages: Better build (but not by a lot--the lens cap is terrible). DOF markings on the barrel. Smaller & lighter, Uses a cheaper/smaller filter system. A bit less CA.

Don
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Astrophotographer 10
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Re: D800 with Zeiss 21 & Nikon 14-24
In reply to DvD5, May 19, 2012

Great review.

Thanks for taking the trouble to do that comparison.

It matches another review that had the Nikon slightly ahead in once stopped down.

So if you want a gain by using a Zeiss lens that narrows it down a bit to the 100mm ZF2?

The Nikon trinity lenses seem to be super lenses that hold up well against most comparisons.

I got an adapter off Ebay and tested a Pentax 67 165mm F2.8 yesterday and it did very well. Perhaps the sharpness is a bit less but very little CA, distortion and its easy to use with focus assist and aperture priority and letting the camera work out the exposure.

I was very impressed because those old Pentax 67 lenses are very cheap. I have a 300mm and a 55mm Pentax 67. The 300mm is big and bulky but worked fine. I haven't used the 55mm F4 but expect it to be inferior to the Nikon 50mm F1.8.

Greg.

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ovrebekk
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Re: D800 with Zeiss 21 & Nikon 14-24
In reply to DvD5, May 19, 2012

So the 14-24mm is as sharp or sharper than a Zeiss prime?
Pretty impressive!

Apparently it is also much sharper at 14mm than the Canon and Nikon prime 14mm lenses.

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Robin Casady
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Re: D800 with Zeiss 21 & Nikon 14-24
In reply to DvD5, May 19, 2012

Don, thanks very much for the tests. I would love to see how the two lenses compare when shooting into the light. How do the flare, ghosting, and contrast compare?
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DvD5
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Re: D800 with Zeiss 21 & Nikon 14-24
In reply to ovrebekk, May 19, 2012

ovrebekk wrote:

So the 14-24mm is as sharp or sharper than a Zeiss prime?
Pretty impressive!

Apparently it is also much sharper at 14mm than the Canon and Nikon prime 14mm lenses.

Well, my specific 14-24 is sharper than my copy of the Zeiss 21mm (at some settings e.g. f/8). I can't guarantee it holds true for all copies!

Don
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DvD5
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Re: D800 with Zeiss 21 & Nikon 14-24
In reply to Robin Casady, May 19, 2012

Robin Casady wrote:

Don, thanks very much for the tests. I would love to see how the two lenses compare when shooting into the light. How do the flare, ghosting, and contrast compare?
--

Good idea--I'll see if I can get to that tomorrow and post the results.

Don
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mark kay
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Re: D800 with Zeiss 21 & Nikon 14-24
In reply to DvD5, May 20, 2012

THe major problem with the zeiss is the mustache distortion and the major problem with the nikon is the flare. I was out shooting with the nikon and the flare can really be a problem.
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russbarnes
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Re: D800 with Zeiss 21 & Nikon 14-24
In reply to mark kay, May 20, 2012

mark kay wrote:

The major problem with the zeiss is the mustache distortion

I keep seeing this type of comment over and over. There is no major problem, not in the real world and there are lens profiles in ACR to correct for anything less desirable.

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russbarnes
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Re: Zeiss has additional advantages...
In reply to DvD5, May 20, 2012

I'd buy the Zeiss over and over again ahead of the 14-24. I think the 14-24 is still a great lens and I've seen some of the world's best landscape photographer from people who have used it, but all the same...

I think some things you've left out include:

1. A better level of micro-contrast with the Zeiss - I can even see the differences in some of the images here.

2. The Zeiss is a lot less bulky - the 14-24 weighs a ton by comparison.

3. Proneness to flare is very apparent on the 14-24 but is beautifully controlled even when shooting direct into the sun with the Zeiss.

4. I personally have no use for any lens at 14mm - it creates a distorted view of the world in my view making it irrelevant for any sort of realistic photography. Ultra-wide angles are VERY specialist focal lengths.

5. The 14-24 is substantially better at 14mm than it is at 24mm, which is neither here or there but in my tests the Zeiss is better at 21mm.

6. Don't shoot at f/2.8 with the Zeiss because the light fall-off is staggering

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jdrpc
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light fall-off is staggering...Where?
In reply to russbarnes, May 20, 2012

I am sorry, are we talking about the same lens? I never noticed this, at all!!!!
http://www.pbase.com/jdrpc/image/113753731
http://www.pbase.com/jdrpc/image/113756190

russbarnes wrote:

I'd buy the Zeiss over and over again ahead of the 14-24. I think the 14-24 is still a great lens and I've seen some of the world's best landscape photographer from people who have used it, but all the same...

I think some things you've left out include:

1. A better level of micro-contrast with the Zeiss - I can even see the differences in some of the images here.

2. The Zeiss is a lot less bulky - the 14-24 weighs a ton by comparison.

3. Proneness to flare is very apparent on the 14-24 but is beautifully controlled even when shooting direct into the sun with the Zeiss.

4. I personally have no use for any lens at 14mm - it creates a distorted view of the world in my view making it irrelevant for any sort of realistic photography. Ultra-wide angles are VERY specialist focal lengths.

5. The 14-24 is substantially better at 14mm than it is at 24mm, which is neither here or there but in my tests the Zeiss is better at 21mm.

6. Don't shoot at f/2.8 with the Zeiss because the light fall-off is staggering

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ukat123
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Re: D800 with Zeiss 21 & Nikon 14-24
In reply to DvD5, May 20, 2012

Good job. This corroborates my experience. the Nikon is overall a better choice for me. The only problem with the Nikon is the expensive filter system, but between 14mm and 20mm, it is extraordinary. And it is still quite good at 24mm, but the 24G is better of course.

Other tests have also shown that the Nikon is just as good if not better than the 21mm Zeiss.

In y experience, there are very very few Zeiss lenses which really better than the Nikon primes counterparts and worth considering loosing AF. The only exceptions are probably the Zeiss 100mm and 15mm.

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russbarnes
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Re: light fall-off is staggering...Where?
In reply to jdrpc, May 20, 2012

lol. Well I can see it in the 2nd one for starters. It's a known weakness, I see it, everyone sees it. You can largely deal with it, but don't pretend it's not there...

jdrpc wrote:
I am sorry, are we talking about the same lens? I never noticed this, at all!!!!
http://www.pbase.com/jdrpc/image/113753731
http://www.pbase.com/jdrpc/image/113756190

russbarnes wrote:

I'd buy the Zeiss over and over again ahead of the 14-24. I think the 14-24 is still a great lens and I've seen some of the world's best landscape photographer from people who have used it, but all the same...

I think some things you've left out include:

1. A better level of micro-contrast with the Zeiss - I can even see the differences in some of the images here.

2. The Zeiss is a lot less bulky - the 14-24 weighs a ton by comparison.

3. Proneness to flare is very apparent on the 14-24 but is beautifully controlled even when shooting direct into the sun with the Zeiss.

4. I personally have no use for any lens at 14mm - it creates a distorted view of the world in my view making it irrelevant for any sort of realistic photography. Ultra-wide angles are VERY specialist focal lengths.

5. The 14-24 is substantially better at 14mm than it is at 24mm, which is neither here or there but in my tests the Zeiss is better at 21mm.

6. Don't shoot at f/2.8 with the Zeiss because the light fall-off is staggering

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jackpro
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Re: D800 with Zeiss 21 & Nikon 14-24
In reply to ovrebekk, May 20, 2012

ovrebekk wrote:

So the 14-24mm is as sharp or sharper than a Zeiss prime?
Pretty impressive!

Apparently it is also much sharper at 14mm than the Canon and Nikon prime 14mm lenses.

CA is pretty bad with the Nikon this is not as apparent with Zeiss or Canon

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1029&message=41553966

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u007
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Re: D800 with Zeiss 21 & Nikon 14-24
In reply to DvD5, May 20, 2012

Nice comparison, thanks.

I'm deliberating between 16-35/4 and 14-24/2.8. Every time I tell myself that the 16-35 is rationally better.. it's more flexible focal length, it has VR etc, I keep getting drawn back to the 14-24 and how ridiculously good it is.

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marike6
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Re: Zeiss has additional advantages...
In reply to russbarnes, May 20, 2012

russbarnes wrote:

I'd buy the Zeiss over and over again ahead of the 14-24. I think the 14-24 is still a great lens and I've seen some of the world's best landscape photographer from people who have used it, but all the same...

I think some things you've left out include:

1. A better level of micro-contrast with the Zeiss - I can even see the differences in some of the images here.

2. The Zeiss is a lot less bulky - the 14-24 weighs a ton by comparison.

3. Proneness to flare is very apparent on the 14-24 but is beautifully controlled even when shooting direct into the sun with the Zeiss.

4. I personally have no use for any lens at 14mm - it creates a distorted view of the world in my view making it irrelevant for any sort of realistic photography. Ultra-wide angles are VERY specialist focal lengths.

5. The 14-24 is substantially better at 14mm than it is at 24mm, which is neither here or there but in my tests the Zeiss is better at 21mm.

6. Don't shoot at f/2.8 with the Zeiss because the light fall-off is staggering

I'll give you that the Zeiss is lighter-weight, but it's significantly less versatile by virtue of being a single focal length. You can argue that the Zeiss is better lens for you , but you can't ignore the results of this test which support the results of other online test such as the ePhotozine 21 vs 14-24G Shootout.

As far the idea that 14mm is too wide, this opinion is definitely not shared by the majority of photographers judging by the huge popularity of the Nikon 14-24G. Condescendingly calling a rectilinear 14mm lens a "specialist" lens is similar to calling a 21mm lens "not very wide" or boring. They are two subjective opinions. What is true is in 2012 we are so used to seeing normal wide angle 20mm to 28mm images, that they've become commonplace. That is why photographers often go to ultra-wides or even fisheyes.

What people sometimes forget is the fact that the Nikon 14-24G compares so favorably to top primes, and in many cases exceeds their performance as we see here, is in itself a remarkable achievement.

Distortion: the 14-24G at 21mm has considerably less barrel distortion (.5% vs 1.7%) and the Nikkor has none of the slightly annoying mustache sub-style distortion found in the Zeiss.

Bokeh: the Nikkor seems to have smoother, less nervous bokeh than the Zeiss.

Great job. This is an extremely well done test. Thank you.

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coreyh
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Re: D800 with Zeiss 21 & Nikon 14-24
In reply to DvD5, May 20, 2012

Ya, that would be great. I loved my Zeiss except for the fact it would flare horribly when shooting directly into the sun!

DvD5 wrote:

Robin Casady wrote:

Don, thanks very much for the tests. I would love to see how the two lenses compare when shooting into the light. How do the flare, ghosting, and contrast compare?
--

Good idea--I'll see if I can get to that tomorrow and post the results.

Don
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coreyh
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Re: Zeiss has additional advantages...
In reply to russbarnes, May 20, 2012

My 21 flared horribly into the sun. Can't agree with that point.

russbarnes wrote:

I'd buy the Zeiss over and over again ahead of the 14-24. I think the 14-24 is still a great lens and I've seen some of the world's best landscape photographer from people who have used it, but all the same...

I think some things you've left out include:

1. A better level of micro-contrast with the Zeiss - I can even see the differences in some of the images here.

2. The Zeiss is a lot less bulky - the 14-24 weighs a ton by comparison.

3. Proneness to flare is very apparent on the 14-24 but is beautifully controlled even when shooting direct into the sun with the Zeiss.

4. I personally have no use for any lens at 14mm - it creates a distorted view of the world in my view making it irrelevant for any sort of realistic photography. Ultra-wide angles are VERY specialist focal lengths.

5. The 14-24 is substantially better at 14mm than it is at 24mm, which is neither here or there but in my tests the Zeiss is better at 21mm.

6. Don't shoot at f/2.8 with the Zeiss because the light fall-off is staggering

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mistral2
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Re: D800 with Zeiss 21 & Nikon 14-24
In reply to u007, May 20, 2012

I am in the same position. Do we need those filters for the 14-24?
This is the lens which makes the Canon guys envious!

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Cultured Vulture
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Re: D800 with Zeiss 21 & Nikon 14-24
In reply to jackpro, May 20, 2012

jackpro wrote:

ovrebekk wrote:

So the 14-24mm is as sharp or sharper than a Zeiss prime?
Pretty impressive!

Apparently it is also much sharper at 14mm than the Canon and Nikon prime 14mm lenses.

CA is pretty bad with the Nikon this is not as apparent with Zeiss or Canon

http://forums.dpreview.com/forums/readflat.asp?forum=1029&message=41553966

CA is not an issue on the 14-24 f/2.8
http://www.slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1122/cat/13

Quote:
Chromatic Aberration

Resistance to chromatic aberration is excellent, much improved over the Nikon 12-24mm ƒ 2.8 DX lens. The 14-24mm ƒ 2.8 never exceeds 5/100ths of a percent of frame height in the corners, and 3/100ths in the center - we're talking barely perceptible results here.

http://www.photozone.de/nikon_ff/447-nikkor_afs_1424_28_ff

Quote:
Chromatic Aberrations (CAs)

Chromatic aberrations (color shadows at harsh contrast transitions) are in the range of roughly 1 to 1.3 pixels throughout the whole focal and aperture range. Given the huge resolution of the test camera, this might be visible in very large prints (or heavy crops), however, for typical print sizes the problem isn't really field relevant for most subjects. In addition, CAs can easily be corrected in software or by the camera itself.

Not quite the same for the Canon 14L

http://www.photozone.de/canon_eos_ff/541-canon14f28mk2ff

Quote:
Lateral Chromatic Aberrations (CAs)

A weakness of the Canon lens is the amount of lateral CAs (color shadows at harsh contrast transitions). The average CA border width reaches 2px on the average at f/2.8 and f/4 but you can reduce the issue by stopping down and it's quite acceptable from f/5.6 onwards.

Lateral CAs are correctable via post-processing (e.g. in Canon DPP or Photoshop).

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Regards,

JR

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nadjap
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Re: D800 with Zeiss 21 & Nikon 14-24
In reply to u007, May 20, 2012

u007 wrote:

Nice comparison, thanks.

I'm deliberating between 16-35/4 and 14-24/2.8. Every time I tell myself that the 16-35 is rationally better.. it's more flexible focal length, it has VR etc, I keep getting drawn back to the 14-24 and how ridiculously good it is.

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The 16-35 in my opinion is the worst UWA-lens of all, when used from 16 till at about 20 mm. It´s still worse than the Zeiss 18mm there, let alone the Nikon 14-24.

From 20mm to at about 28mm the 16-35 is much better, but still can´t reach the Zeiss 21mm or the Nikon 14-24 in the same range.

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