Carl Zeiss lens for Canon

Started Sep 12, 2012 | Discussions
Batzorig
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Carl Zeiss lens for Canon
Sep 12, 2012

I was reading about the nice colors and contrast of Carl Zeiss lenses. So I started considering to buy Zeiss lens and want to get advise from those who have tried Zeiss on Canon.

My most important type of photography is shooting arts such as paintings and some sculptures (though not a much as the painting). I have a Canon 5D Mark2, and 50mm f1.8 lens. I find that my 50mm lens has a lot of distortion on the edges when taking shots of painting. Also it has a little bit warm tone in every image (though I may be wrong about it). So because of these reasons I want to upgrade my lens, and I do take my art photography seriously.

Before I go for a purchase, I need to ask some questions.

1. Is Zeiss lens really worth the price? My 50 mm Canon is only 100$.

2. I don't shoot my painting photos wide open because I want to have focus from corner to corner on painting photos. So I always use f5.6 or higher. With that in mind does Zeiss lens still out-perform Canon lens even at higher f-stops?

3. Which Zeiss lens has less distortion 50mm Planar T or 85mm Planar T. Which one is better at taking painting photos? I like the price of the 50mm, but if there is enough difference, I may go for 85mm.

4. If there is a difference in quality between Canon and Zeiss lenses, can't you make up the difference in Light Room or some other image editing software? I am asking this because I am not a full time photographer and not all of my photography make money.

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Bat

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Peter Berressem
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Re: Carl Zeiss lens for Canon
In reply to Batzorig, Sep 12, 2012

Batzorig wrote:

.... I have a Canon 5D Mark2, and 50mm f1.8 lens. I find that my 50mm lens has a lot of distortion on the edges when taking shots of painting.

While in raw developing use the correction profile:
http://helpx.adobe.com/x-productkb/multi/lens-profile-support-lightroom-4.html

Also it has a little bit warm tone in every image (though I may be wrong about it).

Correct white balance doesn't neutralize this?

1. Is Zeiss lens really worth the price? My 50 mm Canon is only 100$.

I'd look for a EF 100mm macro (the non IS). It's Zeiss brother costs more than the double, not worth the marginal better MTF curve. I suppose that you won't note a practical difference in the final print.

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cheers, Peter
Germany

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Klaus dk
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In reply to Peter Berressem, Sep 14, 2012

Peter Berressem wrote:

I'd look for a EF 100mm macro (the non IS). It's Zeiss brother costs more than the double, not worth the marginal better MTF curve. I suppose that you won't note a practical difference in the final print.

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cheers, Peter
Germany

For that kind of work you want a longer focal length than 50mm, and the Canon is a very good performer. Check this review: http://www.photozone.de/canon_eos_ff/489-canon_100_28_5d (Don't worry about the .de designation, it is in perfectly understandable English)

Using this lens between f/5.6 and f/8 will give you very good sharpness across the whole frame.

If you want to have the best possible colour rendition, you will probably have to do some kind of colour profiling, but that is beyond me. When I want good colours, I set my WB manually.
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Joseph S Wisniewski
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How about Nikon...
In reply to Batzorig, Sep 15, 2012

Batzorig wrote:

I was reading about the nice colors and contrast of Carl Zeiss lenses. So I started considering to buy Zeiss lens and want to get advise from those who have tried Zeiss on Canon.

My most important type of photography is shooting arts such as paintings and some sculptures (though not a much as the painting). I have a Canon 5D Mark2, and 50mm f1.8 lens. I find that my 50mm lens has a lot of distortion on the edges when taking shots of painting. Also it has a little bit warm tone in every image (though I may be wrong about it). So because of these reasons I want to upgrade my lens, and I do take my art photography seriously.

A "little bit warm tone" can be fixed in post processing. If you use LightRoom, the best way is to get an X-Rite Passport card. That doesn't just do a white balance, it does six shades of gray balance (the "fifty shades of gray" balance is a subject for a different conversation) and 18 other balances, including pigment reds, greens, blues, browns, and flesh tone blends. There's no better way to spend $100 than a Passport, if you're doing art repro.

Now, on to how to spend the next $500, and we're done.

Before I go for a purchase, I need to ask some questions.

1. Is Zeiss lens really worth the price? My 50 mm Canon is only 100$.

For some jobs. I'm very fond of the two Zeiss Makro Planars, but they're $1,200 and $1,800. Not for what you're doing. There are better ways to spend $1,200 or $1,800. I'll come back to that.

2. I don't shoot my painting photos wide open because I want to have focus from corner to corner on painting photos. So I always use f5.6 or higher.

That works, but you'll have less corner problems if you learn to square up a camera and a painting. A laser level set ($40 at Sears) can be a great deal of help with that.

With that in mind does Zeiss lens still out-perform Canon lens even at higher f-stops?

You're talking about the wrong issue. It's not Zeiss vs. Canon, it's macro vs. non-macro.

Any half-way decent 50-100mm macro (Canon, Nikon, Tamron, Zeiss, Voigtlander, Kiron) will shred even the very best "Planar" type 50mm lenses (Zeiss 50mm or 85mm f1.4, Canon 50mm f1.8, 1.4, 1.2, Nikon 50mm f1.4, etc). The Planar sacrifices everything (contrast, color, detail, distortion, etc) for speed. It's not "flat field", which means, even if you square the camera and painting perfectly, if you focus on the center of the painting, the edges and corners will be blurred, that's just the way these lenses are.

By contrast, a 25 year-old Nikon 55mm f3.5 micro-Nikkor macro ($100-150 used, in good condition) is sharp, contrasty, near distortion free, and flat field.

3. Which Zeiss lens has less distortion 50mm Planar T or 85mm Planar T.

Who cares? One may have 3% distortion, the other 4%, but then you compare either lens to an actual macro lens, with 0.2% distortion, and it's night and day. The planars have 10-20x more distortion than a good macro.

Which one is better at taking painting photos? I like the price of the 50mm, but if there is enough difference, I may go for 85mm.

Again, it doesn't matter which of those lenses is better, because neither is suited to this job.

4. If there is a difference in quality between Canon and Zeiss lenses, can't you make up the difference in Light Room or some other image editing software?

Nope, you can't put back what you blur away.

I am asking this because I am not a full time photographer and not all of my photography make money.

Then here...

  • Used 55mm f3.5 or f2.8 micro-Nikkor ($100-200)

  • The adapter to use it on a Canon 5D II is about $40.

  • Passport about $100

  • Laser level about $40

There goes $280-330, and you've cured your color, focus, distortion, etc. problems, and can shoot better, faster.

You didn't say how big your paintings and sculptures are. A 50mm is a good lens for big pieces, 4-6 feet. Smaller than that, and a 100mm is a good lens to have. That's probably another $250 on the used market. Still beats the snot out of paying $1000 or more for the wrong Zeiss.

And, given the budget for the right Zeiss, one of those expensive Makro-Planars, I'd still do something totally different, like the Canon 90mm TS-E tilt/shift macro. That thing solves a ton of problems for situations on-site where you may not be able to maneuver to where you need to be, to be square with the artwork, especially sculptures.

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Fave Photog
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Re: Carl Zeiss lens for Canon
In reply to Batzorig, Sep 16, 2012

Batzorig wrote:

I was reading about the nice colors and contrast of Carl Zeiss lenses. So I started considering to buy Zeiss lens and want to get advise from those who have tried Zeiss on Canon.

My most important type of photography is shooting arts such as paintings and some sculptures (though not a much as the painting). I have a Canon 5D Mark2, and 50mm f1.8 lens. I find that my 50mm lens has a lot of distortion on the edges when taking shots of painting. Also it has a little bit warm tone in every image (though I may be wrong about it). So because of these reasons I want to upgrade my lens, and I do take my art photography seriously.

Before I go for a purchase, I need to ask some questions.

1. Is Zeiss lens really worth the price? My 50 mm Canon is only 100$.

2. I don't shoot my painting photos wide open because I want to have focus from corner to corner on painting photos. So I always use f5.6 or higher. With that in mind does Zeiss lens still out-perform Canon lens even at higher f-stops?

3. Which Zeiss lens has less distortion 50mm Planar T or 85mm Planar T. Which one is better at taking painting photos? I like the price of the 50mm, but if there is enough difference, I may go for 85mm.

4. If there is a difference in quality between Canon and Zeiss lenses, can't you make up the difference in Light Room or some other image editing software? I am asking this because I am not a full time photographer and not all of my photography make money.

What is at issue is flatness of field and because you are shooting JPG and not RAW. Forget shooting in .JPG mode. To get a lens that has almost perfect flatness of field you need a macro lens. You can pick up any number of Canon, Nikon, or 3rd-party macros for cheap.

Zeiss does make two macro lenses, but they are very expensive and no better suited than a $200 used macro lens.

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Batzorig
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Re: How about Nikon...
In reply to Joseph S Wisniewski, Sep 16, 2012

Thanks for the advice. When I read your message it reminds me of a saying, "Be aware of the old man with one gun, he knows how to use it."

Then here...

  • Used 55mm f3.5 or f2.8 micro-Nikkor ($100-200)

  • The adapter to use it on a Canon 5D II is about $40.

  • Passport about $100

  • Laser level about $40

Although your calculations are very well thought of, I have a problem with this because I had some bad experiences with used lenses (a couple of them). My father bought me a used Canon 24-105 lens from Korea and I had to pay over 200$ to get it repaired. Also I didn't have a good experience with Canon 2x tele converter. It didn't allow me to use auto focus, and the shots were softer than without the converter. So I think used lenses and adapters are no good.

You didn't say how big your paintings and sculptures are. A 50mm is a good lens for big pieces, 4-6 feet. Smaller than that, and a 100mm is a good lens to have. That's probably another $250 on the used market. Still beats the snot out of paying $1000 or more for the wrong Zeiss.

The paintings that I shoot can be anywhere from 2 feet to 10 feet in length.

Your advice was very convincing. So I really consider buying a macro lens instead of those mentioned Zeiss lenses. But I will think whether I will go for a Canon brand or some other brand.

Bat

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Joseph S Wisniewski
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Re: How about Nikon...
In reply to Batzorig, Sep 17, 2012

Batzorig wrote:

Thanks for the advice. When I read your message it reminds me of a saying, "Be aware of the old man with one gun, he knows how to use it."

You're welcome, and thanks for the compliment.

Then here...

  • Used 55mm f3.5 or f2.8 micro-Nikkor ($100-200)

  • The adapter to use it on a Canon 5D II is about $40.

  • Passport about $100

  • Laser level about $40

Although your calculations are very well thought of, I have a problem with this because I had some bad experiences with used lenses (a couple of them). My father bought me a used Canon 24-105 lens from Korea and I had to pay over 200$ to get it repaired.

Granted, buying used lenses can be scary. But there's two things you might want to keep in mind.

  1. There's a huge difference between the general reliability of a mostly plastic, heavily motorized 4:1 zoom and an older metal macro prime. Lenses like the 55mm Nikkor, or the 50mm Pentax, if you don't abuse them, tend to last forever. There's not much that can go wrong with them.

  2. you're not, according to your profile, in Korea. You're in the U.S., and we've ngot places like KEH, arguably the most honest, best stocked used lens dealer in the world.

Also I didn't have a good experience with Canon 2x tele converter. It didn't allow me to use auto focus, and the shots were softer than without the converter.

There's an enormous difference between the adapter I recommended and a 2x tc. A Nikon or Pentax adapter for a Canon DSLR is just a metal ring that locks those lens's mounts to the camera. It doesn't do anything optically to alter the image. A teleconverter is a very different device. It's a complicated system in its own right, magnifying the image produced by the lens you're using it with. In the case of a 2x tc, it doubles every flaw in the lens: twice the softness, twice the chromatic aberration, then it adds some aberrations of its own, because it is an optical system with up to eight lens elements inside it. It cuts light, and alters the angles of the light that make the AF system work. You saw all these things.

Those are things that won't happen with a Nikon or Pentax macro on a Canon adapter. Those lenses will work well.

So I think used lenses and adapters are no good.

If they make you uncomfortable, then go with a new Canon or Tamron macro. They are excellent lenses, and you won't be disappointed. I was just suggesting a lower cost alternative.

You didn't say how big your paintings and sculptures are. A 50mm is a good lens for big pieces, 4-6 feet. Smaller than that, and a 100mm is a good lens to have. That's probably another $250 on the used market. Still beats the snot out of paying $1000 or more for the wrong Zeiss.

The paintings that I shoot can be anywhere from 2 feet to 10 feet in length.

You want to start out with a 50mm or 60mm macro lens, then. With a 100mm, you need to get back 28 feet from a 10 foot painting.

Your advice was very convincing. So I really consider buying a macro lens instead of those mentioned Zeiss lenses. But I will think whether I will go for a Canon brand or some other brand.

Cool. Whatever brand you go with, you're about to enter a world of sharpness and lower distortion that will blow you away. One's first macro lens always does that. You find yourself thinking "why didn't I get one of these years ago?"

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Ciao! Joseph

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Batzorig
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Re: How about Nikon...
In reply to Joseph S Wisniewski, Sep 17, 2012

Thanks again for your reply. I agree with your warning that 100mm lens may be too long since there are many occasions when I need to take shots in limited space.

I searched for Nikon macro lenses on Amazon.com and found that 60 mm f2.8 Micro-Nikkor has also very good reviews. But I want to ask if the 55 mm Micro-Nikkor f3.5 or Nikon 55mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor Lens AIS IMP have Auto focus in it. If they do have auto focus, will the Auto focus work on Canon body with the adapter on? If the autofocus doesn't work, will the focus confirmation red light show up on the lens front?

In my case, I wear glasses, so relying on my eyesight only to focus is my last option. Autofocus or at least the focus confirmation red light is a necessity.

Can you suggest me a decent brand for the adapter ring? Reading some reviews on adapters, I see that adapters also have their quality and performance. Some of them have negative reviews such as how well it fits with the lens and ease of removing and attaching.

Bat

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Karl Petersson
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Re: How about Nikon...
In reply to Batzorig, Sep 29, 2012

I searched for Nikon macro lenses on Amazon.com and found that 60 mm f2.8 Micro-Nikkor has also very good reviews. But I want to ask if the 55 mm Micro-Nikkor f3.5 or Nikon 55mm f/2.8 Micro Nikkor Lens AIS IMP have Auto focus in it. If they do have auto focus, will the Auto focus work on Canon body with the adapter on? If the autofocus doesn't work, will the focus confirmation red light show up on the lens front?

I would also recommend you to look at the Sigma and Tamron Macro lenses, they are very nice and more attractive in terms of price then the canon/nikon lenses. Also btw the Canon 50 macro 2.5 is "very" cheap for what it delivers and come highly recommended I have owned two and is a great performer for its price.

In my case, I wear glasses, so relying on my eyesight only to focus is my last option. Autofocus or at least the focus confirmation red light is a necessity.

In case of using it without af you would simply use the live view function, I am taking for granted that you are using a tripod then the focusing is a s easy as pie using the live view since it has a 20 max magnification.

Using manual focusing lenses is at first a bit iffy but its something you get very easily used to. The TS 90 is also a really nice lens as previously recommended and will give you a great flexibility particularly when you can not get a straight angle to the painting. B.t.w all the TS or PC lenses are manual focus.

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Batzorig
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Re: How about Nikon...
In reply to Karl Petersson, Oct 11, 2012

In case of using it without af you would simply use the live view function, I am taking for granted that you are using a tripod then the focusing is a s easy as pie using the live view since it has a 20 max magnification.

Thanks for reply. Live View works quite well in well lit areas, but sometimes when it is poorly lighted such as using the Tungsten rendering lights on the Strobes, Live View could have problem detecting the scene.

Using manual focusing lenses is at first a bit iffy but its something you get very easily used to. The TS 90 is also a really nice lens as previously recommended and will give you a great flexibility particularly when you can not get a straight angle to the painting. B.t.w all the TS or PC lenses are manual focus.

What is PC lens?

I am thinking about ordering Display calibration tool and the Macro lens from the US, but since I am half way across the globe, shipping is a problem.

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Bat

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Batzorig
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Re: How about Nikon...
In reply to Batzorig, Nov 13, 2012

I finally received my Micro-Nikkor 55mm f2.8 lens with an adapter to Canon and X-rite color passport. Mr. Wisniewski’s entries persuaded me enough to buy these items. After testing it for a couple of days here is what I found about this lens’s performance with Canon body.

  1. I bought a separate Chipped Adapter to use with my Canon 5D Mk-2. Operation was a little difficult for me. Especially when the Micro-Nikkor’s Aperture was set higher than 5.6, the focus check beep didn’t work. I shoot paintings, so micro tuning of the focus is only possible with the automatic focus or with focus confirmation light. When the manual Nikkor’s aperture value was set on higher number, the lens becomes very dark. As a result the Canon body can’t detect the focus confirmation. So I always had to focus while setting the F stop on 2.8 at first.
  2. Another annoying thing was the compatibility of the adapter ring. It would lose the connection very easily. There was a slight movement on the adapter to Canon body. As a result sometimes dialing the Nikkor’s aperture value will cause the disconnection of the lens to camera communication.
  3. Close comparison of the same image shot with my Canon 50 mm f1.8 and the Micro- Nikkor 55mm proved that Canon 50 mm was sharper in the center of the image. But Micro-Nikkor had more or less same sharpness across the whole image field. Micro-Nikkor’s sharpness got only comparable to Canon 50 mm on the corner fields. So as far as sharpness, the cheap plastic Canon 50mm out-performed Micro-Nikkor. The good side of the Micro-Nikkor was that it had less lens barrel distortion.
  4. The contrast and color was almost similar. Nikkor being a little darker than Canon given all same specifications.

Given all these facts I do regret that I have bought this lens. Yes it is 2/3 of the Canon’s 50mm Macro. But I gave up a lot of things for a cheaper price. I don’t have the auto focus; the reliability of the lens performance jeopardized; lens becomes dark on most f-stops. My father doesn’t have much knowledge in photography, but sure he was right when he warned me that I shouldn’t buy another brand’s used lens. It just doesn’t look good. Mr. Wisniewski’s words gave me impression that there was something magical about this particular manual lens. But I didn’t see it. It had more consistent focus filed across the all frame and less distortion as the only two advantages. I am not against Nikon or anything. Just this particular lens wasn't a good choice on my Canon camera.

Now I also bought X-rite color passport. Although there were a few flaws on the software and the online tutorial, it did enhance the colors substantially. So I am quite happy with the color passport.

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