Nikon 14-24 v Zeiss Distagon 21 F2.8 D800 for landscape and cityscape work

Started Feb 1, 2013 | Discussions thread
anotherMike Veteran Member • Posts: 8,626
Re: Nikon 14-24 v Zeiss Distagon 21 F2.8 D800 for landscape and cityscape work

I wrote a fairly exhaustive comparison of these two lenses a few weeks ago in the lens forum, but to summarize, as an owner of both of these lenses, it would go something like this:

Assuming we're talking about a 21mm vs 21mm comparison, and not talking about the obvious zoom flexibility of the 14-24 (which BTW is strongest at 15mm and weakest (relatively) at 24mm), my choice of which lens I'm going to use actually is based entirely on two factors:

a) What is the expected composition of the scene in terms of the primary subject?

b) What is the predominant color scheme of the scene?

The two lenses render differently and have vastly different color casts. For me, the Zeiss gets the call whenever there is a centrally located subject (roughly) that is the focal point of interest and this subject is somewhere between pretty close and moderately far away, and the background/rest of the frame exists to offset this central subject. In this scene type, the Zeiss really has a quite noticeable three dimensional look with excellent micro-contrast and separation of the tones and elements - there really isn't any other lens I own that does this as well. In particular, if the subject is in the greens/oranges/reds/yellows, this is the lens to choose. On the other hand, if I have a scene that is more uniformly far away with perhaps a continuous line to the subject as opposed to a near vs far subject/background relationship; say a distant cityscape with no central object or a sunset water scene, the 14-24 would be the lens of choice, particularly if the subject matter has a lot of blue - the 14-24 has a very definite cool coloration that works wonderfully with water scenes, particularly at night.

In terms of sharpness both are quite close - the Zeiss is better at the edges, but the 14-24's corners are sometimes a bit better, most usually because the 14-24 has a different field curvature that helps the near corners. Flare is better with the Zeiss, and obviously the Zeiss takes filters without any special modification.  The Zeiss does have a color cast in the corners that the 14-24 does not have, which is more noticeable in some scenes than others. So while I thought perhaps I'd be able to sell the 14-24 once I got the Zeiss, I found out that they both are just excellent tools that excel at different things. Personally I tend to reach for the Zeiss more simply because I'm more likely to have a scene type that has that broadly center located subject set off against something in the background and that type of scene is rendered by the Zeiss like nothing else and it's not really even a close comparison in that kind of thing, but at the same time, if I'm shooting a sunset to post-sunset or night scene around water or distant buildings, the 14-24 would be my clear choice. Different tools.


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