SHG/HG VS Zeiss ?

Started Mar 8, 2013 | Questions thread
Skeeterbytes Forum Pro • Posts: 13,623
Re: SHG/HG VS Zeiss ?

philosomatographer wrote:

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.

Agreed. For 4/3 at least, Oly eschewed primes for zooms in comparison with the OM system. Interesting, then, that µ4/3 has rekindled their interes in high-quality zooms. Would be interesting, for example, to see a Zeiss 85/1.4 equivalent versus the 75/1.8.

I switched to Contax from a mix of Pentax and Nikon, and can attest the biggest difference was in color rendition. In a mix of slides from the three systems on a light table, the Zeiss transparancies were always easy to pick out from their saturated colors. Pretty sure this was at least because of the T* coating. My 25/2.8. 50/1.4 and 85/2.8 handled the bulk of my shooting and my only zoom was a Tamron.

I started with the N system because I knew they were developing the N-Digital and I wanted to be ready for the day I could afford one. Accordingly, I got two zooms and the 100 Makro-Planar; by then the fast primes were hugely expensive compared to their C/Y counterparts. Results were still "Zeiss-like" but I believe any advantage they had over their counterparts was much less pronounced. Still, the T* coating gives good results and the big Makro is spectacular. (A place in Canada converts them to Canon mount for an unholy sum of cash.)

Schneider hasn't come up in the conversation, but I'm VERY interested in their µ4/3 primes. They made some very good lenses for the better Kodak digicams (e.g., the P880) and I'd love to give them a go on my E-M5.



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