Zeiss Sonnar 55mm FE vs. Zeiss Planar 50mm ZM

Started Jan 26, 2014 | Discussions
NomadMark
NomadMark Contributing Member • Posts: 610
Zeiss Sonnar 55mm FE vs. Zeiss Planar 50mm ZM

So, I bought an A7R close to a month ago. I sold my NEX 7 on the day it was announced. I feel in love with the NEX, and fell in love all over again with the RX1. Sony sensors are just a dream, and the files they produce are not touchable. Beat my Canon bodies, hands down.

Now...if my 24-70 f4 would ever ship, I would be in heaven!

Meanwhile, I DO have a Planar. Was the only piece of my NEX 7 kit that I kept. Always thought it to be one sharp piece of glass. Meanwhile, a short while back, I read an article that stacked up several Legacy mount lenses from Leica and so on, against the 55mm Sonnar, and the Otis. It seems the Sonna was the only lens that could holds its own against the Otis. It managed to come damn close, if not almost exact, in some parts of the frame. Which left me thinking...how would my Planar stack up? Weak like the rest of the competition?

Well, I went to the shop today, to test. And, I can honestly say, the Planar is right up there. I shot off a number of shots, wide open from each, at 1/125 and something like ISO 200. Not real scientific mind you...both wide open, so F2 vs. F1.8. And At home on the monitor...I can't see any difference. If anything, I think the Planar might show a slight edge (F2 vs F2 might be a slightly different story again).

At any rate, I am thinking I may make the switch after all. The build quality of the 55mm is most impressive!! AF would be nice, too. But, for me, that is the only real difference.

I have included a center crop just in case you would be interested in seeing. Planar top, Sonnar bottom.

 NomadMark's gear list:NomadMark's gear list
Sony a7 III Canon EOS R Canon EF 135mm F2L USM Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM +10 more
Sony a7R Sony Alpha NEX-7 Sony RX1
If you believe there are incorrect tags, please send us this post using our feedback form.
David Kieltyka
David Kieltyka Veteran Member • Posts: 6,357
Re: Zeiss Sonnar 55mm FE vs. Zeiss Planar 50mm ZM

The 50/2 ZM Planar is an excellent lens. I've owned one since it came on the market (early 2005 or so). One thing to consider, though, in non-rangefinder use is close-focusing ability. The ZM goes down to 70cm, the near limit with RF cameras, while the 55/1.8 Sonnar can do 50cm. I actually wish the 55 could focus closer still. Now if you're using or plan to use the Voigtländer adapter with close-focusing ability (I've got one on order) it'll be a different story.

The Otus is a very impressive piece of design. It offers no real-world benefit for me since I hardly ever open up a 50/55/58mm lens beyond f/2 and rarely use a tripod with any camera other than my Pentax (which rarely gets used without a tripod), but I like that Zeiss is in this case taking a cost-no-object approach.

-Dave-

 David Kieltyka's gear list:David Kieltyka's gear list
Leica M9-P Leica M8.2 Pentax 645D Pentax 645Z Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 +9 more
stevo23 Forum Pro • Posts: 24,744
Re: Zeiss Sonnar 55mm FE vs. Zeiss Planar 50mm ZM

NomadMark wrote:

So, I bought an A7R close to a month ago. I sold my NEX 7 on the day it was announced. I feel in love with the NEX, and fell in love all over again with the RX1. Sony sensors are just a dream, and the files they produce are not touchable. Beat my Canon bodies, hands down.

Now...if my 24-70 f4 would ever ship, I would be in heaven!

Meanwhile, I DO have a Planar. Was the only piece of my NEX 7 kit that I kept. Always thought it to be one sharp piece of glass. Meanwhile, a short while back, I read an article that stacked up several Legacy mount lenses from Leica and so on, against the 55mm Sonnar, and the Otis. It seems the Sonna was the only lens that could holds its own against the Otis. It managed to come damn close, if not almost exact, in some parts of the frame. Which left me thinking...how would my Planar stack up? Weak like the rest of the competition?

Well, I went to the shop today, to test. And, I can honestly say, the Planar is right up there. I shot off a number of shots, wide open from each, at 1/125 and something like ISO 200. Not real scientific mind you...both wide open, so F2 vs. F1.8. And At home on the monitor...I can't see any difference. If anything, I think the Planar might show a slight edge (F2 vs F2 might be a slightly different story again).

At any rate, I am thinking I may make the switch after all. The build quality of the 55mm is most impressive!! AF would be nice, too. But, for me, that is the only real difference.

I have included a center crop just in case you would be interested in seeing. Planar top, Sonnar bottom.

I hate to be a bother, but I'm kind of interested in the Planar as well. To me, the bottom one doesn't look well focused. Is there an issue with the lens calibration?

 stevo23's gear list:stevo23's gear list
Fujifilm X-Pro2 Fujifilm XF 60mm F2.4 R Macro Fujifilm XF 14mm F2.8 R Fujifilm XF 27mm F2.8 Fujifilm XF 23mm F1.4 R +3 more
DP13Photo Veteran Member • Posts: 6,234
Re: Zeiss Sonnar 55mm FE vs. Zeiss Planar 50mm ZM

I have both lenses. I really enjoy using the ZM on the A7. It is hard to describe except it has something to do with my old film days and it's kind of primal.

I got the 55 because I wanted AF at times.

The experiences with the ZM 50, which I got used, prompted me to get a used ZM 35/2, which I also really like.

Zeiss 50/2 ZM @ f2

-- hide signature --

Dave

 DP13Photo's gear list:DP13Photo's gear list
Sony a7 III Sony a7C Sony a7 IV Sony FE 28mm F2 Zeiss Batis 85mm F1.8 +16 more
spacemn Senior Member • Posts: 1,743
Re: Zeiss Sonnar 55mm FE vs. Zeiss Planar 50mm ZM

NomadMark wrote:

So, I bought an A7R close to a month ago. I sold my NEX 7 on the day it was announced. I feel in love with the NEX, and fell in love all over again with the RX1. Sony sensors are just a dream, and the files they produce are not touchable. Beat my Canon bodies, hands down.

Now...if my 24-70 f4 would ever ship, I would be in heaven!

Meanwhile, I DO have a Planar. Was the only piece of my NEX 7 kit that I kept. Always thought it to be one sharp piece of glass. Meanwhile, a short while back, I read an article that stacked up several Legacy mount lenses from Leica and so on, against the 55mm Sonnar, and the Otis. It seems the Sonna was the only lens that could holds its own against the Otis. It managed to come damn close, if not almost exact, in some parts of the frame. Which left me thinking...how would my Planar stack up? Weak like the rest of the competition?

Well, I went to the shop today, to test. And, I can honestly say, the Planar is right up there. I shot off a number of shots, wide open from each, at 1/125 and something like ISO 200. Not real scientific mind you...both wide open, so F2 vs. F1.8. And At home on the monitor...I can't see any difference. If anything, I think the Planar might show a slight edge (F2 vs F2 might be a slightly different story again).

At any rate, I am thinking I may make the switch after all. The build quality of the 55mm is most impressive!! AF would be nice, too. But, for me, that is the only real difference.

I have included a center crop just in case you would be interested in seeing. Planar top, Sonnar bottom.

In tests around on the net I've only seen the Otus 55mm beat the FE 55mm Sonnar on sharpness wide open.

Usually I always prefer The Zeiss Sonnar rendering over Planar, especially the bokeh which usually is a bit harsh with Planar.

Do you have a chance to make a bokeh shot comparison?

I think for me it would be a no brainer to choose the FE 55mm over the 50mm ZM.

Blitz Regular Member • Posts: 155
Re: Zeiss Sonnar 55mm FE vs. Zeiss Planar 50mm ZM

Well, please give a few more crops.

It seems to be the same case as with the 2/35 ZM vs the 2.8/35mm:

The Planar seems to be clearer while the Sonnar has a slight "fog" and gives the picture as well a bit of an unnatural colour which all reduced the 3D effect of real Zeiss glass...

spacemn Senior Member • Posts: 1,743
Re: Zeiss Sonnar 55mm FE vs. Zeiss Planar 50mm ZM

Blitz wrote:

Well, please give a few more crops.

It seems to be the same case as with the 2/35 ZM vs the 2.8/35mm:

The Planar seems to be clearer while the Sonnar has a slight "fog" and gives the picture as well a bit of an unnatural colour which all reduced the 3D effect of real Zeiss glass...

In which test have you seen this "fog". These FE lenses is giving some of the most crisp pictures I have seen.

There is an inspirational article here on the new FE Sonnars and the 35mm Sonnar on the RX1:

http://dearsusans.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/166-are-the-new-zeiss-sony-lenses-for-the-a7-camera-too-expensive/

These lenses are top top lenses. The FE 55mm is even close to Otus 55mm performance.

spacemn Senior Member • Posts: 1,743
Re: Zeiss Sonnar 55mm FE vs. Zeiss Planar 50mm ZM

spacemn wrote:

Blitz wrote:

Well, please give a few more crops.

It seems to be the same case as with the 2/35 ZM vs the 2.8/35mm:

The Planar seems to be clearer while the Sonnar has a slight "fog" and gives the picture as well a bit of an unnatural colour which all reduced the 3D effect of real Zeiss glass...

In which test have you seen this "fog". These FE lenses is giving some of the most crisp pictures I have seen.

There is an inspirational article here on the new FE Sonnars and the 35mm Sonnar on the RX1 (there are some good reviews out there with real life photos):

http://dearsusans.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/166-are-the-new-zeiss-sony-lenses-for-the-a7-camera-too-expensive/

These lenses are top top lenses. The FE 55mm is even close to Otus 55mm performance.

NomadMark
OP NomadMark Contributing Member • Posts: 610
Re: Zeiss Sonnar 55mm FE vs. Zeiss Planar 50mm ZM

NomadMark wrote:

So, I bought an A7R close to a month ago. I sold my NEX 7 on the day it was announced. I feel in love with the NEX, and fell in love all over again with the RX1. Sony sensors are just a dream, and the files they produce are not touchable. Beat my Canon bodies, hands down.

Now...if my 24-70 f4 would ever ship, I would be in heaven!

Meanwhile, I DO have a Planar. Was the only piece of my NEX 7 kit that I kept. Always thought it to be one sharp piece of glass. Meanwhile, a short while back, I read an article that stacked up several Legacy mount lenses from Leica and so on, against the 55mm Sonnar, and the Otis. It seems the Sonna was the only lens that could holds its own against the Otis. It managed to come damn close, if not almost exact, in some parts of the frame. Which left me thinking...how would my Planar stack up? Weak like the rest of the competition?

Well, I went to the shop today, to test. And, I can honestly say, the Planar is right up there. I shot off a number of shots, wide open from each, at 1/125 and something like ISO 200. Not real scientific mind you...both wide open, so F2 vs. F1.8. And At home on the monitor...I can't see any difference. If anything, I think the Planar might show a slight edge (F2 vs F2 might be a slightly different story again).

At any rate, I am thinking I may make the switch after all. The build quality of the 55mm is most impressive!! AF would be nice, too. But, for me, that is the only real difference.

I have included a center crop just in case you would be interested in seeing. Planar top, Sonnar bottom.

I hate to be a bother, but I'm kind of interested in the Planar as well. To me, the bottom one doesn't look well focused. Is there an issue with the lens calibration?

Sorry. This was manual focused at 11 times magnification. This is as sharp as it gets.

 NomadMark's gear list:NomadMark's gear list
Sony a7 III Canon EOS R Canon EF 135mm F2L USM Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM +10 more
NomadMark
OP NomadMark Contributing Member • Posts: 610
Re: Zeiss Sonnar 55mm FE vs. Zeiss Planar 50mm ZM

Bokeh Sample 1

(Yes...my Christmas tree is still up...)

50mm ZM at f2

55mm FE at f1.8

Please excuse the variation in shutter and ISO. I took a couple of shots in between...posting those in a moment.

 NomadMark's gear list:NomadMark's gear list
Sony a7 III Canon EOS R Canon EF 135mm F2L USM Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM +10 more
NomadMark
OP NomadMark Contributing Member • Posts: 610
Re: Zeiss Sonnar 55mm FE vs. Zeiss Planar 50mm ZM

Bokeh sample two.

Taken at the same shutter speed here. ISO varied, so you may find a slight variation in sharpness due to that fact. However, I see none! Both lenses are neck and neck in my eyes.

Please, take a look at full size.

50mm ZM @ F2

55mm FE at F1.8

After the few shots I have taken, it does seem like the FE produces a warmer image. The ZM seems more color neutral, to me at least.

 NomadMark's gear list:NomadMark's gear list
Sony a7 III Canon EOS R Canon EF 135mm F2L USM Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM +10 more
NomadMark
OP NomadMark Contributing Member • Posts: 610
OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

Both 50mm ZM and 55mm FE produce sharp images. In the center and boarder, identical as far as I am concerned.

The 55mm is sharper in the extreme corners. That is the only area the ZM falls short wide open. Stopped down to f4 of f5.6, they two lenses are identical, again, from what I can tell, matching the resolution of the sensor without a doubt.

I like the 50mm ZM color a little better. Seems more neutral, and a little brighter/more contrasty. At least to my eye. The FE is a little warmer for sure. However, I think this can me remedied in post.

For manual focus work, the ZM's mechanical focus is much nicer than the FE's focus by wire. Also easier on the battery no doubt.

55mm 1.8 will obviously produce slightly larger bokeh balls, but otherwise, both render very smooth OOF areas. I can't see a lot of difference myself, and would not let this be a discerning factor in my decision.

So:

55mm is damn sharp across the frame. It's impressive really. AF is also quite accurate, though not as good as using MF from my hour or so of testing. If you prefer AF, there is no contest...obviously!

50mm is an easy pick if you want to manual focus. If shoot wide open and you concentrate on people pictures, you probably won't mind the marginally softer corners. And you can always stop down to achieve the same results for landscape or detail oriented pictures...which you would probably do with either lens anyway! that will give you sharpness across the frame, I think.The catch for the 50mm to me, is it seems to have better contrast and color, in my opinion. highlights are brighter for sure from what I can see, which I really like.

So...now...which to keep? I think I am siding with the 55mm, as I really like having AF. In which case...I have a 50mm Planar and Novoflex adapter to sell!

 NomadMark's gear list:NomadMark's gear list
Sony a7 III Canon EOS R Canon EF 135mm F2L USM Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM +10 more
NomadMark
OP NomadMark Contributing Member • Posts: 610
Re: Zeiss Sonnar 55mm FE vs. Zeiss Planar 50mm ZM

Corner shots

Check the coat check tickets in the glass, bottom right.

I can't see much difference. Not shooting in great light to the ISO/Noise will cut down on usefulness here.

50ZM at f2

55mm FE at 1.8

 NomadMark's gear list:NomadMark's gear list
Sony a7 III Canon EOS R Canon EF 135mm F2L USM Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM +10 more
spacemn Senior Member • Posts: 1,743
Re: OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

NomadMark wrote:

Both 50mm ZM and 55mm FE produce sharp images. In the center and boarder, identical as far as I am concerned.

The 55mm is sharper in the extreme corners. That is the only area the ZM falls short wide open. Stopped down to f4 of f5.6, they two lenses are identical, again, from what I can tell, matching the resolution of the sensor without a doubt.

I like the 50mm ZM color a little better. Seems more neutral, and a little brighter/more contrasty. At least to my eye. The FE is a little warmer for sure. However, I think this can me remedied in post.

For manual focus work, the ZM's mechanical focus is much nicer than the FE's focus by wire. Also easier on the battery no doubt.

55mm 1.8 will obviously produce slightly larger bokeh balls, but otherwise, both render very smooth OOF areas. I can't see a lot of difference myself, and would not let this be a discerning factor in my decision.

So:

55mm is damn sharp across the frame. It's impressive really. AF is also quite accurate, though not as good as using MF from my hour or so of testing. If you prefer AF, there is no contest...obviously!

50mm is an easy pick if you want to manual focus. If shoot wide open and you concentrate on people pictures, you probably won't mind the marginally softer corners. And you can always stop down to achieve the same results for landscape or detail oriented pictures...which you would probably do with either lens anyway! that will give you sharpness across the frame, I think.The catch for the 50mm to me, is it seems to have better contrast and color, in my opinion. highlights are brighter for sure from what I can see, which I really like.

So...now...which to keep? I think I am siding with the 55mm, as I really like having AF. In which case...I have a 50mm Planar and Novoflex adapter to sell!

I really appreciate the bokeh shots you made. They are just not challenging the lenses enough.

In this review of the Touit 32mm which is also based on the Zeiss Planar design shows some good examples on how the bokeh can be quite harsh:

http://sonyalphalab.com/product-review/zeiss-touit-32mm-f1-8-lens-review-sony-e-mount/

However, the 50mm ZM does have a reputation of being of the the absolute best out there. Just incredible that the new 55mm FE lens seems to render at least as sharp and on top of this is compact and has AF.

NomadMark
OP NomadMark Contributing Member • Posts: 610
Re: OVERALL IMPRESSIONS

spacemn wrote:

NomadMark wrote:

Both 50mm ZM and 55mm FE produce sharp images. In the center and boarder, identical as far as I am concerned.

The 55mm is sharper in the extreme corners. That is the only area the ZM falls short wide open. Stopped down to f4 of f5.6, they two lenses are identical, again, from what I can tell, matching the resolution of the sensor without a doubt.

I like the 50mm ZM color a little better. Seems more neutral, and a little brighter/more contrasty. At least to my eye. The FE is a little warmer for sure. However, I think this can me remedied in post.

For manual focus work, the ZM's mechanical focus is much nicer than the FE's focus by wire. Also easier on the battery no doubt.

55mm 1.8 will obviously produce slightly larger bokeh balls, but otherwise, both render very smooth OOF areas. I can't see a lot of difference myself, and would not let this be a discerning factor in my decision.

So:

55mm is damn sharp across the frame. It's impressive really. AF is also quite accurate, though not as good as using MF from my hour or so of testing. If you prefer AF, there is no contest...obviously!

50mm is an easy pick if you want to manual focus. If shoot wide open and you concentrate on people pictures, you probably won't mind the marginally softer corners. And you can always stop down to achieve the same results for landscape or detail oriented pictures...which you would probably do with either lens anyway! that will give you sharpness across the frame, I think.The catch for the 50mm to me, is it seems to have better contrast and color, in my opinion. highlights are brighter for sure from what I can see, which I really like.

So...now...which to keep? I think I am siding with the 55mm, as I really like having AF. In which case...I have a 50mm Planar and Novoflex adapter to sell!

I really appreciate the bokeh shots you made. They are just not challenging the lenses enough.

In this review of the Touit 32mm which is also based on the Zeiss Planar design shows some good examples on how the bokeh can be quite harsh:

http://sonyalphalab.com/product-review/zeiss-touit-32mm-f1-8-lens-review-sony-e-mount/

However, the 50mm ZM does have a reputation of being of the the absolute best out there. Just incredible that the new 55mm FE lens seems to render at least as sharp and on top of this is compact and has AF.

I agree. After seeing the review of the 55mm at 3Dkraft , I actually questioned weather the 50mm ZM would keep up, knowing full well it was good. the 55mm is getting great reviews. So, I had to know...which was better! Oddly enough, I think they are even damn close in the corners if not identical. I would go back and edit that comment if I could, after doing a few more tests. The Planar/Sonnar are equal in terms of sharpness in my mind for sure. Difference is nil. Still though, I think the Planar renders marginally nicer color and contrast, and overall IQ due to those facts, but at the expense of AF. But, wanting the most out of your sensor almost demands you use MF, when shooting wide open...which the ZM does faster and easier with less fiddle.

Overall I am keeping the Sonnar. I value AF and weather sealing as we get RDF (Rain, drizzle, and fog) at least 50% of the year here in Newfoundland. I can edit in post to just about achieve the look of the Planar (not sure you will get there 100% though).

No doubt, both lenses are freaking amazing.

If by chance anyone wants a nearly new Planar at a good deal:

http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/52989637

If the Planar doesn't sell, I will happily keep it and return the 55mm FE in a week or so.

 NomadMark's gear list:NomadMark's gear list
Sony a7 III Canon EOS R Canon EF 135mm F2L USM Canon EF 400mm f/5.6L USM Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L USM +10 more
Keyboard shortcuts:
FForum MMy threads