Really Black Squirrel – Zeiss APO Sonnar 135mm f/2 ZF.2 on Nikon D800E – in Explore

Really Black Squirrel - Zeiss APO Sonnar 135mm f/2 ZF.2 on Nikon D800E - in Explore

**** in Explore *****

Nikon D800E with Zeiss APO 135mm f/2 ZF.2 Sonnar. Taken at ISO 200, 1/640sec, f/2.

This final image is a heavy crop (approx 15% of the original image) and has been post processed to see the details in the black fur of the squirrel: despite the grain visible at this magnification, it is still amazing to see such amount of detail on this final blow up – almost 1:1 pixel.

I can already say that out of all the Nikon, Zeiss, Leica, Voigtlander lenses I have owned and used, This latest Zeiss is the one that produces the more 3D pop, sharpness and microcontrast. The APO naming is really deserved: it produces clean saturated and sharp colors with no fringes and this could be what is behind its performance.
Surprisingly, I am able to accurately focus this lens visually on my D800E, which is a rarity with my other MF lenses where my keeper rate is very low without using live view mode and a loupe. I think the very bright f/2 aperture makes the image pops in the viewfinder when it comes in focus, making the task easier.
Also the green AF assist dot of my D800E seems to work accurately with this lens, something which I did not experience at all with my Voigtlander APO 125mm f/2.5.

Any negatives? maybe the weight although it balances very well the D800E. More important: It seems that this lens slightly goes beyond infinity (an almost accurate hard stop, but need to come back 1mm to reach optimum focus) . Before I make a definitive statement like this, I really need to do pictures of landscape to confirm it. My only tests were inside the city so my horizon was rather limited. Another potential critic could be the long focal length of 135mm, not for a universal use: well until Zeiss comes out with a similar performance lens in my most traditional FL range 20-50mm of the landscape photographer I am, I say that this is good for my creativity to be forced to explore other kind of picture opportunities with the motivation of using a lens which can produce great results. I will rediscover the pleasure of street photography, portrait and also long telephoto compressed landscapes.

Doing street photography with MF lenses is not easy and I am sure I would have a much easier time with my EM1 and Olympus 75mm f/1..8. But I feel the rendering of this lens is unique and even better than my second best favorite: the Olympus 75/1.8.
Could it be that this recent Zeiss APO 135mm f/2 ZF.2 is of the caliber of the OTUS line to be released soon for future high resolution camera? I did some pictures of squirrels yesterday, and the review at 100% magnification is breathtaking: I never experienced something like that, even when comparing my superlative Nikkor AF-S 200mm f/2 VR. This is going to be the Marijuana of the pixel peepers commenting of forums!

In conclusion, it has been a while since I had been excited by a lens which keeps me yelling WOW and jump out of my recliner everytime I look at one of the photos taken with it – even of insignificant artistic content: yes my wife heard me swearing of joy reviewing a photo of a city garbage can and fire hydrant! I feel like a kid discovering Magic Kingdom for the first time, a young woman being offered her first diamond, a blind person recovering his eyesight… Maybe my photographic passion has become waaayyy too obsessive!

Let’s climb down one notch from my Nirvana state: I feel that even the most boring brickwall – a favorite topic of mine to test lenses – could WOW my wife who could not stand the idea of looking at another one of my hopeless brickwall pictures. 🙂

Posted by episa on 2014-01-19 14:44:52

Tagged: , 2014 , January , Nikon D800E , Ontario , Toronto , black , eating , snow , squirrel , in Explore , Sonnar , 135/2 , ZF , Zeiss APO 135mm f/2 ZF.2