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Zeiss 100mm f2 Macro


I decided to break down and rent two lenses for a month.  One of those lenses is the lovely Zeiss Makro-Planar 100mm f/2.0!  I’ve been lusting over this lens for what seems like forever.  It’s a pretty expensive lens if purchased, in the neighborhood of US$1800 I think.  I decided to rent it to see if I would like it enough to consider it as a future purchase.  After all, if you’re going to spend $1800, what’s another $250 in rental costs to try it out for a month!?  But really, this rental was just for the fun of it more than anything else.


My initial thoughts on the build of the lens are that it’s sturdy and simple.  It comes with a metal lens hood that is really nice, but seems as though it could fall off easily when attached to the front of the lens (snaps in place, but not securely enough).  I don’t use lens hoods when shooting macro so I didn’t use it.  It also doesn’t have the option for Auto or Manual focus, which is just great: exactly the way a true macro lens should be because you focus by moving your body to and from the subject and then use the fine adjustment on the lens to get the image sharp.  Kind of like a microscope.

I took the lens out for a test run this afternoon, shooting everything at f/2.0.  After taking each shot, I was just in awe as I reviewed the shots on my camera’s LCD.  Simply amazing.  I could tell without even looking at the shots at full size on my LCD that I was getting some tack sharp shots and the color saturation that I was able to achieve was out of this world!  In fact, some of the shots were so saturated that I had to tone it down a notch.

When I got home and reviewed the photos, my initial thoughts were true disgust and disappointment.  The first dozen frames were just drowning in chromatic aberration (purple fringing).  I had never seen such bad CA except with poor quality lenses.  However, it seems to have dissipated and went completely away after that first dozen.  Kind of strange.  Almost like the camera adapted to the lens and the optics were just how they should be.

Anyway, my review of this lens is AWESOME AWESOME AWESOME!  It is everything that I would expect from a Zeiss lens and more.  The images at f/2.0 are so incredibly sharp that it blows the sharpness of every lens that I own out of the water.  My own macro lens is the highly sought after first generation Tamron 90mm f/2.8 macro.  Tamron still makes this lens, but I don’t know if they are as sharp as these originals.

The drawbacks of this lens:

  • It’s not 1:1, but 1:2 magnification.  What this means is that subjects with be half life size at 1:2.  True to life would be 1:1.
  • The fine adjustment focusing barrel takes several turns to reach full focus and is slower to turn than all other lenses that I’ve used.
  • The chromatic aberration…which I’m hoping was just an initial problem and not continuous.  I suppose I will find out.
  • It’s really expensive.

This was written after only using the lens for a couple of hours and these are my initial thoughts.  This Zeiss lens is a TRUE macro lens and great for the avid macro photographer.  If you use autofocus, forget this lens…it doesn’t even have it.  I can’t say how this lens would be for portraits, but given that it seems to take forever to turn the focus barrel, I can definitely see that would be an annoyance for portrait work.

Anyway, here are some shots from the lens.  More to come in the future!