Lenses

A Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZM Distagon Review – An Optical Wonder!

Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZM

There’s quite a few lenses I’ve been asked to review by readers of this website over the years, but there aren’t many that I’ve been asked about as much as the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZM Distagon. Ironically, it’s one lens that I’ve always been absolutely certain of the outcome of me writing about it. This lens was almost undoubtedly going to be optically awesome, the only real question that hung over it related to its larger-than-average size. In fact, this is pretty much the narrative of every review, blog post and forum thread out there. It’s incredible, but it’s big! What more is there to say? Of course, what I’d failed to comprehend prior to trying it is that I might stumble upon a character trait I’d really love…

This question about what I could possibly find to write about is the question I’ve asked myself every single time I’ve been asked to review it. I’m not a technical lens reviewer, I don’t go into the finer details and I often don’t even notice many of the “flaws” caused by the evils that a lot of reviewers get their knickers in a twist about. In fact, the flaws I do notice, I often see as reasons to shoot a lens rather than avoid it.

My Interest in lenses

To this end, my interest in lenses – at least when it comes to writing about the things – is often more around writing about those that have more of an impact on the photo in a way that can be creatively harnessed. It’s not that I don’t like well rounded, high-quality, clinical lenses, I just find them less interesting to shoot and share my thoughts about as part of this website.

Unfortunately for the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZM – based on the reviews I’d read about it already – I had formed a chunk of prejudice about it. For a start, it did seem that it was regarded as being a very high quality optic, and so by that merit alone, I’d decided it probably wasn’t going to be that interesting a lens for me to write about. Additionally, since I’m not really a fan of making my rangefinder equipment any bigger than I absolutely have to, shooting a lens that’s design ethos is around a compromise in terms of larger size in favour of higher quality, it just didn’t appeal as an overall package to me.

Furthermore, I don’t really shoot 35mm lenses very often anyway. And, if I were to decide to shoot 35mm, I already have a Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 lens – a lens which is smaller and lighter. It is, of course, optically compromised – especially compared to the Zeiss – but it’s optically compromised in a way that I quite like and have rarely found to be detrimental to my photography in the way that I use it.

In short – at least as far as I’d prejudged it – the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZM is not the sort of lens I would choose to shoot, it’s not a focal length I frequently favour, and to top it off, it’s not the even the sort of lens I really enjoy writing about. For all these reasons – despite me getting asked about it a lot – it’s taken a long time for me to get around to a review.

So why am I writing about it now, I hear you ask. Well, funnily enough, the thing that swung it for me was finding a lot of love for another slightly bigger lens – the Voigtlander 50mm f/1.2. Don’t get me wrong, for a f/1.2 lens, the Voigtlander is fairly small. But, it’s a lot bigger that the tiny 50mm f/1.5 ZM Sonnar that I’m used to. I had never expected to find a lens that I liked even close to as much as the Sonnar, but the Voigtlander has come close – in fact, depending on the day you ask me, you might even find me saying I prefer it to the Sonnar.

So when I was recently contacted by yet another person suggesting I should review the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZM, I thought it about time I got round to it! Maybe I can get along with larger kit? Maybe 35mm does work for me? Maybe I would enjoy some optical near-perfection in my life? Maybe I just need to push myself out of a comfort zoom a bit?

Conveniently, when I got in touch with Zeiss, my contact there was able to supply the lens to me quite quickly. Not only this, but it was just in time for a short trip away with the family and some friends. The benefit of this was that I could force myself out of a comfort zone for the weekend. I wouldn’t take a 50mm, I would just take the a digital and a film M-mount camera and the 35mm f/1.4 ZM and see how I got on.

 Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZM

Shooting 35mm

As I’ve previously mentioned, I own a Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4. It’s not a lens often I shoot these days – but I used to shoot it a lot! In fact, I used to shoot it all the time. It was my go to lens attached to a Voigtlander R2a about 10-12 years ago. It went everywhere with me. I say everywhere, but mostly what I mean by everywhere is mates houses and the pub. I didn’t go many other places in my early 20s, but I did like taking photos, and the sorts of photos I liked taking were contextual portraits of my mates.

The evening prior to my trip away presented me with a moment to reflect on this previous style of photography of mine. I’d mounted the lens to my M262 and was pondering how I was going to get used to shooting a 35mm lens again in such a short period of time. The funny thing is, it’s not like I ever really stopped shooting 35mm lenses, I just started shooting them with my point & shoot cameras instead of with rangefinders. There’s a different approach of course, but thinking about how I shoot those cameras reminded me about how I used to shoot my Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4. It was all about snapping contextual shots of people in their environments.

So that’s what I started to do with the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZM – I snapped some shots of the wife and kids around the house. And in doing so, I pretty much instantly stumbled across what I feel is this lens’s unique selling point: it has incredible three dimensional rendering.

Hereford hols 2019

Hereford hols 2019

3D rendering

Funnily enough, I didn’t expect this at all. What I expected is what I think of as modern-lens rendering. This lens is big because – at least as I understand it – it’s been designed to be optically superior. It has more chunks of glass in it than the average rangefinder lens, and with the increased amount of glass I just expected to see the sort of slightly-flatter less life-like rendering I find in my modern autofocus Zeiss lenses.

There’s nothing wrong with this sort of rendering, of course, and it’s fair to say that the modern Zeiss lenses I use are better than most when it comes to 3D rendering in my experiences. But the point is, I figured this 35mm f/1.4 ZM was going to be cut from that same cloth. In short, I didn’t expect it to share the sort of 3D rendering I get out of my ZM Sonnar and 28mm f/2.8 Biogon. I was absolutely wrong to make that assumption.

The Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZM has wonderful 3d rendering. In fact, it’s probably one of the best lenses I’ve ever used for capturing a really life-like picture. Of course, the interesting thing about 3D rendering, or “3D pop” as it’s often called is that it’s one of those subjects that divides opinion – mostly because it’s a very subjective topic. Some people don’t seem to observe it at all, some people refer to it as just a property of the lens being “transparent” and some associate it with various specific optical properties. Fortunately for the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZM it has all of things going for it in terms of its ability to create this look.

High contrast (and resolution)

In terms of lens contrast, my experience with all of the Zeiss ZM range of lenses has been the same: they all have it in droves! Even the lenses that lack a little bit in terms of resolution – such as the 50mm ZM Sonnar – have very high contrast. The result of this is that the images it produces still look subjectively “sharp”.Add to this the high resolution found in the 35mm f/1.4 ZM, and you have what makes for a very transparent feeling bit of glass.

Hereford hols 2019

The beauty of this particular lens is that it still feels very sharp and contrasty wide open, meaning that the sense of transparency is even there when shot in lower light.

Hereford hols 2019

Bokeh

The other thing that that’s often associated with 3D pop is good Bokeh. To be honest, I’m a little on the fence with this one, as in my opinion, you don’t need good subject separation from the background to achieve an image that looks 3D. It’s perfectly possible for images that are almost entirely in focus to still look 3D – something this lens achieves quite nicely.

Hereford hols 2019

Regardless, some people hold the view that you do need good background separation to achieve 3D pop, and for them, this lens will definitely provide another tick in the box. It has, at least in my experience, really nice smoothly rendered bokeh.

Hereford hols 2019

Now, to be fair, I didn’t test is extensively with out of focus foliage (I had better things to do with the time I spent with it) so it’s hard for me to write conclusively based on my experiences, but other reviewers seem to speak quite highly of the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZM when it comes to it’s “bokeh-ball” rendering.

Hereford hols 2019

Transition to out-of-focus

It also seems to have a nice smooth transition to out-of-focus. There’s no glowing or doubling of fine lines such as hairs in the just-out-of-focus areas. This makes for a very natural transition to out of focus. I don’t suppose this adds to what makes for good 3D pop, but it certainly adds to a sense that the lens is transparent to the subject matter, or at very least that it doesn’t impart too much of a distracting “character”.

Hereford hols 2019

Transparent image quality

Funnily enough, the discovery that this lens’s key selling point is this 3D look became the exact reason I continued to enjoy it throughout the rest of my trip. I shot the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZM with the sense that I was using a highly transparent optic that would render loads of detail in my images in a wonderfully transparent way – and not that I was shooting with a dull near-perfect optic as I expected I might feel. I guess I felt like I’d found the hook, I’d found the thing that made this lens appeal to me, and for that reason I enjoyed shooting it enormously!

Hereford hols 2019
Hereford hols 2019

Shooting Film with the  Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZM

The trip away was only for two days, so I shot one roll with the digital camera and one roll of Portra 800. You might say this is an inappropriate choice for a sunny day, but bloody hell did this lens help maximise the potential of the higher grain film. I think I got pretty much every ounce of potential detail out of the grain, with the only limitation being the resolution of my scanner. Look at the colours too – this is Zeiss-colour to me, and I bloody love it! Again, it just adds to the sense of real in the image.

Hereford & Wales day out

Hereford & Wales day out

Hereford & Wales day out

Hereford & Wales day out

Hereford & Wales day out

In fact, I showed these images around to a few people at The Photography Show the other week. Most assumed they were medium format – which says a lot I think!

The bad stuff

So all good then? Well nearly… in fact more nearly than I expected. Predictably, I did find the lens to be quite big. It’s also internal focusing – again unusual for rangefinder lenses. In my experience rangefinder lenses are almost always unit focusing, and so are smaller when focused to infinity. Not this lens, it’s big and it’s always big (on a rangefinder, at least).

That being said, I didn’t find it the issue I expected to. Carrying it, it was only a little bit more awkward than what I’m used to. I found it to under my arm more often – if that makes any sense at all…? Funnily enough though, I got used to it very quickly. Possibly because despite its size it’s actually a real pleasure to shoot with. The larger size does give more to hold on to and – combined with the fantastic build quality – this pleasure in use fairly quickly overruled my issues with its size. Especially as I knew how good the results were going to be…

And quite genuinely, if I haven’t already made it clear, in terms of the results I can’t fault it at all! It vignettes a bit wide open (what lenses don’t), but apart from that, as expected, I didn’t find any of the flaws other reviews report.

A few more photos

Hereford hols 2019

Hereford hols 2019

Hereford hols 2019

Hereford & Wales day out

Skip to the end

So surely, I’m buying one then? Who wouldn’t buy a lens that they like as much as this? Well, despite this glowing review, I didn’t find myself too disappointed when I had to hand it back to Zeiss. In fact, when I was asked by my contact at Zeiss at The Photography Show what I thought about it, I didn’t even find myself waxing lyrical about how amazing it is in the way I have throughout this review.

Whilst I think it’s quite possibly one of the best I’ve ever mounted to an m-mount camera – objectively speaking at least – I just don’t feel like I need it in my life. It sold me on it, it just hasn’t sold me on what I’d use it for. Funnily enough, I’d even go as far to say that it’s encouraged me to dabble more with 35mm lenses. My Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 is out on loan at the moment, but when it comes back, I might give it a run shooting lower-light contextual portraits of my family and friends like I used to. I suspect, I will find it perfectly adequate for that task too.

As for shooting 35mm lenses in other situations, this experience has definitely sold me on the idea of shooting with a Zeiss lens. I forget just how much I love the rendering the Zeiss ZM lenses commonly share. I’m just not sure I could justify the size, weight and cost to achieve the look I enjoyed so much from the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 Distagon. Especially when I suspect I could get much the same look from a one of the smaller Biogon 35mm lenses. In fact, I’ve often found myself very intrigued by the f/2.8 c-Biogon. It is tiny, and can be had for a fraction of the price of the ZM f/1.4. It and the Voigtlander f/1.4 would probably collectively take up less room in a bag than the ZM f/1.4 does too. Between them they give me enough of what I’ve found here to keep me happy I think – especially given how little I actually shoot the 35mm focal length.

This all said, none of my personal preferences would get in the way of me wholeheartedly recommending this lens to anyone who feels like they need a fast 35mm lens – especially to people who favour Zeiss lenses, or seek a 3D look in their images. It might be big, but as expected, it’s awesome. In short, not for me, but I’m pretty certain the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 ZM Distagon is up there with the best lenses I’ve ever shot!

You can find my Zeiss 50mm ZM Sonnar lens review here
And my 28mm ZM Biogon review here

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46 Comments

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Charles Morgan
    April 1, 2019 at 10:15 am

    Gorgeous images. I can’t afford it, so that is life, but I would say it really is worth trying out the 35mm Biogon f2.8 ZM which I do have – it renders in a similar way with that pop and exquisite colours, just with slightly less subject background separation (which is not my primary reason for using a 35mm lens anyway).

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 1, 2019 at 11:21 am

      I bought one yesterday … 😀

  • Avatar
    Reply
    CheyenneMorrison
    April 1, 2019 at 10:52 am

    Great review, and it’s not a Sonnar! Distagon was Zeiss Oberkochen’s name for the Flektogon formula, so I wonder what the actual lens design of this lens is? Seems that a lot of the modern Zeiss lenses the names no longer reflect and actual lens design, than being for marketing. I contacted Zeiss’ head of marketing today to inquire about this. The images certainly produced the goods.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 1, 2019 at 11:24 am

      On the website, they do talk about it as a Distagon, ie a retrofocus design:

      https://www.zeiss.co.uk/camera-lenses/photography/products/zm-lenses/distagon-1435-zm.html#data

      “Originally developed for SLR cameras requiring a long back focal distance for short focal lengths because of the mirror box (the distance between the back lens element and the film plane must be considerably longer than the focal length), the Distagon lenses (retrofocus design) are also ideal for mirrorless system cameras thanks to their optimized ray path. Even with longer focal lengths, the high-performance Distagon optical design enables consistently good correction all the way to the corners of the image and very low field curvature.”

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 1, 2019 at 11:24 am

      … oh, and cheers 🙂
      I’m still waiting for a review from you to appear in my inbox 😉

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Chalifour Bruno
    April 1, 2019 at 12:42 pm

    I enjoy the hands-on quality of your reviews. This one is a good example. I have two comments: 1-why buy a Leica (very expensive “body-investment) if not for the lenses and the quality in them they provide? [for most people this is a reason they buy into this brand] So why do this test and the comparisons it includes never refer to any Leica lens? [some people even go as far has buying other and cheaper brand in terms of cameras to use an adapter to be able to mount them with a Leitz lens] 2-As far as I am concerned the Voigtlander 35 mm f 1.4 is a an acceptable lens when it comes to the ratio between its price and the image quality it delivers but I must say that it is very soft in the corner at f 1.4 and f2 and shows a good deal of vignetting. My almost 40-year-old 35 mm summicron delivers far more quality, and it is compact too. Agreed its max. aperture is f. 2 but it delivers…

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 1, 2019 at 1:03 pm

      1. There are plenty of comparison reviews out there between this and the summilux. I don’t have a summilux or have easy access to one. The Zeiss is also quite commonly regarded as being optically slightly better than the summilux. Furthermore, I don’t agree with the idea that people who buy leica cameras buy them to shoot leica lenses. I don’t any leica lenses, I sold them all after finding a preference for Zeiss lenses. The Zeiss lens/leica camera combo is as good as it gets for me.
      2. Corner softness does’t bother me for this sort of photography as I rarely have my subjects in a straight line. Shooting shallow depth of field contextual portraits, the DOF becomes an enemy to sharpness way before corner sharpness does …

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Alvaro Garcia
        April 1, 2019 at 1:34 pm

        one buys a Leica camera because of the handling, usability, construction, and for the ability to use so many different brands and kinds of lenses. It’s absurd to say one has to buy the same brand on the camera when there’s so much good stuff out there.

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Hamish Gill
          April 1, 2019 at 8:33 pm

          Yep!

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Ivan Myring
      April 1, 2019 at 7:32 pm

      I agree with Hamish on this, there is plenty of reason to use a Leica Body with lenses from other manufacturers. Primarily, if you want a good interchangeable lens rangefinder body, because you like shooting with a rangefinder, M mount is the best mount to pick because of the variety of lenses for M mount or which can be adapted. There are very few cameras with M Mount that aren’t from Leica, and most of them are sadly difficult to repair if they break down these days as the manufacturers don’t produce parts. Leica however can repair a body easily, albeit at a high cost, and there are many excellent camera technicians who can do the same. Buying a Leica Body is sensible because they can easily last a lifetime. A person might not particularly care for leicas lenses, or not be able to afford them, but the bodies are some of the best cameras ever.

      Some other manufacturers offer lenses that Leica doesn’t really have any competition to, such as the Ultrawide lenses from Voigtlander, or the 35mm 1.2, the fastest 35mm lens for M mount. I use a Konica M-Hexanon 50mm that is every bit as good as the Summicron V4/v5 (actually on a purely MTF basis, it comes very close to the 50mm APO Cron) but has better build quality than the comparatively inconsistent V4 with slightly nicer colour and B&W rendering in my opinion due to the lens coatings. Why would I pick a Leica lens at 2-3 times the cost?

      These days, Leica lenses aren’t absolute world beaters in optical quality, as Zeiss and Voigtlander offer comparable quality M lenses, and manufacturers using other mounts can produce stunning lenses, but they offer a fantastic balance of top level optical quality in tiny, very ergonomically designed lenses. The only reason to ignore Zeiss or Voigtlander is being a snob

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Hamish Gill
        April 1, 2019 at 8:30 pm

        I couldn’t agree more!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Nalob
    April 1, 2019 at 1:21 pm

    Optically, the zm Distagon is probably the best 35mm M mount lens I have used.
    The problem is that most of my shots with a 35mm lens is at f8-16. The results from ZM biogon is more than good enough for me in that range.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 1, 2019 at 8:34 pm

      I’d imagine they are indistinguishable at those apertures – that’s what I’m hoping anyway

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Scott Edwards
    April 1, 2019 at 2:09 pm

    So, I have this lens, Hamish. Ok, the Sony/Zeiss version. It’s the first lens I bought for mirrorless (I shoot primarily digital and some film via Nikon F100 and Minolta X570). I photographed for 4-5 months using only this lens and know it like the back of my hand. It is a marvel and I’ve used it professionally to shoot a variety of portraits, both relatively closeup and environmental, as well as interiors for designers It’s crisp, clear and melts away so that the 3-D pop you write about is so notable that even someone with no interest in photography notices the effect. (Excellent images you shared, btw.) Anyway, highly, highly recommend this lens! For me, it’s up there with the Planar 50 1.4.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Neilson
    April 1, 2019 at 5:23 pm

    I use a Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon T* ZM on my M6. For me, ergonomics were a big factor in buying this lens and selling the 35mm Summilux Type 3 that I’d using before. Sure the Lux was tiny but I found the aperture and focus rings too close together and the setup where filters are attached to the lens hood instead of directly onto to the lens was really annoying. That Distagon gives great results but given the price and the size (it looks even bigger than the Biogon), I don’t think I’ll be buying one any time soon.

    I recently discovered the more affordable Zeiss lenses, the ones in Contax/Yashica mount. I bought a 35mm f/2.8 Distagon and a 50mm f/1.4 Planar for $150 and $250 respectively. I use them on a $45 Contax RTS. I’m very happy with the results and it’s a great way to get that Zeiss look for a lot less money.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 1, 2019 at 8:31 pm

      My response to people talking about the zeiss SLR lenses and cameras is usually to put my fingers in my ears and go lalallalalalallalalalaaaa – stuff I think I’d love, but a hole I don’t want to fall into

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Neilson
        April 1, 2019 at 9:37 pm

        I know, I needed another system like another hole in my head. Still, there are times when it’s nice to have a setup of that quality that doesn’t cost 3K. I like to shoot in some sketchy parts of NYC.

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Hamish Gill
          April 4, 2019 at 7:41 pm

          Fair point!

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Joe Monat
        April 2, 2019 at 1:11 am

        If you love the ZM 28, the CY 28mm f2.8 is calling your name. I used both extensively for a few years and still to date the CY 28mm is the best lens I have ever used, with the CY 50mm planar right behind. At least the Contax SLR hole isn’t nearly as expensive as the Leica hole many of us have fallen into!

        • Avatar
          Reply
          Hamish Gill
          April 4, 2019 at 7:38 pm

          Fingers in ears lalallalalalalalalalaaaa 😉

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Patrick Carosone
    April 1, 2019 at 8:11 pm

    I have tried Zeiss lenses and was very disappointed with them, good resolution but poor build quality. I have leica glass that goes back over 50 years with never a problem. The 28mm Zeiss Biogon constantly had a loose rear element which caused wobble and miss focus, no matter how much I tightened it always came loose, sold it., Sorry will stay with my Leica glass, no comparison.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 1, 2019 at 8:29 pm

      I’ve read of issues like this, but have never experienced them. I do wonder if they had issues with early lenses that they’ve later resolved

      • Avatar
        Reply
        Ivan Myring
        April 2, 2019 at 12:02 am

        I remember reading somewhere once (maybe rangefinder forum?) that Cosina changed the lubricants and thread lockers that they were using on the Zeiss and Voigtlander lenses they produce a couple of years into production, so I think the odds are that all the bad things you hear are from early batches with the wrong chemicals being used, and then people just tend to parrot bad experiences they hear about. Leica people can be very funny about things like that, given how much a lot of them seem to distrust anything that wasn’t made in Germany, even stuff made by Leica

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Alejandro Ilukewitsch
      April 3, 2019 at 12:19 pm

      Not everyone can afford a 6k euros camera plus a 5k euros lens… Zeiss lens are great and offer amazing value for the money compared to leica lenses… perhaps you had a lemon, it happens with all brands.

  • Avatar
    Reply
    jeremy north
    April 1, 2019 at 10:41 pm

    Fabulous images H. I am totally with you on the size thing. The whole point of retrofocus designs is for SLR cameras. Why make that compromise for a rangefinder? The Biogons are perfect. I’ve just realised that I have three different Zeiss 35’s, a G Planar a C/Y Distagon and a ZM Biogon. Perhaps a comparison should be my long overdue submission to 35mmc

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 4, 2019 at 7:41 pm

      Cheers mate. “Long overdue” doesn’t begin to cover it! 😉

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Kodachromeguy
    April 1, 2019 at 11:28 pm

    Hamish, amazing lens and great pictures. But that chunk of glass, brass, and aluminum is a monster. I mentally compared my 35mm Summicron v3 and an M with your M with this Zeiss lens attached – I just would not take the Zeiss on a trip where I did not have the luxury of a car. Sure, my Summicron is “only” f/2.0, but it is tiny. The current trend of lens-makers appears to be maximum correction and “shaprness” regardless of size. I wonder if that philosophy will come back to bite them? Cheers,

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 4, 2019 at 7:41 pm

      It’s certainly the case with some manufacturers. Sony’s G master lenses for eg. Those things are exceptional, but huge. I don’t think the trend will end, to be honest

  • Daniel Castelli
    Reply
    Daniel Castelli
    April 2, 2019 at 4:31 am

    I was delighted to read your review and impressions of this lens.
    I rented one last November for my annual trip to Washington DC to attend services @ the Viet Nam Memorial. My plan was to shoot very early in the morning @ The Wall, then do some photos in a couple of museums. The quality of the negatives were beyond what I expected. It’s everything you described and more.
    I returned it at the end of the rental period without lust in my heart. The only factor that made me decide not to purchase one was simply the weight & the bulky feeling I had when it was mounted on my M4-P. I just couldn’t become comfortable with it. It’s just a personal thing, but it was the deal breaker.

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 4, 2019 at 7:37 pm

      Have you shot the 2.8?

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Steve Ember
    April 3, 2019 at 7:17 am

    Thanks, Hamish, for another thoughtful and informative write-up – and that doesn’t even touch on the quality of the photos you took with this lens. I particularly like the colors and detail in the vase of flowers by the window, the path along the stone fence toward the bridge and stone building, and your daughter along that stone wall. Also, the stream in the woods.
    These have inspired me to put the C/Y version of this lens on my must-acquire list, so that I may use it with my Contax SLRs (I do not own a rangefinder camera with M mount).

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 4, 2019 at 7:33 pm

      Thanks Steve, much appreciated!

  • Avatar
    Reply
    Alejandro Ilukewitsch
    April 3, 2019 at 9:28 am

    Nice review. I am currently looking into updating my Leica 35mm summilux preasph v2 for this lens….. I am not sure yet 🙁 the Leica is super small, and provides excellent results from 2.0 on… But wide open let’s say is to special 🙂 so the sharpness of the Zeiss and price makes it a really interesting option, but the size kind of puts me down, specially when coming from my current 35mm which is so small. (Sadly I won’t be able to keep both, nor have the budget for the new Leica summilux).

    • Avatar
      Reply
      Hamish Gill
      April 4, 2019 at 7:34 pm

      It’s a tough one, for sure!
      I’m currently feeling like the zeiss 2.8 and Voigtlander 1.4 could well be the solution for me. I’m going to share some thoughts on the subject soon, I think

  • Avatar
    Reply
    LASousa
    April 18, 2019 at 10:43 pm

    After reading this review, I bit the bullet and purchased this lens and the exorbitantly expensive lens hood for my recent trip to Rome and the Amalfi Coast. I took this lens, my M240, 50 Summicron and had the 35 Summicron mounted permanently on my M6. Having shot many high quality lenses, the Zeiss 35/1/4 is up there with the best I have used. The build is substantial. The lens is heavy in rangefinder terms, especially mounted to the beefy M240. I found the extra length an aid to focusing and aperture adjustment versus the less ergonomic 35 Summicron mounted on the M6 Bring up a group of images shot with the M240, and those made with the Zeiss versus the 50 Summicron are obvious. The Zeiss has intense colors and contrast and subject separation and tend to more warmth. The Summicron is also very sharp and contrasty, but Leica sharp and Leica contrasty and cooler in color tone – Leica lens shooters understand the Leica characteristics well. Bagging the M240 with the Zeiss and mounted hood using my narrow bag was a gymnastic exercise at times while the M6 with 35 Summicron fit easily in the spare space. The extra stops of light proved invaluable for indoor shots in the Vatican and street shots in the evening. I do wish my lens was black instead of silver. The bling attracts prying hands and eyes. Yes, my wallet is light as a feather now, but I will never part with the Zeiss Distagon, it is that good.

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      Hamish Gill
      April 19, 2019 at 11:40 am

      It really is isn’t it … I’m very pleased I bought the 2.8 after I gave it back!

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    Taffy
    June 8, 2019 at 4:05 am

    Hey Hamish, I have a 35 Summarit and the 25 Biogon which I use with my M8. I never really paid much attention to the ZM25 because I felt it was a little wide for the M8’s frame lines. I took it a holiday and started seeing the 3D qualities many Zeiss users rave about. Now I hardly use the Summarit 35 and I’m looking for more Zeiss glass. This review has given me a great option in the 35 1.4 but I’m very curious about your thoughts on the 35 C-Biogon. I’m thinking maybe I can replace the 35 Summarit with the 35 C-Biogon and the 50 C-Sonnar.

    Hope you can share some thoughts or put up a review 🙂

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      Hamish Gill
      June 10, 2019 at 9:14 am

      I will do at some point, but it will likely be later in the year. My early impressions are that it’s as good as the 1.4 when it comes to the attributes I liked so much. In short, it’s definitely a winner if you like that 3d look!

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        Taffy
        June 11, 2019 at 3:28 am

        Thanks Hamish – for this input and this website!

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          Hamish Gill
          June 16, 2019 at 2:12 pm

          no probs 🙂

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        Taffy
        June 27, 2019 at 12:00 am

        Couldn’t wait for your review, Hamish! Found a deal on one which is rare where I live so I went for it 🙂 I have a good feeling I’m gonna enjoy this one. Very curious on how it does vs. my Summarit 35.

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          Hamish Gill
          June 28, 2019 at 3:42 pm

          A good choice – yeah, my review will be at the end of the summer

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    Taffy
    August 8, 2019 at 7:26 am

    Hi Hamish, I’ve been quite happy with this C-Biogon. I do see the warmer rendering of the Zeiss vs. my Summarit 35 and I think where I am in the world, the warmer rendering may need some scaling back. Here are a few photos i’ve taken with it.

    https://flic.kr/p/2gSxPQL
    https://flic.kr/p/2guYb2B
    https://flic.kr/p/2gN9PhS

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      Hamish Gill
      August 11, 2019 at 6:10 pm

      All nice, but that second one is a beauty – 3d pop!! It amazes me that some people just don’t see the 3d thing…

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