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Recommend ZEISS 35mm f1.4 DISTAGON T* ZM?

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Here was mine on my M-A. It is definitely workable I just ultimately found it too big (for me). I'm glad others are fine with the size though! I think if I was using an SL I would easily choose the Zeiss over the Summilux FLE.

 

Leica M-A by Abram Goglanian, on Flickr

 

 

WOW!

 

And I thought my 35mm FLE was huge, that is just ridiculous, why even bother with a Leica M body with that beast on the end of it?

 

Bet you are glad you got rid of that porker. 

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As a point of comparison It’s about 5mm shorter and 40 grams heavier than the TRI-Elmar MATE.

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It's about the same size of a Summilux 28, but lighter, and yet very few people call the 28 ridiculously big. I guess the problem with the Distagon it's too cheap and does not carry a red dot on it... 

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For a 35mm M-Mount, its a very large lens, no doubt.  But for me worth the trouble both for its character when open as well as stopped down. 

 

 

Edited by Tailwagger

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For a 35mm M-Mount, its a very large lens, no doubt.  But for me worth the trouble both for its character when open as well as stopped down. 

 

 

Where were those shots taken?

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I have tried three 35mm: 1,4/35 Voigtländer Nokton, good at medium distance. But useless at infinity. 2,8/35 Leitz Summaron for M3. I liked this one when looking at the pictures, but the googles were too much of a distraction in everyday use. 2,5/35 Leica Summarit. OK, but nothing special. Maybe a little week in the corners?

 

I think my next try at a 35mm will be this Distagon. But it seems a little bit too big?

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The first is of the harbor in Rockport, MA at low tide. The second was taken in Boston harbor when the tall ships were in town this past summer.  

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It's about the same size of a Summilux 28, but lighter, and yet very few people call the 28 ridiculously big. I guess the problem with the Distagon it's too cheap and does not carry a red dot on it...

But I think expectations about size is relative to the focal length/aperture? If a fast 135mm or a 90mm or a 24mm was about this size I’m sure few will say it’s too big. It’s not simply all about brand snobbishness.

 

A 35mm or a 50mm on the other hand can be made significantly smaller and yet still deliver perhaps >90% of the performance. That’s quite an attractive well-struck balance.

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I have tried three 35mm: 1,4/35 Voigtländer Nokton, good at medium distance. But useless at infinity. 2,8/35 Leitz Summaron for M3. I liked this one when looking at the pictures, but the googles were too much of a distraction in everyday use. 2,5/35 Leica Summarit. OK, but nothing special. Maybe a little weak in the corners?

 

I think my next try at a 35mm will be this Distagon. But it seems a little bit too big?

 

 

If you don't need ƒ/1,4 and want a far smaller lens with similar rendering, the Zeiss 2,8/35 C is an unsung hero. Bargain to boot. 

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Yeah the Distagon is undoubtedly the optically superior (slightly) lens, but when factoring in size (finder blockage), weight, ergonomics (focus tab), and 6-bit coding, the 35 FLE is the clear winner for most folks that shoot with a rangefinder.

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If you don't need ƒ/1,4 and want a far smaller lens with similar rendering, the Zeiss 2,8/35 C is an unsung hero. Bargain to boot.

Yes. I was thinking about the 2,8/35 as an alternative. For me it is 2,8/35 Biogon or 1,4/35 Distagon. 1,4/35 Summulux is far too expensive.

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Yes. I was thinking about the 2,8/35 as an alternative. For me it is 2,8/35 Biogon or 1,4/35 Distagon. 1,4/35 Summulux is far too expensive.

The VM 35/1.7 M mount isn’t too shabby either. But personally I find that the earlier LTM version looks better and is smaller.

Edited by Rus

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Pros:

 

-Optically, one of the best M mount lenses presently in production. For both color and black and white, it's very hard to find something that the 35mm focal length does which this lens does not excel at.

 

-Price (compared to Leica offerings).

 

Cons:

 

-Although not enormous by any means, it is right at the edge of what I would consider a natural weight and size balance on an M body. You're either going to feel it's just this side of acceptable, or you're going to feel it's just on the wrong side of acceptable.

 

-Prone to the Zeiss quality assurance foibles that occasionally affect the CV-produced lenses. I've never had any problem with any of mine, but the wobble etc is well-documented.

 

IMHO, since the optical qualities are excellent by consensus but the ergonomics are not, just try to get a look at one in person. You'll know pretty quickly after handling one attached to an M body whether you're one of the people who can live with it.

 

Honestly, between this and the Sonnar 50 1.5, you can get a great M-mount kit for a competitive price which, in my opinion, beats many of the Leica offerings optically.

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I've owned 3 copies of the Distagon over the past three years, using them on both Sony and Leica bodies. At one point I had one alongside a Summilux 35mm asph ("pre-FLE"), of which I've also owned several copies over time.

 

I agree that the Distagon is undeniably superior in the objective metrics--higher resolution wide open (slightly if at all at center, more noticeably in periphery), less geometric distortion, less coma, flatter field, less chromatic aberration.

 

The size and weight of the Distagon made shooting slightly less spontaneous, but most striking to me was that the lenses produce images with a very different overall look and feeling, the Distagon being more objective and faithful and the Summilux being more beautifying and painterly. The color palettes were also different, even after some modest effort at post processing. Ultimately, despite having been tempted by the Distagon multiple times, I still preferred the Summilux on digital platforms--images from it just moved me on an instinctive level much more. But I completely understand why for others (and for certain purposes) the Distagon is preferable, even aside from cost and ergonomics.

Edited by alan.y

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But I think expectations about size is relative to the focal length/aperture? If a fast 135mm or a 90mm or a 24mm was about this size I’m sure few will say it’s too big. It’s not simply all about brand snobbishness.

 

A 35mm or a 50mm on the other hand can be made significantly smaller and yet still deliver perhaps >90% of the performance. That’s quite an attractive well-struck balance.

 

Of course.

That's why I mentioned the 28/1.4 Summilux, a lens close in focal length and aperture, instead of a fast tele or a UWA...

Edited by Steve McGarrett

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Of course.

That's why I mentioned the 28/1.4 Summilux, a lens close in focal length and aperture, instead of a fast tele or a UWA...

But Steve, I don’t think fast 28mm and fast 35mm are that comparable. I suppose one could argue that they may be somewhat similar from a user’s perspective, but not so much in terms of the level of challenges to optical design and correction. What we do see is that 28mm f1.4 lenses tend to be consistently larger than 35mm f1.4 lenses across different brands. Hence while many can accept the size of the 28mm f1.4, the Distagon 35/1.4 of a similar size still raises some eyebrows, especially when there is another option available that is technically almost as competent but in a noticeably smaller package.  

 

Well, maybe a lens designer will correct me here and tell me that designing a fast 28mm and a fast 35mm are not too different

If so, I will stand corrected.

 

But what I’m getting at is that I think it’s more than brand loyalty that has led some ppl to opt for a Leica lens instead of the Zeiss offerings in the 35mm focal length. It’s seeking the balance between optical performance and ergonomics, which for many ppl has become more important to the rangefinder system experience than mere image quality.

 

Of course I t’s always going to be a debate whether a slight increase in the hairsplitting capability of a lens is worth obtaining at quite significant compromises in the overall size and weight distribution of the camera system. Just two different (dare I say) philosophies.

 

Weirdly, if it is in a SLR system then many seem to be ok with the compromises, the Otus 55/1.4 being a case in point. But not so much for a rangefinder system user it seems.

Edited by Rus

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I'm not saying anyone who buys the Summilux over the Distagon is a moron, Rus, not at all! When I'm asked for an advice on the Distagon, I always answer "great lens if you aren't looking for something smaller".

The Summilux A. is a great lens too (i've had the first and second version and tried the floating one). Optically, I think choosing between the two (or, better, between the 4) it's mostly a matter of taste.

But when someone says "what's the point in an M camera if you put on a lens as big as the Distagon" (as if 1) the M were an ultra-lightweight, pocket-size camera, and as if 2) the Distagon were an Otus-size lens...), yeah, then I think he/she's a little bit biased by the brand*. Unless he/she also extends that comment to Summilux wides, Noctiluxes etc., which is (generally) not the case. 

 

As for the technical perspective, yes, a 28mm is different from a 35. But even a 35 is different from a 50. Every focal length is different from each other. But like you said, these are 3 very common "standard" focal lengths for Leica (and not Leica) users. For example, the Elmarit 28/2.8 v4 is much larger than today's Elmarit 28/2.8 v5 Asph, and yet I've never heard of someone who says "what's the point in an M camera if you that ridiculously big 28 on it?", "hurry, get rid of that beast" etc. etc.

 

BTW, can you name a smaller 35/1.4 for the 24x36mm (FF) format, with the same optical quality, apart from the Summilux? They are either worse corrected, or bigger (and often both)

 

 

*: I mean, even I am somewhat biased towards Leica lenses, as I've dozens of them. But I can also acknowledge a great lens from another brand...

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Nowadays a good optical correction goes along with a certain size (more elements, more groups). Examples are the Otus family, the Voigtländer Macro APO Lanthar 65mm (E mount) or the 50mm Summilux SL.

 

The symmetrical designs are usually also well corrected, however, they suffer from vignetting and soft corners. Examples are the Biogons, e.g. the 35mm Biogon ZM as an alternative for the Distagon 35mm f/1.4 (a retrofocus design). In former times they were preferrred because of their small size and the low weight (see Zeiss ZM).

 

Nowadays sharpness across the frame and low distortion are preferred (besides correction for chromatic aberrations, absence of coma, flare resistance, etc). Thus, retrofocus type designs for wide angles prevail over the symmetrical desings. Examples are the Distagons like the 35mm Distagon ZM. The Otus 55mm is also a Distagon. In order to find a balance between optical performance and size/weight for the small E mount bodies, Zeiss chose to make their Loxia lenses slow. The wide angles (Loxia 21mm f/2.8, Loxia 25mm f/2.4) are als Distagons. The Batis lenses are a mix of all: The Batis 25mm ist a Distagon, quite well corrected (but CAs wide open), AF, low weight (due to plastic internals) but large.

 

They Leica M lenses are actually very small - smaller than the lenses from any other manufacturer. However, the Summiluxes suffer from CA.

 

To sum up: High optical performance comes at a price, namely size and weight.

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The first is of the harbor in Rockport, MA at low tide. The second was taken in Boston harbor when the tall ships were in town this past summer.  

 

 

I recently moved from Massachusetts and what a beautiful state. I was only there for 15 months and both my wife and I could see ourselves back at some point (originally from Maryland).

 

The photographic opportunities are endless from RI, through MA, and far north.

 

Back to the topic at hand, The point made above that the Zeiss would be great on the SL is an excellent point. I bet this would be great.

 

On the M, I still prefer the 35 FLE for size and heft and I've owned both and used both. You can't go wrong with either though. 

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Size is not a trifling matter. Small is great. I would never fault anyone for paying a lot more money or sacrificing performance for size. There are a number of applications where having something small and unobtrusive should absolutely be priority #1.

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