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Zeiss ZE Lenses for Canon EOS

by Bob Atkins, September 2008

Zeiss announced that they will be releasing several of their manual focus lenses in a Canon EOS compatible lens mount. While the lenses are manual focus, all other aspects of lens operation are electronically linked to the camera body. The camera can set the lens aperture, and so these lenses can be used in any exposure mode, including aperture priority. These lenses have a “ZE” designation (presumably standing for Zeiss EOS).

In addition, though the lenses are manual focus, the Canon EOS “green dot” focus confirmation light will operate, as will the focus confirmation “beep” (if set), so users don’t have to depend on their ability to judge focus on the viewfinder screen in order to get sharp images.

Two lenses should be available this year (October 2008), They are the Planar T* 50mm f/1.4 ($660) and the Planar T* 85mm f/1.4 ($1170). A Distagon T* 21mm f/2.8 is also planned for 2009. No price has been announced for the Distagon, but I’m guessing somewhere around $1600.

At least now those who aren’t satisfied with the image quality of the Canon 50/1.4, 50/1.2L, 85/1.8 and 85/1.2L primes will have an alternative. The Zeiss lenses are often valued by their owners for high sharpness along with smooth bokeh. Both the 50/1.4 and 85/1.4 have been available in other mounts (Nikon-F, Pentax-K and M42 screw mount) for some time and they have generally met with an enthusiastic reception by users.

Zeiss Press Release

Oberkochen Germany, September 15, 2008—Carl Zeiss is expanding its successful line of SLR lenses: ZE lenses with EF bayonet for all analog and digital EOS camera models. As with all EF lenses, the new ZE lenses from Carl Zeiss transfer all information exclusively via electronic contacts. This means that all exposure modes such as programmed auto exposure, shutter priority, aperture priority and manual setting are supported. The camera’s automatic focus confirmation also remains available to an unlimited extent with these manual focus lenses. With digital SLRs, the lens data and all exposure data can also be accessed via the camera’s EXIF file. Even E-TTL flash metering is supported. The first lenses to be available will be the Planar T* 1.4/50 ZE and the Planar T* 1.4/85 ZE in the last quarter of this year. Further focal lengths will be added to the line within the next few months. Recommended retail price of both lenses:

  • Planar T* 1.4/50 ZE (579 euros, $660 US)
  • Planar T* 1.4/85 ZE (999 euros, $1170 USD)

Original text ©2008 Bob Atkins.

Article created September 2008

Readers' Comments

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Charles Ng , September 19, 2008; 03:23 A.M.

I was just about to buy a Leica Summicron 2.0 R lens with the appropriate adaptor. Seems like I might just go for the 50/1.4 ZE.

Yakim Peled , September 22, 2008; 03:41 A.M.

21/2.8 will also be available at the end of 2008.


Happy shooting, Yakim.

david wignall , October 21, 2008; 05:32 P.M.

What's the point in paying top dollar for third party manual lenses when you can get the equivalent auto focus lenses by Canon for less money without sacrificing (much) sharpness ? I've played around with screw-mount Pentax lenses on my Canon DSLR. It was fun but hardly a step forward.

Hans Kwee , October 22, 2008; 05:05 A.M.

That 85mm was already tested here http://www.16-9.net/lens_tests/zeiss_85mm/index.html , not with EOS mount then.

Anthony Peterson , October 22, 2008; 11:27 A.M.

The point is that Canon isn't the only alternative. Finally.

I'd use one of these things in a heartbeat . . . with enthusiasm.

Andrew Ginther , October 23, 2008; 09:43 P.M.

Having used the Zeiss lenses and the equivalent Canon's at the same focal length, believe me this is a good thing. the 85mm F1.4 is the one to beat. Canon or Nikon can't quite match the quality of this lens.

Patrick Markham , August 26, 2009; 06:05 P.M.

The 50/1.4 ZE lens is a true gem. Great color rendition and edges so sharp they cut. One of the best lenses in my arsenal. A++++

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