Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 ZF.2 Review

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This is an in-depth review of the Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 ZF.2 lens, a manual focus prime lens for the Nikon F mount. The same lens exists in “ZE” version for the Canon mount, which shares identical optical design, but with a slightly different body design (no aperture ring). I had a chance to test the Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 when evaluating other 35mm lenses, specifically the new Sigma 35mm f/1.4 and the Samyang 35mm f/1.4. Having already reviewed the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G and the Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2 ZF.2 lenses in the past, I wanted to cover most of the modern 35mm lenses for the Nikon F mount. After this and the upcoming Nikon 18-35mm review, I am planning to also cover the Nikon 35mm f/1.8G DX lens, along with two additional older Nikkor lenses – the 35mm f/2D and the 35mm f/1.4 AIS, which will pretty much complete the 35mm prime selection for the Nikon mount.

Zeiss 35mm f/1.4

Zeiss is known to make high quality manual focus lenses for Nikon and Canon camera mounts. Because of a strong partnership with Sony, Zeiss has been making lenses with autofocus capability for the Sony / Minolta mount as well, and has recently started getting into the mirrorless market with its new “Touit” line of lenses.

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What Makes Exotic Lenses So Special?

This is a part two to my “why are some lenses so expensive?” article that I wrote yesterday. I already explained the difference between consumer and professional-level lenses in the first post, so now it is time to talk about exotic lenses. With so many exotic lenses on the market today, some of which seem to be in relatively high demand (at least judging by their lack of availability), one might wonder about what makes them so special when compared to everything else. This post is not meant to be technical or basic – I think you can get most of that from the first article. Instead, I want to focus on craftsmanship, price, perceived value and niche marketing – the main drivers behind exotic lenses.

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 vs Nikon 35mm f/1.4 vs Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 vs Rokinon 35mm f/1.4

I once had a conversation with a photography veteran, who was trying to convince me that the new Nikkor and Canon lenses lack “soul”, with their plastic barrels, rubber focus/zoom rings and industrial “mainstream” designs. I disagreed, because I was blown away by the performance of new generation lenses and I just did not care about everything else. Plus, the notion of a lens having a soul just disturbed me and I remember thinking how ridiculous it was even to think about such things. But as time passed by and I got a chance to experience some of the rare and older optics, I started to understand what the photographer was trying to tell me. Most modern lenses do feel as if they are just taken from a conveyor line, where thousands of other lenses are made exactly the same way with little intervention. Older lenses were hand-crafted, one by one, and each lens was unique in its own way. And that was the beauty of it, because you never knew what you got – it was a game of random cards.

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Why Are Some Lenses So Expensive?

Every once in a while, I get asked why some lenses are so much more expensive compared to others. Interestingly, this question comes from both beginners and advanced photographers, but in different contexts. Beginners want to know why pro-level lenses are a lot more expensive than consumer lenses, while knowledgeable photographers wonder about what makes niche/exotic lenses from companies like Zeiss and Leica so much more expensive than modern professional lenses. These are all interesting and valid questions, so I thought writing a couple of articles to attempt to answer these questions would be useful for our readers. In this article, I want to answer the first beginner question on what makes professional lenses expensive.

Nikon Lens Comparison

1) Lens Categories

To understand differences between lenses, I believe it is important to first categorize them into different groups. This is obviously a subjective categorization, something I personally came up with to group lenses in our lens database:

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Lightroom Lens Corrections Explained

Since Lightroom version 3, Adobe has been providing a Lens Corrections sub-module within the Develop Module to correct various optical issues commonly seen on all lenses. It is a very powerful and complex tool that can be applied to one or many photographs with a couple of quick steps, potentially saving many hours of post-processing time. In this article, I will explain what the Lens Corrections sub-module is, how it works and how you can effectively use it to correct optical issues in your photographs. I will also show you a method of adding a lens profile manually, if you have unsupported lenses in your arsenal.

1) What is Lens Corrections in Lightroom?

Lens Corrections is a tool within Lightroom’s Develop Module (hence I often refer to it as a “sub-module”) that allows fixing such lens problems as distortion, chromatic aberration, vignetting and perspective correction “non-destructively”, without leaving Lightroom. The beauty of the Lens Corrections feature in Lightroom, is that just like any other setting, lens corrections can be copied from one image to another, applied to hundreds of images at once, or can be set up as an import template, automatically applying corrections to images during the image import process. Keep in mind that lens correction is not a simple fix that applies to any lens – corrections are lens-specific. Since each lens model is designed with a unique optical formula, lens corrections must also be uniquely customized for each model. For example, one could not take a lens correction from the Nikon 35mm f/1.4G and apply it to the Sigma 35mm f/1.4G just because they share the same focal length and maximum aperture. Adobe staff spends time working with a number of different lenses and they continuously add support to new and existing lenses when new versions of Lightroom are released.

How does Lens Corrections affect images? Take a look at the following image sample:

Move mouse over to see before and after Lens Correction

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Samyang 35mm f/1.4 Review

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This is an in-depth review of the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 AS UMC, a manual focus prime lens designed for Nikon, Canon, Sony, Olympus, Pentax, Samsung and Micro Four Thirds mounts. While I will be referring to this lens as “Samyang” in this review, please keep in mind that you can find exactly the same lens under different names such as Bower 35mm f/1.4 and Rokinon 35mm f/1.4 in the US. In fact, the South-Korean lens manufacturer Samyang Optics sells its lenses to different companies like Vivitar, Falcon, Rokinon, Walimex, Bower and Pro-Optic, which simply re-package the lens and imprint their logos / add tags and sell them. Interestingly, while the lens is exactly the same, these brands are sometimes sold at different price points too (probably due to differences in packaging). The lens I tested for this review is the “Samyang” version, supposedly branded and packaged by the original manufacturer.

Samyang 35mm f/1.4

The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 is targeted at photographers that do not need autofocus and want to get a fast aperture lens for a variety of needs such as landscape, architecture, street and travel photography. At just under $500, the lens is a huge bargain when compared to brand lenses from Nikon, Canon and Sony that all sell their pro-grade 35mm f/1.4 lenses at around the $1,500 price range. The Samyang 35mm f/1.4 is designed to work on both APS-C / DX and full-frame / FX sensors, so it will work on cameras like Nikon D7100 (with a similar field of view as a 52.5mm lens) and D800.

Samyang 35mm f/1.4 Sample (26)

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Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Review

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This is an in-depth review of the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art prime lens that was announced at one of the largest photo shows in the industry, at Photokina in Germany on September 17, 2012 for Sigma, Canon, Nikon, Pentax and Sony mounts. The announcement came on the same day with Sigma’s new restructuring of its lens lineup, with three new categories that would differentiate different types of lenses: “Contemporary” for small and lightweight consumer lenses, “Art” for professional zoom and prime lenses and “Sports” for long lenses targeted at sport and wildlife photography. Being a professional-level lens targeted at a variety of photography needs, including portraiture, landscapes and travel, the 35mm f/1.4 is the first Sigma lens that falls into the “Art” category.

Sigma 35mm f/1.4

Thanks to its large aperture of f/1.4, the lens is not only great for low-light photography, but it also can effectively isolate subjects from the background due to shallow depth of field, beautifully rendering background highlights, also known as “bokeh“. Unlike cheaper cropped-sensor lenses, the Sigma 35mm f/1.4 is designed to work on both APS-C / DX and full-frame / FX sensors. The lens rivals other fast 35mm primes from Nikon, Canon and Sony, and unlike the branded versions that are in the $1500 range price-wise, the Sigma is actually the cheapest of the group at $899 MSRP.

Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Sample (1)

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Fuji 27mm f/2.8 and 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS Lens Announcements

Previously, Fujifilm lens line-up wasn’t exactly very extensive, with a small number of well thought-out, high quality lenses. With the two latest additions, Fujifilm seeks to not only make the camera system more attractive, but also suitable for most needs. Along with the new Fuji X-M1 mirrorless camera, Fujifilm has also announced two new X-mount lenses – the Fujinon XF 27mm f/2.8 and the Fujinon 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS.

Fuji XF-27mm and XC 16-50mm

Overview and Press Release

Not so long ago, with the launch of the original X-Pro1, Fujifilm X lens line only consisted of three prime lenses. Though great performers, the 60mm f/2.4 macro, 35mm f/1.4 normal and 18mm f/2 wide-angle primes didn’t exactly make the system complete for most people. Ever since, though, Fujifilm has been working on new optics relentlessly. We saw three more lens announcements afterwards with two zoom lenses to add to the superb prime lens line-up. And today, with the launch of the 27mm f/2.8 and 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OIS, Fujifilm X system now offers 8 distinctive lenses for various needs.

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Fujifilm X-M1 Announcement

As many may have hoped, Fujifilm has finally brought out a mid-range X series compact system camera. The newest member of the desirable system is called the X-M1. Lots of good news here – it’s gorgeous, comes in three colors and with the same great 16.3 megapixel APS-C X-Trans sensor as its older siblings, the X-Pro1, X-E1 and X100s. What you may like even more is the low (for a Fujifilm camera) price of $700 body only. But good looks alone is obviously not enough for that price. What else is there about this camera?

Fujifilm X-M1

Fujifilm X-M1 Overview and Specifications

We at Photography Life are big fans of Fujifilm X cameras. We believe they brought some fresh air into the market. Dashing looks and photographer-friendly ergonomics, but also innovative sensor technology and focus on quality prime lenses have made the X series very desirable among photographers. That said, Fujifilm X series have had their share of problems and quirks. As a matter of fact, this is probably the most quirky camera system out there right now. You could even call it “character”. Fujifilm has been spending a lot of effort and time fixing these quirks with firmware updates. Also, with every generation, their cameras seem to be getting better and more complete than before. X-M1 continues that trend, at least on paper.

Fujifilm X-M1 Rear

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Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G Preview

A lot of our readers have been asking me about the new Nikon 18-35mm AF-S lens that was recently announced. I had a chance to use this lens a while ago for over a month and I never got a chance to fully review it. Ahead of the upcoming Nikon 18-35mm review (posted on 07/27/2013), I would like to provide some data for our readers and compare the lens performance to the Nikon 16-35mm f/4G VR. The below information only contains sharpness numbers and does not include all other optical tests such as vignetting, distortion, chromatic aberration, etc. – I will only provide a summary of my findings for now. The full data with illustrations and sample images will be provided in the full review.

Nikon 18-35mm f/3.5-4.5G ED

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Nikon 80-400mm VR Review

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On March 5 of 2013, Nikon released the AF-S NIKKOR 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G VR, the long awaited update to the 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6D VR that was released over 13 years ago as Nikon’s first lens to sport image stabilization (Vibration Reduction) technology. I have been impatiently waiting for this lens update for quite some time now for a number of reasons. First, it is the only Nikon budget lens that can reach 400mm focal length without teleconverters. Second, it is a very versatile lens with a huge zoom range, which can be quite useful for outdoor sports and wildlife photography. Third, it is a relatively lightweight lens one could hand-hold for extended periods of time, especially when compared to any of the Nikon super telephoto lenses. And lastly, the old Nikon 80-400mm VR had a very slow autofocus motor and it was almost unusable for anything that moves, making the Nikon 300mm f/4D pretty much the only “budget” telephoto choice. So this much-needed, long overdue update was certainly welcomed by many of us Nikon shooters.

Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G ED VR

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