The Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon is a Zeiss’southward answer to the one thousand-mount 28mm lens. Its reputation precedes it as an first-class piece of drinking glass, but still objectively proficient information technology is, that’s not the sum total of what I’m interested in. What I’g also interested in discovering is just how much of the character I meet and beloved in my 50mm Sonnar tin can be found in other Zeiss M lenses…
A fleck of background first…
A fleck of background first…
A lens on loan
Zeiss lens blanket
Uniformity in the ZM lineup
The Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon review
Sharpness and vignetting
On the Leica M8
On the Sony A7rii
Farther objective optical qualities
Dissimilarity, 3D pop and color
Flare & calorie-free
Gelling with the Sonnar
The Zeiss’due south trump carte du jour – 0.5m focusing
It’southward in the proper name – Biogon
Skip to the end (My Decision)
After ownership and reviewing a 50mm ZM Sonnar I became a little obsessed by the idea that maybe Zeiss lenses are just the lenses I need to shoot for every focal length. The Sonnar has a serial of attributes that add upwards to something that feels as close to perfection as I can imagine from a lens – and that’south despite some small reservations about the lack of a proper focusing tab. Whenever I shoot it, almost regardless of the subject area I am happy with the consequence. Me and that lens are just a practiced fit.
Every bit you tin can probably imagine, this instils a bit of favour in my heed for Zeiss every bit a make. With this favour sometimes comes the aforementioned idea that perchance I should only exist shooting Zeiss lenses across all the focal lengths I shoot. The problem is, this isn’t entirely applied. I already have a Leica 90mm Elmarit-M that I am very happy with, not to mention the closest equivalent Zeiss lens (the 85mm f/ii Sonnar) is rare every bit hens teeth. Additionally to this, I’ve recently bought my dream 28mm lens: the Minolta One thousand-Rokkor 28mm f/3.v. And so what the hell am I doing with this Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon?
A lens on loan
Before on this year I visited the Zeiss stand at the Photography Prove. Whilst at that place I spotted a chap chosen Alexander who I’d met at the show the year before. In the year since that meeting, Alex had helped in my decision to buy the 50mm Sonnar by providing various bit of useful info via email, he’d too answered a few random queries I’d had, and 1 style or another been quite a helpful guy. As such, when I saw him on the Zeiss stand up I thought I’d say hi. We chatted briefly, I asked about borrowing lenses, he and so introduced me to a member of the team at Zeiss United kingdom of great britain and northern ireland who had in turn said I was welcome to borrow gear for review. At the time I had a Leica 28mm elmarit-Thou and through this idea that peradventure I should be shooting all Zeiss, I was very keen to compare the Biogon to it – a loan of the lens would requite me the perfect opportunity to do so.
As such, direct after the show I got in touch with my new contact at Zeiss to inquire for a loan of the Biogon. Unfortunately they didn’t have a 28mm in their possession that I could borrow – there was a review/bear witness re-create about somewhere within the company, only it wasn’t to manus. The chap I spoke to told me he’d go back in touch when information technology resurfaced.
I took this equally a bit of a sign that I shouldn’t be fretting near Zeiss lenses being perfect for me. I had my Sonnar 50mm which I am happy with, my 90mm elmarit-Thou that I’thou also happy with… And as I explain in this mail service, I then went on to sell the 28mm elmarit-One thousand to buy the aforementioned dream Minolta lens. I had hoped the Minolta would get my perfect 28mm and I could put this all-Zeiss idea backside me.
Of course, Sod’s law being what it is, when I then got dorsum in bear on with Zeiss to enquire most something completely different, the response I got included the line: “Past the way, I have the 28mm ZM Biogon here now if you would all the same like to borrow information technology?” So hither it is in my possession – only for a few weeks, and so soon afterwards me buying the Minolta – it couldn’t feel anything more like a true cat amongst the pigeons. The question is, does it reignite that desire for an all Zeiss lens line upwardly…?
Through the procedure of reviewing the Zeiss ZM Sonnar and Jupiter iii+ I learned a little bit about different approaches to lens design in the 1930’s. Applying this bit of a bones understanding of optical blueprint to looking at Zeiss’s ZM lens line upward – on newspaper at to the lowest degree – I initially came to the conclusion that it’southward a flake of a fools errand to hunt the idea that the 28mm ZM Biogon will perfectly harmonise with the 50mm ZM Sonnar.
There is a disparity between these lenses that is probably nigh hands understood by taking a look at the groundwork of the lenses optical designs. The Sonnar is closely related to a very early asymmetrical lens design. The Biogon on the other hand is an almost symmetrical design. Whilst I am past no means an expert on these things, one thing I take learned is that all lens designs are well-nigh a balance of gains verses compromises. As I understand it, the early goals of symmetrical lens design were based around the thought of producing images that are well corrected for distortions, flatness of field and color aberrations. The symmetry in the lens design is what helps cancel these problems out. Asymmetrical designs were meliorate for flare resistance and contrast as they had less drinking glass surfaces internally that would cause the internal reflections that cause these issues.
This idea I had that there would exist disparity was farther confirmed by Zeiss themselves talking on their website of their Biogon lenses every bit beingness the ideal partners to their 50mm Plannar. They make no mention that I’ve spotted of how the Biogon relates to the Sonnar. In fact when reading well-nigh these lenses generally – both in terms of what Zeiss say, and the wider reports near them online – to a nifty extent, the Sonnar seems to stand lonely inside the Zeiss G line up equally lens with a strong character, a character that is touted as “archetype”. The rest of the ZM lens lineup are largely Biogons, Distagons and the Planar which are all touted equally a lenses that accept high objective qualities. All this adds up to the thought that the Sonnar volition have a very dissimilar look and feel to its results when compared to its brand peers. Only and then, as I’1000 finding myself learn more virtually these different lens configurations – also every bit discovering the impact they have – I’yard also discovering simply how much other factors in a lens’s blueprint play.
Equally an example, I recently borrowed a Jupiter-iii+ from Lomography. Naively I suppose, I’d half expected it to be more than similar to the Zeiss 50mm ZM Sonnar. Later on all they are both Sonnar lenses, and in fact the Jupiter is a straight re-create of an earlier Zeiss Sonnar design. What I really discovered was just how different they are. When using the lenses side past side I found myself really realising just how mod the ZM Sonnar is, every bit by comparing, the Jupiter more often gave me positively “vintage” (for want of a ameliorate discussion) results. The two lenses did share common attributes; they both endure focus shift, take like bokeh, and good contrast. Simply at the aforementioned time, the ZM is fifty-fifty more contrasty and takes photos with a greater sense of 3D popular more readily and reliably. It also has significantly greater control over flare, and has warmer, more than rich, more contrasty colours.
As mentioned good flare control and contrast are – at least on paper – traits traditionally associated with Sonnar lenses. Yet what I had plant was that the ZM Sonnar excelled in these areas and the Jupiter didn’t quite as much. So what else separates these lenses? Well, apart from slight differences in lens blueprint, the greatest factors that separate them is their different drinking glass and lens coatings.
Zeiss lens coating
1 of the things that all Zeiss ZM lenses share is of grade Zeiss’s choice of glass and lens coatings. Lens coatings might seem similar a small affair – later on all physically they are very small things – but the more I read about coatings, the more I realise the extent of the bear upon they accept.
The purpose of lens coatings is to increment transmission of light through the elements of drinking glass inside a lens, or in other words they decreases the reflection of lite between the elements. The result of this is images that suffer less with flare and gain an increase in contrast. Both flare and contrast have a number of meanings in lenses (some of which I go into here). dissimilarity is an especially difficult subject, every bit when the give-and-take is used, it could be in reference to micro or lens dissimilarity, colour contrast, or indeed overall contrast in results. What’due south interesting about lens coatings is that they seem to have a profound impact on all of these things.
This is bearish at least partly evident in the fact that the mod symmetrical lens designs – in the case of the Zeiss ZM line up; the Biogon and Plannar – don’t by reputation fall short in terms of contrast and flare control etc. It is therefore quite safe to say that whilst the lens designs themselves bring some separation to the wait and experience of the results of Zeiss’ lenses, this separation is likely vastly reduced by the mutual use of lens coatings across the range of ZM lenses.
Uniformity in the ZM lineup
Ok, then all of the in a higher place is definitely Hamish-stream-of-witting-waffle (patent pending). But, the point of explaining it to give a bit of groundwork, and hopefully demonstrate where I am on the learning curve with all this stuff. It also hopefully explains a scrap about my thought processes both for and against the idea of going all Zeiss. It is this potential for uniformity between lenses that makes me wonder that if I like the Zeiss ZM Sonnar so much, will I get equal (or near equal) enjoyment out of the rest of the range of Zeiss ZM lenses? And indeed – somewhat tangentially – should I be aiming to bring more Zeiss lenses into my professional digital career, simply more on that detail signal in a later post…
The Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon review
What’s near interesting about the Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon is that reading i review to the next, really in that location is no agreement in terms of just how good it is. Some say information technology resolves better than Leica’s Elmarit-K, some say information technology doesn’t. Some fifty-fifty say information technology’south not far off as expert equally the Summicron! Incommunicable, how could anything be equally adept as a Summicron?! (that’s me being facetious, in case you hadn’t gathered).
What I observe interesting about this lack of agreement, is that actually what I think information technology translates into is an entirely pointless argument. If no agreement tin can be found between people who nitpick about the quality of a lens, and so the chances are, it’s too good to worry well-nigh but how good it actually is.
Of form, the limitation of the reviews I have read seems to be around the format the lens is shot on. Almost seem to be either film or digital, rarely both, and I haven’t found that much info from people using this lens on the likes of the Sony full frame digital cameras.
Whilst I don’t want to focus too much on the area of shooting the Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon digitally, I was struck by just how problematic shooting the 28mm ZM Biogon on my A7rii was compared to motion-picture show. Equally such I thought I’d split this review into 2 parts for ii objective factors that seemed nigh strongly impacted by shooting this lens on a full frame non-Leica digital camera: Sharpness and vignetting.
Sharpness and vignetting
Shooting film, I take noticed very picayune in the way of discernible fall of toward the edges of the frame, either in terms of lite or sharpness. In fact, my experience when shooting film has been entirely positive. To my center I can’t actually discover any noticeable subtract in sharpness at into the corners, even at wider apertures. Not only this, only vignetting isn’t particularly evident in most circumstances. In fact the only shots I noticed information technology where in a series I shot in Worcester’s library.
Of class, I’ve done no technical tests. I’ve just taken photos, but in doing so, I’ve had repeatedly expert results… At least I have when I’ve been shooting motion picture. When shooting digital, information technology’s a very different story. Unfortunately for the Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon, it’s, well, a Biogon. Biogon lenses aren’t ideal – in terms of their lens design – for shooting with digital cameras. The reason for this is that the rear elements of the lens project then far into the trunk of the photographic camera that the angle of light leaving the lens and hitting the outer areas of the sensor is too oblique. The consequence of this is potential for softening, darkening and in worst cases colour shifting of the image.
In the early on days of Leica digital cameras, Leica combatted this problem by using a smaller sensor – in fact from what I’ve read, in the beginning, they pretty much ruled out full frame sensors birthday. The Leica M8 was Leica’s first digital rangefinder camera, and has a 1.3x crop sensor. This alleviated the edge issues simply by non having the extent of outer edges of the sensor to be effected by the problem. This wasn’t the only measure out taken. Thin upper layers of the sensor and get-go micro-lenses also helped solve the problems, at to the lowest degree to some extent. Of class as technology advanced, these latter solutions went some fashion to solve these sorts of bug even with full frame sensors. In fact from what I’ve read, on the full frame digital Leicas, the 28mm ZM Biogon is perfect at all apertures, right into the corners.
On the Leica M8
Unfortunately I don’t (even so) have a full frame Leica to examination this. I do have a Leica M8 though, and though there is some more obvious but even so very slight vignetting, I can ostend it is not just sharp, only very sharp, even at wide apertures, right into the corners.
On the Sony A7rii
Sadly, the same can’t be said for the Sony cameras I’ve shot information technology on. At wider apertures at that place is quite pronounced vignetting, and some very obvious smearing into the corners (sorry nigh the awful photograph, I took it simply to make the bespeak).
Quite only, Sony cameras are only non designed to be used with lenses like this. It’s not the fault of the lens equally such, nor specifically the camera. It’s a combination of the ii pieces of equipment that causes the upshot. Fortunately, if you lot do accept some want to shoot the 28mm ZM Biogon on a Sony, it is withal very possible to get proficient results that are sharp into the corners. Y’all just have to stop down a off-white amount.
Farther objective optical qualities
These issues with vignetting and sharpness with the Sony cameras aside, as you might expect, the Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon is a very good lens indeed. To kickoff with, there are no discernible distortions in any of the photos I have taken with this lens. I’m pretty sure that I read somewhere that it’s large size compared to the Elmarit-Thou is due to greater attempts to reduce any chance of baloney.
Since I can’t see whatever distortions in either lens, information technology’southward hard to annotate on but how much more successful the 28mm ZM Biogon is in this regard. Suffice to say though, information technology’s certainly not something I’d worry about in the process of choosing this lens. Additionally to this lack of distortion, I’ve just seen the slightest desultory signs of chromatic aberrations.
Contrast, 3D pop and colour
What’s been really pleasing for me is finding all the contrast color and pop in my results. The Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon is contrasty in all senses of the word. Every bit mentioned, particular is resolved well, but add to this the high lens contrast I’d hoped to find and the result is images that incorporate the a sense of depth and three dimensionality that I love in my Sonnar.
The colours I seem to go when shooting the Biogon are as as wonderful as the Sonnar’s too. There’s a richness and warmth that I really find very pleasing.
The lens contrast works wonders in black & white photography as well. I dear these shots of Norah – the contrast works wonders to really bring out her large circular eyes!
Flare & light
Flare is very far from beingness an issue with the Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon too. Even experimenting with it, pointing it towards the dominicus, shooting with the sun just out of frame, all that sort of thing, I’ve non managed to get it to flare in whatever meaningful or repeatable way. I regard the Sonnar equally pretty much allowed from flare. This lens is even more immune! Very impressive, at to the lowest degree objectively speaking.
What the Biogon perchance lacks slightly over the Sonnar is a touch of magic in the mode it renders light. Yous’ll have to read this part of my Sonnar review to see what I’m talking most. This isn’t a shortcoming of the Biogon, far from it. Almost would this an an objective improvement over the Sonnar. For me, it merely makes it feel more clinical in its rendering. Though really, this is a very personal thing of taste, and comes downwards to fiddling more than me being very picky.
I nearly forgot to write about Bokeh, information technology’s slightly redundant a field of study with a lens of this sort of focal length… though only slightly. With the close focusing of the Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon being 0.5m (something I’ll come to in a mo), bokeh can well exist a factor. Unfortunately, this is perhaps the most obvious fashion in which information technology departs from the Sonnar’s nigh perfection. Have a look at the flowers in the groundwork of this prototype and you’ll see some wiry nonsense going on. Does this affair? Probably non, no – it certainly doesn’t bother me.
Gelling with the Sonnar
Though I’ve only really mentioned it in terms of the way it renders light, I recall clinical is probably a skillful discussion to describe the Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon when speaking relative to the Sonnar. That being said – to me at least – it feels less clinical than the Leica Elmarit-M. It might just exist considering I feel at home with the colour and dissimilarity, merely i way or another I’ve felt completely happy with the results I’ve had out of this lens. It has a character that I feel like I recognise, and that’southward despite strong differences like the way it renders out of focus compared to the Sonnar I am so familiar with.
I started down this route with what were perchance naive technical founded misgivings nearly how well information technology would gel with the Sonnar. As it turns out, largely speaking, I feel like I’ve been proved wrong; the Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon sits very well next to the 50mm Sonnar in my opinion.
Ok, so all this is sounding pretty good… A little as well practiced for a man who’south only forked out a fortune for a Minolta lens after ruling out this Zeiss. As you tin can probably imagine, every bit the procedure of me finding out how much I similar the optical qualities of the Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon unfolded, I started internally debating the reason I didn’t pursue just buying this lens in the first place. Track back again to my Elmarit-M review and yous’ll read about how buying information technology made me realise that – at least in terms of treatment – I could practise better than my Voigtlander Colour-Skopar. It was this combined with the thread mount and smaller size that encouraged the eventual purchase of the Minolta 1000-Rokkor.
On paper, the Zeiss doesn’t work for me. It’s so big that it blocks the corner of the frame in the viewfinder of the camera. Information technology doesn’t have a proper focusing tab, instead having the same pointless little nub that the ZM Sonnar has. To tiptop information technology off, it’south non thread mount – which for someone who prefers shooting 28mm on a fiddling Barnack Leica is a petty frustrating. These justifications initially became my safety net for this feel. All the same much I enjoyed the results from Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon lens, I felt I could fall back on them as reasons to stick with the lenses I have.
The problem is, equally I’ve been using the Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon, I’ve realised how meaningless they are. I’k so well used to the pointless focusing nub from using the Sonnar, that it doesn’t bother me. I’ve simply noticed the lens in the viewfinder a couple of times, and not really been too phased by it when I have. And, the preference for a Barnack is meaningless when I’m carrying this lens as a second to the Sonnar with one of my Yard cameras.
The merely other possibility for finding flaw with the Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon is its build quality. Unfortunately for me, the build quality is also (obviously) excellent. Zeiss lenses – whatever anyone says – are pretty much besides build equally Leica lenses in my stance. The simply matter that separates them is focusing smoothness. This lens, just like the Sonnar, has the trouble of the focusing being stiffer in colder environments if left not used for a bit. This isn’t something Leica lenses suffer with in my feel, though, I’thousand non really bothered by it. It also has perfectly clicky 1/third aperture settings, and no unnecessary play in anything. Like the infant’s porridge, information technology’s just right!
The Zeiss’s trump menu – 0.5m focusing
Just to rub salt in the wound it brings something else to the tabular array too! What I’ve found surprisingly favourable with the Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon is its 0.5m close focusing. I genuinely didn’t think this feature would do much for me. On paper I found the idea that the rangefinder patch would just stop moving below 0.7m (ish) to exist a bit odd. What I’ve constitute in use, is that I’1000 then used to the shut focus limitations that I rarely get closer than 0.7 meters anyway. As such, I rarely notice the limitation of the RF focusing machinery with the photographic camera to my middle. In theory this means that I gain aught from the 0.5m shut focus – in do it makes a big deviation.
As it turns out, I’one thousand not too bad at judging altitude at these close ranges. I observe 50cm quite like shooting fish in a barrel to guess within probably x-15cm. The depth of field of a 28mm lens, even at f/ii.eight is nigh 5cm. Plainly this is smaller than what I’d judge is my room for error, but what I’ve establish is that I am quite often close enough that – for my enjoyment at to the lowest degree – focus is shut enough to give an acceptable photo.
If I end down to f/8, I’ve got 15cm of depth of field to play with, and that actually is enough to ensure I get an in focus shot every time. What I honey nigh this is that it solves probably the only thing I miss from the days of shooting an SLR. With 28mm lenses, sometimes it’s nice to be able to shoot those close up dynamic portraits. I especially enjoy taking photos of my kids like this. The Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon allows this fashion of shooting quite readily. Admittedly focusing is not always perfect, simply really the sort of angles I’ve been shooting from, even with an SLR I might not have used the viewfinder to focus anyhow.
It’s in the name – Biogon
What’due south actually interesting virtually me finding this feature of the lens enjoyable, is that it corresponded almost to the day with me discovering what the word Biogon ways. I found a fascinating article by H. H. Nasse that turned out very useful in the process of writing this postal service. Equally interesting as the residual of the article was, what had me hooked was contained within the first few paragraphs. Quite early on in the commodity information technology talks about the etymology of the word Biogon – with ‘gon’ being of Greek origin meaning angle, and bio meaning dynamic. Biogon therefore translates into ‘dynamic angle’ – which is exactly what I’ve found it more capable of than whatsoever other M mount 28mm lens.
Skip to the end (My Conclusion)
As I am certain I’ve made very clear, I really like the Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon. In fact, I don’t simply actually like it – information technology has become in my opinion the best 28mm lens I’ve shot on a Leica Thousand-mount camera. Of class, it’southward not the 28mm lens I own – I borrowed information technology, and before long it needs to go dorsum to Zeiss.
This volition leave me back where I was with my Minolta G-Rokkor and Voigtlander Colour-Skopar. The Rokkor was the lens I bought instead buying the Zeiss. Of form, the reasons I bought information technology to improve upon the Color-Skoper notwithstanding remain valid, non just this, only since I sold my Minolta TC-1, I take craved owning the Minolta lens again. As such, the minolta isn’t likely to exist going anywhere shortly! And so where does this leave me? Well, the i thing I have is time; I have no need to make a decision instantly, but my gut feeling is that I might finish up owning more than one 28mm lens!
Of course multiple lenses of the same focal length isn’t anybody’s platonic answer to this question. If your reading this post looking for a recommendation, it’d definitely exist the Zeiss I’d point y’all in the direction of. In total, I’ve tried five 28mm lenses for my Leica mount cameras. The Voigtlander 28mm f/1.9, and f/3.5, the Minolta 1000-Rokkor and the Leica Elmarit-M have all given me great results. Ultimately though, of all of these experiences, only the Zeiss has so far given me something close to the magic I’ve learned I honey in the results from the Zeiss 50mm ZM Sonnar.
For me, borrowing this lens was a bit of an experiment. I wanted to observe out if what I loved about the Sonnar were traits only found in it, or if they were traits plant more commonly in Zeiss ZM lenses. Zeiss lenses accept their fans, and almost all of them talk nearly the aforementioned serial of attributes: Zeiss colours, Zeiss contrast and Zeiss 3D pop. Non only take I institute myself in understanding with the thought that these traits are indeed common to these lenses, I’ve likewise plant myself completely sucked in past them. Past shooting with this lens, what I have found is that I am not merely a ZM Sonnar fan, I’m a Zeiss ZM lens fan.
Fanboyism aside though, in that location’south more to this recommendation than just my personal preference. In the 28mm ZM Biogon these Zeiss traits are combined with a near flawless build and a 0.5m close focus that – provided you lot have a proficient sense of distance – can actually bring something a little more y’all’d commonly await from a rangefinder lens. The handling and size are issues, but in the same way as I forgive the nub on the Sonnar for what else that lens brings me, I forgive these problems in this lens also. Shooting with other 28mm lenses recently, I’ve been getting distracted by issues derived from size, weight and handling – in fact these are quite often issues that bother me with photography equipment in full general. The fact that none of these issues have got in the way of this feel – to me at least – says something very positive nigh this lens! As such, its fair to say that the Zeiss 28mm ZM Biogon get my unreserved recommendation!
Thanks for the loan Zeiss…
Thanks for reading,
More than of my photos taken with this lens can exist plant here