P.S. to Jack: I like the way you have toned down your watermark on recent images. Much less distracting, or maybe I'm just getting more mellow.
Hello Eric, and thank you.
Actually, I am giving my entire website an overhaul, and some of the older photos are in fact getting refurbished to tone down the watermarks as well as make some of them smaller. It is rather long process, and I am not completed yet, but some of your criticisms were noted
Jack, some comments on your bullet points:
1) Zeiss => 1:2. Fair point, though an extension tube solves that easily enough. I am not a Canon user, but I presume that is possible? So convenience wise the Canon wins.
Hello Slough, long time no speak. I see some of your points, so I will try to respond:
On this point we agree; the Zeiss falls short of the Canon. However, let us not forget that the Zeiss also costs twice as much and yet fails in the most basic element of macro photography, which is 1:1 life-size magnification. The Canon doesn't just win over the Zeiss in convenience, but again also in cost. For $1800 you still have to spend more money to bring the Zeiss up to par with the Canon regarding life-size magnification. Imagine that, Zeiss billing something as a macro lens, charging twice as much as a VERY serious competitor, and then falling short of that competitor by 50% and requiring your customer to shell-out another $250 to be "equal." Not much of a value by any yardstick, at least in this regard.
2) Not an issue for most people most of the time in my opinion. But if it is, then Canon wins.
In the studio, I agree, it is not much of an issue. However, out in the field it most certainly can be. I live in Florida, where rains can pop-up at any time, and I can truthfully promise you I would be pretty pi$$ed if my $1800 lens got rained on. The only saving grace I suppose is the lack of electrical components in the Zeiss to get corrupted; however, there are still metal components that I am sure rain wouldn't benefit.
3) AF is mostly useless for macro photography. The depth of field is so shallow, that AF cannot know where to focus, and usually gets it wrong. But if you want to use the lens as a short telephoto, lack of AF might be an issue.
Regarding AF, I understand your point, and in certain instances I agree, but in others I totally disagree. For example, I agree that to get the highest degree of accurate focus for a "fine art" print, using manual focus (and having an absolutely stationary target) will yield the best results. No doubt.
However, where I disagree is that sometimes a "fine art print" is not the goal ... only capturing and documenting a fleeting opportunity
is the goal ... and the ability to AF in instances like these is absolutely critical. For example, capturing a rare butterfly that just landed on a flower. In instances like these, you may only have a few seconds to nail the shot, and so absolute fine-tuning is out of the question. The ability to use AF can mean the difference between getting the shot AT ALL versus missing it completely because the time it takes you to MF cost you that opportunity. Not only that, but because you have to rotate your hand, sometimes it is precisely that motion which costs you the shot! By contrast, if you move in "low and slow" to the butterfly, and then hit AF, within a split-second your butterfly is in focus and you just nailed the shot. And, in this end I also completely disagree that AF "usually" gets it wrong. In my experience, the AF usually gets it RIGHT.
I have lost FAR more butterfly images trying to nail them perfectly with manual focus than I have trying to use AF and having it "hunt." 9x out of 10, if I get close enough to the butterfly to find him in my viewfinder, and press AF, I get the shot. Now, if I get the shot via AF, and get the documentation that I need, THEN sometimes I might switch to MF and see if I can get an even more perfect shot.
But, truthfully, 9x out of 10 I nail the shot just fine with AF. As a matter of fact, in almost every butterfly book I have read, the recommendation by the professionals who (in the appropriate section, where it discusses photography) are the ones who put the book together, almost ALL recommend using both AF as well as a flash. And my own real-life experiences confirm these sentiments. The recommended use of AF is for the reasons just described, and the recommended use of flash is to ensure optimal lighting. And (getting back to #1) every single one of them, without exception, also recommends the use of a true macro lens with 1:1 life-size magnification. As a matter of fact, when photographing flowers and fungi I use manual focus (because they DON'T fly away) ... but when spotting a butterfly, I switch to AF first, and then if I get the shot I may opt to try for a MF shot, but in almost all cases the AF shot was excellent and doesn't require any follow-up.
Therefore, again, for more than twice as much money, the Zeiss pretty much inconveniences the customer ... rather than puts him in twice as good a position. Stated in the reverse, for half the money the Canon (and hell, for that matter the Nikon) gives the customer "all of the tools" to do his job.
4) As I understand it IS is much less effective at close range. And with small apertures employed for close ups, and the loss of light at high magnifications, shooting handheld in natural light is not really on. (Good samples to prove me wrong are welcome.) However, IS could be useful but not in the way many imagine. Shooting active insects close up without a tripod is hard due to the camera shaking, which makes framing hard. Using IS will make it easier to frame the image. So even with flash (which freezes the action) IS might be worth having. Not having used IS/VR in this way, this is speculation on my part, though I have done plenty of handheld macro shots with a macro flash.
Well, I too have not used the IS, so I really cannot comment on this either. However, on this (and on another) thread, those who HAVE used this feature all said it was topnotch. Although I do not have IS, I have taken some pretty clean shots of both insects and butterflies withOUT a tripod, and (as you said) oftentimes this was only because of the fact I have a macro-ringlight flash to freeze the action. And, as you also said, I can only imagine that it would be even better with IS, but this too is speculation.
A point you did not make is that the Zeiss has less to go wrong. Nikon AFS motors are known to wear out. I assume the same is true of Canon IS motors?
Fair point to raise, Slough, but I still don't know of too many people whose AF has stopped working. To the Zeiss' credit, it is universally considered to be an absolute precision machine in both its crafstmanship as well as its rotational elements. For example, one site comparing the two lenses said, "However, if you're accustomed to manual focusing and used other, predominantly manual focusing macro lenses in the past, you will be hugely disappointed in the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L IS Macro USM - the lens does not offer enough rotational distance of its focusing ring for precise focusing at macro distances (or any distances as a matter of fact). The ring goes from the closeup to the infinity in about 180 degrees. Compare that to say Leica Macro Elmarit-R 100mm or Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100mm, both of which have about 720 degrees of rotation. Bottom line is that the Canon lens is designed for auto-focusing and manual focusing capabilities are really an after-thought here."
Within this quote, it could be argued that your own point above is brought to bear, namely the Zeiss being a relatively simple machine it has less to go wrong. But we can directly find what is essentially the ONLY redeeming feature of the Zeiss over the Canon, and that is in its MF element and its crafstmanship.
Still, that being said, even an owner of the Zeiss-comparable Leica macro (on another thread) said he preferred the overall advantages of the new Canon. The overall advantages simply DWARF the non-advantages of the Zeiss, except for within a pretty small window of effectiveness. When considering ALL of the uses to which a macro lens can (and is intended) to be put, the Canon (and again the Nikon) simply cover ALL the bases ... and at a fraction of the cost. And, with the new Canon's incredible upgraded optics, by all accounts its overall superiority in value for the money is dramatic.
But the real point I want to make is that there is more to a lens than the specs. The general IQ, including Bokeh, is in my opinion the key issue. Having used neither lens, I cannot comment on that aspect, but I bet the Zeiss is among the best.
Again, by all accounts, it is pretty much universal that the Zeiss is simply stellar in both its IQ as well as in its bokeh, and I agree these are absolutely key issues for any macro lens. As a fellow macro enthusiast, we are in 100% agreement here. But that's just it. According to ALL accounts (oops, except Digilloyd, the Zeiss man ), the Canon is every bit as good as the Zeiss in these respects, PLUS offering true 1:1 macro, PLUS offering AF, PLUS offering IS, PLUS offering weather sealing, all for less than half the price of the Zeiss. I have not compared them myself either, but here are quotes from 3 different sources who have:"Just occasionally a lens turns up which delivers such implausibly good results in our studio tests that I have to go back and repeat everything, double checking all settings to make sure I haven't done something wrong. The Canon EF 100mm F2.8 L IS USM Macro is one example; but in this case when I repeated the tests, the results were if anything slightly better. There's little doubt that, all round, this is one of the very finest lenses we've seen - optically it's superb, and operationally it works very well too, with fast and positive autofocus, and one of the most effective image stabilization systems currently available."
~ DP Review
"During our field tests the AF accuracy was excellent ... The bokeh (the quality of the out-of-focus blur) is a primary aspect for a macro lens and the Canon lens does truly shine here. Out-of-focus highlights are very uniform and perfectly circular till f/5.6. The critical focus transition zones are very smooth at max. aperture. It's one of the best lenses in this respect that we've seen so far."
"... even at ~US $1,000, this lens can be considered a bargain when compared to such classic macros like Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100mm f/2 or Leica APO Macro Elmarit-R 100mm f/2.8 ..."
~ Lens Review
I will leave others to say whether or not it is better than the Canon. But I bet for most people the Canon is the better choice.
In the end, performance-wise, the Zeiss is better than the Canon at MF only
, and perhaps in all-metal build quality (although the high-grade and weather resistant plastics in the Canon make it both lighter and more resistant to the elements).
Regarding image quality and bokeh, it universally seems to be a wash: BOTH lenses are simply fantastic.
However, with regards to the availability of true 1:1 life-size magnification ... the added bonus of exceptional, fast, and razor-sharp AF ... on top of having the best IS currently available anywhere ... plus weather sealing ... all at HALF the price ... the Canon trumps the Ziess that has NONE of these features, yet charges twice as much for this empty bag of "extras."
What justification do you have to say that Lloyd Chambers is misrepresentating his experiences with Canon lenses?
Well, you've been doing some speculating and betting in some of your assumptions, and I understand your reasons for doing so. Thus I too am doing some speculating and betting of my own here too.
Do I have concrete proof of this? No. But I would be willing to bet that a huge proponent of Zeiss, who gets paid for his views on the product, and who is faced with such a clear-cut THREAT to the hallowed Zeiss lens as what the Canon is (in BOTH its capabilities AND its being only a fraction of the price), had to say "something" bad to create some doubt in the minds of the consumer.
No other reviewer of the new Canon L macro has said anything negative about the lens at all, let alone needed "2 copies" to get a good one. Neither has any consumer I have seen here, or anywhere else, online. So, let's just say I would be willing to bet that our friend DL is either a very unlucky guy ... or ... that he pulled one of the oldest tricks in the book and deliberately said "something" to create doubt, without saying anything directly bad. That is just my opinion, again based on reviewing the opinions of all the other professionals online, as well as the individual users, ever since this new lens came out.
... As I said, I think the Zeiss should be judged on optical quality, and I'll leave it to experienced users with real world experience of both lenses to decide.
I disagree. Optical quality may in fact be a "bottom line," but cost-versus-VALUE are also considerations. And a lens that offers stellar optical quality PLUS everything else, should be worth more than a lens that only offers stellar optical quality, but nothing else. And yet the Canon is the lens that offers more, for half the cost. This means with the Zeiss it's the opposite: it only offers nothing but stellar optical quality.
Even within both the Canon and the Nikon lens line-ups, when these companies offer models that just have "good glass" they are ALWAYS cheaper than the models offered with good glass plus
For Canon users at any rate, Zeiss may now make a mount for their 100mm Planar in the Canon mount, but at twice the price and yet with NONE of the features, the Zeiss' overall value
compared to the new "L" macro by Canon is pretty much a joke IMO.