For anybody considering getting Zeiss lenses for their DSLR's I thought you might like to hear my experiences with two new lenses.
For some time I have enjoyed going back to using prime lenses for my work on a 1DS mk3. We shoot a lot of weddings and quite a few other jobs mostly involving people, and for a long time I have been using good quality zooms. More recently I have been using a Sigma 50mm 1.4, Canon 85mm 1.8 and Canon 135mm f2 because I like the image quality and because it is a challenge that prevents me getting stale! I enjoy shooting with lenses wide or almost wide open - around f2. The two Canon lenses are great but the Sigma often disappoints. The quality at f2 is often not quite good enough and nailing focus is a challenge with auto and the focus ring is not smooth in manual.
So I was seduced by the beautiful build and feel of the Zeiss lenses, and after reading a few reviews and playing with them at a local dealer, have bought the 35mm f2 and 50mm f2 macro lenses. The first challenge is to get used to manual focussing again, frequently on moving people. What a revelation! The 50mm in particular is so easy to focus - the image just snaps in and out of focus and the results are very sharp at f2. Gone is the tyranny of selecting the right focus point or 'focus and recompose', I just frame, focus and shoot. In the past two weeks I have shot two weddings and two commercial shoots involving children, plus some local scenes etc and have had a better keeper rate regarding focus than previously. In addition the image quality is of course excellent.
I did consider the Canon 50mm f1.2, but I have read that there are some focus shift problems and I wasn't sure that I would often want to shoot wider than f2 anyway. The 35mm lens is a bit harder to focus in lower light but I am improving quite rapidly with it, and the quality is worth the effort. Incidentally, although the 50mm is a macro lens, it is also just a fantastic standard lens too - the macro is a bonus - albeit an expensive one! The 50mm f1.4 is a lot smaller and cheaper, but again suffers from focus shift according to reports. The f2 does not.
The lenses really are a pleasure to use - and I do think that is an important consideration - for me anyway. I keep my gear for a very long time so build quality is paramount. We have had quite a few Canon lenses fail - especially the non-L series lenses.
I should say that for longer lens work the Canon 70-200mm 2.8 IS is still an invaluable lens, especially when trying to shoot a crowd of children running straight at me along the beach - autofocus wins hands-down everytime. But for anyone considering buying high quality lenses and wondering how they will get on with manual focus, especially with people (I am not talking tripod landscape use), I would say have a look at the Zeiss range.
Incidentally I had a play with the 100mm Macro which seemed great, but we already have a perfectly good Canon version. The 85mm lens seemed a bit harder to focus quickly - so I'm not so sure about that one. The 21mm is next on my wish list! If anyone has experience of this lens perhaps they could let me know their feelings about it.
One last point. Not quite so keen on the lens hoods - they are metal and have a very sharp edge. I have already cut my eyebrow (don't ask), and almost brained a five year old at a school job yesterday! The plastic Canon hoods are much more sensible in every way.