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Lens review

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

28 June 2011
Szymon Starczewski

4. Image resolution

The resolution test of the Zeiss Distagon T* 1.4/35 was based on RAW files from the full frame Nikon D3x reflex camera. Measurement errors ranged from 0.3 to 1.1 lpmm. It’s worth remembering here that the decency level in the case of tests performed on the D3x is on the level of 30-31 lpmm and the best fixed-focal lenses can reach results near 46-47 lpmm. It should be also mentioned here that the decency level, chosen by us here, is really only a conventional value. We set it assuming that the level reached near f/16 aperture would be a good resolution indicator. If you close down the aperture more the diffraction will degrade the image to such an extend that it will seem rather fuzzy. Of course you should remember that every user has his/her own image resolution requirements so for some people these 30-31 lpmm will be fully acceptable and for others – not quite.

After that short introduction let’s present the results. The graph below shows resolution values (with respect to MTF50 function values) reached by the lens in the frame centre, on the edge of the APS-C/DX sensor and full frame.

Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35 mm f/1.4 ZE/ZF.2 - Image resolution


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When it comes to the frame centre, you get exactly what you should expect from high quality optics manufactured by a reputable producer. The image is useful already at the maximum relative aperture and this fact is really worth emphasizing here because, so far, only the Canon 1.4/35L has managed such a feat. What’s more, on stopping down the aperture we see the resolution soar so already by f/2.0 we get a very high result, reaching a bit less than 40 lpmm. On further stopping down the values become truly record-breaking so by f/5.6 the Zeiss reaches one of the highest levels which we have been able to register on the Nikon’s D3x sensor. So far the tested lens can be only praised.

When we look at the performance on the edge of the frame we shouldn’t complain either overall. The area near the maximum relative aperture isn’t useful, but when you close down a bit over 1 EV you get a decent or even good image quality, both on the edge of the smaller sensor and on the edge of full frame. We wouldn’t complain at all here if not for one significant fact. When we glance at the frame edge results presented by the Samyang 1.4/35, tested by us not so long ago, it turns out that lens, almost four times cheaper than the Zeiss, performs equally well near the maximum relative aperture and on stopping down is noticeably better. From the mechanical point of view the Samyang is no match for the Zeiss at all but when it comes to the optics it can compete with the product of a much more renowned producer efficiently.

At the end we present crops taken from the centre of our test chart’s photos.

Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35 mm f/1.4 ZE/ZF.2 - Image resolution