LensTip.com

Lens review

Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 50 mm f/2 ZF/ZK/ZE

28 January 2013
Szymon Starczewski

3. Build quality

Classic standard 50 mm lenses are popular in every full frame system but the Zeiss-Planar T* 50 mm f/2 is still a unique device – it doesn’t feature an f/1.4 aperture, like many other classics, providing instead a macro mode, although with 1:2 reproduction ratio. That’s why it is difficult to find other lenses which could be directly comparable to the Zeiss. In our database we still managed to find several 2/50 rivals which are shown in the following chart.

As you can notice the Zeiss is here definitely physically the biggest and the heaviest. Undoubtedly it is the result of its high build quality, a completely metal casing and the most complex optical construction. Because of the 1:2 magnification ratio we are also not surprised by it having the shortest minimum focus distance.

In the photo below you can notice how big the Zeiss Macro-Planar really is – we positioned it between the Sigma 1.4/30 and the Nikkor AF 1.8/50D. It should be emphasized that the Nikkor is also a full frame instrument with the 50 mm focal length and, additionally, it is a bit faster than the Zeiss.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - advertisement - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 50 mm f/2 ZF/ZK/ZE - Build quality

It’s also worth mentioning that Zeiss lenses differ among themselves when it comes to their appearance and the dimensions – it all depends on the mount. In the photo below you can notice very clearly that the Canon mount version is the biggest and also, as the only one, it lacks an aperture ring, featured in ZF.2 and ZK versions.

Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 50 mm f/2 ZF/ZK/ZE - Build quality

Buyers get both caps and a metal hood. The lens starts with a metal mount and contacts (in the ZF.2 and the ZE versions); they surround a rear element, 21 mm in diameter. When the focus is set at infinity the rear element is situated on the same level as the mount. After passing to the minimum focus the element hides inside the casing almost three centimeters deep and accordingly, while working in 1:2 scale, the lens becomes longer by those three centimeters.

Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 50 mm f/2 ZF/ZK/ZE - Build quality

In the case of lenses with Nikon and Pentax mounts a narrow (less than 1 cm) manual aperture ring, with ribbed sides, is the first element on the proper casing. Its work is well-damped and it changes the aperture every 0.5 EV step.

Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 50 mm f/2 ZF/ZK/ZE - Build quality

The next element of the casing is an immobile ring, also ribbed at both sides, which has a depth of field scale values given on the front for f/22, f/16 and f/8 apertures (you can also notice valueless markings for f/11 and f/5.6) and an inscription “Lens made in Japan” on the other side.

Further on you find the biggest part of the casing – a manual focus ring, 3.5 cm wide. About 1.5 cm of it is taken by ribs below which there is a distance scale expressed in feet and meters and also a magnification scale. The ring works very smoothly and is well damped. Running through the whole scale takes a turn through 300 degrees (the producer provides you a very precise value - 303 degrees exactly - in the specifications). It allows you very precise settings.

Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 50 mm f/2 ZF/ZK/ZE - Build quality

The lens ends with a silver, metal hood mount. The mount is extended on a telescopic inner tube when you pass to the minimum focusing distance. The metal mount is threaded on the inside and it allows you to use 67 mm filters. The front element of the lens is rather small and it hides inside the casing about four centimeters deep. It’s worth adding here that when you work in the macro mode (1:2) the photographed objects are situated in the distance of 9 centimeters from the silver rim of the lens.

Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 50 mm f/2 ZF/ZK/ZE - Build quality

The optical construction consists of 8 elements positioned in 6 groups. You should notice how the macro system complicates the optics. The faster Planar 1.4/50 has 7 elements. Inside the lens there is also a circular aperture with nine blades which can be closed down to the value of f/22.

Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 50 mm f/2 ZF/ZK/ZE - Build quality

Buyers get both caps and a metal hood. Pity that for such a high price the producer didn’t decide to add a case of any kind.