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Lens review

Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100 mm f/2 ZF.2/ZE

12 May 2014
Szymon Starczewski

3. Build quality

There are many macro lenses with a focal length near 100 mm but all of them feature f/2.8 aperture. The Canon EF 100 mm f/2.0 USM is the only contemporary lens which is faster but it is not a macro device for a change. As you see it is difficult to find some directly comparable instruments.

The following chart shows what kind of differences between particular lenses you might start looking for. The Canon and Nikon lenses are optically the most complex but they come with image stabilization systems. The Canon 2/100 is a simple construction but it focuses only from 0.9 of a meter. The Zeiss and the Pentax are the most similar of all as the latter is also made of metal and it comes without the stabilization. What’s interesting, despite the different aperture fastness, both lenses include the equal number of elements.

In the photo below the tested Zeiss is positioned next to the Canon EF 100 mm f/2.8L Macro USM IS and the Makro-Planar 50 mm f/2.0. As you can notice the Zeiss, despite a better aperture fastness, is distinctly smaller than the Canon.

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Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100 mm f/2 ZF.2/ZE - Build quality


You should remember, though, that such constructions as the Canon (and also other contemporary 2.8/100 Macro lenses) don’t change their physical dimensions. The next photo shows pretty clearly what happens when you set the Zeiss near the minimum focusing distance.

Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100 mm f/2 ZF.2/ZE - Build quality


The tested lens starts with a metal mounting plate with contacts (the ZF.2 version) which surrounds a rear element, 28 mm in diameter. With the focus set at infinity the rear element is hidden about 1 cm deep inside the casing. After passing to the minimum focusing distance the element hides almost 3.5 cm inside. The overall dimension of the lens increases by about three centimeters as well when you want to use 1:2 image scale.

Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100 mm f/2 ZF.2/ZE - Build quality


In the case of a Nikon mount version of the lens (ZF and ZF.2) a narrow (less than 1 cm) manual aperture ring, ribbed on both sides, is the first part of the proper body. It is nicely damped and allows you to change the aperture every 0.5 EV step. The Canon mount version has no such a ring but both versions let you control the aperture from the camera level and it can be done every 0.3 EV step.

The next part of the body is an immobile ring, also ribbed by both ends, which, in the front, features a depth of field scale with markings by f/22 and f/11 (you can also see some unlabelled markings at f/16) and a ‘Lens made in Japan’ inscription on the other side.

Further on you see the biggest part of the lens’s body, a manual focus ring, almost 6 cm wide. About 2 cm of its width takes the ribbing; underneath you find a distance scale in feet and meters and also the image scale. The ring’s work is very smooth and well-damped. Running through the whole scale takes a turn through as much as 360 degrees.

Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100 mm f/2 ZF.2/ZE - Build quality


The lens ends with a silver, metal hood mount. The mount is pulled out on a telescopic tube when you pass to the minimum focusing distance. It is threaded on the inside, allowing you to use 67 mm filters. The front element of the lens is hidden about 2 cm inside the casing. It is worth adding that in the macro mode (1:2 image scale) the photographed objects are situated less than 23 centimeters from the silvery edge of the lens.

Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100 mm f/2 ZF.2/ZE - Build quality


The optical construction of the lens consists of 9 elements positioned in 8 groups. Two front elements were made of untypical dispersion glass. Inside you can also find a round aperture with nine blades which can be closed down to f/22. The T* sign on the casing means you deal with Zeiss anti-reflective multi-layer coatings which are supposed to guarantee a high transmission level and a good performance against bright light.

Buyers get both caps and a metal hood in the box. It’s a pity the producer didn’t add a pouch or a case.

Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100 mm f/2 ZF.2/ZE - Build quality