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Why I bought the Zeiss Biogon 28mm ZM
Old 08-16-2009   #1
Alberti
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Why I bought the Zeiss Biogon 28mm ZM

I have been struggling the past weeks about what to buy, an Elmarit 28mm ASPH, or a Biogon 28 mm. I have looked at the MTF graphs, and of course the Leica lens is the pure winner.

But it puzzled me that technical excellence probably isn't everything. How come that Zeiss even claims about the 28mm: ‘Its features include high image quality without color fringes, haze or reflection.’ Were they pure lying? Looking at the MTF, this would be slick marketing gibberish, or not? For my work, I have tested sensors and lenses for an enforcement purpose, and also found some counter-intuitive results. So I was ready to see that modern designs have gone beyond the optimum. Maybe there is a right element in those who say “it’s not Leica but Leitz” (alluding: those Canadians were better than the new Germans).

I agreed with the dealer I could make some test shots with the lens, and hence came back, armed with my M8.

Biogon 28 mm F2.8
MTF: The Zeiss lens is expected to drop in resolution immediately outside a 6mm circle (where the RF distance meter is). The Biogon 28 does not have a good MTF chart, lets face it. But the pictures are outstanding. The talk is correct. Good rendering of the distant and slightly out of focus areas. One might say: it has a nice old fashioned bokeh. What I like is the gradual slope of the area of focus, being very natural. It does not break in aggressively. Not turning on sharpening gives no problem either in C1. And the lens is very resistant to flare: you can have the sun in the middle and no artefacts appear (rings). Practically, it is a real charmer.
A face is rendered with the character, skin is depicted beautifully, with good detail. As an example of the quality, look at this book and note how the 'small print' is shown with grace. And the title is clear and contrasty as anything. Now, please tell me why the MTF charts are lying.

See my Flickr site with the full picture: picture of the book.
See this picture at F4, slightly stopped down. Zeiss now ships this lens with M8-prepared frame-line (=28). (But alas, no 6-bit recesses).

Biogon 25 mm F2.8
I also took some pictures with the 25mm Biogon. It provides an extremely good object resolution and a good souplesse in the change from in focus to out of focus. Look at the screws in his glasses. And that at 1/30th of a second. See this picture 25 at F2.8 showing the shopkeeper , mr A Schippers of Foka, who was so friendly to be a subject for a few shots. This lens can be used as a wider version of an 28mm, as it brings up those framelines. Pondering the 25mm, the fact it now has the 28mm frame-line now (default factory shipment) makes it different to the 24 mm Elmar – but better maybe in this respect, because as soon as the new FF M9 appears, the 24mm might need a new flange as of course the 24 mm frame-line will disappear again. The 28 mm frame-line is a stayer of course. Another thing I took into account is the flange coding. There is some confusion around, where people think a new flange is needed. But Well, I’ll have it coded (in due time).

So at the end, I have bought the Zeiss 28 f2.8 Biogon, its a really great lens and typically the one that I expect will be on my camera a lot. Sadly, the 46 mm UV/IR filter and the lightshade cost 32% of the lens price (a shame on the working of the market). (The filter from Leica and the hood were standard prices, so you can calculate what I paid for the slow-moving Biogon!!) Nevertheless I’m happy with the whole deal.
alberti.

Last edited by Alberti : 08-16-2009 at 03:55.
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Old 08-16-2009   #2
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I am also using the ZM 28/2.8. The MTF did make me think about it at that time but in the end I still go for it.

For my purposes this lens has never disappointed me. At 8R prints to me it is as good as the rest of my ZMs. Never try the 25/2.8 though.
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Old 08-16-2009   #3
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One of the dangers of buying equipment on technical specs is that you don't get the full picture (no pun intended) until you use it.

When I was buying stereo gear in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I would often be wowed by a speaker's or component's technical specs, but when I heard or used it, it wouldn't be the same.

I think the same is true of so many things: Cars, cameras, televisions, etc. Sometimes a product with rather average specs will be great. And the opposite is true.

Plus, with artistic endeavours: music, photography, etc., much of our evaluation of a product is subjective, which explains why people like Nikon, Canon, Zeiss, Leica, Olympus, etc.
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Old 08-16-2009   #4
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thank alberti, for taking the time to share your findings.

i have moved to ZM lenses for my M8. why? excellent handling, economical prices, excellent IQ (plenty sharp, lovely color, contrast, bokeh). if i shot wide open all or most of the time, maybe the benefits of leica lenses would be apparent as this is generally the strongest point in favor of leica. but i don't shoot that way often enough to justify the cost. besides i really like the zeiss look. in the end, it's subjective and personal rather than absolute.

i agree, there is so much more to making a decision to own a lens than its mtf chart.
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Old 08-16-2009   #5
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I enjoy mine but will tell you to watch out for flare under extreme conditions even with the hood. It does not often bite, but does so more often than my 35 biogon and it tends to be quite severe when it does - kinda all or nothing. Still, it is an extremely resistant lens, its just the 35 is in a league of its own.

I agree on the OOF. Mine is not brilliant in the corners wide open as the MTFs say, but a stop or two down it is plenty good enough and I cannot tell the prints from the 35 apart unless v big. At 20" there might be a slight difference emerging in edge performance, but it is subtle. Its a great lens - enjoy yours!
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Old 08-16-2009   #6
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I love my 28 biogon and use it a lot for street shooting and landscapes where even though by the numbers it is outclassed by other lenses, its got great character that I have come to expect from Zeiss lenses and now I got 3 ZM's, the 21 2.8, 28 and 50 f2, and they are all winners where it counts for me and that's character.

A long while ago I did a thread on my 28 biogon too, have a look http://rangefinderforum.com/forums/s...ad.php?t=62160
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Old 08-16-2009   #7
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Cant go wrong wit a modern Zeiss. Congrats -- thanks for posting.
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Old 08-16-2009   #8
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Another 28mm Zeiss fan here. I also did a 'shop test' with my M8 on a 28 biogon, hexanon and a voigtlander. The biogon won.
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Old 08-16-2009   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fuwen View Post
I am also using the ZM 28/2.8. The MTF did make me think about it at that time but in the end I still go for it.

For my purposes this lens has never disappointed me. At 8R prints to me it is as good as the rest of my ZMs. Never try the 25/2.8 though.
This is interesting: 'Never try the 25/2.8 though.'.
I have the VC Color Skopar, LTM, old version, and do some judgements, which often is trial and error. If having a good day, it is stunning in quality.
Whay your remark on the Zeiss 25/2.8 - which behaved rather nice for the few shots I took.
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Old 08-16-2009   #10
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Looking at the center of an image, taken with a crop sensor and then comparing to the whole spread of an MTF chart is meaningless. In my mind, MTF charts have their place. But they should be interpreted correctly.

In the center 15mm or so, the MTF predicts that the Biogon performs quite well, actually. Close to or outperforming the M8 sensor.

I wonder how corner performance at f4 or so, compares on film with, say, the 28/3.5 Color Skopar, the 28/1.9 Ultron, the 28/2.8 M-Hexanon or the 28/2.8 M-Rokkor.

Cheers,

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Last edited by ferider : 08-16-2009 at 09:03.
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Old 08-16-2009   #11
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I bought the ZM28 last year based on Colin's thread, and I think it's great. It doesn't get a lot of love here but I keep getting great pictures out of it, especially on the R-D1.
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Old 08-16-2009   #12
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I find this excessive/obsessive preoccupation with lens sharpness amusing. If it (technical quality) is so critical to your work, then get into medium format. Period. Anyway, content is usually far more important.
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Old 08-16-2009   #13
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It is the photographer before it is the lens that makes a difference. If the lens is overall a good lens optically, the rest follows by itself when taking goodphotos.

I don't get into MTF curves or other technical measurements at all. Just use as many lenses as possible and identify the ones that work best for you.
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Old 08-16-2009   #14
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I have enjoyed my 28 ZM. I has been a good fit for me and the RD-1. I hope to one day get the 50mm f1.5 which I find to have a beautiful rendering.

The 28's little nipple allows me to focus easily without looking. The colours are more on the neutral to cool side compared to my Leica glass which seems a little warmer. The flare can be interesting sometimes, especially with fluorescents. They get this gaseous green glow emanating from them. This has happened on more than one occasion, but I don't find it really offensive. I would like to use the 28 with film more, maybe once my M6 (with the 28 framelines) is back from repair. My 28 CV minifinder is a pain with glasses.

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Old 08-16-2009   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankS View Post
I find this excessive/obsessive preoccupation with lens sharpness amusing. If it (technical quality) is so critical to your work, then get into medium format. Period.
I find absolute statements like this amusing. I have yet to find the equivalent of my 28/1.9 for medium format, in terms of speed that is.
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Old 08-16-2009   #16
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Thanks for the feedback.
The first encounters with the M8 'blew my mind', really. So much more detail than in film (200/400 asa Kodak reversal film or B/W), and better images than I had seen from Canon and the likes, that at first I stumbled, like many, into the pitfall of upgrading lenses.

Then, with reports like those of Rinze van Brug, showing that the worst of MTF characteristics (Nocti. . .) gets the best character from the sitter, puzzled me, and led me to slowly rediscover the other side of my old Summicron 35mm from around 1960. Large prints showed these pictures a have a subtle quality, and this brings out some of the best of the M8 in my experience. I once passed by a Nocti 1.2 lying for sale for 350 when I just had my first job. Why: allegedly soft, and I was in the B/W league of sharpness freaks.

Quote:
Originally Posted by ZeissFan View Post
One of the dangers of buying equipment on technical specs is that you don't get the full picture (no pun intended) until you use it. When I was buying stereo gear in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I would often be wowed by a speaker's or component's technical specs, but when I heard or used it, it wouldn't be the same. I think the same is true of so many things: Cars, cameras, televisions, etc. Sometimes a product with rather average specs will be great. And the opposite is true. Plus, with artistic endeavours: music, photography, etc., much of our evaluation of a product is subjective, which explains why people like Nikon, Canon, Zeiss, Leica, Olympus, etc.
This is a great point, and as a tube lover in audio (300B if that says anything to you, on an vintage Quad electrostat and doing all the effort myself to design gear) I am puzzled every day why those "bad" tubes show things like depth quite different from what strict measurements would have me believe.

Turtle, as you said
Quote:
..I enjoy mine but will tell you to watch out for flare under extreme conditions even with the hood.

I did a quick test of the flare yesterday too, the first shows an effect which is a bit hazy,

The second one I made with quite brute force by deliberately having the extreme sun of the evening in the corner of the picture: it does give some grey-out. Th setting sun is often worst in strength.

It shows the band of the 'current deprivation' in the sensor. This is not bad and could happen with any lens shooting 'the sun in the face'.

This flare was a bit as strange and fuzzy as Avotius posted:
Quote:
Woops. At least it was a nice boat ride. [] It will flare if you provoke it, but my goodness you have to really provoke it. The above shot, taken in Lijiang China, had the sun just out of the frame
It seems the engineers have taken quite some effort to reduce standard flare, but look, this is very exposed and provoked (the sensor even blocks due to current limitations!) though this is a thing seldom seen.
To me no point of concern, rather that the design effort to reduce color fringes and reflection in the lens has it's limits. My Summicron 35 mm (I) also behaves like this!
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Old 08-16-2009   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ferider View Post
I find absolute statements like this amusing. I have yet to find the equivalent of my 28/1.9 for medium format, in terms of speed that is.
If a fast wide angle is critical for your work, then get the fastest widest lens you can, regardless of format. It's a matter of using the proper tool for the job, and I stand by what I say: If highest technical quality is critical for your work, then look at medium format. Quibble if you like.
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Old 08-16-2009   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankS View Post
I find this excessive/obsessive preoccupation with lens sharpness amusing. If it (technical quality) is so critical to your work, then get into medium format. Period. Anyway, content is usually far more important.
Dear Frank,

I have to agree with you. And don't forget the tripod!

If anyone notices the sharpness, then either (a) it's too weak a picture to stand despite its shortcomings or (b) you used the wrong lens, aperture, shutter speed or format, or any combination thereof.

Yes, some pics depend on maximum sharpness. But far from all. For seriously sharp WA pics I ike my 35/4.5 Biogon (even at full aperture) on 44x66mm with the Alpa (almost exactly 21mm equivalent).

Edit in view of your later post: Or of course one of the new 21 or 24 Summiluxes on the M8/M8.2 or film.

Cheers,

R/
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Old 08-16-2009   #19
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why i bought the zm 28...




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Old 08-16-2009   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Roger Hicks
Quote:
Originally Posted by FrankS
I find this excessive/obsessive preoccupation with lens sharpness amusing. If it (technical quality) is so critical to your work, then get into medium format. Period. Anyway, content is usually far more important.
Dear Frank,

I have to agree with you. And don't forget the tripod!

If anyone notices the sharpness, then either (a) it's too weak a picture to stand despite its shortcomings or (b) you used the wrong lens, aperture, shutter speed or format, or any combination thereof.

Yes, some pics depend on maximum sharpness. But far from all. For seriously sharp WA pics I ike my 35/4.5 Biogon (even at full aperture) on 44x66mm with the Alpa (almost exactly 21mm equivalent).

Edit in view of your later post: Or of course one of the new 21 or 24 Summiluxes on the M8/M8.2 or film.

Cheers,

R
If I understand it right, the OP's post is about his positive surprise when using the 28 Biogon, after looking at its MTF charts, that compare less favorably to other lenses MTF charts, according to him.

1) It is not about obsession on sharpness.
2) It is not about content vs equipment performance.
3) It is not about a performance comparison of different brands or formats.

IMO, MTF charts have value. They represent a metric and, as other metrics have limitations and depend on interpretation. They not only show high MTF performance but also low MTF performance, so their reading does not imply "obsessive preoccupation with lens sharpness". And, as the OP shows, can not replace personal experience.

"Period."

Roland.
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Old 08-16-2009   #21
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first of all, it's a zeiss lens made by cosina, not by cv.

and, i believe the discussion is about the 'look' of a lens, not comparing charts.

i happen to like the look of this lens.
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Old 08-16-2009   #22
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Roland,

How about my WWII era Kodak 363mm 1.66 lens? Can you match it with a CV lens? It weighs a ton, so it has to be a better lens than you CV lens!
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Old 08-16-2009   #23
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Raid, can you do a thorough bokeh test of the Kodak 363 for us? Make sure you have both early and late production samples, along with all the coating iterations.
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Old 08-16-2009   #24
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Quote:
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CV lenses are always fun, but you need to try about 5-10 to find a decent one...
Huh? If only one in five to ten CV lenses were any good, Cosina would have been out of business long ago

The ZM Biogon 28/2.8 is a very nice lens, but I recently sold mine and replaced it with an LTM mount CV Skopar 28/3.5. The great results I kept getting with my SC mount CV Skopar 28/3.5 (first and only sample of this lens) was the deciding factor for me (some samples in this thread). No regrets so far and it was also nice to have an extra $300 in my pocket to spend on other goodies.
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Old 08-16-2009   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by back alley View Post
why i bought the zm 28...
...I'm actually thinking of getting another one of those...

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