ZEISS "CLASSIC" 100MM F2 MAKRO-PLANAR ZE LENS
First Published April 2010; Updated March 11, 2017
|Announced||December 4th, 2009 (Canon ZE Mount); DPReview|
|Lens Composition||9 Elements / 8 Groups|
|Angular Field of View||25º at Infinity|
|Aperture Blades||9, Curved (Circular)|
|Focus Type||Manual Focus|
|Minimum Focus||17.3” / .44 Meters|
|F-Stop Scale||F2 to F22 in 1/3 Stop Increments|
|Filter Size||67mm, Front Thread, Non-rotating|
|Metal Lens Hood||Included (63g)|
|Lens Pouch||None Included|
|Weight||1.50 pounds / 682 Grams without Lens Hood and Caps|
|Size||W 76mm x L 91mm (mounted and focused at infinity)|
|Mounts Available||ZF, ZK and ZE|
|PDF / MTF||Specification Sheet|
Years ago I wrote somewhere, “I wish Zeiss would re-release the Contax RTS lenses in the Canon EF mount – especially the 100mm F2 Planar.” Several years later Zeiss did just that! First Zeiss teased Canon owners with the ZF mount. It took another year or so before the Count EF mount 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE was available. And then there is the "Makro" thing. I was smitten with the Contax 100mm F2 Planar, so why muck up a good thing by adding macro?
When it comes to the build quality of the Zeiss ZE lenses, there really is not anything to complain about. The ZE’s are well built and harken back to yesteryear when manual focus lenses had beautifully dampened focus rings and felt solid as a tank. The Zeiss ZE lenses mount smoothly and the auto aperture works precisely as it should. The lenses feel solid on the Canon 1Ds Mark III, and there is no play or wiggle. The 100ZE’s focus ring is a tad stiff, but it is definitely a lighter touch than my Zeiss "Classic" 50mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE.
The barrel knurlings look nice, but they tend to accumulate finger oil and dust. I prefer the diamond textured rubber grip on the Contax lenses. It was very easy to find the Contax focus rings (without looking) because the difference in feel between textured rubber and smooth metal was easy to sense. The Zeiss ZE lenses look nice, but the Contax lenses had slightly better ergonomics in this regard. The ZE hoods are metal and lock into place like a Canon lens hood, though sometimes they need a bit of force. The Zeiss front lens caps tend to pop off, but giving them a half-twist to lock into the filter threads does wonders.
Like most macro lenses, racking the focus from the minimum focus distance to infinity is a long drive - 349º of rotation to be exact. If shooting outdoors, maybe a mix of portraits and landscapes, then the focus throw is not too long - probably around 90º of rotation. As for macro mode the lens gets considerably longer and there is alot of focus racking. I think Zeiss realized with some incremental R&D they could easily add the macro range. I would have been perfectly happy with a .7 meter minimum focus distance if that had resulted in a smaller lens size.
With the auto aperture, the 100mm ZE gained some girth and weight (compared to the Contax 100mm F2 Planar). The new Zeiss Milvus 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE is even heavier. Adding the macro functionality essentially builds in a macro tube extension into the lens. On the 1Ds Mark III the added size and weight are not much of an issue, but I still prefer the more compact Contax 100mm F2 Planar. I think Zeiss 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE lost its nimbleness when Zeiss added the extra bulk. I love the Zeiss 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE “in the studio” when doing product shots, but when shooting outdoors, the Contax 100mm F2 Planar is still my preferred lens.
The Zeiss 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE is widely known as being exceptionally sharp, distortion free, having a flat field (no curvature in its field of view) and a quick transition to its background blur. All true. I have covered much of this in much greater detail in the Contax 100mm F2 Planar review. The Zeiss 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE renders quite similarly to the Contax 100mm F2 Planar, but there are subtle differences in their rendered looks and that is what I am going to focus on here -
- The 100mm ZE is slightly sharper at F2 and has a bolder contrast curve. Opening up mid-tones (in the raw editor or Photoshop) results in a very similar look as the Contax 100mm Planar.
- The Contax 100mm's bokeh is slightly more diffused. Likewise, the Contax 100mm's light fall off at F2 is more pronounced. These two characteristics result in a slightly more subdued look at F2-2.8 (for the Contax 100mm F2 Planar).
- Both lenses exhibit color fringing in the bokeh under the right conditions. It is really hard to say if one has more or less than the other. Both do it.
- The 100mm ZE is orders of magnitude better in the studio than the Contax 100mm Planar. The Contax 100mm struggles under strobes and can wash out at times. Also, by F5.6 the Contax 100mm's sharpness begins to drop off at close distances.
Overall the Zeiss 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE and the Contax 100mm F2 Planar perform very similarly, but the Zeiss 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE is the sharper lens. To illustrate how similar the results can be, the images below compare Contax 100mm F2 Planar, Zeiss "Classic" 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE and the Hasselblad 110mm F2 Planar 4th Gen. -
All images taken at the same distance with a Canon 1Ds Mark III on a tripod.
It is worth pointing that the Zeiss 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE has no aspherical elements. That might sound like Zeiss being a cheapskate, but no aspherical elements generally means no onion bokeh rings.
Compared to the Contax 100mm F2 Planar, the Zeiss "Classic" 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE paints with a bolder brush. Back in 2010 I would have said the Contax was my favorite, but today I am just as likely to pick the Zeiss 100mm. The Contax 100mm's are now 20 to 40 years old and finding one in mint condition is difficult. Whereas a mint condition Zeiss 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE is easy to find and sells for $750. The Zeiss 100mm brings all the modern goodness of auto aperture, EXIF data, no need for adapters and macro functionality.
Optically I have no complaints with the Zeiss "Classic" 100mm F2 Makro-Planar ZE. Its size bugs me. Nowadays I mostly shoot Leica M gear, so the Zeiss 100mm seems ginormous in comparison, but I still love the look from the 100mm Planars. And I still use one with my Leica SL Typ 601 a-la the Novoflex Canon EF / Leica SL lens adapter.