Zeiss ZM 35mm f1.4 Distagon – Almost Perfect

Zeiss ZM 35mm f1.4 Distagon - Almost Perfect

Lens Review

Zeiss ZM 35mm f1.4 Distagon – Almost Perfect

Summilux 35/1.4 ASPH FLE was once my ultimate dream, floating elements with asph glasses together with the sexy square hood but I heard a lot about its rival – Zeiss Distagon 35/1.4. 9 out of 10 people that owned this have told me: “You must try it Anson”. They got me hooked onto this lens and made me more curious about what is so special about it? I read almost every article on the internet as well as browsed all the videos on YouTube. I decided to take the plunge and get this lens.

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with Leica M10P
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Ilford FP4 125 (Rodinal 1+25)

Initial experience - 35mm Distagon

First impression – This lens is BIG! I think using this lens continuously will make me have strong wrists. It takes 49mm filter size which is common and easy to share filters with my other lenses. Another thing that I notice is the short focus throw. It is a good thing for me since I like to do street snaps and having a shorter focusing range means I can easily focus from 0.7m to mid range like 1.5m. And I must say I really like the design of the aperture blade, its click sounds so precise to me and it is in third stops rather than normally half a stop.

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Taken with Leica M9P
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Kodak Vision 3 250D
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Kodak Vision 3 250D

Key Features Compare to Voigtlander and Leica

The noticeable difference between this lens and other brands’ f1.4 35mm lenses is that the length of this distagon much longer including the hood will be much bigger.

Internal focusing

Why does it have the longest length? Probably due to its internal focusing mechanism, it is uncommon for rangefinder lenses which means that no matter you focus at a minimum distance of 0.7m or at infinity the lens barrel doesn’t extend. Distagon is the only lens with this feature compared with other brands.

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Top view
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Aperture ring

Small focusing knob

I prefer Leica’s summilux than 3 of the other lenses due to its full size focusing tab and it is easy and comfortable let my index finger to sit on it

  • Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 II (None)
  • Voigtlander Nokton 35mm f1.2 III (None)
  • Zeiss Distagon 35mm f1.4 ZM (Small tab)
  • Leica Summilux 35mm f1.4 ASPH FLE (Nice focusing tab)
Lens-review-zeiss-distagon-35mm-f1.4-35-1.4-zm-m-mount-leica-wide-angle-street-character-optics-optical-barrel-construct-build-quality-focusing-knob
Focusing knob
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Lens outlook

Size and Look

Everything is a double-edged sword, it has perfect optics that creates stunning photos but at the same time the size is too big to fit my Artisan and Artist small bag and its look doesn’t appeal to me that much. If you don’t mean it being too heavy to carry everyday, I would highly recommend getting this.

Bokeh (Out of Focus Area)

Honestly this lens is easy to achieve 3D rendering. Subjects get to stand out easily which sometimes I need to find the right situation to let the subject pop out. With this lens just little work will make a super 3D looking image. Bokeh and transition is very natural, somehow I feel it is way above the quality of Summilux 35/1.4 ASPH FLE.

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Kodak Ektachrome E100
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Fujifilm Velvia 100
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Fujifilm Velvia 100

Amazing Sharpness (3D Pop)

I still remember when I got the scanned images from Colorluxe and it was with the Kodak E100. The sharpness and incredible transition to the out of focus area is so impressive. I took some snaps for my buddy Jacky in his wedding and the colour is different and rare to find from Voigtlander and Leica.

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Kodak Ektachrome E100
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Kodak Ektachrome E100
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Taken with Leica M9P
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Taken with Leica M9P
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Taken with Leica M9P

Anything Bad about this Lens?

Except for the size and weight of the lens, I couldn’t find any flaws with it. I would suggest to anyone who accepts its price tag as well as okay to carry the size of a canned drink with you.

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with Leica M10P

Alternative Options

I have listed a few other fast lens options above. If you need f1.2 at the same time something lighter than Leica and this Zeiss, go for the Nokton 35/1.2 III impressive performance clean cynical and modern taste but it is a bit cool in tone. If you look for a lens that holds its value with consistent performance with the right size then the Summilux FLE will be a better choice for you. If you are a price sensitive user, this Nokton 35/1.2 II the second version offers you superb image quality but it is heavier than this Distagon, I like it and brought it with me during my India trip in 2014.

Lens-review-zeiss-distagon-35mm-f1.4-35-1.4-zm-m-mount-leica-nokton-35mm-f1.2-III-vm-asph-11663-FLE-Summilux-35:1.4-1.2-aspherical-voigtlander-lux-floating-elements
Leica Summilux 35/1.4 ASPH FLE (LEFT) Zeiss Distagon 35/1.4 ZM ASPH (Second from LEFT) Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2 III ASPH Voigtlander Nokton 35/1.2 II ASPH
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Kodak Vision 3 250D
Lens-review-zeiss-distagon-35mm-f1.4-35-1.4-zm-m-mount-leica-wide-angle-street-character-optics-optical-japan-made-film-black-white-ilford-photo-fp4-125-rodinal-1+25-hk
Ilford FP4 125 (Rodinal 1+25)

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