UPDATED on December 5 2015 —

After the original post, I took this lens and another lens to the most recent trip to Balkan states, Bosnia, Slovenia, Montenegro, and Croatia, these 2 lenses performed way beyond my expectation, especially when used for landscape or wide-angle territory areas, as demonstrated with this image below. This trip has solidified my decision to keep these Zeiss lense and also will acquire more. Based on this, I will see if financially feasible to acquire both the Zeiss Milvus 85mm, 135mm Makro and the new Zeiss Milvus 21mm F2.8.  I’m hooked on these Zeiss lenses!  You have to use these lenses to know what I’m talking about, and if you’re serious about the quality of your pictures, then you owe it to yourself to get them, it is as simple as that!

Click on the image to see larger size and truer colors.

Bohinj Lake, Slovenia

Bohinj Lake, Slovenia





Below are links to the new Zeiss Milfus models:


This lens is phenomenal!

Well, this is my second Zeiss lens after the first Zeiss 21mm F2.8 got me hooked.  This lens basically will augment my Zeiss 21mm as part of my prime lenses for landscape purposes, however, it is also so good in terms of other things like travel pictures which might mostly involve stationary subjects, we shall see…

It took me a 3 days to get used to using manual focus.  It is a bit frustrating at first to use a totally MF lens, but since the quality control of these Zeiss is so great, they work as intended once you’re used to it.  The focusing ring is smooth and precise with generous and precised movement with absolutely no play.

“Things” about this 35mm MF lens on my D800E:

1.  Focusing light in the camera view finder is spot-on.  I try to use also live view focusing and comparing it to the “focusing light”, and the images are basically the same in terms of focusing accuracy.

Tip:  Use your eyes and the viewfinder and the manual focusing ring to move quickly to the correct focus, then confirm that with the “focusing dot” (FD for short)…and that is it.  When focusing very close subjects, and if you use F2, then the focusing plane is very thin, you can use the tripod if possible, or you’d need steady hands, and check the zoomed in images on your camera display at 100% to make sure the focused spot is sharp. If in doubt, use the live view.

2.  If you’re not sure that you can get a good, sharp image, wide open, then increase to F2.8, you’ll be having a much better chance of getting good focusing shots, and sometimes using F2.8 is better than F2 for some images anyway.  Don’t think that F2 will always give you nicer, better images. I found it usually F4 would basically give you a good hit rate. I’m not talking about landscape shots here, just normal portrait, people and still-life images.

Tip:  For very close-up images, use F2.8 in addition to F2 to ensure that you’ll increase the chance of getting good images after you get back home from trip.  If you think that AF lenses don’t have this issue, think again.  I had the Canon 85mm F1.2 and I consider that lens is the ultimate portrait lens that creates the best bokeh, contrast, saturation and naturalness of any lens in its class, and it missed focusing about 25-40% (but the good ones, usually are keepers).  However, I can assure you that most of the times, they were user’s errors and not the lens, with the Zeiss 35mm.  I’ve NOT come across too many lenses that required Autofocus Micro Adjustment using the camera bodies to compensate for the lenses yet, these include the new Nikon lenses that I’ve, on the D800E body, including these Zeiss lenses.  Now, I have to admit that the AF lenses are very good now a day, and it is easier to rely on the AF, shoot and forget mentality and check them out when you go home.  With the MF (manual focus) lenses, you’d need to slow down a bit and spend time to double check your focusing more often than before…is that a pain?  Maybe, depends on how you feel about that… some can’t stand that and some like it, so I let it up to you to decide. Also these manual focus lenses are great when you do a lot of panorama like I do.  I’m so used to these Zeiss lenses now that using AF lenses for landscape, I actually feel less comfortable and unsure about the results.  I just want to stress that I’m more of a landscape person then portrait/street photographer.

3.  It is more fun…to shoot with the MF lens, especially one that is built like a solid piece of metal pipe.  I do mean that, the lens is sort of small in diameter, long and solid, once you mount it on the D800E, the whole thing feels like one piece, instead of a disjointed components when you use the plastic lenses with the D800E.  Maybe that feeling gives you the incentive and fun which encourages creativity and motivation to go out and shoot more.  This lens encourages you to take pictures of things that you didn’t even care for before, and that is a good thing. Also the manual focus is basically what I prefer to use anyway when shooting landscape, and that is what you’ll like too, I’m sure.

Here are some of the images that I took in the last trip to Italy.  These were both hand-held, and only adjustments in Lightroom like contrast and saturation, but no adjustment in Photoshop except crop.  As you can see, they have that contrast and rich colors, the Nikon lenses that I have cannot provide the same.

F2, 1/100 sec, ISO 200:

Click on the image to see larger size and truer colors.



Vespa in Italy (Zeiss 35mm F2)

Vespa in Italy (Zeiss 35mm F2)

Click on the image to see larger size and truer colors.

Hot Peppers Italy (Zeiss 35mm F2)

Hot Peppers Italy (Zeiss 35mm F2)

4.  I did not use other 35mm lenses before, so the only thing that I can compare it to is my gold standard, the Canon 85mm F1.2.  Some might say it is not fair to compare because they’re 2 different lenses.  Well, that might be true, but if you have some gold standard to compare to , then if you’re familiar with that lens’ characters, then you might be able to relate to that.   The 85mm has a bit better bokeh than the 35mm, but that might also be unfair, however, the 35mm’s bokeh is a bit busier than the 85mm.  The 85mm also has more contrast and saturation out of the bat, but, the 35mm might be sharper and of course there is no comparison in terms of the corner sharpness, the 35mm is better.   Another thing I have to say…the 85mm AF misses were about 25-30%, but the keep rate was very high when you get the focus right. The point is, if you think AF is perfect, think again…especially when using these lenses wide-open, you’d tend to miss some shots…and I’m OK with that. I will except the 35mm also, but in this case, if I missed focus, it is on ME, not the lens.  Hope that give you the idea of what this 35mm lens provides you in term of image quality.

5.  For taking landscape images, the 35mm sharpest F-stops are around F4-F11 and it is sharp from corner to corner.  You’d have no issue using these F-stops, IF your closest focusing distance is at least 20ft or more.  I usually use F11 if I can, if not, I would use F16, it is a compromise in terms of getting a good, sharp shot instead of a non-useable shot when get to see them on your monitor.  I would  probably take both to make sure that you’ll get the best of what you want later.  But rest assure, the F16 images are not as bad as some images from most other zoom lenses, and I meant from corner to corner, not just in the center.  If your closest subjects are closer, then you either want to use the Zeiss 21mm instead, or if you have only the 35mm,  and you want to use F11 or wider,  then you’d need to take multiple images for stacking later, but this will increase the amount of work for you, but you’ll be sure to have the best quality images possible with this lens.  Truth to be told, you’ll know once you’ll be out there shooting in real situations if you understand these general guidelines that I’ve here.

6.   DXO Optics is a great software for correcting imperfection with lenses to make their results better, however, for some reasons, there are NO correction profiles for Nikon+Zeiss lens combination…is it because there are less Nikon users out there then Canon?  Possible…I don’t know the answer to that question, but I believe that since Zeiss lenses are such a high quality glasses, they should make the profiles for them…but, have no fear, Lightroom 6 does have correction profiles for the Zeiss lenses…Use Lightroom instead!  A loss to DXO!

Below is an image that I took in my backyard, using the 35mm, at F16, 4 image-pano.   The stitching was easy because the 35mm does not have too much distortion to start out with and the resulting image was almost perfect.  The image after doing pano-merging and cropping to trim the edges and at F16, you would think that the image qualify would degrade somewhat, but I think not.  This image is probably sharper than most, if not all, of the best zoom lenses out there.

Image did not require any tonal contrast adjustment at all.  The process was:

Lightroom 6 lens correction profile added to all 4 images –> Edit using CS6 Merge Pano –> Crop –> Resize –> Save.

F16, 1/20 secs, ISO 200, using Gitzo Tripod and Markins Q3 Ball Head.


Below is the 100% crop at the left edge to the left bottom corner:


For real world landscape pictures, that was the main reason why I bought this lens, to cover the mid-range, between 21mm and 50mm.  Currently I temporarily use the Nikon 50mm F1.8 due to its light weight and cost.  Also this Nikon 50mm F1.8 also can be used for other general purposes, such as a walk-around lens for street photography during out of the country traveling where time is of the essence.  However, for trekking/hiking and landscape photography, I will be acquiring the Zeiss 50mm Makro F2, to complete the Zeiss trio.  Longer focal length will be the Nikon 70-200mm F4, which I think is an excellent lens.

Here is a pano of 8 images, using the Zeiss 35mm F2.  For some of us who can’t tell the differences in quality between this Zeiss lens and other Nikon lenses, I can assure you that once you see the real image in Photoshop at 100% size, you’ll change your mind.  This is especially true when you want to have the images printed at large sizes.   Also another positively desired feature of these well-known Zeiss lens is the absolute sharpness from edge to edge, and this 35mm lens does not disappoint.  When I do post-processing of these 2 Zeiss lenses, the 21mm and 35mm, I never had to worry about the edge sharpness, AND, never have to sharpen the images.  In fact, in some cases, I had to blur it a bit in order to make it a bit more natural.   You might ask, why would I do that?  Well, I’d like to have the option of blurring the image a bit at certain areas, and keep some other areas sharp.  This ability to pick and choose what to do, when to do it, is the freedom that you’ll have with these lenses, let alone, their outstanding contrast and color rendering in the final images.

Bryce Canyon NP (Zeiss 35mm F2 Pano)

Bryce Canyon NP (Zeiss 35mm F2 Pano)

If you want to buy this lens, you can either use Amazon or B&H links below:

Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm F/2.0 ZF.2 Lens for Nikon F Mount

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