Wide Without the Weird: Zeiss’ New Low-Distortion 15mm f/2.8 Distagon T* ZE for CanonGear Talk
Natural Proportions for Architecture
The new Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Distagon T* ZE for Canon is an ultrasharp, full frame lens that controls distortion much better than its other ultrawide peers. The natural proportions of this lens, despite its angle-of-view, lends itself well to architecture photographers. The relatively close focus of 0.25m (10”) also makes this lens a great option for those shooting in tight spaces, particularly party and wedding photographers.
Finally a Filter for a 15!
In comparison to similarly wide lenses, the consensus so far is that the Zeiss 15mm outperforms the best of them in terms of sharpness and distortion control. Another advantage of the Zeiss 15mm over the Canon 15mm Fisheye, the 8-15mm, or the 14mm is that this lens comes with a front threaded filter ring that accepts a 95mm filter. This, and the built-in metal hood, provide more protection for the bulbous glass that is natural for a lens of this focal length. The large front element makes this one of the largest wide angle primes we have in inventory.
Full Frame and (almost) Full F-Stop
While this lens is designed for full frame cameras, it can still be used on crop sensor cameras–your angle-of-view being the equivalent of a 24mm on a 1.6x crop camera, such as the Canon 60D or the 7D. At f/2.8, this lens is handy in lower light situations and stops all the way down to f/22. With a 9-blade diaphragm, the Zeiss 15mm produces smooth bokeh that is very surprising on a lens this wide.
The distortion control on this lens is evident in the following test shots we took. The domed ceiling of Westfield San Francisco Center is pretty much how the eye sees it looking straight up. Our interior shot of a rustic creperie shows obvious stretching on the edges but is still impressive given that the entire restaurant is captured. In the third image, we tested the limits of the lens’ focusing distance (10”). This photo was taken about 1 foot away from the bamboo. As you can see, there is very little barrelling given the distance.
- This lens is heavy (28.9 oz) but the front element is shielded by the built-in metal hood. Add a filter for extra protection.
- When pointing this lens downward, the metal slip-on cap falls right now. Watch out for this when renting!
- Pay attention to your posture when shooting with this lens. Any shift in one direction or another could mean the difference between a distortion-free shot and a skewed one. You may not notice these slight distortions until you get the images on your computer.
- This is a manual-focus only lens. If you don’t have pilot eyes, consider also renting a camera with Live View to help ensure that your shot is sharp. Full frame cameras with Live View include the 5D Mark II, Mark III, and the 1D X.
- Warning: This lens is NOT weather sealed.
If you don’t mind the relatively hefty weight and manual-only focusing, this lens would be a great addition in the camera bags of photographers interested in architecture, real estate, interiors, landscape, and events.
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