I still have a couple weeks left to play with the Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/21, but wanted to get my initial thoughts out - there will be more to come, I promise. Wow!! Do I need to say more?
OK, I'll give you some more choice words. Let me pre-empt this review with my normal disclaimer: This will hardly be technical. I don't pixel peep and I really don't get deep into the specifics in any of my reviews. I give you the laymen's hands-on-experience.
Well, I do like to give a few specs regarding sizes and weights. Like other Zeiss lenses, the 21 is build like a tank. Sturdy, solid and zero corners have been cut. It weighs in at a hefty 600 grams, just 80 grams less than the Zeiss Makro-Planar 2/100. It has an aperture range of f/2.8-22 with a minimum focal distance of 0.22m (8.7"). As with the Zeiss Distagon 3.5/18, the filter is 82mm - so I was able to swap my filters back and forth between the two. Came in handy when the Husky above licked the lens. (I suggest the B+W 82mm Clear UV Haze filter to protect your investment). OK, enough techie... how did it perform?
Wide - A Landscape Shooters Dream
Well, it sure is a nice wide lens, as you can see from the shot of the Mt Washington Hotel above. Not ultra-wide, just wide enough. I only cropped the top clouds on this one and left the edges so you could examine the details. You can see there is very little distortion (the light pole is tilted naturally) and there is an amazing amount of detail. And speaking of details, check out the branches below. I really think the 21mm handles them amazingly. This was taken at f/8 for 1/250 second - ISO200. This was converted to B&W.
Also, another shot to show the width. I was fairly close to the Husky here - perhaps 4 or 5 feet away. And the dog doesn't look at all distorter. Also, you can see that the tall pine to the right shows no signs of distortion. Viewing large, you can see how nicely it captured the details in the Husky's beautiful eyes.
I have not yet had the chance to do any indoor work with this lens yet, but hope I can get to that before I have to give it back in a week or so. I also want to get some architecture into this post, so will track down an interesting building to put in here - soon!
Compare to the 18 & 35
One of my major objectives with this lens was to see where it fit in my line-up between the Zeiss Distagon T* 3.5/18mm and Zeiss Distagon 2/35. Size and weight-wise, it is very similar to the 18, and I think this is where the real battle is. You can see the three lenses compared below - all shot at f/5.6 1/750 second ISO 200 from a tripod. For more details on the 18, 21 and 35, I have given you large images that you can click on below.
When looking just at the 18 and 21, they are just so close in detail and contrast. I think zoomed way in, the 21 edges out the 18, but barely. Both are amazing lenses. You can see the details in the trees, dead center (I placed them there on purpose) and again at the far edges. I think overall, they both did a fine job.
With the 21 so close to the 18 I already own, I can't see having both. I actually like the Distagon T* 2.8/15mm most, as the wider the better for me. But since I can't afford that one - the 18 is the next best choice for me. For those looking for a great, sharp, smooth wide-angle, this just may be the gem you seek!
I do plan to update this post with the final shots I am able to get from this lens. Hopefully some more compares and some more varied environments. At this time of the year, the outdoors is a constant bright white and I'll do my best to get some more color in there for you.
Once again, I am not affiliated with Carl Zeiss or Nikon – I am just in love with what I have and love to share the information I have gathered through hands on experience.