Over the past few weeks, I have been posting mini-reviews on the gorgeous Carl Zeiss C Sonnar 1.5/50 lens (brass/chrome Leica Mount edition tested). This is an amazing portrait lens, giving the right amount of warmth, color and softness that you want to see. For most of my review time, I was busy pitting it against the monster Leica Summilux-M 1.4/50 ASPH. Below you can see some various compare / contrasts I ran with the two lenses:
With all that aside, I'd like to get into the bread and butter review about this lens. As always, Zeiss has not let me down in build quality.
Again, built like a tank. Those this lens is little, it'd make a formidable weapon in a fight to whip at someone's head. I'm always impressed at the weight of their glass. It's solid at 250g but still much lighter compared to 335g Leica. This lens is also quite a bit shorter at just 45mm in length while the Leica is 52.5mm in length. The minimum focal distance on the Sonnar is 0.9m compared to 0.7m on the Summilux.
One thing to note - when using a rangefinder, the Zeiss does not block any of your view. The Leica, on the other hand, takes up a good portion of the lower right corner - more so if the hood is extended out.
The lens is smooth as butter when focusing. There is a slight "bump" to help you find the focus without turning the camera around - this helps to quickly find a focus range. I do like the Leica's much larger focus grip - maybe because I was more used to it.
The Sonnar offers such a warm rendering of images. It is not as contrasty as the Leica - and softer contrast is something I really like for portraits. The colors are true, though tend to a warmer WB. The bokeh is what you come to expect and love about Zeiss. Check out some of the earlier compares regarding bokeh and you'll see just what I mean. Some prefer the Leica smoothness, others prefer the Zeiss character. I've always been a Zeiss-man in regards to bokeh, so I absolutely love what the 5o does. More so than what it did on the Nikon ZF.2 mount.
I truly think this is a great, all around lens. If I had a chance to buy either the C Sonnar ($1200) or the Summilux-M ($4000) today (and owned neither) I'd probably go for the Sonnar as I do mostly portrait work - and it honestly renders females much more smooth. With the savings in money, I'd pick up another one or two Zeiss primes - like the $1400 2.8/21 and the $1000 and still have a few hundred dollars left over to take my wife out for sushi in NYC. That's a huge difference in cash for a little difference in IQ. For many of the compares where people were guessing which lens took the photo - they couldn't tell. About 60% got the lens right.
Overall, I am completely in love with this lens. I am currently saving to buy it - to add to my growing collection of 50's already going. (My wife will kill me, but I'll die with a smile). It's amazing and just slightly different enough to justify having a 3rd - or is that 4th - 50mm for the Leica. Honestly, I'll be keeping the two Leica 50's I have since I have grown accustomed to that clinical sharpness but really look forward to doing more model work with the Zeiss instead. The SOOC warmth is really something special.