Carl Zeiss 2/100 Review

It is amazing how quickly a month goes by when you have such an amazing piece of glass in your hands. ZEISS was nice enough to loan me this lens over a month and I have to say, without a doubt, the ZEISS Makro-Planar T* 2/100 is one of the highest performing macro lenses on the market in both Nikon and Canon mounts. I loved it so much, in fact, that I ordered my own copy as this one was on the way back to their HQ.


Like in my previous postings and reviews, this is not going to get too deep into all the tech-specs that are laid out on the ZEISS website - no sense in reinventing the wheel. But I will give you a quick rundown of the specs, then dive into my personal impressions of the lens and how it handles in day to day use.

  • Focal Length: 100 mm
  • Mount: ZF.2
  • Aperture: f/2 - 22
  • Elements: 9 in 8 groups
  • Min Focus: 0.44 m
  • Weight: 680 g
  • Length: 113 mm
  • Filter thread: 67 mm

To protect this glass, I highly recommend using the B+W 67mm XS-Pro Clear UV Haze filter. It's very thin and has a multi-resistant nano coating which is a broadband anti-reflection coating which will combat flare and ghosting. 

Zeiss Makro-Planar 2/100 + Nikon D700

Zeiss Makro-Planar 2/100 + Nikon D700

For the last 30 days, I shot exclusively with the 2/100 mounted on my D700.  One thing I really enjoyed about it was, of course, the amazing build quality. Like all Zeiss glass, there are no plastic parts.  The lens is hefty at 680 g (24 ounces), which makes sense when you take into consideration the 9 elements in the optics used to ensure distortion-free photography.  Also of note, once again, is the super-smooth manual focus ring with nearly 360ยบ rotation from infinity to a mere .44 meter (17 inches).

download (2).jpg


I began using this as a macro lens when it first arrived in December.  I noticed right away that the colors were vibrant and true to life.  The focus was sharp and right on.  [Also, as you can see when focused in at .44 meters and wide-open, the bokeh is beautiful and round.  The lights here were from my Christmas tree that stood about 2 meters behind the ornament on my table.  This was my first test shot and the lighting on the ornament was actually just my flashlight - who needs $2000 strobes?] This section being re-worked as I dig up this old image.

I also later did a shot of some Grado SR-80 Headphones to really show this great shallow focus.  It really does perform well in this specialized area. This month, I was commissioned to do some work for a medical company, photographing their surgical cannulas, and I am so impressed with the sharpness this performed at.  I was able to photograph the tip of the cannulas (like needles) in perfect detail.  Once the brochures are printed, I'll post a copy up here.

Zeiss Makro-Planar 2/100 + Nikon D700

Zeiss Makro-Planar 2/100 + Nikon D700


But where did this glass really shine for me?  As a portrait lens.  Yes, a portrait lens.  From close-ups like the picture of my friend Tara above or Ashley at the top, to images taken from further back (see below) this is perhaps the best portrait lens I have ever held (and I had held Canon L-glass, Nikkor, etc). - And for a 2017 update, I still feel this is true.

The nice thing about using a macro lens for portraits, believe it or not, is the sharpness.  If you click on any of the portraits on this page, notice the detail in the eyes.  I said in my review of the the Zeiss 1.4/85 that there isn't another lens out there that can touch it - but I may have to eat my words.  This 2/100 is incredible.  I don't think the 1.4/85 has the tack-sharp ability of the 2/100 when shooting wide-open, though stopped to f/4 they are on pretty equal terms. If this is a bit too sharp for your taste, nothing wrong with using your editor to soften some of the lines. (In Lightroom, I tend to slide down about -4.) You can always take away sharpness, but you can't put it back really well.  Personally, I really like this ultra-sharp look.

And though the 2/100 also has floating elements, it doesn't suffer the focus shift issues I have had with the 1.4/85.  Something to consider if you are looking for a portrait lens.

Like I've said, I am so impressed with this lens.  I was pretty much sold on getting the Zeiss 2/50 already for macro photography - but now I will also be purchasing this lens.  I am hoping with the 2/50 and 2/100 that my 1.4/85 won't collect dust on the shelf.  But I think this lens is just that good!!

Next Steps?

As always, the next step is up to you.  If you thinks its psychotic to shoot portraits with a 2/100 macro, that's fine.  If you want to dedicate the lens to nothing but macro photography, that's your choice - but you'll be missing one hell of an opportunity.

If you want to buy it, I am not a professional lens reviewer and don't do this to scam money out of you.  Just find your favorite Carl Zeiss lens peddler and have at it!