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The Zeiss Distagon Prime Lens - Worth the price?


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#1 flavio filho

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 06:46 AM

Hi all.
I've read similar posts, but couldn't find one specifically on this.

I've bought a Nikon D7000. Great camera for DSLR Still & Video at 24p.
I also bought the wonderful Zeiss Planar T* F1.4 85mm ZF.2.
And next I'm intending to buy another two Zeiss of the same family, the 35mm and the 18mm.

My intention is to have a great gear to cover both still and Documentary video, with a "cinematic" look (maybe using an adapter).
I've read many reviews, people comment about the marvels of Zeiss and some claiming that good Nikon Primes would do the same.
Some disagree when it comes to VIDEO, Zeiss surpasses in quality.

Anyway, my question is:
Should I continue with this "dream" Zeiss set, or...
Buy cheaper lens for Still Photography (like Nikon Primes or maybe 2 sets of Nikon zooms lenses 18-50mm and a 50-200mm), and invest on the vintage (old) Zeiss primes specifically for filming? Or even choosing a different lens, (zoom?) Suggestions?

Hard, I know, and I know it varies depending on the look every filmmaker looks. I just want to get the best of my money, and invest with what I can afford (I know about the Zeiss CP2, but can't afford). My goal is to be covered well in digital filming for documentaries with a cinematic look.


* I also have two sets of 16mm Bolex and 2 Arri 16s with Schneider lens that I would use for narrative filming.

Edited by flavio filho, 15 March 2012 - 06:47 AM.

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#2 Tom Jensen

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 10:59 AM

I'd say that Zeiss lenses are great. Even Panavision uses Zeiss glass in their lenses. I think when choosing glass, you have to consider the end source of your work. If 90% of your work is going to video then you don't need the best glass in the world. The subtle differences in good quality glass is more likely detected in a theater. Much of the cinematic look in digital is achieved in post production. Much of it is achieved in composition, location and shooting style. Simply using a high quality lens won't give you the desired effect if the other cinematic elements aren't there. Shoot some tests. I'm not saying don't use good quality glass. I'm just saying you can get good quality footage with less expensive glass if the majority of your work is going to TV..
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#3 flavio filho

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 11:58 AM

I'd say that Zeiss lenses are great. Even Panavision uses Zeiss glass in their lenses. I think when choosing glass, you have to consider the end source of your work. If 90% of your work is going to video then you don't need the best glass in the world. The subtle differences in good quality glass is more likely detected in a theater. Much of the cinematic look in digital is achieved in post production. Much of it is achieved in composition, location and shooting style. Simply using a high quality lens won't give you the desired effect if the other cinematic elements aren't there. Shoot some tests. I'm not saying don't use good quality glass. I'm just saying you can get good quality footage with less expensive glass if the majority of your work is going to TV..



Hi Tom.

Thanks a lot for the reply.
I was thinking also about that. My intention is to first make movies to be in Theater. Of course for documentaries is more likely to go to TV, but yet, if could make a difference on a big screen, I beleive I should keep on with the Zeiss.
I also knew about the cinematic effect in post. Actually was thinking that using Zeiss lens, it would be best to add a cinematic look in post instead of using 'cine adapters' that even the cheapest available could cost the price of two Zeiss primes.

I really love the Zeiss look and think they worth the money. I'm actually divided. I can invest on them, step by step... Buying good nikon lens still would cost something significant.

What would you do in my case?

Thanks for your help,
Flavio
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#4 Travis Gray

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Posted 15 March 2012 - 12:16 PM

After asking a similar thing the other day here, I've decided to make the investment into the Zeiss CP.2, or at least a few, and not a full set (Able Cine allows you to do a mixed set of four), and in PL mount. While I do some extra camera work with a D7000, I'm going to try and use it sparingly and for shots that won't have a focus pull to try and avoid breathing, and rent/use what I have for glass already.

Then with the PLs, I can then rent other cameras and not have to worry about adapting things or anything, and it does make sense for slowly building up.

And then another reason on the CP.2 just for ease of working with them because of the gears, the focus rotation, and not having to use an adapter to get my aperture dialed in, and without any markers.
I shoot on an FS100 right now and have a Nikon to E-mount adapter and the range is so short on the aperture adapter ring it drives me nuts. And it's kinda guesswork to see what you're shooting at. I know wide open and closed, and even halfway is tough because the closed marker on the adapter isn't actually where the aperture is fully stopped down on the lens.
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#5 TONY LOUIS

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Posted 16 April 2013 - 07:28 AM

I used to shoot weeding stills photography and used Carl Zeiss lenses on my Hassleblad 500ELX & 500CM models with 150mm sonnar 60mm Distagon and standard 80mm planar lens. I did many 20 x 24 and larger blow ups and poster size pictures and the lens really did perform. I used also a Mamiya RB 67 with revolving back and mamiya lens which I was also happy with, but it's no comparison to the Zeiss lenses. The 6 x 7 cm back was awesome. Now lets get back to choice of lenses. I am moving into cinemaphotography and am still learning but because I've got a proffessional photographers background I understand the fundamentals a lot easier.  The lens choice depends on what you are filming and how critical you or your customers requirements are with respect to sharpness, colour, image quality. When making a movie I just don't think The lens quality is as important as when I shot still on my hassleblad. Videos are edited and the original capured data is most of the time manipulated at the editing stage. My advice is get a good top lens if you are doing more stills and get a good quality (but not the best) if you are shooting mainly videos. I'm going to purchase the SONY NEX FS100 with standard 18-200mm kit lens and I will treat myself to a Carl Zeiss prime lens and sony prime wide angle lens.  You can go mad spending money on expensive lenses but can you justify that expense? If you can justify the expense go ahead with the purchase.


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