Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 ZF.2/ZE Ultra-Wide (fatty)

Everyone knows that Zeiss is paving new ground as a result of the HDSLR revolution. Camera manufacturers are releasing new products every month making your previous camera obsolete. Zeiss takes a slightly more calculated approach to the subject and releases a new lens about once a year. Last year they produced two new lenses that simply replaced existing focal lengths with faster counterparts, the 35mm f/1.4 and the 25mm f/2.0. Both lenses were a welcome addition to an already impressive line-up of lenses. But a set of lenses is only as strong as it's weakest link. In this case, the 18mm f/3.5 was by far the slowest lens in the set, closely followed y the 21mm at f/2.8. Most of the other lenses in the set topped out at a respectable f/2.0 or faster. Additionally, 18mm was a wide as one could go which is pretty darn wide but with a large portion of shooters using APS-C and Super-35 sized sensors, everyone wanted something with a field of view larger than that of the 18mm and faster than f/3.5. Zeiss delivered.

The new 15mm f/2.8, or as the say, Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/15) fills that wide angle gap perfectly. It's reasonably fast at f/2.8 and produces a staggering 110º diagonal field of view on a 35mm full frame camera or about 75º on an APS-C/Super-35mm camera. That's pretty much the sweet spot when it comes to ultra-wide angle lenses if you ask me. Anything wider, while maintaining 35mm full frame coverage, is usually forced into slower aperture, much larger size and weight, and exhibits a lot more distortion. This 15mm from Zeiss should perform like a dream for most cinematographers. Here's a few specs for you number crunchers:

  • Focal length   ---------------   15mm
  • Aperture range   ------------   f/2.8-f/22
  • Elements/Groups ----------   15/12
  • Focus range   ---------------   9.84" - ∞
  • Free Working Distance ---    3.54" - ∞
  • Field of view (diagonal) ---  110º (35mm)
  • Image circle dia. -----------   43mm
  • Filter thread   --------------    95mm
  • Focus barrel rotation  -----    57º
  • Front housing dia.  --------   103mm (4.05")
  • Focus barrel dia.  ----------   80mm (3.14")
  • Length (with caps)  -------    4.45"
  • Weight  --------------------     1.6 lbs.

The numbers for this new lens from Zeiss are looking quite nice and I have no doubt that the lens will meet and surpass expectations of an ultra-wide angle, full frame lens. Richard Schleuning, the National Sales Manager of Zeiss visited us a few weeks back to give us a heads up and had a few images to share that he took while on vacation using the new 15mm f/2.8. His Flickr gallery can be seen here as a "Zeiss Mystery Lens". Obviously the lens has been in development for quite some time as these were taken on November 1st. Here are a few of his photos using the new 15mm.

[caption id="attachment_1498" align="aligncenter" width="640"] © Richard Schleuning[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1499" align="aligncenter" width="640"] © Richard Schleuning[/caption] [caption id="attachment_1500" align="aligncenter" width="640"] © Richard Schleuning[/caption]

There are plenty more photos from Richard on his Flickr gallery. Head over there to check them out. So obviously this brings a few questions. What's the price? Are you gonna Cine-Mod it? Where is the CP.2 version? Etc... The price is kind of a sore subject. Previously the 100mm f/2.0 macro, 21mm f/2.8, and the newer 35mm f/1.4 were the caps of the ZF/ ZE group at just under $2,000. But this new 15mm makes all of them seem cheap with a hefty price tag of approximately $3,000. That brings me to the next question... What about the CP.2? Zeiss has successfully transformed almost every ZE/ZF.2 lens into a cinema friendly and very capable CP.2 and the 15mm will likely be no exception. However, it's price tag will likely be exceptional if the past is any indication. Another draw back to the ZF/ZE 15mm is the very large front hood. The lens does utilize a front 95mm filter thread, unlike it's inevitable rival the Nikon 14-24mm which has a similar bulbous front element and intrusive, unremovable front flower. The fact that the Zeiss accepts a 95mm filter is great. It allows users to at least use a screw in filter. A matte-box is probably either out of the question or at least very difficult to maneuver. That said, with a field of view of 110º you would have to be using a rather large matte-box to ensure you don't clip the edges of a 35mm full frame image. A bellows of some sort is probably going to be the best solution for this lens. I would imagine that the CP.2 version will be slightly larger than it's uniform counterparts.

This is exactly the kind of approach I expect from Zeiss. Their ZF and ZE line of lenses as well as the CP.2 series are a home run for the century-old lens optics manufacturer. Their attention to the market and ability to react, plan, and execute in a timely manner always keeps me looking for the next big thing from Zeiss. With NAB right around the corner, I'm sure there will be more exciting news from Zeiss.


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