Zeiss has a name synonymous with quality in the world of motion picture optics. Their ZF.2 and ZE lenses are no exception. While they can be a bit pricey when compared to still photography prime lenses, but they are considerably lower priced than many true cinema lenses. So what makes the ZF.2 and ZE lenses such a great option for cinematographers and what are the different options for both the ZF.2 and ZE primes?
The Zeiss ZF.2 and ZE lenses are built using robust, reliable materials such as aluminum, steel, brass, and other alloys. This provides a more accurate, consistent operation compared to the loose plastic build of auto focus photography lenses. The focus mechanism of the Zeiss ZF.2 and ZE primes is a helix based system that uses exotic lubrication to provide a smooth, viscous movement similar to that found in popular cinema lenses. The lack of an auto focus motor or feature means that these lenses can concentrate on accuracy and consistency rather than auto focus motor speed or quietness. The all manual operation of the ZF.2 and ZE primes is professional and robust enough for the most demanding motion picture projects.
While modern auto focus lenses are becoming faster, quieter, and easier to operate, the Zeiss ZF.2 and ZE primes stick to the basics that have worked so well for decades. The ZF.2 primes feature a metric and imperial focus scale with clearly engraved distance marks as well as a convenient depth of field scale at the rear of the lens. The ZE primes feature a very nice Canon EF mount with integrated aperture control functionality but lack a manual aperture ring. The ZF.2 primes utilize a Nikon F mount and a fully manual aperture ring. For this reason, most users prefer the ZF.2 primes with the Nikon mount which can be converted to Canon EF mount by Duclos Lenses.
The Zeiss ZF.2 primes were the catalyst or the Duclos Lenses Cine-Mod™. Originally designed specifically for the Zeiss ZF.2 primes, the Duclos Lenses Cine-Mod makes the ZF.2 primes a very capable options for a wide range of motion picture projects. The ZF.2 lenses which feature the Nikon F mount and manual aperture ring benefit from the addition of a 32-pitch focus gear, 80mm front ring with 77mm filter threads, and a de-clicked damped aperture movement. The Cine-Mod™ can also be applied to the Zeiss ZE primes with the exception of the aperture de-clicking which cannot be done since the ZE primes lack a manual aperture ring.
Another benefit of the Zeiss ZF.2 primes, not so much with the ZE primes, is their ability to function on a wide range of cameras including Red, Sony, Panasonic, Canon, Nikon, Blackmagic and many more. The factory Nikon mount flange can be use in conjunction with many cameras using a Nikon mount adapter including the best-selling Leitax Canon EF conversion that allows the ZF.2 primes to be converted reliably to Canon EF mount. Another clear benefit of the ZF.2 and ZE primes is the image circle rendered - a 35mm Full Frame (24x36mm) image circle that will cover just about any digital sensor currently available. The generous image circle provided by the ZF.2 and ZE primes makes these lenses practically future proof in terms of sensor coverage.