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SOOC Nikon 28-70mm AF vs. Zeiss 35mm manual focus lens

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Wasn’t it brilliant of Christopher to show up in his favorite T-shirt? Total surprise, he had no idea I went to college at Oregon. I seized the opportunity to use the bright colors of a fun shirt to do a side-by-side comparison.

The test shots surprised me.

Nikon D700, 35mm Zeiss lens, f4 @ 1/250, ISO 200

Nikon D700, 35mm Zeiss lens, f4 @ 1/250, ISO 200

 

Nikon D700, 28-70mm lens at 35mm, f4 @ 1/250, ISO 200

Nikon D700, 28-70mm lens at 35mm, f4 @ 1/250, ISO 200

Both images straight-out-of-the-camera (SOOC), no color correction or sharpening or enhancements. (The first image of Christopher holding up his running shoes was color corrected and run through my general filters.) Both acceptable, workable images, pulled back. The surprise? I totally expected the Zeiss prime to yield sharper results than the Nikon zoom, but a close-up crop of the eyes (where I was aiming my focus) clearly points to Nikon.
side-by-side

It’s harder to see side-by-side when the images get smaller on screen, so look again at Christopher’s eyebrows, the reflection of me in his sunglasses, and the line where his sunglasses meets the bright studio strobe, first in the Zeiss (where you can see my left hand turning the focus ring) and then in the Nikon (where my left hand is mostly needed to support the behemoth 28-70mm):

Zeiss 35mm

Zeiss 35mm

 

Nikon 28-70mm at 35mm

Nikon 28-70mm at 35mm

Aside from the chromatic aberrations, which Zeiss wins hands-down, I’m pretty sure hopeful? pointing out the possibility that what we’re seeing is operator error. For the last four years, the auto-focus Nikon has been my go-to lens, especially since I work so much with small children. When I picked up the Nikon to test on Christopher, I shot it using auto-focus. Perhaps I should have switched it over to manual focus for a more fair comparison; but then, I still think there’s something to say about results getting skewed based on the total number of hours I’ve spent working with each lens.

And there’s one more point that bothers me: 20+ years ago when I was shooting with manual focus lenses on film SLRs, the camera body had a split focusing screen. Remember those? My D700 has only a plain screen. I’m interested in a 35mm f/2 manual focus Zeiss precisely for those times when a D700 starts tripping all over itself to autofocus in low light.

Hmmm. A split focusing screen test might be next up in this summer Zeiss experiment.

P.S. I didn’t have the heart to tell him that sunglasses are counterproductive in Eugene! 🙂

3 comments
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  • christine - it’s definitely operator error, Kate; I was aiming to focus on his eyes with the Zeiss, but I missed. I’m leaning toward getting a split-screen, thinking that would help equal the playing field for another experiment. but what are the chances I might find another young man who happens to whip out a Pac-10 shirt from one of my three schools??? 🙂

    Ray, if I were a reader who didn’t know any better, I might wonder if you aren’t smitten with me, you of all people placing me in a category like that. 🙂ReplyCancel

  • Ray - I like you there in those counterproductive sunglasses. You’re the God of the machine.ReplyCancel

  • kate gardiner photography - I definitely think you should give the experiment another go. It looks like your focal points were actually in two different places. Look at the “o” on the temple piece of the glasses. On the Zeiss that was your main point of focus while on the nikon it was slightly behind that on his eyebrow.ReplyCancel

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