Review by Mark Degner
The Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/15 lens is a 15mm f/2.8 manual focus super wide-angle lens that’s available for Canon EF (ZE) and Nikon F (ZF.2) mounts. Although the two versions are identical in most of their specifications, there are a few slight differences based on the camera mount, but none of the differences should affect their overall performance and image quality. For this review, I had the ZF.2 Nikon mount version and tested it with a Nikon D800e. It has a 110° diagonal field of view on full-frame sized sensor digital cameras, which it’s designed for, but you can still use it with APS-C or DX cameras as well, giving it a focal length of approximately 23 mm (on a 1.5X crop sensor) with the equivalent angle of view of a 23mm lens.
Despite being a super wide-angle lens, the Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/15 is a large, impressive looking lens. Although it’s only 113 mm long (ZF.2), it has a diameter that is almost as large – 103 mm. It has an all-metal barrel with a permanently attached metal petal lens hood. It’s not a lightweight lens, weighting in between 730-820 g, depending on the camera mount. Although it’s a large, heavy lens, it actually handles very nicely, especially when balanced with a larger sized DSLR like the Nikon D800e. The quality of its construction is obvious and it should stand up well to the years of hard use that professional photographer may subject it to.
Optically the Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/15 lens has 15 lens elements in 12 groups, with two aspheric elements and five special glass elements, and all elements have the Ziess T* anti-reflective coating. These features, along with a floating element design, provide high-quality images from close focus though to infinity with virtually no distortion or chromatic aberration. It’s a relatively fast lens with a maximum aperture of f2.8. Although this creates a larger diameter lens, it has better light gathering abilities, which makes it easier to focus in dim light. Also, it has a very shallow depth-of-field that can be useful in blurring the background, helping to isolate the subject. In addition it has a nine-blade circular aperture that creates a pleasing circular appearance of out-of-focus background highlights. Because of its very large front element (95 mm) one expects it to be susceptible to lens flare when shooting towards the sun or other bright light sources. However, in my tests the lens handled flare extremely well – far better than I thought it would.
It has a large focus ring that makes manual focusing easy, and the focus was smooth. A really nice feature is that each version, Nikon and Canon, focus in the same direction as their own lenses do. The internal focusing system allows the lens to focus without changing its length and the front of the lens doesn’t rotate when focusing. This makes it much easier to use filters on the lens, although most photographers using this lens will probably not be using filters with it, since the filter size is 95mm. It has a minimum focusing distance of 25 cm, which adds versatility as it can be used to take creative wide-angle, close-up images.
Overall, the image quality of the Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/15 lens is excellent across its entire aperture range. Because of its design and the high-quality elements used in this lens, it has almost no chromatic aberration, great colour rendition, overall excellent contrast and only a very slight hint of barrel distortion that’s probably not noticeable with most subjects. Light falloff or vignetting is noticeable at f2.8 (one stop), but is completely gone by f5.6.
The Zeiss Distagon T* 2.8/15 lens is a professional quality lens. It has a rugged build and the overall image quality is excellent. Its only downside is its cost, $2,950, but for photographers who do a lot of landscape and/or architectural photography and want extremely high-quality images with little or no distortion, then it’s well worth the expense.