First Impressions of the Carl Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50/1.5 ZM

I found a used-but-mint-condition Zeiss C Sonnar 50/1.5 ZM at Matsuiyastore, and I couldn’t resist picking up for a pretty good price (especially because it came with a hood). This was my first time dealing with Matsuiyastore, and let me tell you, I was nothing but impressed with their customer service and shipping. Cost to ship the lens from Japan was only 30.00, and I got it in three days, hand-delivered by a private USPS courier (he was even wearing tie). Amazing.

So about the lens…. Color me impressed. It’s a Zeiss, so of course it’s going to be at least “good”. However, I was impressed by just how good this lens really is. For starters, it’s sharp. Brutally sharp. Like, cut-yourself-on-the-negative sharp. Yes, “negative”. Film. Look it up. Use it.

I shot a test roll while walking around the Blue Star art complex. Be sure to view these at full size so you can see better. Had to get this one for Chris:

©Darren Abate. Carl Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50/1.5 ZM

And a shot from the horse mechanic:

The Infirmed ©Darren Abate. Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50/1.5 ZM
The Infirmed ©Darren Abate. Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50/1.5 ZM

You can’t really see much in the way of true detail at web resolution, but trust me when I say that this lens is effin’ sharp. I have yet to test its anti-flare characteristics though. I’m betting that I’m going to be pleased with the results.

Brick Art ©Darren Abate. Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50/1.5 ZM
Brick Art ©Darren Abate. Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50/1.5 Z
The build quality is on par with the best, i.e. Leica. Fit and finish is superb, and lens mounts to camera smooth as silk, as does the hood to the lens. Even the caps supplied with the lens were impressive.
Blue Star No. ©Darren Abate. Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50/1.5 ZM
Blue Star No. ©Darren Abate. Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50/1.5 ZM
Venda's Shelf ©Darren Abate. Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50/1.5 ZM
Venda’s Shelf ©Darren Abate. Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50/1.5 ZM
Ed is Leaving ©Darren Abate. Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50/1.5 ZM; Zeiss Ikon RF
Ed is Leaving ©Darren Abate. Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50/1.5 ZM; Zeiss Ikon RF
It really is a beautiful piece of glass. Comparing the quality to the price, I wouldn’t be surprised if Leica loses more than a few new lens sales to the new Zeiss ZM’s.
All photos made with a Zeiss Ikon rangefinder except for the bookshelf shots, which was made with an Epson R-D1 digital rangefinder.
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~ by peakaction on June 27, 2008.

2 Responses to “First Impressions of the Carl Zeiss C Sonnar T* 50/1.5 ZM”

  1. I think landscape shots would give you a better examination of detail. You don’t mention anything about the well documented focus problem with this camera. What have you noticed regarding the focus problem?

    • It isn’t a focus “problem” per se. The issue is that some lenses are optimized for shooting at apertures f/2.8 and smaller, and some lenses are optimized for shooting wide open at f/1.5. The lens can be “re-optimized” simply by having a technician remount the rear flange by 1/3 turn. There are dots on the back of the lens that mark the segments.

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