It remains to be seen whether the mounts are as durable as Leica's, of
course: Roger's 35mm f/1.4 Summilux stood up to a 6-foot drop onto granite
cobbles in Prague a decade ago, while a friend lost his 35mm f/1.4 in the bilges
of his boat for six months: he thought it had gone over the side and only found
it when he was overhauling the boat. Both lenses are still in use.
In Spain (especially in Daroca and Teruel in the ancient kingdom of Aragon)
we used all six lenses impartially on three cameras, the ZI itself, Roger's
Leica MP, and Frances' Voigtländer Bessa R2. They functioned perfectly
on all three. Now, what Frances is really, really hoping is that Zeiss will
take note of the fact that most of Roger's published 35mm pictures are
taken with Leicas and Leica lenses, and let her have a long-term loan of a ZI
and a 50mm lens. Then, the old Zeiss-Leica rivalry would be brought home to
us, literally and with a vengeance!
35mm f/2: Ruined castle, eastern Spain. The six ZM lenses and the
camera received exactly the same treatment as our usual cameras:
we made no attempt to baby them, though of course we took the same
care of them as we do of our own equipment. Getting up to this 11th
century castle in our 1972 Land Rover necessitated four-wheel drive
on the looser and steeper parts of the track.
The Rangefinder Difference
Few people other than collectors will buy all these lenses, and time and again
while we were testing them we were reminded of the huge difference between rangefinder
photography and the way that most people use SLRs. The vast majority of serious
rangefinder users choose two or three lenses, and shoot the greater part of
their work--normally well over half, and maybe as much as 90 percent--with
just one of those. Other lenses may be bought for specialist applications, but
will receive much less use.
This may seem extremely limiting to photographers brought up on zooms, but its
great advantage is that you soon acquire an almost instinctive feeling for the
area covered by your favorite lens(es) and you merely have to raise the camera
to your eye to put the frame around the picture: you are already at the right
distance. Many rangefinder users find that this creates an almost mystical rapport
between photographer and subject.
Furthermore, you can set the distance by feel (remember those focusing bumps)
as you raise the camera to your eye, and you can preset the aperture and shutter
speed to likely values, assuming you are not relying on automation. You can
work so quickly and so unobtrusively that you can indeed start to feel like
the legendary Cartier-Bresson, who commonly took a picture before anyone had
So much for common features: what about the individual lenses? All prices quoted,
incidentally, are list; discount policies among dealers do not yet seem to be
The 15mm f/2.8 Distagon ($3796, plus finder at $491, built-in shade) is big:
70mm (23/4") long by 81mm (31/4") in diameter with the lens cap
in place. This may not sound big to someone brought up on SLRs and zooms, but
by rangefinder standards it's a monster. The weight is variously given
as 370 gm/13 oz (lens instruction book), 500 gm/171/2 oz (Zeiss website), and
465 gm/161/2 oz (our kitchen scales). With 11 glasses in nine groups it has
an angular coverage of 110Þ, and it focuses down to just 0.3 meters.
15mm f/2.8 is big--but going from the f/4.5 of the Voigtländer
15mm to the f/2.8 of the Zeiss is like going from f/1.6 to f/1 with
a 50mm lens. As you would expect from Zeiss there is no compromise
on image quality despite the extra speed.
To our surprise, it isn't rangefinder coupled. Of course, it doesn't
need to be. Depth of field is so enormous that scale focusing is more than adequate.
Even at f/2.8, everything from 1 meter to infinity is in focus at the hyperfocal
distance, or everything from 2 meters to infinity with the lens set at infinity.
But from a marketing viewpoint, we couldn't help feeling that rangefinder
coupling might have made sense. With the 21mm f/2.8 Biogon ($1307, plus $491
for the viewfinder and $127 for the 21/25 shade), we are back in more familiar
realms. It's still 300 gm (101/2 oz) and 64mm deep, but the maximum diameter
is less than 50mm (2"). With nine glasses in seven groups it has a diagonal
coverage of 90Þ, and it focuses down to 0.5 meters (19").
The 25mm f/2.8 Biogon at $1152 (25/28 finder $491, 21/25 or 25/28 shade $127)
is, as its name suggests, similar in design to the 21mm f/2.8--nine glasses,
seven groups--and covers 82Þ diagonally. Again it focuses down to
0.5 meters (19"). It weighs 260 gm (91/6 oz) and is 60mm (21/3")
are three viewfinders: 15mm, 21mm, and 25/28mm, all at $491 each.
They are substantially made, compact, of uniform size, and appear
to be real metal. The eyepiece ring is missing on the 25/28mm but
this does not affect function. All have very slight pincushion distortion.
The 28mm f/2.8 ($1042, 25/28 finder $491 [not needed with ZI body], 25/28
shade $127) is a simpler version of the Biogon design (eight glasses, six groups)
and covers 75Þ diagonally; closest focus is as for the 21mm and 25mm.
It weighs a mere 220 gm (73/4 oz) and is just 51mm (2") long.
The 35mm f/2 (also $1042, 35/50 shade $127) is again a Biogon, but this time
nine glasses in six groups: a return to nine glasses for the speed, of course.
It covers 63Þ diagonally and focuses down to 0.7 meters (28"). At
240 gm (81/2 oz) and 54mm (just over 2") long, it is admirably compact.
(on the 28mm f/2.8) you can see the raised Zeiss blue dot for lens
alignment; the poisonous "wrong-way" finger grips (or
finger slips) on the lens cap; and the "bump" on the
focusing ring that makes focusing quick and easy, even by touch.
The 50mm f/2 ($824, 35/50 shade $127) is a Planar, six glasses in four groups,
covering 47Þ diagonally. Once again it focuses to 0.7 meters (28"):
about 1/12 life size. It is the lightest lens at 210 gm (under 71/2 oz) and
it is only 51mm (2") long.
aperture, focus, and other markings are clearly shown (here on the
28mm and 50mm lenses), as are the three claws for mounting the lens
hoods. The blue markings for feet and focal length on the chrome
lenses are easier to read than the red markings on the black lenses,
especially the focal length marking (to the left of the depth of
field scale), though the red markings are easier to read in real
life than in this picture. Note the infrared focusing marks, at
f/8 on both lenses.
Zeiss Ikon cameras and lenses are imported by Hasselblad USA. For more information,
contact Hasselblad USA Inc., 10 Madison Rd., Fairfield, NJ 07004; (973) 227-7320;