*January 18, 2006 – *Those following the Carl Zeiss hints since mid-December may be interested to know that Zeiss has finally revealed their "new perspective" for photographers to be a creation of 2 new lens lines: the ZF series compatible with Nikon SLRs, Sinar's Nikon-mount "m" system module, and the ZS series compatible to lesser extent with just about any 35mm SLR. The company also announced that Zeiss will distribute these lenses directly under their own brand, instead of through camera companies. Until early last year, Zeiss lenses for 35mm format cameras were available only in the Contax mount, and were sold through Contax.
Today Zeiss revealed two ZF lenses, a series of Zeiss Nikon F Mount lenses available for both film and digital Nikon cameras and compatible with Sinar m professional cameras and industrial video cameras. Zeiss has taken technology from their professional Zeiss Ultra Prime, Master Prime and DigiPrime motion picture camera lens lines to produce very precise manual focusing and fixed focal length capabilities for still photography in their ZF lens line. The first lenses released are the Planar T** f/ 1.4 50mm ZF and the Planar T** f/1.4 85mm ZF, both lenses previously available as Contax RTS versions and Nikon lenses. The company said more focal lengths will be announced at Photokina in September.
According to Dr. Sherel, Zeiss has also been working with Sinar to produce autofocus medium format lenses. The ZF will also fit the Sinar m camera system via its Nikon-mount module.
The Zeiss ZS lens series will have the same optics as the ZF's but will be built with the venerable M42 mount, which can accept adapters for just about any SLR. With adapters, M42 lenses can be attached to various cameras, but they typically don't offer aperture linkage or autofocus. The Zeiss press materials wisely predict only modest sales of ZS lenses.
Both Zeiss’s lens development program and distribution news should come as no surprise. Kyocera announced in early 2005 that it would stop making Contax cameras. Zeiss will also step into the void for manual focus lenses left by Nikon, which announced last week that, along with many film cameras, will stop manufacturing their manual focuses lens as part of its shift to digital photography.
The ZF series apparently offers a few key strengths. First, Zeiss optical performance. Zeiss lenses for medium format and 35mm have an excellent reputation. Of course, so do Nikon lenses. Second, excellent manual focus control. The new lenses' focusing mounts will turn further than Nikon lenses for the same focus change, so it will be easier to make fine adjustments while focusing manually. Third, a circular iris for better bokeh, or out-of-focus imaging. A circular iris makes the out-of-focus areas of an image less distracting.