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DOF: Canon f1.2 vs. Zeiss f1.4

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Danny Grizzle
DOF: Canon f1.2 vs. Zeiss f1.4
on Mar 30, 2010 at 7:40:23 am

NOTE: Apologies for inadvertently cross posting this in Canon forum also.
Intended only for DSLR forum, switcheroo'd during search on this topic.
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Canon 50mm f1.2 vs. Zeiss 50mm f1.4.

Canon 85mm f1.2 vs. Zeiss 85mm f1.4.

That is the question.

I'm liking the Zeiss, because they are purist primes - optimized for manual use, with long throw, precision focus.

There is no denying the Canon glass is sexy. And highly recommended.

I used to think 1.2 was a full stop faster than 1.4, but Wikipedia says only a half stop.

I'd appreciate comments by anyone with a working knowledge of these lenses.

FWIW - I just bought a Canon 90mm f2.8 T/S. That purchase was driven by stills application, but obviously the lens could be used for video as well. On one level, it is hard to justify another +$1K lens in my kit at 85mm, but the lure of superspeed primes is undeniable.

[Shooting with a 5D Mk II]



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Robbie Carman
Re: DOF: Canon f1.2 vs. Zeiss f1.4
on Mar 30, 2010 at 11:51:51 pm

Personally on the 50 I would go with the Zeiss. The 50 1.2 is hard to lens to use wide open (any lens that fast can be but the better dampening and longer throw on the Zeiss makes up for it). At 85 I would also favor the Zeiss for video but I love the look of the 85 Canon for still portraiture.



Robbie Carman
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Colorist and Author
Check out my new Books:
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Danny Grizzle
Re: DOF: Canon f1.2 vs. Zeiss f1.4
on Mar 31, 2010 at 3:56:03 pm

I love the Canon super speeds. But the Zeiss look to be the better choice for video, especially where the lenses might be used with a geared follow-focus system.

Truth be known, I don't really like auto focus, even for stills work. Especially with extremely fast primes being used wide open. This is simply a faulty design assumption. Auto focus, at best, is a convenience feature. It only results in better pictures in specific circumstances where spontaneity may be a factor. But this argument is mitigated by slow auto focus speed and shutter latency in most digital cameras.

On the other hand, the short throw focus rotation on auto-focus lenses, combined with poor optical view finders and depreciated manual focus aids (focus screens optimized for autofocus, not manual focus) -- I really believe all these new wiz-bang features actually diminish the capability of cameras for high-end critical users, even if they do add convenience for beginners and perhaps elevate average results.



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Lance Bachelder
Re: DOF: Canon f1.2 vs. Zeiss f1.4
on Mar 31, 2010 at 5:51:37 pm

We rented both the Canon and Zeiss primes on our last shoot - for motion work I'd go with Zeiss. Simple to use, smooth manual focus and a great look especially the bokeh. Not that the Canon primes were bad at all - just a pleasure to focus the Zeiss'.

We plan on buying the full set for our next feature film shoot.

Lance Bachelder
Southern California



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Danny Grizzle
Re: DOF: Canon f1.2 vs. Zeiss f1.4
on Apr 3, 2010 at 12:12:39 am

I'm reading the reviews on B&H A couple of curious things: 1) both the 50mm and the 85mm have high reviews, with exceptions. The exceptions uniformly take issue with image quality at large apertures -- the precise reason we're interested. Not too encouraging. 2) The Nikon variants look to be a physically different design than the Canon ZE. The Nikon mount versions look to have a larger front element because the lens barrel has a distinct enlargement in front of the focus ring.


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Paul Kim
Re: DOF: Canon f1.2 vs. Zeiss f1.4
on Apr 12, 2010 at 4:12:57 am

I own the Canon 50mm f1.2 L, and have used some of the other Zeiss but not the 50mm.

Part of the reason why I went with Canon is because I like to maintain the option to do some stills at a wider f-stop. If I only shot video, I might have purchased the Zeiss, which is cheaper. I can't testify directly, but most everyone I know who have used the Zeiss 50mm didn't like it below 5.6, some said 4.0. Depending on who I spoke to, some said it was not only soft, but quite unappealing in IQ.

The Canon isn't perfect at 1.2, either, at least my copy, but I don't know any lens that is (though some say Canon 85mm at 1.2 is razor sharp)--but still much better than the Zeiss wide open. I hear the focus ring on the 85mm is terrible for video, however, different than the 50mm.

But doing a lot of non-fiction, there are times when I really need low light performance, and having the option to use a 1.2 is a lifesaver. That's why I got it. I've even done an interview at 1.2, which isn't recommended, but it turned out great as the subject wasn't a mover.

Another thing to keep in mind is if you're using these lenses for a 7D or a 5D. DOF is different with both bodies due to the sensor size. If you have a 5D, you probably don't want to stop down lower than 4.0 very often, which means on a Zeiss you're starting to get to its optimal T-stops. But on a 7D, you often go down to a 2.0 or 2.8 or lower, and that's when the Zeiss starts to fall apart, and the Canon lenses shine.

So it all depends on what is important for you. Zeiss is sharper with contrast that most film people appreciate more in the right aperture range, with a much better focus ring. Canon is great on the other hand if you do occasional stills and if you're occasionally wanting to go wide open.



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Andrew Dutton
Re: DOF: Canon f1.2 vs. Zeiss f1.4
on Apr 30, 2010 at 9:34:41 pm

I haven't used it for video, but I own the ZE 50mm f1.4, and have used it for the last year.

Sharpness wide open isn't the best - but it's certainly not unusable. What it does much better than Canon at all apertures is even-ness in sharpness across the frame - Canons might have sharp centres but usually lose it a bit at the corners, whereas the Zeiss is much more even handed. Comparative shots are quite dramatic. Having said that, I've not used the Canon f1.2, but I've used every other Canon lens, prime or zoom, that covers this focal length.

Some complain about this lens being warm. I don't find that the case at all - especially compared with other lenses - I find it wonderfully neutral with impressive colour rendition.

I find the bokeh gorgeous most of the time - very occasionally frustrating though with certain subjects where the background becomes quite busy instead of smooth.

CA sometimes problematic in bright daylight.

Physically, it's smooth and pleasingly reassuring at all times.

On the whole I love this lens, but occasionally I feel betrayed by it where it's relatively minor flaws all come together to ruin a shot. I still wouldn't trade it for any of the available alternatives.

I think it's a harder decision at the 85mm length, and one I haven't yet made. I found flare a bit of an issue on the Zeiss when I tested it, and sharpness seemed fairly close to the Canon. Colour rendition was deeper and more neutral to my eyes on the Zeiss, but less so than on the 50mm. I also find the focus ring less comfortable to use on this lens.

Hope this info helps a little.


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