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Zeiss 100mm Makro Planar

Incredible detail lens

The Zeiss 100mm Makro Planar is a remarkable lens and quite possibly the sharpest lens we own!  When we set out to create our “What’s in our wedding photography bag” we invested in this amazing lens to showcase our gear. We certainly have a lot of love for this lens. From the very durable build quality to the exceptional image quality, this lens leaves very little to be desired.

Zeiss claims on their website that this lens is the fastest performing macro lens @ f2 and we certainly haven’t tested a faster macro lens to falsify their claims.  The shallow depth of field of f2 combined with the telephoto compression of 100mm creates exceptionally shallow depth of field.  This combined with Zeiss’s amazing colors, contrast and 3D look can render images with a cinematic look and feel.

While the final images certainly impress, the lens does in fact come with a few major trade-offs that seriously limit its mass appeal.  First, like all Zeiss lenses in the ZE lineup it comes in manual focus only. Second, its very expensive at close to $1900 as of this writing.  However, if you need the absolute best for product or other print related genre there really is no substitute.

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The Devils in the Details

When used strictly as a macro lens for close up and detail oriented photography, the Zeiss 100mm Makro Planar performs better than our other macro lenses.  With its incredibly long and buttery manual focusing ring it can attain significantly more micro focus than our canon macros and is a real pleasure to use.  It also reproduces images with much better color rendition, sharpness and contrast.  However, it does have one drawback in that it delivers 1:2 ratio vs the 1:1 ratio found on most macro lenses.  This limits how close the lens can be to the subject due to minimum focusing distance.  That being said, the incredible clarity the lens allows some cropping with minimal quality lost.

Portraits & Other Uses

Not many photographers would invest in this lens for its portrait abilities alone.  However, it’s quite capable of creating remarkable portraits.  At its 100mm focal distance it fits perfectly into the portrait telephoto range and creates excellent background separation. While manual focus does feel different than shooting with autofocus the lens does offer fairly accurate autofocus assist illumination.

This is extremely helpful if using the viewfinder, as the center focus point will illuminate once focus is achieved. We actually find that in portrait sessions the manual focus is quite preferred. It requires us to slow down and really work on getting the perfect focus and composition. When there is time to create the best image possible we reach for this lens – and it produces.

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Manual Focus

This lens being manual focus only might scare off a lot off photographers. However, with a little practice its possible not only to achieve sharp images via manual focus, it also gives the photographer more control of their equipment. Zeiss put together this excellent video explaining how to get the best out of manual focus.

One of the Best

Plain and simple this is one of the best lenses we own or have ever shot with. Period.  With its last forever build quality and incredible image abilities, rarely do we leave it behind.  Zeiss has often been equated to the highest quality and this lens certainly feels like the Mercedes Benz of camera equipment. If you need the very best macro lens look no further.

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*Past Love: We no longer carry this lens in our bag. While the sharpness and colors on this lens are sublime the manual focus nature made us think twice about using it on wedding day. We still own it, but no longer use it on wedding days.

More Resources

Are you interested in learning more about this lens? There are lots of great useful resources all of the web to help us photographers achieve our photographic dreams! We have included some of the articles and resources that were helpful for us when researching our own gear purchase.

Zeiss Official – Tech Specs