One of the new products announced by Zeiss at Photokina was a new lens for the ZM series (Leica M-mount). The Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 is a great addition for rangefinder users who want a high quality 35mm lens but also a less expensive alternative to the 35mm f/1.4 Summilux by Leica. The new 35mm offers a faster aperture of f/1.4 in comparison to the other two Biogon 35mm f/2 and 35mm f/2.8 ZM lenses already in existence. Zeiss was kind enough to let me try the lens on a Leica M240. The new Distagon ZM is optimised for digital sensors. The shortest focus distance is 0.7m and it has a M49 x0.75 filter mount. It features Zeiss T* anti-reflective coating to minimise flares, and the iris is made of 10 blades to be more circular and deliver nice bokeh rendering. The aperture can also be changed in 1/3 steps. As could only be expected from Zeiss, the construction of the lens is excellent and you get a wonderful feeling when using the lens: the focus ring is mechanically precise, smooth and easy to use with a large rotation angle. The lens is made of a robust all-metal finish and is sightly heavier and longer than the Leica Summilux 35mm ASPH. It will be available in black and silver at the end of 2014.
Below you can see various image samples taken with the Leica M Type 240. I really love the rendering of this lens and the pleasant bokeh it can produce at 1.4. The lens doesn’t seem to be razor sharp at f1.4 but instead produces some sort of very delicate rendering which seems very pleasing to me. Keep in mind that the lens I tested was a pre-production model, that I am not used to rangefinder focusing and that the pictures below are OOC JPGs. Barring these three points, it looks to me that M users may have a terrific alternative to the Summilux.
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The MirrorLessons team will be attending this year’s Photokina, where the products mentioned in this article will be on display to touch and try. To stay updated on our latest hands-on review articles, be sure to keep an eye on our Live Blogging page and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ and Instagram!