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on July 1, 2010
I just bought one of these lenses a couple of weeks ago. I thought it would be a nice lens to add to my small collection of Canon L-series lens. I knew it would be a good lens, but I'm surprised at its high quality. I never imagined a lens could be so clear and produce such good colors. It's the best lens I now own.

When I first bought the Zeiss Distagon 21mm, I took a few shots near my home with my daughter (see the customer images) to try it out. I was impressed. However, a few days later we went on a short trip out-of-town for the day. I took my Canon 5D, II camera and only two lenses with me: the Zeiss 21mm and Canon EOS L 24-105mm f/4. I ended up shooting all of my photos with the Zeiss: I just got closer to my subjects instead of switching to the zoom lens. The pictures were awesome. When I loaded them on my computer and into Adobe Lightroom, they needed almost no adjustments. Mostly, I just added some fill light to some of the images. They were extremely clear and full of color on their own. There was no need for adjusting clarity, saturation, vibrance, or anything. Nothing beats taking great pictures in the camera. I thought my Canon 5D, II was spectacular before. Now, it's even better.

If you decide to buy this lens, and you have a Canon 5D, II camera, you should change your focusing screen to a Canon Eg-S Focusing Precision Screen since it's a manual focus only lens. It may sound complicated or scary to do, but it's easy once you've done it once. Just don't touch the screen. You'll get a finger print on it and never get it clean and only scratch it and ruin it when you try to clean it. Once you change the focusing screen, using the manual focus is much easier and not a problem at all. I was reluctant to buy this lens originally because it didn't have auto-focus. I've found that I don't need it after all.
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on March 24, 2013
This is it. The One. This is the magical "just right" wide angle lens that every serious 35mm landscape photographer *must* have in his or her kit. It's not so crazy wide that it reduces everything way down in the far horizon, capturing mostly massive sky and foreground, but wide enough that it surpasses the typical 24mm wide angle lens by quite a bit. But the real beauty with this lens lies in the gorgeous color rendition, edge to edge clarity, and lack of chromatic aberration or distortion. OK, there is some very slight distortion but it's not relevant unless you're shooting strict architectural shots and it's easily corrected in software.

There aren't enough superlatives to describe how this masterful Zeiss glass renders landscape images; you just have to use it to appreciate what it can do. There is no other lens in the world of DSLRs or Micro 4/3rds systems that can touch it. Of course the build is the famous Zeiss quality, dense and solid as a rock, with a well-dampened focusing ring that just oozes luxury. The manual focus is barely an issue at this focal length, and once you determine the hyperfocal distance, you can practically set it and forget it. (For instance, at f/8 the hyperfocal distance is 6 feet and everything 4 ft. to infinity will be in focus.)

Here are a few helpful tips and specs:

Wide open at f/2.8, there is significant light fall-off; if shooting wide open I would overexpose by 1/3 - 2/3 stop and then correct in post. However, f/4 is good and by f/5 there is no longer any vignetting. If shooting outdoors in good light there is no reason not to shoot at the lens' "sweet spot" of f/5.6 to f/8 where it's the sharpest even into the corners, and utilize either the hyperfocal distance or the beep/light focus confirm. Focus is not as crucial for a lens this wide so the focus confirmation is more useful than on a longer lens, being "good enough" for most shots, but in critical situations you can always do a quick check with Live View to see if you're spot on.

The minimum focusing distance of 9" is closer than any lens this wide and is practically a macro in that regard; the maximum reproduction ratio is 1:5 which is really quite amazing for a lens this wide and there is nothing else like it. At this minimum focusing distance, you actually get beautiful bokeh with this lens (check out the pic of the daisies that I uploaded in the image section).

This is a lens designed for full-frame cameras and using one is essential to get the full impact of what it is capable of. (On an APS-C camera it will give you a field of view similar to a 35mm lens on full frame.) The included petal hood is designed in such a way as to prevent shading; use of rounded aftermarket hoods will create a circular shadow around the edges of the frame. The hood must be attached properly or shading will occur; to do this simply align the white dot on the hood with the tiny black dot on the upper side of the lens, and turn to the left 30 degrees until it locks into place. It takes normal filters and the filter size is 82mm.

If you think you would like to try this lens out, you may want to rent it before taking the plunge--but beware, once you have tried it, you won't want to give it up!
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on January 3, 2010
I am using thie manual focus lens on a Canon full frame system. It will meter with the Canon SLR's without a problem and when the image is in focus, you can see (or hear) the focus confirmation. The lens exhibits amazing sharpness. I think this lens is particularly good for landscape photography. After putting this lens through it's paces, below is my list of pro's and cons:

Pros -
1 - Amazing sharpness across the aperture range and from edge to edge.
2 - No noticeable flare
3 - Amazing construction (puts my Canon L's behind) and fun to use manually.

Cons -
1 - This lens shows heavy vignetting at f/2.8...sometimes, I actually REALLY like the look but sometimes it makes the image not look quite right. I think for the typical situation, I may actually overexpose f/2.8 images by a 1/2 to 2/3 of a stop to compensate for the vignetting which seems to cover about 2/3rd of the image. This light falloff is mostly gone f/4 and completely gone by f/5.6.
2 - There is a "mustache distortion" on this lens.

I am definitely happy to have this tool in my kit. Highly recommend!
77 comments| 19 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
on January 2, 2010
Every now and then a product comes along that eclipses everything else in its class ... such is the Zeiss 21mm Distagon f/2.8. This lens is sharp to the corners wide open where other super wide angle lenses are mush. The color correction of this lens is extraordinary ... virtually no fringing nor ghosts ... even at the edges of the field. Of note to astroimagers ... this lens has an infinity stop ... no fumbling for focus in the dark. It is a solid lens ... all metal construction. It has a nine blade diaphram that makes beautiful out-of-focus detail ... in short ... this is a superlative product worth every penny of the price. Highly recommended.
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on May 19, 2010
I purchased this lens to use with my 5D MkII, although I really wanted a wide angle zoom. I decided to try it, and after getting it in the mail, I took it to my local camera shop and did a test against the 16-35 L (Mk II) and I could hardly believe the difference. Keep in mind that the 16-35 II is supposed to be superior to the 16-35 I and the 17-40. For my tests, I shot two different scenes, one in sun and one in shade, at various apertures, and evaluated the results on my laptop (laptops are not great for images but it worked fine for this comparison). In every case, the Zeiss images were MUCH sharper and had MUCH better contrast, both in the center and at the edges. In one case some river stones, which were near the edge of the frame, look like blurry brown shapes with the Canon, and they looked sharp and contrasty with the Zeiss. Even the salesman was very, vary surprised at the difference (he went around telling the other salesmen about it). I love my other Canon lenses (especially the 400/5.6L), but in the wide angle department Canon does not measure up. If you are set on a wide angle zoom, you can buy an adapter for the Nikon 14-24, which is said to be a great lens as well. But don't waste your money on the Canon. BTW, the lack of autofocus on the Zeiss is not a big deal. In fact, I have been using LiveView to focus manually and the sharpness I can achieve is much better than I get with autofocus using my 24-105L or 400L. As long as your subject stays put for a few seconds, manual focus is the way to go.
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on October 29, 2012
I bought this lens being a landscape photographer and knowing about the reputation of Cal Zeiss lenses.

This lens absolutely rocks in picture clarity and contrast.The service of the seller is impeccable. I got this lens this morning just before hurricane Sandy made land fall.

observations; It's heavy according to the shipping weight registered by Fedex at about 3 lbs. upon initial looking at the lens, it was made VERY well. the entire tube of the lens turns for the focus. ***This is a manual focus lens just so you know*** the focus ring is precision and no play in the focus ring which helps make all focusing precise. The largest aperture is a fast f/2.8 as the name states. The lens is all metal, no rubber or plastic and the focus function again is precise. the hood for the lens is small and looks to be easily destroyed if not taken care of. this put my old Canon 17-40mm L series to shame without question

a test shot: [...]

this is a well made lens and worth the money for the serious photographer

Samy's Camera has great service and delivery was without ANY problems. Thanks Samy's!!!
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on May 9, 2016
if you can live with the odd shape, 82mm filter, and need a wide angle (FF) lens, get this. Manual focus at 21mm is easy, since you can spit past the hyperfocal distance.

fair amount of distortion, but haven't noticed any "moustache" variety. easily fixed in post.

zeiss colors/contrast. 'nuff said.
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on May 17, 2013
Used in a long featured film with a canon 5d mk3 and works fantastic¡¡ something I really like is that the infinite focus is at the end of the focus wheel, clear and crisp images, I will buy the others of the series¡¡ it is like a tank¡¡ works great¡¡¡ does not distort to much at the edges, in the center and around it is almost perfect¡
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on October 4, 2010
The first thing you notice when picking up the Zeiss 21mm f2.8 distagon is the amazing construction. This thing is built so much better than even the spectacular lenses in the Canon L lineup. You can just feel the quality in the construction and weight of the lens. It feels like it's twice as heavy as my Canon 24-105mm L. Even the hood feels like it's a step above the cheap plastic hoods that Canon makes for it's lenses. The manual focus ring is so amazingly smooth and almost stiff to the point where you can really be precise with your focusing.

As far as image quality, I can't say enough. As with many other Zeiss lenses, the color and contrast this lens produces is just out of this world. I loved the color I got out of a lot of my L lenses, but as soon as I got a hold of this Zeiss, I was blown away. It produces an almost 3D effect in images and really brings out colors that you might have not noticed otherwise. It really shines in outdoor photography... it's almost like this lens has a built in polarizer. Grasses are greener and skies are bluer than you get with other lenses. And it handles flare better than any lens I have used in the past. Distortion is present and visible on horizontal lines though, so it probably isn't the best lens for architectural shots.

As with all Zeiss lenses, this one is manual focus only. That is a big downside for most people, but ultimately, if that's what it takes for Zeiss to produce lenses of this quality, so be it. IMO, it's actually kind of fun being forced to manually focus everything... it really gets you more involved in your photos, and it really wasn't as hard as I thought it would be either. I just wouldn't rely on this lens for action-type shots. I actually find myself setting the focus to infinity and using the camera like a point and shoot very often. Even though it's constructed very well, it is also heavy and that might be a negative consideration for some people as well.

This is a lens I really would suggest renting at some point before buying. If you can deal with the manual focus necessity, it's a spectacular wide angle for full frames and actually was fun to shoot as a standard prime on my 7D. 21mm is a very versatile focal length and this lens produces some of the most beautiful images I have seen.

Pros: Beautiful color and contrast, Sharp, Quality construction, Amazing flare control
Cons: Expensive, Some distortion, Manual focus only, Heavy
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on January 23, 2014
This is a premium piece of glass. I'm not really sure what adjectives to use in order to emphasize how amazing this lens is. This is one of the best lenses that you will ever own.

Construction:

It's a top quality, all metal construction with a truly elegant design. The design is different from L lenses, yet it looks and feels like superior quality in comparison. It is matte black with a smooth focusing ring. The front element does not rotate when you focus the lens and the glass does not protrude in a way that would prevent the use of a filter. The petal shaped lens hood is made from metal as well.

Pros (All of this is based field experience. I did not conduct any tests on this lens):

1) Very useful wide angle focal length. It's wide enough to be really dramatic without the perspective being too distorted.
2) Sharpness, Micro-contrast and Color are exceptional. It is sharp in the edges as well. No other lens, except perhaps a tilt shift, can come close to that degree of sharpness. The image rendition is uniquely consistent with other Zeiss lenses.
3) I did not observe any CAs, even in high contrast situations
4) I personally had no issue with flare, even when shooting with the sun in the frame.
5) Very low distortion. You may be able to notice some mustache distortion on horizontal lines in particular, but for the most part there is practically no distortion. I shot images with multiple line converging all over the frame and everything appeared straight. Correction can be done in Lightroom, but most circumstance won't require it.
6) You can get really close to your subject. MFD is around 9" so it can function almost like a macro lens.
7) It is versatile: use it for landscape, street photography, architecture, astrophotography, and even creative portraits
8) with an aperture of 2.8 it is reasonably fast for a wide angle lens and wide open it is already very sharp
9) beatiful bokeh
10) Very easy to manually focus because at this focal length the depth of field is very large. Additionally, you will have focus confirmation to assist you. My advice it test the focus confirmation and micro-adjust for best results. I doubt that you will need to replace our focusing screen to use this lens effectively.

Cons:
1)Some mustache distortion
2) Vignetting wide open (gone when stopped down)
3) It is a bit heavy, but marginally more than say Canon 17-40 L
4) large filter thread = expensive filters
5) Price

If you need/want a wide angle lens and are willing to pay the price, you will likely never part with the Zeiss 21mm Distagon.
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