Zeiss Distagon T* 21mm f/2.8 ZF (ZE) (on Canon EOS) - Review / Lab Test
Lens Reviews - Canon EOS (Full Format)
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Review by Klaus Schroiff, published November 2009

Kindly provided for testing purposes by Markus Stamm!


Announced back at the Photokina 2008 Zeiss has finally released the Distagon T* 21mm f/2.8 ZE. The "E" in ZE refers to the dedicated EOS version of the lens which is also available in Pentax K-mount (thus ZK) and Nikon F-mount (ZF). It is a manual focus lens but otherwise it's fully compatible to EOS cameras including a camera-controlled aperture. Unfortunately we weren't able to get our hands on the ZE version so we had to use the ZF variant via adapter. However, there aren't any differences apart from the mount specific aspects so our conclusions will be fully valid for ZE lenses as well.

So what the fuzz about this lens ? The Distagon is actually not a newcomer but a lens with a history which dates back to the Contax C/Y era. The lens was one of the latest additions to the system (discontinued just after the Millennium). Soon after its release the news spread that this lens is something special - user comments and reviews suggested that it was the best mass production ultra-wide lens ever produced. Due to the rather mediocre alternatives in the EOS land some Canon users were even desperate enough to use it via adapters on their EOS cameras ... and to pay more for it over at ebay than its original MSRP. At the peak of this crazy hype it was almost more an investment rather than a purchase. Well, these times are over because Zeiss did finally listen and the lens is now available again for the three mentioned systems. The new Distagon is not 100% identical to the original design. According to Zeiss it has been modernized with respect to flare and environment-friendly glass and the optical design has also been altered slightly. This price has not changed though - at around 1500EUR/US$ it is still not exactly a cheap item.

The build quality of the full-metal Zeiss lens (brass with chromium-plated brass front bayonet) is superb. The fluted focus ring feels exceptionally well damped. The supplied lens hood is made of metal as well. Unfortunately the high build quality is not inherited to the lens front cap which feels quite fragile. Distagon lenses feature a rear-focus design (IF - inner focusing) so the front element does not rotate. The length of the lens remains constant regardless of the focus setting.

Optical construction16 elements in 13 groups
Number of aperture blades9
min. focus distance0.22 m (max. magnification ratio 1:5)
Dimensions87 x 110 mm
Weight620 g
Filter size82 mm (non-rotating)
Hoodpetal-shaped, snap-on, supplied
Other features-

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