The Selective Sonnar
ZM 85/2 Sonnar T* 85f2 2/85
ZM 85/2 Sonnar on a Rollei 35RF
Never really expect myself to get a range finder 85mm lens. Firstly 85mm is not my favourite focal length even on my SLR systems. Other than the few occasions I used the 85/1.4 Planar for wedding, I much prefer 135mm focal length, or the 100/2.8 Makro-Planar when I switch to Contax SLR system. But when you look at the MTF of the 85/2 Sonnar at f4, it is very tempting for me to get the lens as the 40 cycles/mm curve is the highest so far for Zeiss 85mm designs. I was given a very good offer and there it goes I have a ZM 85/2 with me.
The lens is sold with a leather pouch, like the made in Germany ZM 15/2.8 Distagon. The Sonnar is made in Germany. The same nice and well damped feeling of the focusing ring like the Distagon, more refine than the made in Japan ZMs. The aperture ring, however, is not as refine as the Distagon. But the Distagon has a much larger in diameter aperture ring, so not sure is that the reason for the different feeling. The Sonnar design is having 6 elements in 6 groups, with floating elements to ensure close up performance. When focusing, the front 5 element groups are moving with the last rear element being stationary. According to Zeiss a complicated non-linear range finder design is incorporated to ensure accurate focusing with this lens, and thus one of the reasons the high price of this lens. The ZM 85/2 Sonnar was returned to the drawing board once during its prototype testing and the present one in production I assumed is the updated design from the first prototype.
The rear focusing tap is different from the rest of the ZM lenses (the rests use circular ring).
The lens does not feel bulky and heavy for me. It is fairly big though, about the size of a 85/1.4 Planar. I use a Heliopan straight metal hood with the lens. The tele Heliopan hood does not look nice with the lens and so I use a standard hood instead.
The ZM 85/2 Sonnar with a filter and the Heliopan standard metal hood.
The MTF curves for this lens is very interesting. At f4 the 40 cycles/mm line is at 80%, the highest ever so far in Zeiss 85mm lens designs. I am surprised that the range finder design in this case is superior to the SLR design as I do not expect designer will face issues with mirror restriction even with SLR version of the 85mm. But maybe Zeiss purposely design it this way so that we have a good excuse to get the Sonnar instead of settle down with the cheaper SLR Planar. : D
MTF of the latest ZF 85/1.4 Planar T*.
A ZM Sonnar (left) next to a Contax Planar (right).
I have tried the ZM Sonnar on my Rollei 35RF with its 80mm frame lines. With the Heliopan hood the view finder blockage is minimal. Focusing seems possible. I am able to focus accurately to my satisfaction at f2.
Rollei 35RF - f2 1/60 ZM 85/2 Sonnar T* - UC100 - Metz 54MZ4 Bounced auto @ f2.8 - 12 May 2009
Rollei 35RF - f2 1/125 ZM 85/2 Sonnar T* - UC100 - 24 May 2009
Rollei 35RF - f4 1/60 ZM 85/2 Sonnar T* - UC100 - Metz 54MZ4 Bounced auto @ f5.6 - 12 May 2009
And as usual, Zeiss high speed lens renders beautifully at large aperture under low light condition. The photo below was taken at f2.8 and 1/125. I like the popping effect of my daughter and the nice bokeh in the background. Colour is rich and the contrast is smooth and not harsh, typical of Sonnar design.
Rollei 35RF - f2.8 1/125 ZM 85/2 Sonnar T* - UC100 - 16 May 2009
One thing I find out is that apparently range finder is quite fun even for action shot. As I am focusing with the range finder patch, I tend to press the shutter the moment the images are felt aligned and that speed up a lot not like SLR where I have to decide on focusing accuracy on a full matt screen. My son was playing basket ball and the photo was shot at f4 and 1/500. I am very happy with the sharpness and not to my original intention I captured the basket ball on the top right corner and his shadow at the bottom left corner.
Rollei 35RF - f4 1/500 ZM 85/2 Sonnar T* - UC100 - 16 May 2009
Well, I like the ZM 85/2 Sonnar. Usable on my Rollei 35RF at f2, nice character of the lens, it is comfortable to use for me despite the size and weight, no regret. Unfortunately for its price, this is probably not everyone's lens but then again there are plenty of choices out there to suit everybody's budget.
Bukit Timah Hill Singapore, 35RF, f2.8 1/250, VC 160, 5 Dec 2009.
Rollei 35RF - ZM 85/2 Sonnar T* - VC160 - 5 Dec 2009
35RF, f2.8 1/250, Portra 400, 15 April 2012.
A7R, f5.6 1/500, ISO 100, 16 May 2015.
Note: Zeiss seemed to stop production of this lens in the late first quarter of 2011. Zeiss did not officially announce this but the lens was not listed anymore in the Zeiss online shop. So future ZM tele lovers will have just one choice for the tele range the 85/4 Tele-Tessar.