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Old Nov 23, 2005, 1:49 AM   #1
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Are Carl Zeiss lenses mostly hype when it comes to compact cameras? All the cameras I see with Carl Zeiss lenses still have barel distortion, purple fringing, etc. So are they really any better than Fujinon, Nikon, Canon, or all the other all glass lenses out there?
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Old Nov 23, 2005, 9:40 AM   #2
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Carl Zeiss and Leica are two well-respected lens manufacturers. They have earned their reputations by making excellent lenses. Further, many of their relatively inexpensive lenses are superb. That doesn't mean that all of them are, of course. If you encounter a lens that has a lot of chromatic aberration, distortion, or lack of clarity at the edges, you've encountered a bad lens no matter whose name is on it. But I don't recall seeing a Zeiss lens that had anywhere near the level of these problems that, say, a comparable inexpensive Canon lens has. Canon can and does make very fine lenses -- they just don't make very fine inexpensive lenses.
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Old Nov 23, 2005, 11:48 AM   #3
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The Leica lens on the Panasonic FX9 is excellent. Good resolution and excellent edge sharpness with low purple fringing and barrel distortion reasonable for that size camera. The only lens on a small camera I would say is slightly better is the lens on the Fuji F10/11. But the FX9 lens is stabilized and the camera smaller.

At the end of the resolution tests, Simon at dpreview said this about the FX9:
"As you might expect the FX9's resolution is very good, thanks mainly to the excellent Leica-designed optic. The extra megapixel over the FX7 / FX8 gives you around 10% more resolution, which is to be expected. The results are fairly clean, though there is some moiré visible at the highest frequencies. For a point and shoot 6MP camera this is about as good as it gets."

The Leica optics on the 12X stabilized Panasonics are probably the best available as well on that class of camera.

I personally wish someone other than Panasonic had the exclusive with Leica. The FX9 is a pure point and shoot with no viewfinder and the large 12X zoom cameras really need an engineer who is also a photography enthusiast to design the control setup. But the lenses are excellent.

The Leica lenses on Panasonic cameras are almost certainly outsourced. But Leica designed them and evidently exerts some control over glass and quality to maintain their reputation. They are consistently excellent.


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Old Nov 23, 2005, 12:25 PM   #4
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So while some may make good high end lenses, they don't necissarily make low end lenses that ouperform their competition. I haven't seen any Carl Zeiss high end lenses in action yet, so I didn't mean to speak for those. I used dpreview to compare things like barrel distortion, corner softness, speed, and purple fringing of these lenses. Just for fun, I pulled up the Sony W7 (Carl Zeiss), Fujifilm F10 (Fujinon) , Casio Z750 and Canon SD500 (Canon). I think these are all considerations for the person who wants a compact high resolution camera. For now, I'm just looking at lenses, so noise, color, etc. are ignored.

Barrel distortion: All cameras had very similar results at the wide angle except the Fuji, which had half the barrel distortion of the others. However at full telephoto, the Carl Zeiss lens pulled through with no noticable distortion. The canon and Fuji were very close, and the casio had a little more Pincusioning.

Edge softness: From the test pics, I though the Fuji did the best, with the Canon a close second. The Sony and Casio both had a noticable amount of edge softness. (Wide Angle)

Purple Fringing: While still noticable on occassion, the Sony seemed to do the best in this area. The others each had an average amount for their class.

Speed: Each lens began wide angle at 2.8F, while at the 3x zoom, the Carl Zeis lens lost at 5.6F. The others each maintained 4.9-5.1F at full telephoto.

I took a quick look at the FX9 with the Lencia lens, and it seemed to do better than the Carl Zeiss, performing similar to the Fujinon, but with less purple fringing. However, vingetting was most noticable on this camera than the others.

So my conclusion, at least in the compact world, is you cannot judge a lens by it's name. Lencia did well, Carl Zeiss disappointed a little, and Fujinon did very well compared to the other manufacturers who made both their cameras and their lenses. None of them have any severe issues, and each one is a trade off in some way or another. My heart would go completely towards the Fujinon, though I wish it had less purple fringing.
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Old Nov 23, 2005, 1:16 PM   #5
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Mostly PR, like Sony's prosumers with those "Carl Zeisses"...

Here's example... provided by Sony itself.
http://www.sony.jp/products/Consumer.../f717_02-2.jpg
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Old Nov 24, 2005, 7:46 AM   #6
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I do not agree that it is "mostly PR"? While it is true that there are many quality lenses at least the equal or better than Carl Ziess products, it might be hard to find a really bad example? The Carl Ziess "T" lens ("T" indicates a coating) preforms very well and is a good lens for small digital cameras that typically do nt have a lens hood.
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Old Nov 25, 2005, 11:49 PM   #7
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Note that the lenses for small cameras that say Carl Zeiss and Leica are not usually made in the same factory as the larger lenses. In some cases they will be made by the camera manufacturer and not Zeiss or Leica.

I think you are wise to check out the reviews and also be sure to inspect the sample photos and draw your own conclusions.

The Canon S80 may be worth a look. They did a good job on reducing the purple fringing in that camera. I see soft corners at wide angle, but most of the other cameras you mentioned won't even get to the wide angle that the S80 has. At wide angle comparable to the other cameras it's better.
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Old Nov 26, 2005, 11:58 AM   #8
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The thing that is tricky in lenses is not the grinding. It is the design. Selecting the right optical properties for the various elements, and determining how many elements are needed, of what material, and with what geometry is the artistry of lens making. Who actually grinds the materials to the desired specifications is not nearly as important as who creates the specification in this day and age.
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Old Nov 26, 2005, 1:57 PM   #9
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tclune wrote:
Quote:
Who actually grinds the materials to the desired specifications is not nearly as important as who creates the specification in this day and age.
Wrong, it matters, and the more complicate lens design is the more work quality matters.

While for radiowaves chicken wire is enough for making reflector in optical wavelengths it's entirely different, required mirror precision is one hundred thousandth of millimeter and more, this applies to all optics.
Every (easily almost 20, much over that in long zooms) surface has to be made with that precision.
Keeping that high quality constantly requires lot of testing during manufacturing so it isn't same who does it. (paper numbers are different than reality)


And did you check that photo provided by Sony made with expensive prosumer camera having "Carl Zeiss" lens?
Those borders of highlights and shadows are really horrible.

And I can't imagine any way how that could be caused anything else like sensor because exactly same sensor (made by Sony) is used in Minolta Dimage 7-serie (with Minolta's own lens) and those don't have anything this kind visible.
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Old Nov 26, 2005, 2:32 PM   #10
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Reviewers like Imaging-Resource who look more at the technical aspects of the cameras they review have documented the benefits of high quality lenses on even smaller digital cameras. In many cases, a great lens can allow the smaller sensors to reach their resolution potential. Yes, the Zeiss (and Leica) lenses on digital cameras ARE better than cheaper optics.

Purple fringing is NOT a lens defect...it is a sensor defect so the lens makes no difference. Many people confuse 'Purple Fringing' (PF) with 'Chromatic Aberration' (CA) but they are different phenomena and look different. PF is universally 'purple' while CA has the red side of the spectrum on one side and the blue end of the spectrum on the other. The better lenses do NOT have CA but the quality of the lens has no effect on PF.

Look at the reviews for the new Sony R1 (and its Zeiss lens) and you will see that there is minimal distortion (Barrel distortion and/or pin cushioning). A good lens is never a waste of money.
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