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Impressions of the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Biogon ZM lens
Old 01-15-2013   #1
russelljtdyer
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Impressions of the Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Biogon ZM lens

I've decided that I have to have a Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Biogon T* ZM lens. When I had a Canon 5DII slr camera, I owned a Zeiss 21mm EF lens. It was spectacular, but monstrously big and heavy. I own a Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon ZM lens, which is the main lens that I use--for some trips it's the only lens I take with me or use. But I miss the 90-degree, wide angle of that old Zeiss 21mm ZE lens, which I sold. The Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 ZM has a 90-degree angle, too. Now that I'm going all m-mount, I'm thinking I should get one.

I know it's silly and torturing myself, but I would love to see photos that anyone here has taken with this lens, especially in combination with the Zeiss Ikon, the Leica CL, or the Leica M9 camera. So please post some of your best shots to this thread and tell me which camera and film you used, if not a digital camera, and maybe the exposure settings. I'd like to see how it handles and would appreciate hearing your impressions about the combinations of it with one of the three cameras I just mentioned. I want get myself into a frenzied lust for the lens so that I'll push myself to find the money to buy it, along with the Leica M9 I plan to buy soon.

I'd also like to know if you use an external viewfinder. I just ordered one a few days ago from Stephen Gandy at CameraQuest. I ordered the Voigtlander 21mm/25mm viewfinder II, the metal one. How does that work, switching between the camera's viewfinder and an external one? Does that flow smoothly for you? Do you sometimes miss shots by having to do that, or do you get better shots by slowing down for the external viewfinder? I'd like to see and hear your impressions of all of these elements.

Thanks in advance.

-Russell
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Old 01-15-2013   #2
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Personally, I really like shooting with an external finder. The Zeiss ones are extraordinarily good, and the CV's are a great value.

For a 21mm lens, I've owned both the ZM 21/4.5 and the ZM 21/2.8. Both lenses are leading-edge in technical terms, but to be blunt the 4.5 lens is to my eye one of those lenses that is special. Just amazingly good. And tiny, and a good value.

That said, Zeiss specifically warns that the 4.5 is not recommended for the M9 due to vignetting and color shifts in the corners.

But for film I have no doubt that if I were to get another M-mount 21, it would be the 4.5 Biogon. For film and digital? I'd absolutely have to consider the new CV 21 Ultron.
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Old 01-15-2013   #3
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Love the 21 4.5. So straight. Lovely light it transmits. Very sharp. Wonderful with black and white film. I have coped quite happily with it in colour on the M9, coding it as a pre-asph 28 2.8. Some minor fringing in some shots. I haven't bothered to learn Corner Fix. I might one day get the 2.8. It's not too big. There are some great 21 threads here on RFF.
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Old 01-15-2013   #4
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I've owned two Zeiss 21mm f2.8 lenses - I sold the first one then missed it so much I bought another.

The f2.8 version is no bigger than my 50mm summilux pre-ASPH and, if memory serves, about the same size as the 35mm Biogon. Now, the only reason I opted for the 2.8 is for that extra speed in low light as I do shoot the occasional wedding on film still (I personally prefer it but hey, that's me, I'm weird like that ). The new CV that's all the rage (21mm f1.8) is probably about the same price but it's bigger and while I'm sure it's an awesome lens, I don't know if I want another "large" lens in my kit. I've tried to do that with the CV 50mm f1.1 and wasn't happy with it and yet I was perfectly happy with the CV 35mm f1.2 - go figure.

I currently don't have a digital full frame upon which to mount the lens but I have used it extensively on film. I'll hunt for a shot or two and post for you.

Cheers,
Dave
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Old 01-15-2013   #5
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My experience with ZM 21/2.8. Happy, and no complaints ........

http://www.fuwen.net/index.php?optio...=80&Itemid=142
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Old 03-24-2016   #6
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Hello,

just found this old thread while searching for some input about this lens. I'm currently thinking about getting one and replacing my 28mm lenses. Did the OP finally bought the lens, and what does he think?

I was surprised, that the thread died so fast after only a few posts. Does nobody here use the lens? Or is it just perfect and there is nothing to complain about (thus, nothing to post...)

Please post, what do you think specifically about this lens? Just perfect? Any Quirks? Total crap...? What's good, what's not so good? Pictures are also welcome.

I intend to use it on the Zeiss Ikon ZM and Leica M240 with external VF, probably the Voigtländer for landscape and close street photography.

Thank you in advance.
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Old 03-24-2016   #7
Tom A
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[IMG]F334 ZM 21f2.8 #6 by T&T and Mr B Abrahamsson, on Flickr[/IMG]

The ZM Biogon 21mm 2.8 is very good. Sharp with good contrast. It does have a bit of edge distortion but no more than the Leica 21f2.8 Asph - and much less than the Summilux 21f1.4. I tend to prefer the C Biogon 21f4.5 - but when the lights dim, out comes the Biogon 21mm f2.8.
Not a small lens, but not unmanageable either.
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Old 03-24-2016   #8
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I found my copy to be overly contrasty and very saturated compared to my other lenses (two Leicas and two CVs), on the other hand it was very sharp too. I know have the CV 21 f4 and actually prefer it, both in size and performance.
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Old 03-25-2016   #9
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Thank you for the replies so far. Strong contrast and saturation are things, that I really like on lenses. I am, as opposed to the majority here, a color-only shooter, so that counts as a plus. It seems, that the 21/f4 also has many friends.

How did you like the handling of the lens? Too heavy? Good focus/aperture handling?
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Old 03-25-2016   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tom A View Post
The ZM Biogon 21mm 2.8 is very good. Sharp with good contrast. It does have a bit of edge distortion but no more than the Leica 21f2.8 Asph - and much less than the Summilux 21f1.4.
I was also thinking about the Leica-options, but lately I discovered my love for the Zeiss, the rendering and colors, so much, that I started to sell my Leica lenses and replace them with Zeiss glass. Probably the 35 Summilux ASPH. FLE will be the only Leica lens, that I keep, since besides its size and weight it is IMHO the perfect lens. The 21mm Zeiss will be its wider companion, because 28mm is a little bit too close to 35mm, I think.
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Old 03-25-2016   #11
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It's a dash long as rangefinder lenses go, only a bit. Other than that it is as any other.
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Old 03-25-2016   #12
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I have been using a 21 2.8 ZM for many years from film, M8, M9, Fuji XE1 and now Sony A7R. Its a good lens, not so great on the Fuji and Sony, but stopped down to f11 its acceptable but with color shift. Still I like the lens a lot so I will hang on to it.
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Old 03-25-2016   #13
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I'll thread jack and tell you to skip both the M9 and the 2.8 in favor of a Monochrom and a 4.5. You won't be sorry. The 4.5 is not just special, as some people have said. For monochrome work, it is pretty much the sharpest and least distorted thing there is. And if you can shoot up to 10,000 (25K plus with the typ 246), then 1.5 stops difference won't bother you at all.

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Old 03-26-2016   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dante_Stella View Post
I'll thread jack and tell you to skip both the M9 and the 2.8 in favor of a Monochrom and a 4.5. You won't be sorry. The 4.5 is not just special, as some people have said. For monochrome work, it is pretty much the sharpest and least distorted thing there is. And if you can shoot up to 10,000 (25K plus with the typ 246), then 1.5 stops difference won't bother you at all.
Not sure, to what you are referring, but: the OP is over three years old, and the decision about the camera is probably long done (for several times...). If you are referring to my reanimation of the thread, then the monochrom is not an option. As I said, I'm a color-only shooter, the number of BW-film I shot and BW-converted digital images are probably both single digit numbers...

Currently I tend to get the 21/f2.8, even if bigger and heavier. What seems strange to me though, is that so few people here can provide pictures made with it. Maybe that focal length is not so easy to handle or not so inspiring to people? I'm curious to see, how it will change my close street shots compared to 28mm.
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Old 03-26-2016   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by krötenblender View Post
Not sure, to what you are referring, but: the OP is over three years old, and the decision about the camera is probably long done (for several times...). If you are referring to my reanimation of the thread, then the monochrom is not an option. As I said, I'm a color-only shooter, the number of BW-film I shot and BW-converted digital images are probably both single digit numbers...

Currently I tend to get the 21/f2.8, even if bigger and heavier. What seems strange to me though, is that so few people here can provide pictures made with it. Maybe that focal length is not so easy to handle or not so inspiring to people? I'm curious to see, how it will change my close street shots compared to 28mm.
21mm is actually a very tough length to use because you really have to be on top of someone to get the shot. Like this tough character (this is the 4.5). You can use the lens with color. Instructions here.

I don't know why the 2.8 is not as popular. It was a little late to the party in terms of when it was released.

Dante

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Old 03-26-2016   #16
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21mm is a challenging FL to work with from a technical/framing standpoint in the first place, and sadly the compact ZM 4,5/21 just isn't suited to anything but a limited role for monochrome digital and film. The cost of updating the superb optical formula is not worth Zeiss' effort. The CV 4/21 is likely a better all-arounder provided you luck out on a good copy, but as good as the ZM 2,8/21 and others are, they all pale by comparison to the Leica 21 SEM--modestly priced by Leica standards.

Why isn't the ZM 2,8/21 as popular?
My guess is the weight & size, greater demands for precise focus WO, then framing on the optical VF or piss-poor 1st gen EVF of the M240/262/246. Personally, I'd rather have a lighter and better-corrected, slower optic on an M, shooting the 21 at hyperfocal ƒ-stops and framing accordingly. I leave it to the AF SLR's for precision focus at faster ƒ-stops for wides. I'm with Dante; I shifted to an MM after a realization that most of my color images were converted over to B&W--we all "see" differently, I guess. The MM v.1 is great to ISO 6400, very usable at 10,000 so a slower 21 isn't a hindrance.
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B&w...
Old 03-26-2016   #17
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B&w...

There are some apps for correction color aberrations wide angles make with the M9 that you can download from net. They're not fun but they do exist. The M9 shoots black an white too. Go for smaller, slower, and NO distortion! You won't be sorry!

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Old 03-26-2016   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dante_Stella View Post
21mm is actually a very tough length to use because you really have to be on top of someone to get the shot.
Nice shot, very engaging, emphasizes both, character and environment.

My use-case will be more very crowded places (think rush-hour in Tokyo), where 28mm sometimes did not provide enough context. I used the CV 12mm sometimes, but did not really like its character with people.

But with the 12mm I really learned how to correct color shift - and sometimes just live with it... So I'm not very concerned about the Zeiss 21mm.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dante_Stella View Post
I don't know why the 2.8 is not as popular. It was a little late to the party in terms of when it was released.
Well, yes, probably it's just that. Sometimes one wonders, why great things are no success and the only reason may be bad timing.
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Old 03-26-2016   #19
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dektol Dan View Post
There are some apps for correction color aberrations wide angles make with the M9 that you can download from net. They're not fun but they do exist.[/IMG]
I. DO. NOT. HAVE. A. M9!

(not since 3 years anymore, to be precise)

Most times, anyway, the profiles in the M240 work pretty well with non-Leica-lenses. The reason, why I'm leaning towards the f2.8 is the possibility to emphasize a subject in the crowd, which is easier at 2.8 than at 4.5. Focusing, of course, is also much harder, but I guess I will just have to throw away a few more shots.... For landscape, which I also will use the lens for, 4.5 would be fine, if it is bright enough.
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Old 03-26-2016   #20
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I can't tell you about the Zeiss 21mm, I can comment on the use of a 21mm in general. I have a Voigtlander 21/4. That 1 stop doesn't make a huge difference in DOF - brings the hyperfocal forward by a meter.

To put it another way, the DOF of a 21/2.8 is about the same as the DOF of a 28/4.

So in reality separation within a crowd would be essentially impossible - unless the person was the nearest thing to the lens. And in that case you can use a slower lens by focusing even closer and using the DOF to cover your subject - i.e. focus at 1m for a 2m subject.

According to my DOF calculator, if you are focusing at 4m, everything between 2.5m and 20m will be in acceptable focus. Your only real hope would be to focus the 21/2.8 around 2.5m for your 4m subject (far limit about 5m) while with my 21/4 I'd have to focus 1/2m closer for a near focus of apx 1.3m for me and 1.6m for you - in other words basically nothing.

And in a nutshell that is why the 21/2.8 isn't that common - it doesn't add a whole lot of function for considerably increased complexity, size, weight and cost.
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Old 03-26-2016   #21
Richard G
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hteasley had some lovely shots in the Gallery. Can't find those now. An Advanced Search in the Gallery will find one page of photos if you search for Lens Type ZM Biogon 21 2.8.
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Old 03-26-2016   #22
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I did lots of research for a great 21. It came down to two. The Zm 21/2.8 and SEM 21/3.4.

I did get the SEM, but the ZM looked killer in all the samples and people raved about it
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Old 03-29-2016   #23
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Thank you for all the good input. Sadly, the gallery search does not work for me, don't know, why. However, I found some other sources for examples and liked them pretty much.

So I just bought the 21mm/f2,8 and now wait for it to arrive. Now I need a finder for it (hate the evf of the M240), and then I will probably update this thread with a few examples... Stay tuned.
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Old 03-29-2016   #24
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Very much agree. The ZM 21 f2.8 is a killer lens in my opinion and a best buy in fast 21mm lenses but the Leica SEM does have the edge optically. I have no experience with the VC 21mm f1.8 and putting aside size, images I've seen look extremely good.

Dave (D&A)
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Old 03-29-2016   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by krötenblender View Post
Now I need a finder for it (hate the evf of the M240)
Me too - in most cases. I use a different 21, but with the Zeiss finder which I can warmly recommend on the 240.

Roland.
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Old 03-30-2016   #26
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Quote:
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Me too - in most cases.
Maybe I would like it better, if it says "Leica" on the front instead of "Olympus"...

Quote:
Originally Posted by ferider View Post
I use a different 21, but with the Zeiss finder which I can warmly recommend on the 240.
I'm currently in love with the look of the old Contax 21 viewfinder. If they are of good quality, I would buy one of those. Anyone has experience with them?
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Old 03-30-2016   #27
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the contax 21 is a good finder. It isnt as bright as one of the metal voigtlander ones I had or as bright as the leica frankenfinder, but for normal shooting in daylight, it really doesnt make any difference. I really do like the crosshair in the center and find it quite useful. The one thing you may or may not like, or may not care about at all, is that the contax has a black frame with nothing visible beyond. So if you like framelines you might not like this one.

I use mine on a m24X with a converted contax g 21mm biogon. I'd add that one to your list if you're able to find one or willing to convert it. It's just about the smallest, lightest, sharpest, distortion free 21mm/2.8 out there. No issues with fringing or color shifts that I've seen. Also works fine for regular metering.
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Old 03-30-2016   #28
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The Zeiss ZI 21 finder is expensive even used, for a reason. It's way better than anything else.

Very, very bright and very easy on the eye.

It's bigger than the others, but very tough. Much brighter than the OVF!


image by unoh7, on Flickr
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Old 03-30-2016   #29
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Thanks for the hints. IMHO the Zeiss is simply too expensive, even used.

Here and elsewhere I read about the metal Voigtländer finder. How do I know, which is the metal one? All I see is a black finder online and I can not recognize the material, it is made of. What is the difference?
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Old 03-30-2016   #30
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the metal one is tiny and has a tiny round body

the plastic one is more rectangularly shaped and bulbous

cameraquest.com has more info on both
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Old 03-30-2016   #31
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Quote:
Originally Posted by krötenblender View Post
Thanks for the hints. IMHO the Zeiss is simply too expensive, even used.
I got mine in great used shape for 140 bucks, here on RFF. Worth waiting for ...



(I normally hate posts like this from other people )
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Old 03-30-2016   #32
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if it were me with an M9 or M240, i would wait and save for the SEM 21/3.4, paired with the VC external finder to help fund the SEM. the ZM 21/2.8 is great. the SEM 21/3.4 is spectacular.
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Old 03-30-2016   #33
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if it were me with an M9 or M240, i would wait and save for the SEM 21/3.4, paired with the VC external finder to help fund the SEM. the ZM 21/2.8 is great. the SEM 21/3.4 is spectacular.
For 21mm great is more than enough for me. It will be one of my less used focal lengths, and it does not make sense to invest so much money in it.

For my 35mm I did not care about the price, because running a statistics over my LR catalog shows, that I made two thirds of all pictures with that lens since I have it. But 21mm will be special purpose. A currently greatly anticipated, though.

Also, for my by far best pictures, I would be proud, if I could call them great, spectacular is a level, I did not reach, yet. So what would be the point... - If it comes to that, it will be my 35mm...
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Old 03-30-2016   #34
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pechelman View Post
the metal one is tiny and has a tiny round body

the plastic one is more rectangularly shaped and bulbous

cameraquest.com has more info on both
Great hint, thank you! The metal Voigtländer looks very promising.

About the Zeiss finder, I didn't know about it having no frameline, but a black solid frame. This is indeed a showstopper for me. Always good to find useful infos here on RFF.
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Old 03-30-2016   #35
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Quote:
Originally Posted by krötenblender View Post
Great hint, thank you! The metal Voigtländer looks very promising.

About the Zeiss finder, I didn't know about it having no frameline, but a black solid frame. This is indeed a showstopper for me. Always good to find useful infos here on RFF.
you're quite welcome

and just to make sure we're not misunderstanding one another

The new zeiss finders (very large black rectangular ones) do indeed have framelines. It's the old Contax 21mm viewfinder (smaller and round) that just has the black frame with the central crosshair. Can be confusing since the old Contax G 21mm lens was also made by Zeiss.
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Old 03-31-2016   #36
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Quote:
Originally Posted by krötenblender View Post
Great hint, thank you! The metal Voigtländer looks very promising.

About the Zeiss finder, I didn't know about it having no frameline, but a black solid frame. This is indeed a showstopper for me. Always good to find useful infos here on RFF.
The metal 21/24 VF I owned had an annoying tendency to slip out of the hot shoe on my M9, once even becoming a projectile VF (not good). Not sure whether this is an isolated occurrence. The plastic version, though large, fits well and firmly in the hot shoe.
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Old 03-31-2016   #37
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Originally Posted by krötenblender View Post
For 21mm great is more than enough for me. It will be one of my less used focal lengths, and it does not make sense to invest so much money in it.
Makes perfect sense to me. The SEM, used, is about 2x the price of the ZM.
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Old 03-31-2016   #38
Jan Pedersen
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For 21mm great is more than enough for me. It will be one of my less used focal lengths, and it does not make sense to invest so much money in it.
If great is good enough, please have a look at the CV21 1.8 Ultron. It is great in my humble opinion.
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Old 03-31-2016   #39
uhoh7
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Originally Posted by krötenblender View Post
Great hint, thank you! The metal Voigtländer looks very promising.

About the Zeiss finder, I didn't know about it having no frameline, but a black solid frame. This is indeed a showstopper for me. Always good to find useful infos here on RFF.
ZI 21 has a very nice white frame line, better than any in the OVF of any M. I think I paid around 140ish. Even has a rubber pad so has to not scratch glasses. Ergos are great, you loose almost no side vision. It's brighter than your own eyes, kid not
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Old 03-31-2016   #40
krötenblender
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Originally Posted by Jan Pedersen View Post
If great is good enough, please have a look at the CV21 1.8 Ultron. It is great in my humble opinion.
Too late, I already bought the Zeiss the day before yesterday...

However, I did not ever consider the CV because I'm used to focus-tabs or at least focus-knobs and I don't feel comfortable without. It makes me really slow. A lens without is a no-go for me.
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