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So the rumor mills are working and the latest news is that Carl Zeiss will soon be announcing the new Distagon T* 15/2.8 lens in Nikon ZF.2 and Canon ZE mounts. Originally reported by zeissrumors.com and most recently by photorumors.com, the news spread to the rest of the web within a day. As a long time Zeiss user and aficionado, I got pretty excited about this little piece of news, but then mental gears kicked in and I started to think what does it really mean to the end users like you and me? Should we all get jiggeddy-jaggedy about this and rush with pre-orders, or what?

Original Zeiss Distagon 15/3.5 was first released in Rollei mount back in late 70s and at that time was quite a master-piece. Later re-released for Contax and most recently in Leica M mount, the lens was very popular, primarily because of its price. The current version of Distagon 15/2.8 ZM goes for ~$4.600, making it pretty much out of reach for most of us. Ole Contax 15/3.5 sells for ~$2,500 these days. Still a ton of money, particularly when you consider it against what else is available on the market. For Leica mount we have Voigtlander Super Wide Heliar 15/4.5 ASPH goes for ~$600. In Nikon mount we have a couple of interesting options, starting with the uber zoom 14-24/2.8G, than 14/2.8D and finally old 15/3.5 Ai-S. All three cost less than used Contax or new ZM versions. For Canon mount we have the 14/2.8L and slightly longer, yet absolutely superb 17/4L TS-E. Again, both cost less than either of Distagons. Finally, we have a bunch of oddball alternative and 3rd party lenses, some of them now discontinued, from Sigma, Tamron, Tokina, Samyang etc. Bottom line is that there are a lot of 14-15mm lenses out there, so it's not like Zeiss is going to be filling in an empty niche... Because of that, I expect that the price point for the SLR version of Distagon 15/2.8 to be significantly below the Leica version of the lens - probably somewhere in the $2,000-$2,500 range.

Now, some of the cheaper options available out there are not particularly.good - resolution, distortion, CA etc. So naturally many who are not happy with the alternatives are looking at Zeiss as a premium lens designer who can solve all of these problems, in which case, the argument goes, the premium price for Distagon 15/2.8 is going to be justified. But is it a realistic expectation? At a minimum, I expect that the new SLR version of Distagon 15/2.8 will have a fairly good resolution. ZM version certainly improved in this domain over the old Contax version - see MTF charts below (Distagon 15/2.8 ZM is at the top and Contax 15/3.5 is at the bottom).

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With the noise level surrounding anything that has the word 'mirrorless' in it reaching astronomic proportions, we want to poke a bit of fun at all the rumor mill sites (we still love you though since you give us all an almost endless source of discussions) and come up with our own half-serious and half-not so much predictions for 2012. We even came up with our own 'hotness' indicator and grade, from highest to lowest - LP1, LP2, LP3, LP4, LP5. If you wonder what LP means - we don't know that either, but we will remind these grades to you every so often, so you just don't forget them. Seriously though, we've witnessed quite a few photo-equipment generation and so predictions below are not completely baseless - these are based on overall observations of where the market and individual players are and where they are moving. History often repeats itself and this cycle is not an exception in our belief.

And so, our predictions for year 2012.... Drum-roll please...

  • Sony will announce a high end FF mirrorless [LP1]
  • Canon will introduce APS-C sized mirrorless fully backward compatible with EF/EF-S mount [LP1]
  • Pentax Q system will be discontinued in favor of a different mirrorless platform (GXR/K-01) [LP1]
  • Nikon will drastically drop prices on V1/J1 and will introduce a higher MP sensors for the system [LP1]
  • Nikon will introduce APS-C sensor in V system [LP3]
  • Samsung NX will continue to be completely unappreciated and all for good reasons [LP1]
  • Leica will introduce another 'Limited Edition' something that would have no real value to photographers but would still sell well [LP1]
  • Panasonic will flood the markets with more m4/3 cameras completely confusing prospective buyers who will move on and instead buy a Sony NEX system [LP1]
  • The euphoria around Fuji X-Pro1 system will fade and the company will go back to what it does best - making color film and color faxes [LP2]
  • Carl Zeiss will not introduce any cameras, mirrorless or otherwise [LP1]
  • Ricoh GXR will continue to be the poster child of a select few online reviewers, but otherwise would not even generate a blip of interest among the mainstreams [LP1]
  • Sigma will discontinue DP2x and nobody will notice [LP2]

Let's revisit this topic next yearand see how well we fared...

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So it has been a couple of weeks since I upgraded the back-end and the front-end for the SLR Lens Review. So far everything seems to work as expected for the most part. You might encounter one of the following two errors, both of which are temporary

  • Internal Server Error (sometimes error 500) - this is due to a new image gallery plugin that I am using. It tries to generate thumbnails the first time someone navigates to a page with a gallery, but times out on large galleries. Clicking reload  refreshes the plugin and it reloads all thumbnails. Once all pages with galleries have been hit at least once, this error will disappear for good.
  • No Input File Specified - this is a caching error which happens once in a while when I push a new update to the site. Cleaning up browser cache solves this 100% of time. Sometimes it gets solved if you simply refresh the page. You should no longer see this error since I am basically done with all the updates/migrations (well, all except for the user reviews, which should come online this weekend)

Unfortunately, site performance still leaves room for improvement. I upgraded to the premium plan with my hosting provider but that did not get me much, as it seems the pipe on this shared content DC is just too congested. I am looking for alternative options potentially with other hosts.

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SLR Lens Review turned five! It's hard to imagine that five years ago, the site went live with its first lens review - Canon EF 17-40mm f/4L USM. 150+ reviews later, here we are with a new redesign, new features and new goals. Well, goals actually remain the same - deliver you lens reviews first and foremost, but the scope of this goal changes a little bit. Instead of cranking out reviews as quickly as possible just to increase an article count, we're going to focus on improving quality of the reviews. This will probably mean slowing down somewhat - while it used to take about a week in the early days to test a lens and finish a review, lately it's been taking more like 3 weeks to wrap up with all the testings alone. Why the slow down, you might ask? Firstly, the scope of the reviews has been growing steadily over the years - five years ago the reviews contained only MTF test data from Imatest, then limited field testing was added, then field testing was expanded a bit, then expanded a bit more, and later a bit more again. All this requires additional time and with a busy work-day schedule this also means longer time lags. But don't fear - the reviews will continue and currently you should expect to see one to two new reviews per month.

The second objective is to begin offering more comprehensive lens comparisons. In the past, lens benchmarks were sporadic and did not follow any particular format. While not sure about the format for such comparisons yet, peer to peer lens comparisons will become more frequent. As a matter of fact, the first such comparison this year will pick up where the old Macro Challenge left off - wrapping up with a detailed contrast of 4 macro lenses: Canon EF 100/2.8, Zeiss Makro Planar 100/2, Leica APO Macro Elmarit 100/2.8 and Voigtlander APO Macro Lanthar 125/2.5. Expect that review to pop up in early February.

Our third goal for the year is to start a photography blog. All previous attempts ended up nowhere partially because of the lack of attention and partially because of (misled) desire to turn the would be blog posts into full fledged reviews. No more! Instead, you will find short articles about some random and not so random photo related stuff. A travel article about what photo gear worked on a trip to Argentina, or a short opinion about old Russian Zeiss clones, or quick evaluation of a new flash. Anything that does now fit into a category of lens review is a game, even an occasional rant.

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