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Alternatives

As mentioned earlier, Carl Zeiss used to offer another 35mm fixed focal lens for its Contax mount system, Distagon T* 35mm f/2.8, which offers decent image quality and costs about 7-8x less then its faster f/1.4 brethren. Alternatively, you might want to consider a brand new version of Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/2 in Nikon or M42 mount. Speaking of M42 - if you're willing to look into M42 lenses, make sure you evaluate Carl Zeiss Jena Flektogon 35mm f/2.4. Outside of the Carl Zeiss camp, you might be interested in taking a look at Leica's Summicron-R 35mm f/2, Elmarit-R 35mm f/2.8 or if you use a APS-C type camera, Summilux-R 35mm f/1.4 (various users reported Summilux-R 35mm f/1.4 to hit mirror on full frame cameras like Canon 5D and Canon 1Ds, so this lens is not going to be compatible with a full frame Canon body). Finally, you can also try expanding your search to Olympus OM mount lenses (Olympus OM 35mm f/2 for example) or Nikon F mount lenses (Nikkor AF 35mm f/2D). For a side by side comparison of a number of 35mm primes, including Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4, you might want to check out the 35mm Challenge.

 

Recommendation

Carl Zeiss Distagon T 35mm f/1.4 is one of those lenses that often creates a lot of controversy, with some people claiming that this is one of the best 35mm lenses ever produced, while others arguing that there's nothing special about it. Resolution-wise, the lens shows excellent center image quality but falls prone to some softer borders at wider aperture levels. While this is quite common among fast wide angle primes, it is still somewhat disappointing. From f/1.4 through f/2, the lens shows pretty mediocre border performance on both APS-C as well as FF cameras. Event at f/2.8 border quality is still average.  Naturally, one should look beyond just resolution when evaluating a lens. But is there anything 'beyond' for Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4? The lens shows rather mixed results when it comes down to handling various artifacts - chromatic aberration is somewhat high around borders, while vignetting is pretty moderate. and distortion is outright minimal The lens also shows pretty good handling of color. Overall, if you are looking for a wide angle with razor sharp borders at wider apertures, then Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 is not for you. But from f/2.8 and on, the lens is quite a solid candidate among wide angle primes. But many who are considering such a fast lens typically want to shoot at wider apertures because they want to achieve good separation between the in-focus and out-of-focus areas and soft borders matter very little in such case. Hence teh recommendation also really depends on your needs - is this lens worth the 6x premium over its slower 35mm f/2.8 Zeiss variant? Tell me what you plan to do with the lens first...