Quarter-century Crisis and the Zeiss 135mm F1.8

Happy Birthday to myself! And so I got myself a Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 135mm F1.8 ZA to match my Sony Alpha 900.

Handsome tapering lens this is, especially with the solid metal hood. The hood is so solid I could use it for a cowbell!

Its minimum focusing distance is 72cm; it uses internal focus, which is why despite focusing closer than the Minolta/Sony 135mm F2.8/T4.5 Smooth Transition Focus (which gets 87cm close) it shares the same 1:4 maximum magnification – internal focus causes the lens angle to widen when focusing closer.

72cm need I remind you is an amazing close-focusing distance beaten only by true macro lenses and superzooms that start wide – the Sony 55-200mm F4-5.6 DT focuses to 95cm close which is a record for a tele zoom in itself.

With a 2x teleconverter and 1.5x teleconverter, this makes it a 405mm F5.0 lens. This also makes the maximum magnification a staggering 1:1.33x!

Yes, 1:1.33x. This is with the APS-C mode of the A900. 405mm F8 1/400s ISO1600 in APS-C mode.

405mm F6.3 1/400s ISO1600 in APS-C mode. I focused first, got approximate focus, snapped 2 shots in case the bird would fly to another branch, then half-pressed again to refocus accurately. Focusing through 2 teleconverters made the lens a lot slower to focus and inaccurate.

I’m happy though that the Zeiss survives 2 teleconverters – it loses its shark bite and a smudge of contrast, and becomes a regular lens. But this still beats my Tamron 200-400mm F5.6 flat!

405mm F5 1/400s ISO200, 100% crop.

405mm F3.5 1/200s ISO500. Great shot, yes? Well, much greater if the white butterfly with red yellow and black spots was still on it. 🙁 The teleconverters really kill the insane focusing speed of the Carl Zeiss 135mm F1.8.

That’s just prime. Left to right: Peleng 8mm F3.5 M42-mount circular fisheye, Vivitar 24mm F2.0 DIY tilt-shift, Minolta 28mm F2.8 Crossed-XX, Minolta 50mm F1.4 Original, Sony Carl Zeiss 135mm F1.8

And a top view, this time with the 2 teleconverters.

So how about some daytime separation? 135mm F1.8 without teleconverters. Superb!

KJ does a Barack Obama smile. Shot at F1.8.

Eddy Han at F1.8 1/13s ISO1600. I was sitting in the rear left side of his car and he was in the driver seat (not driving when he looked back, fortunately.) The minimum focus distance of this lens continues to astound!

KJ and Rames‘ Domo-kun. Good match!


This, or rather a careful crop of this, is now Rames’ profile picture. Note how nearby people are smudged into a blurry mess while the out-of-focus highlights pop out. That’s a Zeiss for you.

F1.8 really helps on the street.

Shelley Leong holds amazingly still. 135mm F1.8 1/5s ISO6400, to be exact! I shot this handheld through some bars.

Oh, and I got myself an A900 Type-M user-serviceable focusing screen – it’s a Super Spherical Acute Matte. The default Type-G is a Spherical Acute Matte. The product code for this is FDA-FM1AM and it is vital if you want to manually focus F1.4 lenses and see the true depth-of-field in the viewfinder.

One thing I really like is how simple the whole operation is – use the tweezers to disengage the screen’s clip; the clip will then fold out like a tray, allowing the specially shaped tweezers to grab onto the existing screen. You then put it in the placeholder slot in the box, and take the replacement screen and install it, using the same tweezers to clip it back in. Finally, move the original screen from the placeholder slot, and let it sit in its place.

Alright, so here’s one from the Minolta 28mm F2.8. 28mm F11 20s ISO200, white balance set to 6200K to give it that richness.

Anyway, back to my birthday. This time around, there will be no surprises as I’ve already planned something. The best surprise was in 2006 when everybody wished me and asked if I was having a nice dinner with my friends. Funny, nobody actually invited, they all presumed I already had plans! So I ate at a mamak by myself.

20 thoughts on “Quarter-century Crisis and the Zeiss 135mm F1.8

  1. ari7474 Post author

    Bro, the Zeiss 135mm F1.8 is awesome lar.. It looks damn macho on the A900. Picture quality is awesome. Looking forward to try again this baby. Wohoo..

    Oh, I didnt know it was ur b’day the other day.. Anyway, Happy Belated B’day dude..

  2. ahmike Post author

    Ultimate Machine already oh…

    cant wait to see how this baby with A900 in your those bands shots that you always do. 🙂 loving it.

  3. KJ Post author

    THIS IS MADNESS! the barack obama’s picture is an aweeeeesome portrait of mine la! fulamakweh! =P nice nice! my next profile shot.. hehehe =P i put that into resume also k? hehehe =P

    harpeeee blated bday! eh.. what happened to the beer cans ah? i realized i lost it..

  4. Albert Ng Post author

    hOcmun: Yeah man!

    Lordson: Thanks dude!

    Will: LOL yeah though it probably wouldn’t blow out the lights so much.

    Frus: You got it!

    flysheep: Thanks man!

    Janice: Awesome possum!

    ari7474: Nolah I got the lens 4 days before my birthday.

    ahmike: Next TT you might!

    JACQ: Thanks!

    Gabriel Lai: Heh, you can split the cost with your brother.

    Tan Yee Wei: Thanks dude! Yep, the effective aperture is impressive.

    Kien Boon: Same reason why Ted Adnan tapes his D3 logo… or some other photographers with pro-level bodies.

    dreamingArtemis: With a cold finish!

    Ewin: Refer to Kien Boon’s reply. 😀

    ShaolinTiger: That was the intended British humor. 🙂

    laydie~bug: Holy s**t that was 2006! For my 2007 birthday I celebrated with someone! 😉 So the blog entry has been corrected.

    KJ: Alamak! We must’ve left it at the mamak table!


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