Zeiss: Customer Service Excellence

From my days of using Hasselblads with various lenses, I am accustomed to Zeiss lenses having a bit of stiffness when focusing.  When I decided to dabble in Leica bodies I opted for a Zeiss Biogon T* 2/35 ZM lens.  The price would not break the bank, I like the image characteristics of Zeiss lenses, and from numerous reports the Zeiss lens was a fine lens on a Leica film body.

I studied photography in Italy a year or so ago and was really put off by the focusing ring’s stiffness.  If you are zone focusing, fine, but when you are working (quickly) with shallow depth of field the system was just not as responsive as I would prefer.  So, I wrote an email to Zeiss Co. in Germany inquiring into the expected behaviour.  I received a prompt reply requesting additional information and they subsequently explained the lens should not be stiff, but firm, and were unsure if I was being overly… picky… and suggested I contact the Zeiss U.S. office and was provided a phone number.

When I called the number, shockingly, a person answered.  Not only was it a person but the Lens Division Product Manager.  We had a good chat about the lens and I shipped them the lens + box.  Honestly, I could not figure out where I purchased the lens – normally I order from BH Photo, Adorama, etc.. but none of my online receipts listed the lens so I was out of luck on warranty.  Zeiss examined the lens and determined that it required service from the German office and shipped it out of country.

Zeiss determined via the serial number that the lens was more than likely beyond the warranty period but since I initiated my email to them quite some time ago, and the lens was in flawless condition they fixed the lens and shipped it back to me free of charge.

In this era and mindset of disposable equipment and customers, Zeiss was a refreshing surprise.  I generally do not make money off my photo work – it’s an advanced and expensive hobby.  I appreciate the attention paid to Zeiss’ customer base and am now looking to supplement my DSLR lens collection with Zeiss manual focus options.  If you are in the market for M mount lenses and unsure if Leica lenses will provide the additional cost / benefit, then I highly suggest renting & testing Zeiss lenses.

Opinion – Canon 70-200 2.8 ISL MKII

I finally made the plunge on Canon’s most popular lens, and it was about time.  I’m not going to rehash all the information already available on this lens.  Frankly, some people have too much time – me, I’d rather be shooting than zooming in at 200% looking for CA.

I have always been a prime snob, and still am at the wide end of lenses but for most of what I do the 100-200 range is where I spend the most time.  To that end, I have a 135 L and 200 L.  Neither of those lenses are light and certainly lack image stabilization.  I rented the previous iteration of 70-200 IS as needed and was always happy with the results but never enough to justify the cost.  The difference alone between the IS and Non-IS was another good prime lens.

Now comes the MKII, and a hefty price increase over the MKI.  Since then, my med-telephoto primes have not left my bag.  The autofocus is much improved.  Shooting ice hockey with available light, in servo focus mode is spot on.  For portraits or event work, the color and contrast is on par with my primes.  Sure you could find images to contradict that, but really?  Go shoot.  The convenience of only needing one lens, w/out swapping out primes out weighs the minor improvements the primes may have.

Is it worth it?  Depends.  If I already had a newer MKI and was not a pro, but a weekend shutter bug, probably not.  Granted, you can still get decent sale price for a MKI but the cost up-tick to MKII is not slight.  If, in my case, I did not have a prior release and wanted something new (v. Craig’s List) then yeah, I think it’s worth it.  This lens will be with you for years.

The only drawback I find is it is the “pro” colored lens.  I love street photography, shooting from a distance capturing people doing what they do.  This lens is not discrete, and people react completely different when you have it on your camera.  That is where I will either fall back to the black primes or buy one of those lame fabric kits for the lens.