Photo of the Day: Let’s Run Away Together

Lens: 24mm f/1.4
Camera: Nikon D3s

No added vignetting, just the mist of a beautiful night.

Francis Joseph - Only a wise man would see the mist as a photographic advantage, rather than a handicap. Like this shot a ton.

Joseph Yarrow - This certainly isn’t a Ryan Brenizer shot, and I love the change! Great atmosphere Ryan.

Tweets that mention Photo of the Day: Let’s Run Away Together » Ryan Brenizer — New York City Wedding Photographer -- - […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Victor Bezrukov. Victor Bezrukov said: Beautiful light – RT @ryanbrenizer: ON THE BLOG: Photo of the Day: Let’s Run Away Together #photo […]

stacey - that is stunning.

Photo of the Day: Shining Through

Lens: 24mm f/1.4
Camera: Nikon D3s
Lighting: SB-900
EXIF and GPS data

Once again, at the workshop I deliberately took people to terrible locations to show them how I would work through it. The key to making a nice, attractive negative space for Kelly to play in was using the off-camera lighting to kill the ambient light. Without it … well, the space doesn’t have quite the same effect, as you can see below:
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Sam Hurd - oh man, i really love the grungy/urban look of the trash cans though…

Sam Hurd - that was a lie. this is definitely an fantastic example of why there are no excuses (these days) for bad locations.

Tweets that mention Photo of the Day: Shining Through » Ryan Brenizer — New York City Wedding Photographer -- - […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Besimo. Besimo said: Photo of the Day: Shining Through […]

Chris Aram - Man, composition in “less than ideal” surroundings is something I struggle with and it’s very refreshing and helpful to read posts like yours on the topic! I feel like anyone* (not true, I know, but for the sake of exaggeration to make a point) can take beautiful pictures of a beautiful couple in a beautiful locale, but I find that real life and real weddings don’t always take place in the most incredible old hotel in town, don’t always offer perfect, soft, ambient light, etc. etc.

Thanks again for taking the time to provide this kind of work as food for thought!

Joshua Gull - Holy wow Ryan, that’s an insane difference. Never thought to use OCL like that. Great job man!

Sally Watts - What a cool tip, Ryan!

Wedding: Liz and Ariel at the Scarsdale Women’s CLub

Sometimes all it takes is the smallest detail to let me know that a wedding is going to be extremely fun. For Liz and Ariel, it was “well, since this is happening the day before Halloween, we’re going to end the reception in costume, and hand out vampire fangs to guests.” That was indicative of a whole day devoted to making sure their friends and family were having a great time.

Fall is absolutely my favorite season in the New York area, and they had a perfectly gorgeous late-fall wedding day. Cool weather, gorgeous color, and countless leaves that apparently were begging to be thrown into the air. Congratulations!

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Shari - You have such a beautiful way of capturing the child within us all. Beautiful storytelling, Ryan!

Phil - Very beautiful pictures. Great job!

fotograf lublin - What a lovely day – you captures great moments!

Matt - Great photos. I love the one with the bride and bridesmaids outside, the colour of the leaves on the tree above and on the ground really add something

Photo of the Day: (Light-)Painted Lady

Not everyone can make trying to stay warm look as good as Mae does.

I processed through all the photos from my last workshop just in time for my upcoming lecture at the DWF Convention in San Antonio. At the workshop the shooting scenarios were all about options to create attractive work in bad situations, such as, in this case, night-time. So we used light-painting to get the job done.

Lens: 24mm f/1.4
Camera: Nikon D3s
Lighting: Litepanel MicroPro
EXIF and GPS data

Two Ring Studios - C’mon, we wanna see light-painting + Brenizer method ;) Awesome shot and beautiful lighting -Derek

Joshua Gull - VERY nice shot Ryan. The light is beautiful.

Chris Aram - That is a very interesting technique! :)

Maria - I cant wait to use my litepanel pro in the night !

Wedding: Jackie and Kee at the Venetian

Like most people I photograph, Jackie and Kee felt like they were not naturals in front of the camera. I hate to correct you guys in public like this, but boy were you wrong — and I’d already known that from the engagement shoot. Not only did their great relationship with each other shine through visibly, but they were so wonderful to work with. I kept saying to Dennis Pike and Erica Camille — who helped me capture the day — “Aren’t they nice? Man they’re nice!”

I could spot from the first few minutes of the reception that things were going to get wild on the dance floor, and boy did they — especially once they cannibalized most of the props from the photo booth we were running. A fantastic day within the gorgeous setting of The Venetian, filled with great people.

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Joseph Yarrow - Ryan, great variety of images here.
I love that first image of her pouting and that picture of the boy and girl walking down the aisle is really something special.
Congratulations Jackie and Kee.

Joshua Gull - Great stuff as per the usual in here Ryan. Great moments captured throughout the day.

alyssa - The moments you capture with the children are absolutely precious. You are incredible, and an inspiration for sure.

Review: Nikon 35mm f/1.4

Lens specs and pricing information

This review was very hard to be objective about. You see, I’ve been waiting impatiently for Nikon to release this lens for more than five years. At first glance, one would think that the increasingly light-sensitive sensors of DSLRs would kill off demand for fast primes, but the reverse has been true — and the reasons are simple. Having the option for limited depth-of-field and as much light sensitivity as possible is great, and now there’s not nearly so much guesswork about “was that shot actually in focus or not?” There are a lot more choices now than “f/8 and be there.”

100915-113906 mm_f.JPGI was clearly excited about this, since my non-photographer girlfriend asked me “What’s so special about this lens?”

Nothing, in a way. 35mm is a pretty unexciting focal length, on its face. Slightly wide, it doesn’t have the warped-corner look of an ultra-wide. It doesn’t have the instant eye-candy look of an exotic telephoto lens. It’s just a workhorse focal length, that strips everything down and focuses on content, and for general coverage, it is well-paired with moderate telephoto lenses like an 85mm f/1.4 or 70-200mm f/2.8.

Which made it so deeply strange that Nikon hadn’t made a professional lens in this focal length since 1981 (and that one wasn’t regarded as one of their best lenses.

There’s a lot of anticipation here to fill, especially since the new lens, at $1800, isn’t cheap, especially when you can get a full-frame 35mm f/2 for $360, or a DX 35mm f/1.8 for under $200. Can it live up to the hype?

Let me just get this out of the way: For most users, no. If you’re using an entry-level DX camera because that’s where your budget is, buy the 35mm f/1.8 for one-ninth the price. You’ll love it, and if you get into hefty full-frame gear later, you can always sell it for almost the same price.

For me? The lens is not 100 percent perfect, but I am thrilled. And here’s why.

BUILD: Not everyone likes the hard plastic build of modern Nikon professional lenses, but to me it creates an attractive, sturdy package. The lens hood is nice and stiff and easily reversible. And it’s big — almost as big as the 24mm and 85mm f/1.4 lenses in the same family. For lots of people, this will be kind of a shame because a 35mm is a great walk-around focal length, and this is really bulky for a lens to carry on you all day every day. For me, who mostly uses these on professional shoots with giant D3s cameras, it’s not quite big enough — I strongly prefer native 77mm filters on my lenses, instead of the 67mm ring this has. But that’s what step-up rings are for.

IMAGE QUALITY: Extremely good, but likely not an absolute resolution champ like the 100mm f/2 Makro. It really seems like this lens was optimized for wide-open performance, so the difference between wide-open and middle-apertures is not as great as with most lenses — f/1.4 is really sharp, and f/8 is just a bit more sharp, but you can find sharper lenses if you look hard. It’s great for me, because if I paid for an f/1.4 lens I want to use it near-wide-open unless I have a good reason not to, but there are easier choices for landscape and studio shooters.

Here’s a comparison at f/8 and f/1.4, which also shows the good close-focus this lens features:

101217-113219 35mm_f8.JPG

The bokeh is as good as I have come to expect from recent Nikon lenses. Nice transitions, good highlights:


Example of good foreground bokeh, also a lack of flare despite multiple light sources:

101217-144316 35mm_f1.4.jpg

AUTOFOCUS: Users expecting the same lighting speed of the Canon 35mm f/1.4L will be disappointed at first — like the new Nikon 24mm and 85mm f/1.4s, this is not a speed champ, being just a bit faster than the 24. But it’s very accurate, even at wide apertures — noticeably more so in difficult focusing situations than the 24mm f/1.4 (which I also love, despite its trickiness). I could see right away that it was much easier to get in-focus f/1.4 shots on a dark dance floor with this than with the 24, though not quite as easy as the ludicrously fast-and-accurate 24-70mm f/2.8. I came to trust it pretty quickly.

NOTE: My copy needed serious AF micro-adjustment, about -15. This was not true of my 24G or 85G, but has been true of other lenses like the 135mm f/2. Be sure to test your lenses thoroughly. Micro-adjustment is the best feature invented for cameras since digital sensors.


Even in the near-darkness of ISO 12,800 at f/1.4, it was able to lock on well:

101217-234938 35mm_f1.4.JPG

Speaking of ISO 12,800, this next one shows why we have f/1.4 lenses in the first place. The Church of San Frediano in Lucca, Tuscany is absolutely gorgeous, but to protect the art, much of it is too dark to make out with the naked eye. This part of the ceiling, captured at 1/15th, ISO 12,800, f/1.4, was almost black to my eye. I would have needed a tripod to capture it otherwise.

110102-163259 35mm_f1.4.jpg

Final verdict: This is going to be an extremely valuable part of my bag, and it was well worth the cost. Now that this is a new year, I will be restarting the Photo of the Day archive, and keep an eye out for lots of photos taken with the 35 there.

More Photos at f/1.4:

101218-170230 35mm_f1.4.JPG
Great handling of backlight

Lastly, here’s one for full-res download, with all the bokeh you can handle. Click for full-size:


Stefano Choi - Great review Ryan and I am excited to take my own copy through it’s paces for a wedding this weekend.

nadine - Gggggah. If only I can buy one!

Thanks for the review!

Sam - Awesome review man. I love this lens and probably will be permanently attached to my camera.

matt shumate - While the focal length might not be exciting. Everything else about this lens is. It’s best feature to me is the way it handles strong backlight. Great review Ryan. Have to agree with every word.

Joseph Yarrow - I’m so pleased that this lens is that sharp at f1.4
Thanks for the honest review ryan.

Joshua Gull - Great review Ryan. I want this lens baaad.

Sam Hurd - nicely done. i’m thinking instead of posting my review i’ll just post a link to yours ;)

Dennis Pike - “He went to Jared!!!!!!” sorry, I couldn’t resist, I’m sure you hate those commercials as much as I do.

nice review. I have been a fast zoom shooter for a while, but have been thinking about heading the way of faster primes lately.

Teresa K - Fantastic review Ryan. I looooooove this lens and am so excited that Nikon now has a truly professional line-up of prime lenses.

Jashim - Great review Ryan! Nikon should def start paying you a pretty penny. You’re reviews make me want to buy all the lenses!! I’m def looking forward to adding this to my bag.

Chris Aram - Thanks again for taking the time to review this! I’m working toward the 24 1.4 first … I prefer wider angles and longer telephotos … the 35mm is in a bit of an odd “no-mans land” in terms of the way I usually shoot. But maybe some day :D

Mark - Thanks heaps for this Ryan, Looking forward to what you get up to with this lens!!

George Terry - looking forward to reading your review of the 35mm f1/4G lens

elliot - You should have explained to DX users that a 35mm lens (at any price or wide aperture) is not going to offer the benefits that make it useful to you (and me). The 1.5x lens factor makes this mile wide-angle a normal-ish 53mm equivalent. If you want the look of a 35mm in DX format you need to look at a 20mm focal length … and there’s nothing fast there except for Sigma’s giant 20/1.8 prime which is very soft wide open (and a bit slow to AF, and a bit noisy).

My own experience is that in DX the best image quality at 20mm for the price is Tamron’s 17-50mm f/2.8 zoom, but that’s no f/1.4 speed demon.

In other words, for the DX user there is no exact comparison; you can’t get there from here. But for 25%-30% of the price of the 25/1.4 you can get to the general neighborhood.

Ryan Brenizer - In general, I tailor the level of writing to the intended user base. Anyone that doesn’t know the effect of a DX crop probably isn’t in the market for an $1800 lens.

fotograf nunta Iasi - Thx for review; I am a bit disappointed about plastic and focus speed, but the result are awesome.

Elliot - Ryan then your tailoring shouldn’t have compared/recommended a 35mm for DX since it has a different look from the one you like and discuss in FX. If someone is looking to spend $1800-ish for a 35mm equivalent you should have mentioned the Nikon 24/1.4.

fotograf lublin - Great review!!

Michael J Dunham - Great review, I have been eyeing this lense for awhile, I did switch from canon recently and have been missing my 50 1.2l, I am hoping to fill that gap with the 35 ;)

Fred - Probably one of the best reviews for this lens on the web. I’ve been using the new 24mm prime for the past few weddings and it’s a little too wide for me although the images are sick!! I’ve been hearing rumors of a Nikon 50mm 1.2 coming out soon but I guess there’s no reason to wait since this lens is out now. Thanks again for the review and I’m glad there’s a blogger out there that knows what he’s talking about!

Yuriy - this is awesome i am so buying it!

Frank - I adore this lens. I struggled with deciding between the 24 1.4 and this fast 35. Extremely glad that I chose this lens. For others, the exact opposite will make sense. This is tack sharp and the relatively close focusing abilities will allow you to fill the frame if needed.

Rarely leaves my camera and I can actually see myself selling the 24-70 f/2.8 due to this addition especially since I’m not a pro photog and I never really “need” the convenience of a zoom…its just more convenient.

Really glad to hear that you like the X100. I ordered it based on my extreme preference for this focal length and its low-light capabilities. And carrying an FX body with the 35 1.4 everywhere just gets cumbersome and somewhat nerdy. I’ll be a trendy nerd with this.

Reviews have definitely pointed out some flaws but its definitely nice to see your unbiased and non-commercially influence review. Also, really like your work. Great job.

Peavey - tnx for the full-res one, the onion rings in teh bokeh and unacceptable sharpness @f/1.4 makes this pretty lens disappointing. proof that when there’s not much competition on the market the manufacturers get very lame.. I miss the days when minolta, pentax, contax and olympus were fighting hard for their slice on the market, those were the days when paying extra $$$ for nikkors really made your money worth.

Dan - Thanks for the review. The new samyang 35mm f1.4 is basically much as sharp wide open on FF with the same decent bokeh at under third of the price, sadly no AF but it’s well worth a look check out it’s review on photozone

Max Hjalmarsson - I like!

Jens Rueckert - wonderful examples of open aperture work. respect;-) gefällt mir sehr gut …

Dan - Bought the Samyang 35mm f1.4 a few months ago, was shooting it on a d300 were it was great. Got a d700 for my trip to japan,just a few weeks back, got so many great shots with the 35mm f1.4, it’s amazingly sharp even opened wide. No AF but hey it’s around 1/3 of the price of the Nikon, so highly recommended, if you re not super rich.
Samyang are bring out a 24mm f1.4 in F mount next year, i hope its as good as the Nikon version!

Matthias Wassermann - yeah I love this lens most! I always have it with me!

yuriy - Just ordered the lens, you have wonderful sample images thank you!

Shahril Fahmey - love it!

Abayomi Siffre - Can’t wait to get mine.

Richard D. Berman - 24mm or 35 mm? I already own the superb 24-70, 17-35, qnd 14-24. I had read how great the 24mm f 1.4 lens is. Any opinions???????

Richard Berman - I already own 14-24, 17-35, and 24-70 lenses. Would you recommend the 35 f1.4 or the 24 f1.4? I understand there is duplication. However, the lens speed is impressive. I also own the 50mm f1.4. All suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Si Thu Myint Swe - I started to like extra thin depth of field fotos and I m going to buy it. I tested 50f1.4D but I prefered and bought 60mm macro, now this one to buy asap.

Dr.Farzin - The best review . beats Chuck Norris . ( Ken ROCKWELL ) .aND i,M DELIGHTED TO HAVE ONE .

Mrinali Sharma - For DX you already have the 35 mm f/1.8 G DX which gives sharp images. For FX, this Nikkor can be given a miss. No doubt it has amazing optical quality but the caveats like distortion and chromatic aberration are deal breakers after the price paid. This situation is not helped by the fact that it’s all plastic which reduces the lifespan of this glass by a great degree. The Sigma 35 mm f/1.4 for Nikon gives matching performance with reduced distortion and chromatic aberration and is cheaper but without the weather seal. Since you won’t be able to keep either of the lenses forever, it’s wise to pick up the value for money deal. If money is not the crunch, go for better 24 mm f/1.4 G and club it with a 50 mm f/1.8 and you are good to go for ages. Interested folks can read more at and Keep Shooting :)

Mrinali Sharma - For DX you already have the 35 mm f/1.8 G DX which gives sharp images. For FX, this Nikkor can be given a miss. No doubt it has amazing optical quality but the caveats like distortion and chromatic aberration are deal breakers after the price paid. This situation is not helped by the fact that it’s all plastic which reduces the lifespan of this glass by a great degree. The Sigma 35 mm f/1.4 for Nikon gives matching performance with reduced distortion and chromatic aberration and is cheaper but without the weather seal. Since you won’t be able to keep either of the lenses forever, it’s wise to pick up the value for money deal. If money is not the crunch, go for better 24 mm f/1.4 G and club it with a 50 mm f/1.8 and you are good to go for ages. Interested folks can read more at and Keep Shooting.. :)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

You can always count on the Adirondacks for a White Christmas. I’m spending Christmas Day the way I spent my year — travelling and processing photos, since there are some fantastic end-of-season weddings left to show you. 2010 was truly a fantastic year, blessed with a wonderful girlfriend, my fantastic friends and family, and sharing so much with so many wonderful clients. Also, I’m more than a little thankful that tomorrow I am headed to spend the New Year in Tuscany and Florence.

And there are good things to come in 2011, such as a big lecture at DWF in San Antonio, something fun I’m throwing together for WPPI in Las Vegas, and finally having time to do some personal work that I storyboarded way back in June.

Have a great rest of the year!

Lara Eichhorn - I’m processing photos today too. Nice to be able to catch up for once. Merry Christmas, Ryan! Have a great trip. Sounds like 2011 is going to be exciting.

Dennis Pike - I spent my christmas in the frozen north as well. Looks very familiar

Brendan McGinley - Merry Christmas, buddy.

Stars in Her Eyes

Taken with the 24mm f/1.4.

From Cai and Johnny’s wedding. I’m still getting files out to clients for the holidays, but I think I’ll hold off on full wedding blogs until I get back from Italy in the New Year. I also have a review of the Nikon 35mm f/1.4 ready to go for ’11!

brett maxwell - Great shot!

I also love how much you can see in the reflection. I see you, your bounce flash, and a guest who was likely seeing her own stars for a few seconds.

Joshua Gull - Awesome shot Ryan! Very, very cool.

Van Midd - Beautiful photography…I’m loving browsing through your work!

Double Rainbow, all the way

Double Rainbow, all the way

Wendy and I were in Boca Raton for a wedding, and, given how freezing it is in NYC these days, we wanted to take as much advantage of it as possible. So we went for a long, long walk along the beach, watching the sandpipers run along the waves, making up stories about the owners of the other footprints in the sand. It had been raining all morning, but that didn’t stop us. As we finally reached the point where we realized how far we’d walked, and that we’d have to walk all the way back, it started to rain a bit more, even though the sun was out.

“Look!” Wendy said. A rainbow seemingly began to grow out of the ocean. “I’ve never seen one right on the horizon before!” (We are not oceanfaring people).

It grew fast enough that you could follow its progress with your eye, first one band, and then a second. while behind us was a fantastic sunset.

You’d better believe we started shouting “What does this MEAN?”

And that’s why you always bring your camera with you. Regular ol’ panorama, 13 frames with the Nikon 35mm f/1.4.

Paul Von Rieter - WHAT DOES IT MEAN??????!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dennis Pike - It’s so beautiful! *wipes tears away* it’s so intense. I don’t know what it means!

Brendan McGinley - Are you sure that’s not Neo Tokyo?

Brad Ross - It means you will never break or lose another piece of
equipment again :)

KrisD Mauga - That is stunning! What a once in a lifetime view and shot!

Matt - Wow, that’s spectacular. Great job capturing it!

Diandra and Erick at Hudson Terrace

Sometimes you know that a wedding is going to be amazing but then it exceeds your expectations anyway. I’d talked with Erick extensively, going over all the details, but that can’t describe the obvious love he and Diandra have for each other, or even the fantastic style, beginning the day at the luxurious New York Palace Hotel (where Vera Wang herself peeked in on our shoot) with a ceremony and reception at the swanky Hudson Terrace, highlighting a gorgeous sunset along the river.

It got at the heart of what weddings should be — all about connections between loved ones, the way we all help each other make our lives richer and fuller, with a very wild celebration thrown on top.

Nick - These are great Ryan! So many colours!

gabe aceves - yowza. as usual your lighting hits me like a ton of bricks. the crazy red wall bride portrait ftw!

Charlotte Geary - Oh wow, Ryan, what beautiful images of such a lovely couple!

Chantal - Goodness. I’m speechless. The emotion is these is so great– you killed this!!

Kyle - Number 18 (or it says page 18 when I hover my mouse) is so awesome, I love the way they’re looking at each other!

Tall - What a fun wedding and such beautiful moments you’ve captured. Also, you blew my mind with that table reflection flip – very nice.

shipra - You exceed my expectations every time, Ryan.

What a truly lovely wedding – gorgeously photographed

Steve Koo - Fabulous work, as always, Ryan!

Karen - Gorgeous, as always, Ryan.
I LOVE the one with the table. Awesome.

Amanda Basteen - Loveee the bride dancing with the flower girl!

Jean Mazac - Absolutely superb, Ryan. Every image is just wonderful. I
am blown away by your work.

Becca Dilley - Truly a wedding in which there is so much to celebrate, and so much happiness to document. What an amazingly happy wedding, congrats!

Brad Ross - Beautiful, emotional and downright perfect example of what
wedding photography should be.

Shyann - Ryan your stuff never ceases to amaze me!! Great work as always and you can really just feel the love these too have for each other!!!

Steve Elmer - Ryan, this is special Mate. I really enjoyed the warmth that is shown in every shot. Amazing, yet again.

Teresa K - What a wonderful wedding…lots of love and that killer RB style…it’s all good always!

Tenielle - This is so touching, I’m just blown away. It’s a beautiful union….and you did a beautiful job. I wish I could wish them all the best in person! But as I can’t, I’ll say – wonderfully done! :)

John Patrick - Ryan, these are incredible just because they are so
personal and so intense. You never cease to impress and amaze

Mary Sylvia - Man, these shots are just fantastic, I adore the last image of just the two of them and the veil!

Christina - Totally Diggin’ your point of view on so many of your images.

Heather - I love how you used the different types of lighting at your disposal to really accent the colors going on! Lovely work!

Eileen Stirling - What can I say……It is going to be some wedding regardless of which amazing venue they choose! xx

Maureen and Jon at Giando on the Water

I’ve known Maureen from way back in the wild days of Internet, when I maintained a Fordham University message board, so I had been looking forward to her wedding from the moment she got engaged. And she didn’t disappoint one bit, from getting ready at the swanky Hotel Giraffe (though there are sadly no real giraffes there), to a ceremony at the gorgeous St. Stanislaus Kostka Catholic Church, and starting the reception at Giando on the Water just in time for a great sunset over Manhattan.

The wedding featured a gaggle of rambunctious kids who Maureen and Jon kept entertained through the night, and friends and family who made sure the reception, and the photobooth, were hopping.

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Becca Dilley - I love the contrast of the totally gorgeous cake and the very happy first dance – a little detail, a little emotion, both totally gorgeous.

Joel C - The little girl winking was nicely spotted.

Dustin Finn - Just loving those outdoor portraits… so awesome…

Natalie Gibbs - That cork shot should win an award.

Ashley Gillett - So many captures of the children, love that! Especially the crawling baby, love that mischievous look he has on his face. The portrait of the bride through the glass/window is super pretty. I’m sure she’s thrilled with your shots. :)

erin - that flower girl photo is killer.

Shell Bailey - These are beautiful. I think you take the best getting ready shots I’ve ever seen. Also, I think you must have eyes on the back of your head to capture some of those little moments.

Paul Rowland - The 2nd to last image in black and white is probably my favorite. You’re the best at capturing small moments like that.

Magan Blasig - Incredible, Ryan! Love the shot in the fourth row with all the amazing color. So intriguing…

Amanda Basteen - Great job! Love the shot of the bride with her eyes shut and the shot of the grandpa with the little boy.

Nora - Great shots Ryan! Looks like a fun wedding.

Monika Szczepaniak - What can I say? I love the picture with the trees reflecting in the bride’s car. So different!

Albert Palmer - Masterfully posed photograph – love that lighting. The photograph of the Champagne cork is a classic!

Shella - The second set of images (b&w) are my faves – esp the one on the right – beautiful!

Laura Pennace - The popping cork and baby shots are the best! Love them! Great job :)

shipra - Ryan, you never disappoint. I feel like I got to be a part of the wedding as I looked through these. And your portraits are amazing as always. I’m always inspired by how you use light to bring drama to your portraits.

Tyler - Poppin the cork image is awesome!

Herman Au - i love the photojournlistic aspects of the pictures. everything else is solid and just awesome

Leah Muse - So wonderful! LOVE the shot of the bride through the car window. Man.

Drew W - You’re amazing Ryan. Gorgeous coverage here!

fotografia ślubna - Last photo is amazing, great light and colors.

Louie Abellera - always love seeing new photos from you! awesome.

Heather - So gorgeous!! She looks phenomenal. I adore that first group shot with the bridal party.

Thomas Lester - Awesome! Love the shot of the flowergirl on the steps. And the pano in front of the bridge. Excellent.

Mrsps - I love the work you do with the kids. You really capture the excitement they are feeling! Wonderful photos.

nadine - I really really love the first shot.

Review: Zeiss 100mm f/2 Makro

Specs and purchasing info.

662722.jpgYou know that Zeiss is serious about lenses when they retain the German spelling of “Macro.” And pixel-peeping, lens-lusting photographers are very serious about this lens, telling tales of its optical prowess almost mythological in scope. So while I waited (not so) patiently for my Nikon 35mm f/1.4 (which I will have in my hands in about an hour), I decided it was time to run this bad boy through its paces, with the help of Adorama Rental.

There are two major factors that keep the Zeiss 100mm from being more popular. First, it’s expensive, more than $1800 (although with Nikon lenses skyrocketing in price due to the Yen, that seems a lot more reasonable than it used to.) Second, it’s manual-focus only, thanks in part to some patent issues regarding AF mechanisms. Now, I recommend shooting manual focus almost all the time you do macro anyway, so for close-up work that’s irrelevant. But with the fast aperture and sparkling clarity, this also makes a heck of a portrait lens, and how you feel about that will definitely depend on how much you like focusing manually. Even though I’m a relative whippersnapper, I’ve done a lot of manual focus work. My first camera was my Dad’s Minolta SRT-101b, manual everything, and I’ve done enough work managing to focus the paper-thin DoF of the Nikon 50mm f/1.2 and 58mm f/1.2 that anything else seems easy. But even I think to myself, “I paid $5,200 for a camera with a top of the line focusing array. I’d sure like to use it.”

The good news is that the newer model does communicate electronically with the camera, so lower-end cameras can get exposure readings with it and you can control the aperture through the camera controls instead of that smooth-as-silk aperture ring.

Your mileage may vary.

A quick note on my lens reviews. I realize that the best thing to do when reviewing a lens is to take a bunch of unprocessed photos of brick walls. And the last thing you should do is do a lot of hard-to-reproduce, crazy things with it like panoramas and freelensing. But I am not a reviewer first, I am a photographer. So I will note anything I’ve done to the images and try to provide a good cross-sample. All of these images are at f/2 unless otherwise noted.

For instance, this is a twenty-five-image Brenizer method panorama. It has a MUCH wider FoV than a 100mm normally would, but you can still see the amazingly creamy bokeh of this lens:

101121-161725 100mm_f2.JPG

But here’s a normal, single-shot photo. f/2, ISO 6400 1/100th:

101121-180052 100mm_f2.JPG

Now let’s get down to it.

Build quality:

You get a lot for your money here — everything says that this lens is well put-together. All of the exterior, including the hood, is metal. The hood is reversible for packing, which is good, but the lens is impossible to focus when the hood is reversed, which is not so good, given that the lens is manual-focus. The focusing ring is butter smooth, and since they don’t have to worry about autofocus speed, the lens has a nice long focusing throw which makes it easier to be accurate. The aperture ring is also incredibly smooth — it’s actually a real pleasure to use in a way that I don’t normally talk about aperture rings.

Macro performance:

The only downside here is that without an extension ring, the lens is only 1:2, half the macro power of competitors like the Nikon 105mm f/2.8G VR. But their design choices, which makes the lens extend a great deal at close-focus, also means that there is very little “focus breathing” (when the focal length of a lens appears to lessen as you zoom in), so it’s still fairly powerful, as you can see from its clear read of a ring’s inscription here:

101120-123446 100mm_f2.JPG

Now, most of the time in macro photography, the trick is how to get your depth-of-field as WIDE as possible, so the fast f/2 aperture isn’t really a help. But it does make for some really interesting impressionistic effects:

101120-084344 100mm_f2.JPG

And it also gives an otherworldly feel to detail photos that aren’t quite at macro level:

101120-193326 100mm_f2.JPG
Overall optics:

This is the Mary Poppins lens, perfect in every way. At medium apertures it is simply ludicrous, clearly outresolving my 12 megapixel D3s sensor at every edge of the frame. You can see a full-res JPEG at f/11 here for pixel peeping. (It’s not very exciting, one part of a panorama, but it sure is sharp).

Wide-open, it’s STILL insanely sharp, especially in the center. There’s a reason this lens is so well-regarded. It will draw every bit of detail out of your photos.

But nothing is perfect.

101121-142245 100mm_f2.JPG

Now this is a true stress test, with blown out background against thin black lines, and this sort of blooming is more about the relationship between the sensor and the lens than just the lens itself, but still, that green isn’t meant to be there. But I can’t think of a fast lens that wouldn’t have some difficulty with that part of this shot.

But now let’s get a little crazy. You see, in my testing, I found that this was also a GREAT lens for freelensing — shooting with the lens slightly unmounted for varying focal planes. You have to manual focus these anyway, and this lens was made to be a pleasure to do so. I recommend taking the hood off before trying for less vignetting.

101120-092149 50mm_f1.2.JPG

or like so:

101121-175644 100mm_f2.JPG

If you have a bit of money and love manual-focus Zeiss lenses, then this is one of the prime ones to get. But that’s a pretty small sample set. For the rest of us, I would perhaps recommend this most to people with high-resolution cameras like the D3X* who want to get every last one of their many, many pixels nice and sharp, particularly for studio work at smaller apertures where the depth-of-field would make manual-focus fairly painless. For most of us, though, the competing Nikon and Canon lenses may lose a stop, but they are also optically amazing and have autofocus and vibration reduction. If Zeiss ever does manage to bring AF into this segment, these lenses will see a huge surge, but for now it is a niche product that is a pleasure to use. Give it a rent at Adorama!

*(PS, if you’ve been planning on buying a D3X, doing it through that link will buy my mother a really nice Christmas present, Mr. Moneybags.)

Joshua Gull - Gotta love Zeiss glass. That Brenizer method shot is gorgeous man.

Dennis Pike - dude, I love that “you method” I kind of like the odd crop on it. Also, I know you’re supposed to shoot macros at like f/8 or f/11… but I am in the school of thought that if you a have an f/2 or f/2.8 macro… shoot it that wide!

Eric Kotara - Man, what an amazing piece of glass.

Matt Shaw - I bought the ZF.2 version of this lens earlier this year to use on my D90 and loved it. I’ve since gone and got a D700 and was actually thinking of chopping the lens in against the new 85mm F1.4G – after seeing your pictures here, and how well it performs on FX maybe I should keep it. And get the 85. Thanks for another great review Ryan.

Christina - I am in love with your first image from this review. WOW… Thanks

sam hurd - the yellow of the leaves in the top shot is just incredible. beyond awesome. great review!

daniel stark - great review! thanks for sharing, ryan!

Grant - I did my own test with this lens today, comparing it with the Nikkor 105mm Macro VR G. AF was a huge plus on the Nikkors side BUT that was all it had. Colour rendition and contrast between the two was worlds apart. The Zeiss blew the Nikkor away. Would my clients notice? I don’t think so, but to me it was very obvious. I had my 85mm F1.4 G with me and while angles were noticeably different it has a colour rendition a LOT closer to the Zeiss. Viewing the results you may be forgiven for thinking the Nikkor 85 and the Zeiss 100 were from the same manufacturer.

Grant - I did my own test with this lens today, comparing it with the Nikkor 105mm Macro VR G. AF was a huge plus on the Nikkors side BUT that was all it had. Colour rendition and contrast between the two was worlds apart. The Zeiss blew the Nikkor away. Would my clients notice? I don’t think so, but to me it was very obvious. I had my 85mm F1.4 G with me and while angles were noticeably different it has a colour rendition a LOT closer to the Zeiss. Viewing the results you may be forgiven for thinking the Nikkor 85 and the Zeiss 100 were from the same manufacturer.

Georg Rekas - Hello Ryan,

thank you for this review. Now I got my copy of the Zeiss 100mm f/2! :-)

Best regards from Germany,

Georg Rekas – wedding photojournalist

Phạm Thanh - Yes!