The Unloved and the Unrivalled

Canon 24mm f1.4 L v Zeiss Contax 21mm f2.8 Distagon


Performance at f2.8 (Zone A)

CanonFlare2a ff
Canon 24mm f1.4 L at f2.8 (centre) Zeiss Contax 21mm at f2.8 (centre)
3.25 points
4.5 points

In typical Zeiss fashion, we find a level of centre-frame resolution sufficient for almost any conceivable application. Today, this particular Canon 24mm L is doing its centre frame softness thing at wide apertures. There appears to be no reproducible pattern to this behaviour. If we move out into Zone B, we see how anomalous the phenomenon is . . .

Performance at f2.8 (Zone B: Right Side)

CanonFlare2a ff
Canon 24mm f1.4 L at f2.8 (mid-frame) Zeiss Contax 21mm at f2.8 (mid-frame)
4 points
4 points

In this mood, the 8-16mm zone is much better resolved than the very centre of the Canon's image circle. Here the L capitalises on its speed advantage: however good the Zeiss is, it's wide open – and the 24mm is two stops down.

Performance at f2.8 (Zone C: Extreme Corner)

CanonFlare2a ff
Canon 24mm f1.4 L at f2.8 (extreme corner) Zeiss Contax 21mm at f2.8 (extreme corner)
3.25 points
3.75 points

But then again, the Zeiss is special. Seeing the Distagon outresolve the Canon's corners so convincingly at this aperture (despite the two stop disadvantage) is like watching a Veyron lap a 911 using only the first three gears. Before we get too excited, however, observe the strong vignetting and distinctive waveform distortion in relation to the relatively pedestrian Canon. The 24L's corners are only shamed in this company: in this focal length range, what else comes close at f2.8?



Draw a straight line and follow it.

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