Carl Zeiss Classic Distagon T* 21mm F/2.8 ZE / ZF / ZF.2 / ZK

Ultra-wide angle prime lens • Digital era • Discontinued

T* The multi-layer coating is applied to the surface of lens elements. It boosts light transmission, ensures sharp and high contrast images, minimizes ghosting and flares.
ZE The lens is designed for Canon EOS 35mm full-frame SLR cameras but can be also used on APS-C SLR cameras.
ZF The lens is designed for Nikon 35mm full-frame SLR cameras but can be also used on APS-C SLR cameras.
ZF.2 The lens is designed for Nikon 35mm full-frame SLR cameras but can be also used on APS-C SLR cameras. The lens features a built-in CPU which is used to transfer metering data from the lens to the camera.
ZK The lens is designed for Pentax 35mm full-frame SLR cameras but can be also used on APS-C SLR cameras.

Model history

Sample photos

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Features highlight

Extreme AoV
Fast
T*
5 AD
F.E.
Auto
9 blades
MF
CFD 0.22m

Specification

Production details
Announced:September 2008
Production status:Discontinued
Production type:Mass production
Original name:Carl Zeiss Distagon 2,8/21 ZE T*
Carl Zeiss Distagon 2,8/21 ZF T*
Carl Zeiss Distagon 2,8/21 ZF.2 T*
Carl Zeiss Distagon 2,8/21 ZK T*
Optical design
Focal length:21mm
Speed:F/2.8
Maximum format:35mm full frame
Mount:Canon EF
Nikon F
Pentax K
Flange focal distance:44mm (Canon EF)
46.5mm (Nikon F)
45.5mm (Pentax K)
Diagonal angle of view:91.7° (35mm full frame)
78.5° (Canon EF APS-H)
67.9° (Nikon F APS-C)
67.9° (Pentax K APS-C)
Lens construction:16 elements - 13 groups
5 AD
Floating element system
Diaphragm mechanism
Diaphragm type:Automatic
Number of blades:9
Focusing
Closest focusing distance:0.22m
Maximum magnification ratio:1:5 at the closest focusing distance
Focusing method:<No information>
Focusing modes:Manual focus only
Manual focus control:Focusing ring
Physical characteristics
Weight:720g (Canon EF)
600g (Nikon F)
Maximum diameter x Length:⌀87×87mm (Canon EF)
⌀87×85mm (Nikon F)
Weather sealing:-
Fluorine coating:-
Accessories
Filters:Screw-type 82mm
Lens hood:Bayonet-type 1772-179 (petal-shaped)

Manufacturer description #1

This legendary super wide angle lens will set new standards in its focal length class. Exceptional color control allows for extraordinary high contrast pictures without any color fringes. Thanks to the Carl Zeiss T * anti reflection coating and its outstanding attenuation of stray light, the Distagon T * 2,8 / 21 provides brilliant results under all lighting conditions. With a close focusing of only 0.22 m (0.72 ft) it is as attractive for landscape photography as for subjects with dramatic perspectives. The large front filter diameter even allows for the use of standard screw-in filters when combined with the standard lens shade.

Manufacturer description #2

Carl Zeiss Launches New 21mm Super Wide Angle Lens for SLR Cameras

OBERKOCHEN/Germany – September 16, 2008: The legendary Distagon T* 2.8/21 is now being introduced for SLR cameras with EF, F and K bayonets. Thanks to its excellent performance, this modernized version from the former Contax system sets new standards in this focal length class. “The outstanding correction of chromatic aberration enables photos without color fringes even in high-contrast light conditions”, says Martin Klottig, Marketing Manager, Carl Zeiss Camera Lens Division. “Even at full aperture, the floating element design ensures optimum edge-to-edge image quality over the entire focusing range. And even in difficult light conditions, the new Distagon provides excellent results thanks to its T* coating, optimum reflection reduction and exceptional chromatic correction.”

The shortest possible distance setting of only 0.22 m makes the lens ideal for impressive perspectives. Typical applications include architectural, journalistic and landscape photography.

The Distagon 2.8/21 is available with an EF bayonet (ZE), F bayonet (ZF) and a K bayonet (ZK). It is suitable for both digital and analog full-format SLR cameras.

Manufacturer description #3

Perfect Lighting For Dramatic Perspectives

Carl Zeiss presents the Distagon T* 2,8/21 with EF Bayonet

OBERKOCHEN/Germany, 2009-09-28.

Dusk is falling in Manhattan, and a swarm of commuters on their way home is hurriedly crossing the street toward Grand Central Station. Behind them, the skyscrapers reflect the golden light of the setting sun. To capture this unique atmosphere, photographers need a fast wide-angle lens.

Carl Zeiss is proud to present the Distagon T* 2,8/21 ZE, an ultra-wide-angle lens with EF bayonet designed specifically for such tricky shooting moments. It fits all analogue and digital EOS camera models. It is ideal for archi- tectural and landscape photography. Following the recent release of the Distagon T* 3,5/18 ZE, the new Distagon T* 2,8/21 ZE is now the second Carl Zeiss wide-angle lens with EF bayonet on the market.

Photographers taking wide-angle shots often encounter image errors at the transition between bright and dark light as a result of lenses breaking the various wavelengths differently. The Distagon T* 2,8/21 ZE’s ability to flawlessly correct color errors prevents color fringing and unwanted lack of focus that can result from chromatic aberrations. Thanks to these capabilities, the Distagon T* 2,8/21 ZE is ideal for contrast-rich scenes and intense lighting angles. The lens’s floating elements design also guarantees high imaging performance, from close-ups to infinity. Thanks to the Carl Zeiss T* anti-reflex coating and meticulously-crafted lenses, the Distagon T* 2,8/21 ZE is not affected by reflections or stray light. Capturing scenes with tough lighting conditions, such as the summer dusk in downtown Manhattan, works every time—even with wide aperture settings.

From the editor

Optically the lens is based on Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 21mm F/2.8 lens designed for the Contax RTS series of 35mm film SLR cameras. In 2015 it was replaced by ZEISS Milvus Distagon T* 21mm F/2.8 with its modern sleek look, massive weather-sealed construction and essentially the same optical formula optimized for high-resolution digital SLR cameras.

Typical application

landscapes, interiors, buildings, cityscapes, travel

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35mm full frame

43.27 24 36
  • Dimensions: 36 × 24mm
  • Aspect ratio: 3:2
  • Diagonal: 43.27mm

Travellers' choice

Note

Among autofocus lenses designed for 35mm full-frame mirrorless cameras only. Speed of standard and telephoto lenses is taken into account.

Professional lens

One of the best ultra-wide angle prime lenses

According to lens-db.com; among lenses designed for the same maximum format and mount.

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Quality control issues

The manufacturer of this lens does not provide adequate quality control. If you do decide to purchase this lens, do not order it online, but choose the best copy available in the store. In any case, there may also be problems with the build quality, and warranty repairs can take months.

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Unique Zeiss Look

Zeiss lenses are one-of-a-kind optical masterpieces that are impressive because of their unique Zeiss Look. This is ensured through exceptional optical design combined with selected materials and the highest quality standards.

Image stabilizer

A technology used for reducing or even eliminating the effects of camera shake. Gyro sensors inside the lens detect camera shake and pass the data to a microcomputer. Then an image stabilization group of elements controlled by the microcomputer moves inside the lens and compensates camera shake in order to keep the image static on the imaging sensor or film.

The technology allows to increase the shutter speed by several stops and shoot handheld in such lighting conditions and at such focal lengths where without image stabilizer you have to use tripod, decrease the shutter speed and/or increase the ISO setting which can lead to blurry and noisy images.

MF

Sorry, no additional information is available.

MF

Sorry, no additional information is available.

MF

Sorry, no additional information is available.

Aspherical elements

Aspherical elements (ASPH, XA, XGM) are used in wide-angle lenses for correction of distortion and in large-aperture lenses for correction of spherical aberration, astigmatism and coma, thus ensuring excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture. The effect of the aspherical element is determined by its position within the optical formula: the more the aspherical element moves away from the aperture stop, the more it influences distortion; close to the aperture stop it can be particularly used to correct spherical aberration. Aspherical element can substitute one or several regular spherical elements to achieve similar or better optical results, which allows to develop more compact and lightweight lenses.

Use of aspherical elements has its downsides: it leads to non-uniform rendering of out-of-focus highlights. This effect usually appears as "onion-like" texture of concentric rings or "wooly-like" texture and is caused by very slight defects in the surface of aspherical element. It is difficult to predict such effect, but usually it occurs when the highlights are small enough and far enough out of focus.

Low dispersion elements

Low dispersion elements (ED, LD, SD, UD etc) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture. This type of glass exhibits low refractive index, low dispersion, and exceptional partial dispersion characteristics compared to standard optical glass. Two lenses made of low dispersion glass offer almost the same performance as one fluorite lens.

Low dispersion elements

Low dispersion elements (ED, LD, SD, UD etc) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture. This type of glass exhibits low refractive index, low dispersion, and exceptional partial dispersion characteristics compared to standard optical glass. Two lenses made of low dispersion glass offer almost the same performance as one fluorite lens.

Canon's Super UD, Nikon's Super ED, Pentax' Super ED, Sigma's FLD ("F" Low Dispersion), Sony' Super ED and Tamron's XLD glasses are the highest level low dispersion glasses available with extremely high light transmission. These optical glasses have a performance equal to fluorite glass.

High-refraction low-dispersion elements

High-refraction low-dispersion elements (HLD) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture.

High Index, High Dispersion elements

High Index, High Dispersion elements (HID) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture.

Anomalous partial dispersion elements

Anomalous partial dispersion elements (AD) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture.

Fluorite elements

Synthetic fluorite elements (FL) minimize chromatic aberrations and ensure excellent sharpness and contrast even at fully open aperture. Compared with optical glass, fluorite lenses have a considerably lower refraction index, low dispersion and extraordinary partial dispersion, and high transmission of infrared and ultraviolet light. They are also significantly lighter than optical glass.

According to Nikon, fluorite easily cracks and is sensitive to temperature changes that can adversely affect focusing by altering the lens' refractive index. To avoid this, Canon, as the manufacturer most widely using fluorite in its telephoto lenses, never uses fluorite in the front and rear lens elements, and the white coating is applied to the lens barrels to reflect light and prevent the lens from overheating.

Short-wavelength refractive elements

High and specialized-dispersion elements (SR) refract light with wavelengths shorter than that of blue to achieve highly precise chromatic aberration compensation. This technology also results in smaller and lighter lenses.

Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics

Organic Blue Spectrum Refractive Optics material (BR Optics) placed between convex and concave elements made from conventional optical glass provides more efficient correction of longitudinal chromatic aberrations in comparison with conventional technology.

Diffraction elements

Diffraction elements (DO, PF) cancel chromatic aberrations at various wavelengths. This technology results in smaller and lighter lenses in comparison with traditional designs with no compromise in image quality.

High refractive index elements

High refractive index elements (HR, HRI, XR etc) minimize field curvature and spherical aberration. High refractive index element can substitute one or several regular elements to achieve similar or better optical results, which allows to develop more compact and lightweight lenses.

Apodization element

Apodization element (APD) is in fact a radial gradient filter. It practically does not change the characteristics of light beam passing through its central part but absorbs the light at the periphery. It sort of softens the edges of the aperture making the transition from foreground to background zone very smooth and results in very attractive, natural looking and silky smooth bokeh.

Original name

Lens name as indicated on the lens barrel (usually on the front ring). With lenses from film era, may vary slightly from batch to batch.

Format

Format refers to the shape and size of film or image sensor.

35mm is the common name of the 36x24mm film format or image sensor format. It has an aspect ratio of 3:2, and a diagonal measurement of approximately 43mm. The name originates with the total width of the 135 film which was the primary medium of the format prior to the invention of the full frame digital SLR. Historically the 35mm format was sometimes called small format to distinguish it from the medium and large formats.

APS-C is an image sensor format approximately equivalent in size to the film negatives of 25.1x16.7mm with an aspect ratio of 3:2.

Medium format is a film format or image sensor format larger than 36x24mm (35mm) but smaller than 4x5in (large format).

Angle of view

Angle of view describes the angular extent of a given scene that is imaged by a camera. It is used interchangeably with the more general term field of view.

As the focal length changes, the angle of view also changes. The shorter the focal length (eg 18mm), the wider the angle of view. Conversely, the longer the focal length (eg 55mm), the smaller the angle of view.

A camera's angle of view depends not only on the lens, but also on the sensor. Imaging sensors are sometimes smaller than 35mm film frame, and this causes the lens to have a narrower angle of view than with 35mm film, by a certain factor for each sensor (called the crop factor).

This website does not use the angles of view provided by lens manufacturers, but calculates them automatically by the following formula: 114.6 * arctan (21.622 / CF * FL),

where:

CF – crop-factor of a sensor,
FL – focal length of a lens.

Mount

A lens mount is an interface — mechanical and often also electrical — between a camera body and a lens.

A lens mount may be a screw-threaded type, a bayonet-type, or a breech-lock type. Modern camera lens mounts are of the bayonet type, because the bayonet mechanism precisely aligns mechanical and electrical features between lens and body, unlike screw-threaded mounts.

Lens mounts of competing manufacturers (Canon, Nikon, Pentax, Sony etc.) are always incompatible. In addition to the mechanical and electrical interface variations, the flange focal distance from the lens mount to the film or sensor can also be different.

Lens construction

Lens construction – a specific arrangement of elements and groups that make up the optical design, including type and size of elements, type of used materials etc.

Element - an individual piece of glass which makes up one component of a photographic lens. Photographic lenses are nearly always built up of multiple such elements.

Group – a cemented together pieces of glass which form a single unit or an individual piece of glass. The advantage is that there is no glass-air surfaces between cemented together pieces of glass, which reduces reflections.

Flange focal distance

The flange focal distance (FFD), sometimes called the "flange back", is the distance from the mechanical rear end surface of the lens mount to the focal plane.

Focal length

The focal length is the factor that determines the size of the image reproduced on the focal plane, picture angle which covers the area of the subject to be photographed, depth of field, etc.

Speed

The largest opening or stop at which a lens can be used is referred to as the speed of the lens. The larger the maximum aperture is, the faster the lens is considered to be. Lenses that offer a large maximum aperture are commonly referred to as fast lenses, and lenses with smaller maximum aperture are regarded as slow.

In low-light situations, having a wider maximum aperture means that you can shoot at a faster shutter speed or work at a lower ISO, or both.

Floating element system

Provides correction of aberrations and ensures constantly high image quality at the entire range of focusing distances from infinity down to the closest focusing distance. It is particularly effective for the correction of field curvature that tends to occur with large-aperture, wide-angle lenses when shooting at close ranges.

Closest focusing distance

The minimum distance from the focal plane (film or sensor) to the subject where the lens is still able to focus.

Closest working distance

The distance from the front edge of the lens to the subject at the maximum magnification.

Magnification ratio

Determines how large the subject will appear in the final image. For example, a magnification ratio of 1:1 means that the image of the subject formed on the film or sensor will be the same size as the subject in real life. For this reason, a 1:1 ratio is often called "life-size".

Electromagnetic diaphragm control system

Provides highly accurate diaphragm control and stable auto exposure performance during continuous shooting.

Convex protruding front element

The convex front element protrudes from the lens barrel, making it impossible to use filters.

Manual diaphragm

The diaphragm must be stopped down manually by rotating the detent aperture ring.

Preset diaphragm

The lens has two rings, one is for pre-setting, while the other is for normal diaphragm adjustment. The first ring must be set at the desired aperture, the second ring then should be fully opened for focusing, and turned back for stop down to the pre-set value.

Semi-automatic diaphragm

The lens features spring mechanism in the diaphragm, triggered by the shutter release, which stops down the diaphragm to the pre-set value. The spring needs to be reset manually after each exposure to re-open diaphragm to its maximum value.

Automatic diaphragm

The camera automatically closes the diaphragm down during the shutter operation. On completion of the exposure, the diaphragm re-opens to its maximum value.

Number of blades

As a general rule, the more blades that are used to create the aperture opening in the lens, the rounder the out-of-focus highlights will be.

Some lenses are designed with curved diaphragm blades, so the roundness of the aperture comes not from the number of blades, but from their shape. However, the fewer blades the diaphragm has, the more difficult it is to form a circle, regardless of rounded edges.

At maximum aperture, the opening will be circular regardless of the number of blades.

Weight

Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

Maximum diameter x Length

Excluding case or pouch, caps and other detachable accessories (lens hood, close-up adapter, tripod adapter etc.).

For lenses with collapsible design, the length is indicated for the working (retracted) state.

Weather sealing

A rubber material which is inserted in between each externally exposed part (manual focus and zoom rings, buttons, switch panels etc.) to ensure it is properly sealed against dust and moisture.

Lenses that accept front mounted filters typically do not have gaskets behind the filter mount. It is recommended to use a filter for complete weather resistance when desired.

Fluorine coating

Helps keep lenses clean by reducing the possibility of dust and dirt adhering to the lens and by facilitating cleaning should the need arise. Applied to the outer surface of the front and/or rear lens elements over multi-coatings.

Filters

Lens filters are accessories that can protect lenses from dirt and damage, enhance colors, minimize glare and reflections, and add creative effects to images.

Lens hood

A lens hood or lens shade is a device used on the end of a lens to block the sun or other light source in order to prevent glare and lens flare. Flare occurs when stray light strikes the front element of a lens and then bounces around within the lens. This stray light often comes from very bright light sources, such as the sun, bright studio lights, or a bright white background.

The geometry of the lens hood can vary from a plain cylindrical or conical section to a more complex shape, sometimes called a petal, tulip, or flower hood. This allows the lens hood to block stray light with the higher portions of the lens hood, while allowing more light into the corners of the image through the lowered portions of the hood.

Lens hoods are more prominent in long focus lenses because they have a smaller viewing angle than that of wide-angle lenses. For wide angle lenses, the length of the hood cannot be as long as those for telephoto lenses, as a longer hood would enter the wider field of view of the lens.

Lens hoods are often designed to fit onto the matching lens facing either forward, for normal use, or backwards, so that the hood may be stored with the lens without occupying much additional space. In addition, lens hoods can offer some degree of physical protection for the lens due to the hood extending farther than the lens itself.