The performance of Carl Zeiss & Leica M lenses on the Fujifilm X-Pro 1 by Jan Vogelaar


This friday we have a guest author here on Fujirumors. It’s Jan Vogelaar, author of various books like “Contarex, Contax G & Leica M Lenses Guide to Digital Imaging on the Fujifilm X-Pro1” [ebay (click here) or at camerabooks (click here)]. He was so kind to send me an extract of his book.

And don’t worry, Rico Pfirstinger is working on the next X-pert corner articles. Many articles of the X-pert corner are based on Rico’s book “Mastering the FUJIFILM X-Pro1” (Kindle Edition) (Apple iBook Store) (German version)”. As you may know, Rico is writing all his articles on Fujirumors for free. It would be great if you’d support his great work by purchasing his book. And thanks to all those who already did it.

But now, enjoy Jan Vogelaar’s review. The 35mm lenses tested here are: Fujinon XF35mm / Carl Zeiss Contax G Planar 2.0/35mmCarl Zeiss Biogon ZM 2.0/35mm / Leica Summicron M 2.0/35mm

Thanks Jan!

A book review by Jan Vogelaar

The development of photographic lenses cannot be complete without Carl Zeiss AG. It was Ernst Abbe of the Zeiss Company who first applied scientific principles to the lens design process, rather than relying on trial-and-error experience.

Ever since the lens design principles by Zeiss are given special names, which nowadays, some for more than a century later, are still used: Tessar (1902), Planar (1896), Sonnar (1929), Biogon (1951) and Distagon (1958). In many ways the history of Carl Zeiss AG is the history of photographic lenses. Carl Zeiss has acquired an excellent reputation for its lens quality, mechanically as well as optically.

Another relevant aspect is illustrated in the next picture, showing the light beam projection angle of the Retrofocus and the Biogon lens design. The angle α-1 of the Retrofocus lens is much sharper than the angle α-2 of the Biogon design lens.

lenses photo lenses_zpse3b2d8f0.jpg

Granted permission by Zeiss, full owner of the biogon and distagon design name and (former) patents

Thus, the edge light beams hit the sensor with an angle of 90o minus α-1 for the Retrofocus design and for the Biogon: 90o minus α-2 degrees.

Imagine a small light beam that hits the sensor activating green collecting pixels and the next beam of the same color hits the red collecting pixels next to it, and then a green/magenta color shift may occur.

The sharper the hitting angles the more chance there is for this color shift. This phenomenon occurs with some Biogon (ánd other) lenses.

Although this is not a complete scientific explanation, now you can understand the origin of the different color shifts that now and then appear in your digital pictures more often with the Biogon type of lens design. All colors should be in focus in exactly the same plane e.g. the sensor’s plane.


The requirements for the sensor’s resolution primarily depend on what purpose the photographer has with his pictures. If the aim is to obtain a picture file for maximum enlargement then the maximum resolution is required. The pixel race is mainly a marketing tool, easy to write about and the general public believes the more pixels the better. However, the number of pixels is most relevant for the size of the picture to be printed. 12 mega pixels are sufficient for any 10” x 18” print.

From a resolution point of view the actual pixels pitch and the optical performance of the lens might well be much more relevant for the registration of finest details in the image. In other words, if the lens resolution is capable to define a 6 micron sized detail, the resolution for the sensor should be capable to do the same. The pixel pitch for a 15 – 20 Mp sensor is app. 6 microns.

Definition: The pixel pitch is the distance in mm between the centers of two neighboring pixels in the pixel array.

Today’s sensors are approaching the capabilities of the best lens designs, at least that is the message that lens designers are now broadcasting.

The main factors limiting the lens performance are:

  • Aberrations, which lens-designers try to improve ánd
  • Diffraction, which basically is a physical phenomenon.

Aberrations: spherical, coma, axial chromatic, astigmatism, field curvature, are very hard to eliminate
with the high-speed lenses.

Diffraction is an optical effect, which softens the total resolution of the photography, no matter how many megapixels the sensor has.

The designer’s success determines how much resolution and contrast is captured. If the aperture is opened wider, the aberrations are increasing with the bigger aperture openings.

Conclusion: The most relevant parameters, that limit the lens performance, given a particular picture size, are the best optical design and the aperture opening. In general: the aperture openings smaller than F = 16 or 22 already come close to the diffraction limitations.

Definition: Light travels in straight lines, however it begins to disperse or diffract when it is squeezed through a narrow opening e.g. the camera’s aperture.

We will leave the technical and physical background information for what it is and now concentrate on what the purpose of this article is:

The goal is to review and determine the real life and practical results and compare the results achieved with a variety of Zeiss Contarex, Zeiss Contax G and Leica M mount lenses. By showing the results for each lens at full opening, at f = 5.6 (on the table) and at f = 8 the variable of diffraction is not really relevant.


A wide variety of adapters are produced, for the Sony Nex mount, the Olympus 4/3rd and micro 4/3rd mount and for the Fujifilm X mount. At the lens end virtually every mount is available:

2 photo 2_zps48ed12f9.png

Alpa / C mount (ø 25 mm) / Canon EF / Canon FD / Contarex / Contax & Yashica / Contax G1 & G2 / Exakta / Leica M / Leica R / Leica screw (ø 39 mm) / M42 screw (ø 42 mm 1 mm pitch) / Minolta MD / Nikon F / Nikon G / Olympus 4/3rd / Olympus OM / Pentax PK / Rollei / Sony / T2 (ø 42 mm 0.75 mm pitch)

The main adapter producers are: In Germany: Novoflex, Voigtländer, in China & Japan: Kipon, Metabones, Rainbowimaging, Rayqual and Photodiox.

Furthermore Fujifilm introduced in June 2012 already a fully coupled Leica M adapter including the focal length selection for the Fuji X Pro 1. The design prevents collapsible Leica lenses hitting the interior of the camera.

The Fujinon XF lenses are newly designed for the APS C sensor. Al other lenses in the book however are originally designed for film. Even many new lenses on the digital market today are a modification of film design lenses.

The scores for all lenses are given on a scale of 1 to 10 for sharpness and brilliance, 10 is best. For Color fringing and color aberration the score is also on a scale of 1 to 10. 10 equals totally absent.

All material is produced in a timespan of about 2 to 3 hours and no post-processing for aberrations or sharpness is performed. All files are .jpg from Photoshop and/or the Fuji .jpg in camera engine.

3 photo 3_zps991c835b.png

The Fujinon XF lenses are newly designed for the APS C sensor. Al other lenses in the book however are originally designed for film. Even many new lenses on the digital market today are a modification of film design lenses. These considerations made me select the new Fujinon XF lens for the standard.

THE FUJINON XF 1.4/35 MM PERFORMANCE (specs&price)

1 photo 1_zps59bf504c.png
2 photo 2_zps46180884.png

This very fast Fujinon XF 1.4/35 mm lens is a pleasure to use. Not the most compact, but still light weighted and an excellent performer.

The center is at f = 1.4 already very sharp: excellent. The very minimal light fall off disappears in one stop. There is minimal chromatic aberration in the very far corner only at f = 1.4. Stopped down to f = 5.6 the chromatic aberrations disappears completely even in the very far corners.

An easy to handle, very fast wide-angle lens living up to all expectations.

3 photo 3_zpsd31b6982.jpg

Center crop Fujinon XF 1.4/35 mm at f = 1.4

4 photo 4_zps9bcc78bb.jpg

Corner crop Fujinon XF 1.4/35 mm at f = 1.4

5 photo 5_zpse384c2de.jpg

Center crop Fujinon XF 1.4/35 mm at f = 8

6 photo 6_zpsf3ec7090.jpg

Corner crop Fujinon XF 1.4/35 mm at f = 8


005 photo 005_zps94c1f606.png

THE CARL ZEISS CONTAX G PLANAR 2.0/35 MM PERFORMANCE (ebay worldwide via slidoo)

7 photo 7_zps7dd2937d.png
8 photo 8_zpsed371632.png

At full opening this Contax G Planar 2.0/35 mm lens is a little bit soft and has almost no light fall off. Fully opened a very good score already.

The performance improves even further by stopping down and the performance is at f = 5.6 really excellent.

Playing with the depth of field and or stopping down to f = 8 brings the performance center to corner up to one’s highest expectations, very close to the norm lens.

If you own this lens: buy the adapter and I am sure you will not be disappointed.

9 photo 9_zps4e0f062e.png

Center crop Contax G Planar 2.0/35 mm at f = 2

10 photo 10_zps71261fbc.png

Corner crop Contax G Planar 2.0/35 mm at f = 2

11 photo 11_zpsc840b401.jpg

Center crop Contax G Planar 2.0/35 mm at f = 8

12 photo 12_zps770961c4.png

Corner crop Contax G Planar 2.0/35 mm at f = 8


24 photo 24_zpsee283a40.png

THE CARL ZEISS BIOGON ZM 2.0/35 MM PERFROMANCE (ebay worldwide via slidoo)

13 photo 13_zps23524a5c.png
14 photo 14_zpsc25acf2d.png

At full opening this Biogon 2.0/35 mm is soft and has (about one stop) light fall off. Fully opened a disappointing score in my opinion.

Although stopping down improves a lot and the performance is at f = 5.6 not yet at its best, just good.

Stopping down to f = 8 or 11 is necessary in order to brings the performance center to corner up to one’s expectations.

15 photo 15_zps419d1fce.jpg

Center crop Carl Zeiss ZM Biogon 2.0/35 mm at f = 2

16 photo 16_zps5d76e4ae.png

Corner crop Carl Zeiss ZM Biogon 2.0/35mm at f = 2

17 photo 17_zps1969dda0.png

Center crop Carl Zeiss ZM Biogon 2.0/35mm at f = 8

18 photo 18_zpsaaef0cf6.png

Corner crop Carl Zeiss ZM Biogon 2.0/35mm at f = 8


36 photo 36_zpsc2237453.png


19 photo 19_zpsed0357d2.png
20 photo 20_zps88670b15.png

At full opening this Summicron 2.0/35 mm is mildly soft and has (about one stop) light fall off. Fully opened already a good score.

Stopping down improves a lot and the performance is at f = 5.6 really good.

Stopping down to f = 8 or more brings the performance center to corner up to one’s expectations: excellent!

A great lens to put on the must have list.

21 photo 21_zps2d6eb0cf.jpg

Center crop Leica M Summicron 2.0/35 mm at f = 2

22 photo 22_zps25e41ec9.jpg

Corner crop Leica M Summicron 2.0/35 mm at f = 2

23 photo 23_zpsca84bd13.jpg

Center crop Leica M Summicron 2.0/35 mm at f = 8

24 photo 24_zps7b9f2b39.jpg

Corner crop Leica M Summicron 2.0/35 mm at f = 8

46 photo 46_zps12f1f5c9.png


  • The examples in this article illustrate, with perfect compatible pictures, the performance of top quality lenses on the new Fujifilm X-Pro 1 mirror-less digital camera.
  • Fujifilm has initiated a new sensor development with respect to the randomization of the sensor’s pixels position and the algorithm that is needed to process the data. The absence of the low pass filter is absolutely an improvement.
  • Fujifilm has designed new lenses that are not anymore modifications of the film lens design. The Fuji lenses cannot be used on any other camera system, although the design seems to me a further development of the Distagon (retrofocus) concept.
  • All lenses in the book are mechanically beyond questioning. Carl Zeiss and Leica are still top class producers. The quality of the adapters is at a sufficient good level.
  • For the photo enthusiasts, camera and lenses collectors, the digital photography era brings new challenges and opportunities. The proof is here in the book. The oldest Leica M lens in the book is the Elmar 2.8/50 mm of the production the year 1958. A few of the vintage Contarex lenses have a similar age.
  • Of course the optical systems have seen many improvements over the years. The developments of multi-layer coating techniques, high dispersion optical-glass ánd a-spherical lens elements, certainly are worth mentioning. If you own vintage lenses: Select one of the digital camera systems as discussed in the book, select the right adapter and start using your precious optical glass.


After the Introductory chapters you will get to see the results of a collection of 28 lenses.

  • You can check the Carl Zeiss Contax G: 2.8/21, 2.8/28, 2.0/35, 2.0/45 and 2.8/90 mm.
  •  There is absolutely NO need to trim the protection cams at the rear end of both the wide-angle 21 and 28 mm Biogon G lenses. The mounting of the lens is explained in the book.
  • And the famous Contarex 4.0/18 mm Distagon all up to the 4.0/250 mm long Tele Sonar including all the Contarex lenses in between. 16 Carl Zeiss Contarex lenses all together.
  • Also the Carl Zeiss Monocular 80 x 30B combination with the 50 mm & 135 mm is not forgotten: imagine a 1060 mm tele on your digital camera. Multiplied by crop-factor 1.5 makes 1590 mm …
  • Furthermore the Leica M Summicron: 2.0/35, 2.0/50 and 2.0/90 mm, a Summaron 2.8/35 mm and the Elmar: 2.8/50, 4.0/90 and 4.0/135 mm.
  • Including the Zeiss ZM: 2.0/35 and 2.0/50 mm as well.
  • Beautiful, 59 full-color images evaluate and illustrate full size and with center & corner cuts, what the essential strengths and weaknesses of the lenses are so you will quickly find out how to select and use your lenses like a pro.
  • All is together on 98 pages, 77 in full color in this very complete and interesting book.
  • Last but not least a DVD with more results (150 comparable photographs) at full open, f = 5.6 and f = 8 comes together with the book. The performance of the same lenses on film are on the DVD as well.

You may purchase the book on ebay (click here) or at camerabooks (click here) for the USA residents.

  • Thomas

    This is an interesting comparison showing the excellent performance of the Fuji lens. I surprised about the ratings for the Leica Summicron, at f/8 espially in the corner it seems to me much better than the the two Zeiss lense, it is very close to the Fuji lens, but rating is only 8 the same as that of the Zeiss lenses.

  • I’m not surprised. The Fuji lens is specifically designed for that camera whereas the other lenses were not. The adapter no doubt comes into play with image quality deterioration as well.

    I like to see these kinds of real world tests though.

  • Himalayabear

    I am wondering if the rating is really about Fuji X-Pro’s sensor, not exactly the quality of all these glasses..? .Fuji lenses do perform excellently on the Fuji sensor, no doubt, however I am a bit surprised about the results of Summicron 50/f2 here.

    • Himalayabear

      Sorry I meant Summicron 35/f2.

      • Edgar

        Not the sensor, no. It behaves like all other digital sensors physically (light much reach a sensor), the only difference is that the arrangement of their pixels is more complicated in comparison.

        You could do these tests on an NEX and the results would be the same. The negative image quality specifically has to do with how the light is gathered and projected across the surface of a digital sensor. These lenses just weren’t designed with this type of media in mind. When you are projecting light across the surface of a film emulsion, you do not need to worry about the silver being incapable of absorbing light from a variety of angles.

        • hellocrowley

          Yes the sensor/microlenses do matter. My super sharp Biogon 25 works well on the Nex 5n but absolutely sucks on the XPro1. This is due to the thick sensor glass (2.5mm) on XPro1/XE1.

          • J. Vogelaar

            In additon to what is said already: The distagon (retrofocus) design does better than the biogon design. I tested the 2.8/25 mm Contarex distagon and surprise it is just as good as the 2.8/28 mm Cobtax G Biogon.

  • J. Vogelaar

    For the comments so far:

    1. Yes some lenses here and many more in the book are sometimes disapointing.
    2. No the adapter is just for the right register size. No glass
    3. Yes the test is all about lenses with all on the same sensor!

    Jan Vogelaar

  • Jan,

    I hope you have Mr. Van Walree’s permission for use of his “Distagon vs Biogon” illustration here in much degraded quality.
    It originates from and I just happen to be it’s author.

    Mr. Van Walree unequivocally prohibits the use of any illustrative material from his articles without proper referencing the origin.

    Mikhail Konovalov

  • J. Vogelaar

    Dear Mr. Konavlov,

    I do have full permission from Zeiss AG Germany to use, quote and publish any Carl Zeiss information covering all the lens designs including the Distagon and Biogon lens scemes. Zeiss of course is the legal owner of the names and the (former) patens. To me the picture is just a drawing with the Zeiss lens lens scemes in it. If you feel to it: I am perfectly willing to ad: “Courtesy of Mr. Walree” to the picture.

    Best regards,
    Jan Vogelaar.

  • Quite as expected.

    I don’t feel to it either way: it’s all about courtesy, each is entitled to his own standards of it. What’s rude to one, is perfectly polite to another.

    As to Zeiss permissions, their lens schematics are publicly available and I have yet to encounter a warning about restrictions to use them in illustration. OTOH, I’m not a lawer.

    Mikhail Konovalov

    • patrick

      I’ve changed the image. peace ;-)

  • Tailwagger

    Sorry, but I’m a little confused about this testing. Maybe I missed something and perhaps your conclusions are spot on, but the test shots you present seem rather too unscientific to me to be able make 1-10 evaluations and assertions about wide open sharpness at least. What exactly was the point of focus? Was it at infinity or on the foreground tree in the center of the screen? The car is apparently your analytical ‘center point’ but in the frame it is significantly off center, the river and the street appear to be quite skewed to the film plane so its some distance deeper in the field and we don’t know any of the distances involved. Maybe I’m being stupid, but can you simply presume that each of these lenses has sufficient DoF available to attribute the softness to sharpness rather than simply being out of focus?

    • J. Vogelaar

      Dear Tailwagger,

      Point of focus has been precisely on the small tree between the houses, so close to infinity. In the original photo’s the brick in the wall and the legs of chairs on the balcony are in focus.
      I have produced also al lot of A4 prints which satisfy my demands for accuracy.
      The evaluation is not a scientific one but all results are compared to a chosen “norm” lens in each lens category (wide, standard, tele & super tele lens). it is all explained in the book of course.
      Fujifilm has accepted the book for distribution among the dealers in the Netherlands.
      On the DVD is also a comparison with results on film presented.
      Jan vogelaar

    • J. Vogelaar

      Dear Tailwagger,

      Your message kept me busy so I checked on DOF and made a new print for the Leica 2/35 mm at f=2.

      I maintain the score, at f = 2 focussing has been perfect. Sharpness is Ok too on the print (A4) but the overall performance is soft! Not out of focus!

      The resolution in print is of course a lot better than on screen. All photo’s are coming with the book on DVD and I can assure you you will be surprised!

      Jan Vogelaar

  • No surprise about the excellence of the Fuji lens. I had a Fuji 210MM for my view camera once upon a time and it was spectacular. And I used a Fuji 6X9 with a 65mm that was also very fine. This whole thing that Fuji is doing with the various mirrorless and high-quality compacts is refreshing. I’m a long-time Nikon user and am thinking about switching to an XPro-1 for some of my shooting. It will be great to twist an aperture ring once again.

  • erman

    hi jan,

    do you know how the contarex planar 55mm f 1.4 performs on the x-pro 1?
    i wanted to buy the x pro1 because i own the 2 contarex lenses, but after reading
    this review i’m not so sure anymore.

    thanks for your effort.



    • Jan Vogelaar

      Dear erman,

      Yes I do: and the performance is very good. Full open a little soft. For the other settings just great. At f = 4 excellent performance. It is all fully covered in the book.

      Jan Vogelaar

  • The problem with using a Leica or Zeiss ZM lens on the Fuji X-Pro 1 or even a Sony NEX is that the lenses were designed for film and not digital. To try and minimize the performance loss on their digital cameras, Leica tried to keep the IR filter glass over the sensor as thin as possible whereas Fuji has much thicker cover glass. Fuji’s lenses are designed to focus on that thicker glass, which is why their performance is better, because Leica’s lenses focus slightly past the that glass on the X-Pro 1. Fuji also doesn’t have the offset micro lenses that Leica implements on their cameras, so with Leica lenses on an X-Pro 1 you’ll see softer corners and more light fall off than you would see on an M9.

    • Sam

      As an owner of the X-E2, XF 35/1.4 and Biogon ZM 35/2. I read this article with great interest. It’s good to know that lenses designed for film cameras won’t perform as well as on mirrorless digital cameras so I won’t bother buy the $250 Fujiflim m-mount adapter. I’ll just keep my Biogon ZM on my Zeiss Ikon. If we really want to compare lens performance then I’d love to see a comparison of XF lens on x-series vs ZM/Leica on a film camera. This way we get see lens performance in its native habitat :)

  • David

    Could you please fix the Contax G 35 shots? I just checked, and the Corner crop Contax G Planar 2.0/35 mm at f = 2 and Corner crop Contax G Planar 2.0/35 mm at f = 8 are the exact same picture. I had to check, after I read that the Contax and the Leica pre-asph had very similar optical formulas, and I was surprised the corners of the Contax were so bad at f8.


  • Marfos

    I’m a old glass user on Fuji x system,i have tested many lenses,best results from summicron r 50,rokkor md 24 2,8,rokkor md 50 1,2 &(again) rokkor 85 1,7.
    Yes,i love rokkors!

  • Gene Whitman

    Can anyone recommend a less expensive M lens adapter for the xpro1 other then the Fuji adapter for $200? Thx

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