observation about the Carl Zeiss ZM lenses when used on an actual M series digital camera. What happened to the color shift across the frame?

 a few months back I was pretty excited about picking up two mint condition, Carl Zeiss wide angle lenses that were designed to work with Leica M mount cameras (and, I think, also with the Zeiss ZM camera, which was a short lived product...). I bought a barely used 28mm f2.8 and an even less used 35mm f2.0 Biogon. That's back when I started experimenting more with various adapters. M to L mount, in particular. 

I used the lenses on a couple of Leica SL bodies and also on the Sigma fp. But even when I shot .DNG and developed the files using the lens profiles made for them, in Lightroom, I got some obvious color shifting across big swaths of the corners of the frames. This problem never appeared with the Voigtlander 50mm APO lens and it was most obvious with the 28mm lens. With the Sigma you can calibrate the color shifting by creating a file -- shooting a white target and letting the camera create a "workable" profile. But the ones from the 28mm were never quite perfect. 

when I put the 28mm lens on the Leica M240 everything cleared up. I set the lens profile in the camera. There is not one exactly for the Carl Zeiss lens in the M camera ---- they are, after all, competitors. But I found that one of the profiles for a recent, non-aspherical Leica 28mm worked just fine. And, if you are shooting raw/.DNG there is a more exact profile in Lightroom for that lens on the M body. Winner.

There is some variation in tone in the image above but no color shifting. It's just the normal variation you would see in the sky if you were actually a lens and a camera. 

I tried the same basic process with the Carl Zeiss 35mm Biogon and found it to be without any color shift as well.. 

So there is a reason after all to use lenses designed expressly for M cameras on M cameras. They work better. 

I'm packing the two Zeiss lenses and the Voigtlander 50mm f2.0 APO for the M240, for photographing in Montreal. I'l also taking the Q2 along as a back-up camera/lens combination. One small, dull green Domke F1 bag in the rugged finish. With an additional coat of wax on the top lid. Packed and ready now. 

I know, I know. I'm a couple days early. Still time to second guess myself, dump everything out and just take the SL2 and the 24-90mm lens. But I don't think so. Not this time. 

Med-info. My arm is sore from the Covid vaccine. And my head hurts. And I'm pretty wrung out today. But I did make it up at 7 and into the pool by 8. We got in a leisurely 2,900 yards. I've already returned a carry-on suit case I didn't like to Amazon. I ate a donut. First time in years. Tasted great while I was chewing it but the sugar rush was obnoxious. My arm is feeling better by the hour. 

I hope I recover by 6 pm. My friend, Keith Carter, is having an opening reception for his new photo book. It's at the Steve Clark gallery. Gotta show my face. And, I think his latest book, published by the University of Texas Press, will be amazing. Fun with Fine Art Photography. In person. As it should be. 


Biro said...

Glad you got the latest COVID shot, Kirk. My wife and I plan to get them in October or November. We’re trying to decide whether October is a bit too early to get through the season here in the Northeast.

Meanwhile, isn’t it interesting how complications disappear when native M-mount lenses are actually mounted on M cameras?

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

Hi Biro, I wanted to get all three vaccines at once. The flu, Covid and RSV. My physician counseled me to do the covid separate and now but to wait on the other two until I come back. I'm sensitive to vaccines. Not anaphylactic shock sensitive but the side effects usually hit me like a ton of bricks and he thought I'm miss a bunch of swimming if I did the trifecta. (Probably also thought I'd call him whining.....). So far, this round is less severe in terms of side effects than the first two rounds were. This is my fifth jab. So fun!

Masking in lines and on the plane. Just makes sense.

JC said...

I thought those were H's at first glance, and the word was pronounced Athhole. Okay, I'm lying.

Doug said...

Your upcoming trip sounds exciting. I've spent the day packing for a solo trip to Monument Valley (camping on Hunts Mesa) and Capitol Reef, ending with a quick overnight at Bryce Canyon. I hate the packing part but am looking forward to hitting the open road. Both tomorrow and next Saturday will be 11 hour driving days, but everything in between should be a lot of fun. I will likely return exhausted but happy.

On the vaccine topic, I did my 2nd shingles shot a couple weeks ago. I don't think my arm has ever hurt so back from a shot... and for about four days after. After watching a couple people I know get shingles, I knew I didn't want any part of it.

Anonymous said...


How are your ZM lenses showing color shift, across the entire frame or more like vignetting and just out towards the corners?

In my experience using an M9 and the SL2, a lot of lenses have color shift wide open until until they are stopped down 2 stops. This is very common with early 1950s-60s vintage Leica lenses. They start with a yellow-ish shift then come back to a more normal color palette. Then newer the lens the more reduced the effect, and it should be largely eliminated with an APO lens.

Though, even my Zeiss 35mm f1.4 ZM Distagon has a slight shift towards yellow. To see this effect please see the article below at the Dear Susan website. Yes, this is a shameless plug. ;-)


If the shift is more in the corners and edges, but mostly disappears on your M-body, that is because of the micro-lenses over the bayer filter Leica uses. With the M9, Leica advertised that they designed the sensor for M-lenses. Specifically they designed raised/angled micro-lenses that increase as you move out from the center of the sensor to match the field curvature prevalent in vintage Leica M-lenses. Since your Zeiss ZM lenses are designed for film, they benefit from the M micro-lenses.

SL sensors have features that benefit M-lenses, but they don’t have the micro lenses designed for M-lenses. So we have to accept this compromise when using M-lenses on the L-mount cameras.

Enjoy your trip. I’m looking forward to seeing what you bring home.

Tom Farrell said...

Well, that Keith Carter reference took me down an enjoyable rabbit hole. He does amazing work, and it led me to other photographers like Mark Tucker, and equipment/techniques - Flexbody, tilt-shift, wet plate collodion, on and on. Also brought back happy memories of making gum bichromate prints. Thanks, and have a great trip.

Anonymous said...

Keith is a great guy and an extraordinarily talented photographic artist and instructor. Please say hello to him from some of the people he instructed during a 2009 week-long workshop in Homer, Alaska. Best I ever attended, and very enjoyable people.

Kirk, Photographer/Writer said...

Totally agree about Keith. Wonderful artist. Really nice guy.