Vaperture 11/6/13: Wine. Zeiss 135mm f/2 MF: Long Island Wineries - 06

Beautiful wine grapes at Roanoke Vineyards in Long Island… one of my favorite East Coast wineries. They have a wonderful sitting area outside near the vines, and on a bright sunny day like this one, it’s the perfect opportunity to grab a few grape shots.

This photo was taken with a manual focus Zeiss 135mm f2 APO SONNAR lens, which is one of my absolute favorite lenses. The bokeh it produces is incredible, and the manual focus ring is so soft and precise, almost like a finely fashioned surgical instrument (which I am ironically  used to using in my professional life). My aperture was set to 2.5 with a shutter speed of 1/1600 and -0.7EV. As usual, there is zero retouching or post processing so this is straight out of the camera (Canon 5D Mark III).

All of the photos I shot this day were extremely difficult to get exposed correctly because the sun was so bright and the entire vineyard was essentially backlit. This taught me how important body positioning is for getting the right shot… using your body to block out, or create, shadows was the key here.


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© All images are property of Vaperture and Nicholas Vendemia and may not be used or reproduced without expressed written consent.

3 Comments on “wine

  1. Came across your site as I was researching on the Zeiss 135mm APO lens. Wound up looking through your entire collection because you are one of the few who shoot with Zeiss lenses.
    I’ve enjoyed shooting the Zeiss 100mm Macro lens for years and wonder if it’s worth getting the 135mm APO. I was concern that perhaps it may not perform as well for close range. But your close up photos with the 135mm APO lens looks fantastic as well.
    May I ask why do you decide to keep both lens given that their similar focal length? Perhaps you can write a similar review of 5D mark iii vs 1Dx.
    Merry Christmas.

    • Hi Chen,

      Thank you so much for your kind words, and I’m very glad that you’ve enjoyed the site.

      The 100 Makro and the 135 APO are two completely different lenses in my opinion, even though they are “similar” focal lengths. The character of each lens is the most striking difference, but there are many others are well. The 100 Makro is a much older design, and the “feeling” of the images taken with that lens is an exceptional example of old vs new, retro vs contemporary. The Makro produces images with a very surreal, ethereal feeling to them because the transition between in focus and out of focus areas is so gentle, gradual, and someone obtuse. It produces more dreamlike images for me that many times feel more like a painting than a photograph, and I absolutely love that quality for certain subject matter, or when I just feel like producing that kind of art.

      The 135 APO could not be more different when it comes to character. It is Rembrandt, and the Makro is Salvador Dali. The Apo is tremendously sharp and accurate. It’s images are phenomenally crisp with a fairly harsh transition between in an out of focus areas. The images looks quite “perfect” from just about every photographic measure, and sometimes that perfection is very beautiful– but very, VERY different from the dreamlike images of the Makro.

      The dreamlike quality of the Makro also has to do with the bokeh. The bokeh of both of Zeiss’s Makro– the 50 and the 100– are almost too smooth, with every element in the background, and many elements in the foreground surrounding the in focus area– completely obliterated to the point of being unrecognizable to anyone who hasn’t seen the scene in full focus. Personally, I love that quality about those two lenses, but many dislike it tremendously because it’s not “perfect”– it’s not how modern bokeh is “supposed to be”– it’s not terribly smooth.

      The 135 is the exact opposite– the bokeh is extremely smooth, in a very digital way, that in all honesty I don’t really care for. The details and colors are true perfection with this lens, but a perfect images is all you get– you don’t get an image that makes you feel anything beyond “Wow, that’s an incredible lens.”. I more often want to feel “Wow, what an incredible photograph.”, and that’s that’s what the 100 Makro does far more often than the 135.

      Now, the other issue is the handling, and again these two are apples and oranges. The Makro has an incredibly long, stiff focus throw, and is an extreme challenge to focus accurately at distances less than 6ft– and that’s exactly why I don’t use it for macro work– ironic, I know, but I don’t actually think that macro work is where the Makro lens shines. I think it is a true star at moderate distances– 20-40ft distances is where this lens is just wonderful. Easy as pie to focus at those distances, and it still produces that lovely dreamlike quality that I personally cannot replicate with any other lens, especially not the 135.

      The 135 handling is much more user friendly, and just as ironically, it works best for me at close distances right around the MFD. It’s surprisingly easy for me to focus close up, and the extreme perfection is produces in details, and the sharp transition between in and out of focus areas, seems just perfect to me for capturing fine detailed images of objects that have details that are worthy of being captured like that. Using the 135 in the conventional way of capturing long distance subjects is just plain boring, at least to me. The field of view is too narrow to make an interesting composition, and it gives that sense of being so far away from your subject that the image has lost all “feeling”.

      Since I started this site, I’ve sold all of my Zeiss gear and switched entirely to Leica, which does everything Zeiss does, except far better. Almost every Leica lens has far more character than even the 100 Makro, and I truly love that about their lenses. I enjoy finding the individual characters of different lenses more than any other aspect of photography, and trying to match my subject, or my inspiration for that day, to the character of the lens. After switching to Leica, there is only one Zeiss lens that I miss– the 100 Makro. And, keep in mind that I even owned the legendary 55 Otus for over a year. The 100 Makro is a truly unique lens that I would love to own again if I could ever bring myself to shooting with a larger camera body– which will never happen. However, the Leica 90mm f2 pre-ASPH lens comes very close to having such a unique character, that I’m missing the 100 less and less.

      As far as the review of the 5DIII vs the IDX, I did that a long time ago. Here’s the link:

      Merry Christmas to you too! And thank you again for taking the time to comment.


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