I started collecting Zeiss ZF lenses a few years ago and just recently decided to cine-mod three of them myself so I scoured the internet to find a video tutorial. I found a few, but none that addressed Zeiss Planner T glass. I thought I would share what I learned and hopefully help anyone else interested in de-clicking a ZF lens themselves. It really isn’t that difficult.
The main part of cine-modding a stills photography lens is to de-click the aperture. This allows the iris of the lens to be opened or closed without clicks between f-stops. It’s ideal for making exposure changes on the fly while shooting as well as making micro adjustments between stops.
It can be intimidating opening up a lens, but if you take your time and follow a few simple steps it’s not too difficult. If you don’t want to preform a cine-mod yourself you can always send your lenses off to Duclos Lenses to have them modded. Depending on what you want done it can cost between $60 – $400 per lens. *Note price comparison at bottom of this post.
Here are the lenses I’m collecting:
- Zeiss Distagon T* 25mm f/2.0 ZF.2 Lens for Nikon F Mount
- Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 50mm f/2 ZF.2 Lens for Nikon F-Mount Cameras
- Zeiss Planar T* 85mm f/1.4 ZF.2 Lens for Nikon F-Mount Cameras
- Zeiss Makro-Planar T* 100mm f/2 ZF.2 Lens for Nikon F-Mount Cameras
Six Steps to De-clicking a Lens
1. Remove Lens Mount
Using a jewelers philips head screwdriver remove the 3 or 4 screws on the back of the lens mount. I suggest using a screw driver with a magnetic tip. This will keep the tiny screws from falling out and rolling away from you. Use a small cup or bowl to store parts that you will need for reinstallation.
2. Remove Aperture Ring
With a firm grip remove the aperture ring slowly. The ball bearing that you want to remove for de-clicking will either stick to the ring or lens. This helps avoid dropping the tiny ball bearing into the lens and possibly getting it wedged into an unwanted area. Once you located the bearing use the tip of your magnetic screwdriver to remove.
3. Apply Grease to Aperture Ring
Adding grease to the inside of the aperture ring helps create resistance when the ring is reinstalled. If you don’t dampen the aperture ring you’ll find it can move too easily while shooting and this can really mess with your exposure.
Finding the right kind of grease can be a pain. After spending hours searching the four corner of the internet I couldn’t find a straight answer on what brand of grease to use. Most people recommend silicone, but it’s not clear what brand. There was a lot of debate in various forums about automotive grease, but there’s no clear answer. So when I went to order my adapter rings from leitax.com I found a lens grease that worked for my purposes.
If you know of a grease brand and where it can be ordered, please let me know! I’ll be happy to share the info with the world so others won’t have to go through the agony of research to figure this out. Plus, ordering lens grease from Europe is not ideal if you can find it easily in the U.S. or locally.
I used a flathead screw driver to apply a thin coat of grease to the inside of the aperture ring. It’s better to start with less than to have too much. You do not want excess grease oozing into your lens! But if you find you’ve added too much you can always wipe away the excess.
4. Reapply Aperture Ring
Once you’ve applied the grease you can put the aperture ring back on the lens. Make sure the f/stop numbers on the ring are oriented correctly. Pull back the iris lever (I don’t know the official name, but it’s the long metal piece that sticks out the back of the lens. When pulled you’ll see the iris blades open). Keep the lever pulled back as you push the aperture ring down on to the lens. This will allow the ring to slide all the way down into place. If you don’t do this the ring will not set correctly. It will make more sense when you actually have the lens open.
Test the aperture ring by turning it back and fourth. Make sure it has enough tension. If it doesn’t, remove the ring and add more grease. If it has too much tension remove the ring and remove grease. It’s all personal preference.
5. Reinstall Lens Mount
Realign the lens mount and put the screws back in.
6. Add Leitax Adapter Ring
Since these are Nikon F mount lenses they do need an adapter to convert them to Canon E Mount. I found that Duclos uses Leitax adapters in their ZF modifications. Leitax adapters are pretty pricey (around $80) to use this type of adapter, but they are very high quality and once installed there is no give between the lens and camera. Plus, you are saving yourself the cost of labor if you install them yourself. The instructions on Leitax’s site are very straight forward. Essentially you are lining up the adapter, installing a plate, and then the adapter on top.
You can also add a better rear cap made by Op/Tech that has a rubber O ring that helps keep out dust and moisture. They are a bit harder to remove and put back on thanks to the internal ring, but are superior than the tradition Canon rear cap. They only cost $9.
Doing a lens modification yourself will save you money. A complete mod like this will cost you $400 from Duclos. Here’s a break down of each item to help understand what you save.
Compared to Duclos that’s a savings of $235 for about an hour’s worth of labor. Of course the parts are not identical to what Duclos uses. For example, their focus gear is not 3D printed and is made of a solid plastic (I’m guessing from some sort of plastic moulding). So there is a bit of an apples and oranges comparison thing going on.
I hope this tutorial helps you with modifying your own lens mods. Of course it’s your decision to make these modifications and I take no responsibility if you damage your lenses. If you have any questions, please feel free to ask.