Zeiss Super Speeds are small, fast, lightweight, and favored for their sharp, lower contrast, and slightly milky characteristics when used wide open, tempting qualities to complement sharp modern digital sensors. They all have a front diameter of 80mm, which makes the lens quick to use a single back on a clip-on Matte Box. They are often used for handheld, gimbal, and drone work.
They are not without drawbacks, the focus barrel of the lens extends when focusing, and clipping on the matte box too tightly can prevent the focus barrel from turning. Their focusing mechanism sometimes referred to as multi-threads or eccentrics, can lead to an objectionable mechanical defect known as focus shift, where the image changes size or even jumps when changing focus. They have fewer focus marks than modern lenses, which often results in the assistant having to visually check focus before adding a mark on the lens or the focus disk.
The first generation featured a six blades iris, which resulted in a triangle shape and triangle bokeh on the highlights. This was commonly referred to as a 3-blade iris. The main disadvantage with these was that the focus marks were grouped tightly, which led to the creation of Mark I with an extended focus ring. When Zeiss moved to the Mark II, they did away with the triangle bokeh, and the Mark III introduced focus rings with either metric or imperial markings, making the work of the focus puller much easier.
Depending on T stop, the focus result is not as forgiving as with modern lenses. But they have a neutral to cool color rendition with soft circular flares that fog up the lens with light. Her and Lost in Translation used Super Speeds as their base for creating their look. It is said that these lenses have sharp yet subtle vintage characteristics.
The standard set comprises of 6 lenses, although the 65mm was a later addition and is not found in Mark I sets. The broader and longer lenses from the standard Zeiss lens set are color-matching complements when a larger set is required. These are often the 10, 14, 100, and 135mm but can also include the 28 and 180mm standards, even the 12mm Ultra Prime.