Don’t expect this to be a well controlled, thoroughly tested discourse on the new Batis lenses. I literally had each lens for about five minutes at Precision Camera here in Austin, TX where the store was hosting a dealer day. Lucky me when I strolled up to the Sony display and there they were, the new Batis lenses – apparently the only copies in N. America.
With a promise that I wouldn’t run away with the lenses, I was allowed to head outside for some quick test shots. We are talking about a bright strip-mall parking lot – not exactly photo shoot friendly, but I made the best of it. In the short time I had my grubby hands on the lenses, I was able to assess a few things about these new Zeiss jewels.
First off, they look to be very well built with a design that hews more to the mold of the Otus than the Touit. Since I’m not a huge fan of the Touits’ build I was deeply impressed with the construction of these Batis lenses and I think most photographers will be as well. I didn’t shoot in manual focus mode but did test out the focus ring and found it to be smooth and nicely dampened. With no other control on the lens, it has a minimalist, stout, dare I say handsome look.
Second, the Batis are are not small but not large either; a Goldilocks “just right” perhaps? The 85mm is very close in size to the ZA 85mm/1.4 but saves on the weight in glass and bulk of the LA-EA adapter. I’m sure someone out there will be outraged that the lens isn’t rangefinder tiny but it feels great and balances well on the a7II. Same with the 25mm – bigger than the FE 28mm – more so in girth, than length but it still feels right on the camera.
Third, based on my sad selection of available test targets – save the nice model who agreed to let me snap a quick portrait – I’m comfortable making some very early comments about image quality. Keep in mind, these are likely pre-production so yada yada, final product may differ.
We have all seen early samples criticized only to learn the true performance of the lenses at a later date so let’s be patient and take these images at their value – as early indications of what the performance of these Batis may be but not the final word – not even close.
25mm and quick comparo to the FE 28/2*
* note that the comparisons here were shot at different times (10 minutes apart) and aren’t perfectly controlled examples. I tried to match up f-stops but wasn’t always successful. Images were edited to my taste but edits were applied equally between the two lenses (same levels of sharpness, etc.)
I unequivocally adore the FE 28/2. I’ve said it previously and stand by my claim that the lens is a bang for the buck champ – sharper than just about any other 28mm ever produced with equally impressive bokeh for a wide angle. Of course the FE has its issues, but for a budget optic with this level of sharpness and bokeh, I can live with software based distortion corrections and some occasional CA cleanup, and so should you. Given my admiration for the Sony 28mm, I didn’t think for a second I would have any interest in picking up the new Batis 25mm. I was wrong.
Where the FE 28mm is in-your-face sharp, the Batis looks a bit smoother, yet zoom in to pixel peep and you will see that there’s a similar level of sharpness and micro contrast. The render of the Batis very much reminds me of the ZA 24mm f/2 but without all the field curvature AF issues that were endemic to that A-mount lens.
To test distortion, I shot some straight lines with both lenses and the results were as expected. Without any software corrections, the Batis looks more controlled for distortion than the FE does even with its LR software profile activated. No surprise, but still nice to see. I expect that the Batis will be a boon for architecture and interiors photographers.
I didn’t notice much CA from the 25mm Batis (there is some) but would need to shoot in more varied conditions. To be fair, I didn’t see much from the FE shots that day either. There was some vignetting in the Batis that I corrected to match-up more closely with the FE shots – not a big deal. This next particularly uninspiring shot was composed to check corner performance in the top right and no color edits were made on these two.
Alpha shooters are going to be very satisfied having the Batis 25mm in their stable soon. I’ve already added it to my 85mm preorder. For photographers that don’t need the extra 3mm (7 degrees) of view or don’t want to spend the hefty sum of $1,200 on the Batis, the FE 28mm remains an impressive optic, and easy choice.
85mm – quick portrait
For the 85mm, the strip mall presented even fewer targets, but there were a couple of models inside the camera store that were helping out with the dealer demos, so I asked one of them for a quick portrait. She obliged and we snapped this one in about 20 seconds – not ideal, but it gives us some impression of what the lens is capable of. Focus was quick, sure and accurate. Pixel peeping shows excellent sharpness and detail. Bokeh is difficult to fully address here as we had the subject in shade and a challenging bright background, yet the highlights reflecting off automobile rooftops melted away admirably. Some have commented that there is CA visible in the portrait when viewed at 100%. I don’t believe it to be excessive or even unexpected in these backlit conditions. I was intrigued by these comments though so dug into the archive to look at some photos I took with the well regarded ZA 85/1.4 on the a900 a few years ago. I was shocked to see how much CA was present in some of those images, even at f/2.2, so the new Batis may well be a considerable improvement in that area.
Having previously owned said legendary Zeiss 85/1.4 for A-mount, I have been anxiously awaiting an FE replacement but was concerned that the lens would be too large or too slow. Again with the Goldilocks reference but the Batis seems to nail it with just the right dimensions, weight and image quality.
After my brief time with the 85mm I am guessing that it will become a must buy for many Alpha shooters.
Gallery of additional samples…
About the author Chad Wadsworth
Chad is a Sony Artisan of Imagery and Red Bull Global Photographer based in Austin, TX.
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It would be awesome if you could do a comparison to the nikon 28mm 2.8 ais. I am wondering should I sell it and get the sony but the nikon is a very sharp lens wide open.
Hey Wayne, sorry I don’t have the nikon 28mm ais. If you are using the a7 bodies and want quick AF then the FE 28mm is perfect. You won’t be giving up anything in center sharpness – likely gaining, plus you get the extra full stop at f/2.
If you like a wider fov, the Batis 25mm looks equally sharp to my eye with better manners (less distortion and CA).
Great portrait actually, despite the bad case scenario. 🙂
Can you comment on the material used for the housing of the lenses? Is it plastic or aluminium?
Thanks and good question Mat. You’d think that since I spoke highly of the build quality I would have noted what the housing was made of – I didn’t. I have a message into the rep but at a minimum it was a high quality plastic like the ones used on the Sigma Art line. It felt really nice in hand though, much nicer than the Touits.
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Thanks for posting this, cant wait to get my hands on the 85 1.8.
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What the size difference between the Batis 25 and FE28?
Batis is a bit wider in diameter. Length is about the same.
Thanks for the great writeup.
Holy **** that 25mm Batis!!! The 28/2 is already a very nice rendering lens, but the Batis is on another level. I’m very excited about this lens now!
The 85mm looks great as well but it seems hard to do a bad 85mm these days.
Can you comment on the sound of the focus motor and aperture clicking? I had the Touit lenses and they were so loud, hoping that’s not the case here.
Sorry Sean, I did not pay special attention to the sound of the motor but maybe that is an indication that it was quiet? 😉
For me the bokeh of the 25mm Batis and the 35mm f/2 Loxia has a very nervous nature close to the subject in focus.
I much more prefer the FE28mm f/2 and the FE35mm f/2.8 in that respect.
Thanks for prefacing with “for me” – bokeh certainly is subjective. I did notice some onion rings in the Batis bokeh but the transitions are just as nice, if not smoother than the FE28mm. I would’t compare it to the 35mm as they are too far apart in fov.
aaaaaahhhhhh i cant believe i missed my chance to play with that 85! i had family emergency and couldnt make it to the expo!
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Hope your family is ok! We’ll all get to play more soon enough.
I have been sooo waiting for this 85mm. I was holding buying into A7 series purely because of a long portrait lens. Thanks for these pictures and your review,
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Yes, seems like everyone is waiting for the 85mm! Personally, I’m more anxious for a ZA 135/1.8 replacement.
Chad- Very nice and comprehensive, especially considering the circumstances. Question: Is the model portrait the result of RAW conversation or straight jpg? Any correction, sharpening or fiddling in post?
Thanks Leonard. As I mentioned in the article, these were edited to my taste but I didn’t mention they were from RAW – which they are.
Beautiful shots. Did you do distortion correction for the batis 85mm? If yes any observation of degrade on IQ? The skin of the lady arm look very strange. Can you explain? Thanks.
Thanks for the review Chad. I just got a A7ii with kit lens at the weekend and am looking at the 28 f2 as my first prime. The Batis is out of my price range unfortunately. Have you had a chance to use the WA Converter with the 28mm yet? I’d be interested to learn if there’s any loss of image quality.
Great choice Nigel. I have tried the 21mm UWC and thought it to be generally excellent as long as you aren’t expecting perfect geometry and sharp corners. I actually used it last Thursday night for a paid shoot and had several images taken with it that made the final cut.
Thanks Chad. If it’s good enough for a pro shoot then it’s good enough for a hobbyist like me. Time to get the credit card out again!
Well… To my eyes, I don’t see any significant difference between the batis 25 and fe28. Personally I do have fe28 and I really like it. Price/performance is excellent.
Yes, the FE 28 is excellent and a bargain within the FE lineup but the Batis fits a different niche. The significant differences between the two are the extra 7 degrees field of view and distortion control.
[…] “Alpha shooters are going to be very satisfied having the Batis 25mm in their stable soon. I’ve already added it to my 85mm preorder…After my brief time with the 85mm I am guessing that it will become a must buy for many Alpha shooters…” Read the Full Review […]
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What about the AF performances? The Touit lenses for instance seem to be just adequate in terms of AF speed and only compatible with contrast AF, not phase-detect AF. Not a show stopper for all applications but still, a significant con IMO.
Yes, I recall being let down by the Touits as well, although I understand that they received a firmware upgrade that enabled faster hybrid AF functionality. As for the Batis, the 25mm was no different than the FE 28mm – very quick – and the 85mm seemed sure footed and quick enough, although I wasn’t blown away by the AF speed.
Chad, just discovered your sight today — incredible work. Which raw converter/software did you edit the images (especially the model with the glasses) with? Thanks!
Thanks James. I use Lightroom with my own customized adjustments of VSCO filters.
Very impressive… I own 7 RII.
Could you please which settings to use for portraits – how to get natural skin tones.
Thanks a lot.