[S-series] Gear Review: Carl Zeiss Batis 25mm f2 lens + some shots of our Melbourne trip

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Hi,

I’m a Zeiss fanboy, when I had a Canon DSLR I worked hard and got myself a 3 piece Zeiss prime lenses as my ultimate kit. Now with my Sony, I’m trying to build a kit with as many Zeiss lenses as possible. They were just too good. After buying and selling, experimenting with Voigtlander, which are generally more affordable, I became even more convinced that I need more ‘Zeiss’ (zest) in my life. I initially thought I would just make do with Voigtlanders due to my limited funds, but while they were good, the Voigtlanders are just a different type of animal in the same forest.. erm.. I’m not even sure what I just said.. I meant even if it has the same focal length and max aperture value, it renders differently due to a lot of different reasons, like the lens elements used and coating etc.

Long story short, I took the plunge and gotten my first Zeiss after changing to my current Sony system. It was a Zeiss Planar ZM 50/2 lens, but I’m not sure whats wrong, it didn’t have that same look I had when I was still using Canon 6D and the Planar 50/1.4. Feeling a little disappointed, I went after another lens, this time round its the Zeiss Biogon 21/2.8 ZM. Then I sold my Planar and got the C-Sonnar 50/1.5 ZM (my favourite). And THEN AGAIN I sold my Biogon and bought the Batis 25/2… The Batis shall be the star of this post today.

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I brought it on our trip to Melbourne, Australia.

Design and Handling

At first I was a little worried, the size was really intimidating, a 67mm filter thread lens on a mirrorless camera looks a little off balance. Size and weight was an issue for me because I am the type who keeps my pack on all the time and I’m always on my feet. But the weight surprised me, it weighs as much as my little C-Sonnar with adapter despite being almost 2x larger.

The body is made of metal, or so I read.. When I’m holding it, it doesn’t feel metallic. Then when I fit the lenshood in, which is made of plastic, it feels like the whole lens is made of plastic. But I’ve seen people scratched the bottom of the lens because that’s always the point of contact to whatever surface you set your camera on, the scratch looks metallic. LOL.

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The design is sleek and futuristic. The OLED DOF meter was cool and its original intentions was good, but to me it sometimes gets in the way especially at night or in dark places. It distracts me or exposed me to my subject, like initially the passerby wasn’t looking at me with my camera, but immediately took notice when the OLED lights up… Other than that, actual usage was good and its easy to read. I missed the old school styled lenses though with the knurled metal focus ring (its a rubberized ring on the Batis) and the DOF markings laid out along the ring.. I’m old fashioned.

The lens is big compared to the Leica M-mount lenses I’m very used to now. I think its about the size of a standard DSLR lens and so turning the focus ring and holding it is easy. I sometimes worry though, because it tapers down to a narrower diameter to fit the mount on the body, it gives me a feeling like that’s the weak point. So when I handle the lens I made sure I cradle the body like it’s a human baby..

Other than the rubber(?silicon) focusing ring, there isn’t any other control for us to fiddle on. The lens is like a no frills lens, mount it on, point and shoot. Easy. I do miss the aperture ring, I always feel its easier to turn an aperture ring than to turn the damn thumb wheel to change the aperture value. But well, gotta move on with the times, even the focusing is fly-by-wire, electronically adjusted.

Well I am pleasantly surprised though, my previous experience manual focusing with a mirrorless fly-by-wire lens *cough*fujifilmxpro1*cough*, there is a lag time before it actually starts focusing. Although at that time, mirrorless manual focus still isn’t very well developed, but that lag time was the reason why I ditch that previous system after 1 month and went on to get the Canon 6D, which was a great camera. Back to my current set up, apparently the technology has caught up and so when I use the lens, I put it on ‘DMF’ mode on my Sony. To be honest, I have no idea what ‘DMF’ stands for, I only know I can manually fine tune my focus after AF. And when I turn the focusing ring, the MF motor immediately engaged and move according to how I turn the ring. So cool! But still not quite cool when compared to mechanical focusing, nothing beats that.

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Good for wildlife

Anyways on my Sony a7II, its surprisingly well balanced in term of weight, so its all in the mind now because when I see the big lens it just naturally gives off an ‘unwieldy vibe’, its like when I’m holding the camera with my C-Sonnar 50mm + Hawk’s factory adapter on (same weight as the Batis 25mm), i can swing it around like nobody’s business with no problems. But if I switch to the Batis 25mm I feel like if I swing it around, the camera might take flight.. carrying my wrist with it as well.. Then there will be a trail of blood and the ‘new’ extreme end of my arm will be spraying blood with every heartbeat… Okay okay pardon my wild imaginations..

Image Quality, Flare/Distortion/Vignetting/Chromatic Aberration 

Its a Zeiss, known for its micro-contrast and colour rendition. Sometimes, even though my shot was slightly blur, the resulting picture still look sharp on my computer.. till I ‘pixel-peep’ them.. I think its largely due to the micro contrast that helped give us an illusion of sharpness. I’d say its sharpness is excellent in the centre at f2 and through out the frame by say f4. The DOF transitions and bokeh the lens creates was smooth and buttery in my opinion. I love it!

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Good for close-up as well!

Flare is very well controlled, unlike my C-Sonnar. Even though my C-Sonnar lens was good, seems like they made leaps on their coating technology, that’s why the Batis doesn’t show much lost of contrast when I included the sun in my frame.

There is a little bit of distortion, be what do you expect with a wide angle lens? Every wide angle lens will have it. Its easily corrected on Adobe Lightroom.

Chromatic Aberration is subtle.

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FYI, the sun is in the frame, behind some clouds though..

The vignetting is pretty obvious at f2 but disappears almost entirely by f4. I’m not bother by it at all though, because I rather welcome the vignetting effect and would usually add them on most of my photos in post-processing. So its like minus 1 step in my workflow. LOL.

Boring Specifications

Focal length 25 mm
Aperture range f/2 – f/22
Focusing range 0,2 m (7.9 ″) – ∞
Number of elements/groups 10/8
Angular field, diag./horiz./vert. 82° / 72° / 51°
Coverage at close range 124 x 187 mm (4.9 x 7.4″)
Filter thread M67 x 0,75
Dimensions (with caps) 92 mm (3.6″)
Diameter of focusing ring 78 mm (3.1″)
Weight 335 g (0.74 lbs)
Camera mounts E-Mount

Taken from Zeiss Singapore

 

I still remembered Zeiss lenses almost bankrupt me 3 times. Once when I was getting the Planar 85/1.4 for my Canon 6D long ago, once when I squeeze my piggy bank for the Biogon 21/2.8 ZM, and lastly when I bought the Batis 25/2… Because these purchases were never in my ‘master plan’. So the funds have to be squeezed from elsewhere to enable me to buy the items. Those were tough times…

More sample photos:

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But it seems I never learn my lessons. Now while I’m still recovering from the damage from Batis 25/2.. My eyes are set on the Batis 85/1.8.. Someone save me from this disease…
Compulsive Buyer,
Simon Tey
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