ZEISS just announced the new Batis series for Sony Alpha users. Well, that is definitely a great news that there will be more lenses available for Sony FE-mount cameras. Somebody might anyway wonder why the totally new series but not an extension for example to Loxia series?
I had an opportunity to keep first public protos in my hands and also hear some philosophy behind Batis. When the Loxia series is more directed to the modern multiformat content producers with all the time growing demand to shoot also video, the Batis is clearly targeted for more traditional pro level still photographers. Already the focal lengths of two first models tells this story.
The 2/25 is clearly targeted for landscape and architecture photographers. There were no possibility to really try the lens in the real environment but some snapshots taken in the meeting room already confirmed this. It is really a pleasure to see the world through the Batis, meaning the view is really pleasant for the eye. This wide angle lens offers good image quality from edge to edge as you would expect from a ZEISS lens. One of the reasons for this is naturally the 25 mm focal length. Another one is the Distagon lens design (Warning: Some very heavy and technical content behind the link :-)). Four aspheric lens elements helps to keep the image sharp also in the edge. Well, this part seem to be in order. You can see some examples at ZEISS Lenses Flickr album.
The 1.8/85 is really what many Sony/ZEISS users have been waiting for. It is a portrait lens and it has certain features which are clearly targeted to help for example wedding photographers. The speed of the lens (f1.8) is naturally the first one and the optical image stabilization is the second one. Both help users in demanding lightning conditions and the autofocus naturally brings some needed support in rapidly changing situations. Examples photos of 85 mm can be also seen in Flickr.
The autofocus is clearly the first big difference between Loxia and Batis series. While the video shooter values the manual 180° focus ring of Loxia, still photographer will like the Batis autofocus. It works relatively fast and seems to manage also demanding conditions, like fast target changes in varying lightning conditions.
What I especially like in the Batis series is the focus tool called OLED display. I am shooting lot in the darkness doing some night photography. The biggest challenge is always the focusing. As all the others, also I have solved the situation this far with a led light but when you use some torch in the dark it always affects to your night vision. Now I don’t need so much extra light when the first-in-the-world lens display shows the focusing distance and the depth of field. Well, when shooting the night sky it is most important to see that the focus is in infinity but being able to see the depth of field might even change my way of thinking. This far I have only played attention into the effect the short focal length creates but now I might start to play with it more…
Some might wonder whether the display is robust enough but the ZEISS representative promised that the weather sealing is great and the display is replaceable. During the two plus one year warranty period most of the problems should be fixed and ZEISS never let unfinished products to the public markets so the electronics should not be a problem.
Both Baris lenses are representing the new sleek design of ZEISS. The shape shares consumers but for me it is expedient because it is very much streamlined. There aren’t knobs or levers sticking out. The only but is that the rubber made manual focus ring does not jump out of the lens surface. It might be a challenge to find it in the night conditions with cloves on. That is when you mostly use manual focus: Night, winter, cold weather etc… Anyway, the rubber surface feels so different from the aluminium that you might anyway find it. Not sure but I need to return to this when I have a chance to test it more.
Aperture setting will be done with the camera, meaning the Batis lens does not have the aperture ring. Fly-by-wire control is not a problem because Sony setting wheels are working well for this purpose also. The manual Loxia has naturally also the manual aperture setting ring. The DeClick feature related to aperture setting in Loxia lenses is also targeted for video shooters. Being able to change the aperture smoothly, without extra sounds and movement, is a must for a video shooter.
Another feature I use a lot with Loxia is the focus aid which is a must with manual focus lenses. The peaking color/level setting is one of the most used features in my Sony A7. Because this is a camera feature it works also with lenses mentioned. In generally the co-operation with Sony and ZEISS seem to work because ZEISS lenses work so well together with Sony cameras. Actually all the ZEISS lens series designed for Sony FE-mount feels like they are integrated part of the camera, the packet works so well together.
Another difference between Loxia and Batis is the diameter of objective lens. This is also an characteristic which indicates where are the roots of Loxia design. The M52 x 0.75 filter thread of Loxia 2/50 objetive is clearly targeted for video shooters equipping their lenses with matte box etc. Batis offers more lens space with 67 mm diameter filter thread.
So, here’s the short description of the most important differences between these lenses. What about the most important, meaning the image quality? Well, there is naturally the fabulous ZEISS T* coating also in these lenses so Batis should have the legendary ZEISS 3D Pop… You can be sure I am already very anxious to get the Batis for test shooting in July…
Sulantoblog article (In Finnish).