The Loxia 21mm is not too far away from the 18mm Batis in terms field of view, but is much less wide than the 15mm Heliar. The Loxia’s performance, however, was phenomenal. It was even from corner to corner and seemed to possess that extra little something that the 18mm Batis touched upon but did not quite complete. Optically, it is the pick here. It is super sharp on centre at all apertures and reaches its peak from corner to corner at about f5.6. At f4 it is only a little behind f5.6 and still staggeringly good even when shooting planar subjects that stretch from corner to corner. Maybe I am seeing things, but I felt the images from the Loxia just had a bit more clarity than the Batis and this perhaps should not be surprising. It is the same speed, but less wide and it is heavier, which probably translates into more glass and less compromise. Zeiss MTF charts show the 18mm Batis very close to the 21mm Loxia and it is, but MTF charts are not the Mk I eyeball. Mine thought the 21mm Loxia was the pick of the pair. When using the Loxia and looking at the files, I got what I would expect from a Leica M 21mm lens. Perfect every time. Certainly the fuzz free manual focus helped (set focus distance and then forget about it), but it was there in the optical results too.
Now, if you want to really be cruel to a wide angle lens, when checking for distortion, point it at a brick wall.
Zeiss Batis 25mm f2 vs. Sony FE 28mm f2
Ooo, the tricky one (or not), as it turned out.
Build Quality & Handling, AF: The 25mm Batis is quite reasonably sized considering its focal length and aperture, but it’s much larger than a Leica M lens of the same focal length and speed. It also feels denser than the 18mm and made to the same super-high standard. By comparison the 28mm Sony f2 FE feels a bit less expensive, but much more compact. The difference is quite marked, so if you come from a Leica M background, while the Sony 28mm f2 may feel vaguely familiar in terms of size, the 25mm Batis will feel decidedly chubby! The Sony offering feels well enough made and no worse than the 35mm f2.8 Sonnar to be honest. The finish is less upmarket, but it is made from alloy except for the very nose where 16mm fisheye and 21mm converters can be attached. I have no complaints at this price point. Both are similar in that they are AF lenses with a svelte exterior and no aperture ring. While the AF on the 25mm f2 Batis may have been a touch slicker and quicker, it was not enough to stand make much of an impression on me. Both feel very good for the FE system.
Optical Performance: I had two samples of the Batis 25mm f2 and both were decentered. Yes, two successive copies. And the 18mm. For those good at maths, this means all three wide-angle Batis lenses were decentered to one degree or another. The first 25mm Batis was ever so slightly softer in the entire top right quadrant of the frame than everywhere else. I also found that its impact ranged from zero to very obvious and never really quite figured out what was going on (focus distance?) to cause these fluctuations. The second copy was perfect everywhere apart from a sliver in the bottom right corner extending into the frame along the bottom edge. Here, it never got entirely sharp at any aperture requiring f8 to match what I got from f2 in the other extreme corners. This was especially irritating in light of the amazing performance everywhere else. I had my 13 year old son blind check the files and it took him seconds to spot the issues. The decentering would not be visible to most users most of the time, but if you’re printing an A1 or A0 print, it would have been there staring you in the face. It was obvious in tine details like grass, or tarmac, but without detailed subject matter in the plane of focus, of course you’d not see anything amiss. I will continue writing as if these issues were not there and look at general performance. I have to say I was left wondering what exactly had happened to those lenses. Manufacture? Shipping container dropped hard onto the docks? Who knows, but it threw me.
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