More 25mm Batis vs Sony 28mm f2 Thoughts…. well, if you are shooting landscapes, you will be shooting at f5.6-f11 and the Zeiss Batis makes little sense at greater cost, size and weight. If you are shooting reportage/documentary/street, the softer periphery of the Sony at f2-f2.8 may be a blessing, because along with the slightly longer focal length, it will help isolate central human subjects, or those just off centre. At f4, performance is excellent and by f5.6 you’re getting the corner to corner performance to match the growing depth of field. In short, I am not convinced the amazing corner to corner performance of the 25mm Batis at f2-2.8 is much use in the real world, most of the time. Don’t get me wrong, it is a better lens than the 28mm Sony, but the Sony is so very good. I think the only scenario I have encountered where the 25mm Zeiss Batis would have been handy is shooting night scenes, hand held. The Batis offers up a performance at f2 that the Sony cannot match and when shooting night work of the kind I am messing around with, depth of field at f2 is sufficient. This is because the general scenes I am shooting are some way from the camera. In daylight, too much of the scene would be well lit and the deficiencies of f2 in terms of depth of field would begin to matter. Aside from this, I have not encountered a situation in which the 28mm Sony f2 FE feels inadequate.
Oh, one final thing I nearly forgot: the Sony 28mm f2 FE does not produce stars around point light sources at night! This is most peculiar in a modern lens and I may be alone, but I quite like the end result, which is a somewhat diffuse, glowy hot spot. This can be your Brassai lens, if you are willing to flip a negative into a positive 😉
The Zeiss Batis lenses all have a common feel and functionality and I have to say it appealed to me. They are weatherproof, not slow (but not especially fast) lenses, they have quick and quiet AF and I’d be able to cover 18-85mm. I envisaged being able to use them for a wide range of purposes on current A7 series bodies and even more with future bodies with even snappier AF. However, my primary purpose in looking at these lenses was to end up with a kit bag that would allow me to bring together the strengths of the Leica M system and the Sony FE. If I had been able to eat into DSLR territory, so much the better. In fact, this is what I would say the Batis lenses are: fairly compact and light DSLR-esque lenses of excellent quality at a premium price point. What they are not is Leica M competition, simply because they are so very much larger. This translates into a much larger kit bag, even if the Batis lenses manage to keep weight well in check.
Unfortunately, none of the remaining three lenses fit into a single design philosophy. The Voigtlander 15mm f4,5 Heliar FE and the Zeiss 21mm Loxia are at least fairly compact manual focus lenses with rock solid build, but the 28mm Sony is not a dedicated manual focusing lens and feels quite different. It’s not as if I am starting from scratch either. I own a Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8 Sonnar and the 55mm f1.8 Sonnar too, so a harmonious spread of Loxia lenses is not an option (I am very happy with my 35mm and 55mm lenses). Nonetheless, I felt the merits of these three lenses were too good to ignore and I settled on the 15mm Heliar-21mm Loxia-28mm Sony FE spread, which I now own.
I could have sent the 18 and 25mm Batis lenses back and hoped for copies with no obvious decentering, but I just could not see the point, considering the performance the 15mm, 21mm and 28mm lenses were putting in. From a utility point of view, my thought process went something like this:
Do I want a lens wider than 18mm? Yes. So, if I bought the 18mm Batis, I would likely missing the 16mm end of my 16-28mm Tokina, which would mean buying a 15mm as well, or looking at the 12mm Voigtlander which is wider than I want or need. With an 18mm Zeiss Batis, 21mm is too close (for me) and so the 25mm would be the natural companion. Great, but neither is especially compact and none of the samples were symmetrically centered. That said, 18mm-25mm-35mm is a fantastic spacing…
The 21mm Loxia is simply amazing, offering precisely the performance that drew me to the Leica M system over a decade ago. This lens is truly special, added to which it is nice and compact, beautifully made and the manual focus is more useful to me than a hindrance for what I would use it for most of the time. 28mm is a perfect partner for 21mm and by luck or design, my 28mm Sony is without question the best bang for the buck in the entire system. I can live with the distortion just fine, because I am OK with seeing it largely vanish with profiles applied and I am not going to be shooting critical architecture with it. The 21mm Loxia and 28mm Sony are in the same size class, although the latter is much lighter and a bit smaller. If I am going to go wider than 21mm, my only option is now the Voigtlander 15mm f4.5 FE Heliar. I am not being cruel when I say that it is the weakest lens in the field from an optical point of view. However, it is one of the most enjoyable to use. I far preferred shooting with it than the 18mm Batis, because the lens just disappears on the camera and its manual focus action is so buttery smooth. It also vanishes inside one’s kit bag, because it has about half (or a third) the volume of the 18mm Batis. It was an emotional decision (as many of the best are) and a happy one. This lens is bags of fun to use. It is also very much cheaper than the Batis and allows the superb Loxia to slot into place. If there is one premium lens here not to miss out on, its the 21mm Loxia, in my opinion. They’re all great, but this one gave me the tingles. If I were to throw in another curve ball it would be this: If you crop out the weakest part of the Voigtlander 15mm Heliar FE frame, you probably end up with about 18mm. If you’ve started with 36, or 42 MP, you still have a lot of megapixels left. See below comparison:
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