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Review: Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8 (Fujifilm X Mount)

by Chris Gampat on 06/05/2013

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 final product photos (2 of 2)ISO 8001-40 sec

The Zeiss 12mm f2.8 Touit lens is currently the widest autofocusing lens for the Fujifilm X series interchangeable lens camera system. When we first had the chance to play with the lens, we were extremely impressed by the extreme wide angle performance for what is essentially an 18mm f2.8 equivalent on the Fujifilm X series 1.5x crop sensors. With metal comprising of most of the lens’s exterior, Zeiss chose to go with rubber for the focusing and aperture ring–citing complaints that the rings would be too cold to touch in freezing weather. They’ve also done a lot to ensure that the image quality was nothing below being top notch.

Zeiss has always been a company that targets a higher end audience–so is this a lens for you?


Pros and Cons

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 final product photos (1 of 2)ISO 8001-40 sec

Pros

– Very good build quality for a mirrorless camera lens

– Sharp and contrasty

– Distortion only really apparent around the corners

– Compact size

– Fairly fast autofocusing speed

Cons

– Expensive

– The lens hood is made from plastic and doesn’t feel very Zeiss-like at all.

Gear Used

We used the Zeiss 12mm f2.8 Touit lens with the Fujifilm X Pro 1 and Fujifilm EF-42 flash.

Tech Specs

Specs pulled from the B&H Photo listing of the lens.

Performance
Focal Length 12 mm
Comparable 35mm Focal Length: 18 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/2.8
Minimum: f/22
Camera Mount Type Fujifilm X mount
Format Compatibility APS-C
Angle of View 99°
Minimum Focus Distance 7.09″ (18 cm)
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 1:9
Groups/Elements 8/11
Diaphragm Blades 9
Features
Image Stabilization No
Autofocus Yes
Physical
Filter Thread Front: 67 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 2.56 x 3.39″ (65 x 86 mm)
Weight 9.52 oz (270 g)

Ergonomics

Ergonomics section taken from our first impressions post.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 product images (1 of 7)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 5.6

The Zeiss 12mm f2.8 looks like what may be one of the most high end lenses for the mirrorless camera systems so far. While Fujifilm and Sony both have some beautiful and very high end looking lenses, they can’t quite totally compare to the offerings from Zeiss.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 product images (7 of 7)ISO 1001-60 sec at f - 5.6

First off, note that this lens and all modern Zeiss lenses are made in Japan. And you’ll see this branding on the bottom. Zeiss has made it clear that they are not working with Cosina on this one.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 product images (5 of 7)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 5.6

The 12mm f2.8 Touit has two rings: one for focusing and one for aperture control. The rings are made from rubber and have been cited by Zeiss as being better for focusing and turning in colder weather without having your finger tips freezing. The lens for Fujifilm has an aperture ring but the lenses for Sony don’t. The aperture will go from f2.8 to A mode–which means auto.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 product images (4 of 7)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 5.6

At the other end of the aperture ring is f2.8: and it stops with a hard click. In order to get there, you’ll be moving in thirds of stops instead of whole stops, so you’ll feel the clicks throughout the range.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 product images (3 of 7)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 5.6

The front element is also quite large–and it needs to be since this is also one of Zeiss’s widest angle lenses. On the X Pro 1, it has an 18mm field of view: which is really wide.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 product images (2 of 7)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 5.6

And protecting that front element is a removable lens hood made from plastic. When the hood is removed it cuts down the overall size quite a bit.

Build Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review images batch two (6 of 11)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 11

The Zeiss 12mm f2.8 Touit lens is made from all metal on the outside with rubber rings for focusing. It is by all means an extremely solid lens. I tested it in various situations and environments and it survived basically everything with no issues at all. The lens was subjected to a bump on a turnstile in the NYC subway system and suffered no damage. Even more amazingly, I shot part of a wedding with this lens on the beach and despite how hard the wind was blowing, it suffered from no sand damage.

Its 32mm f1.8 counterpart though did suffer from sand damage getting into the focusing ring and so it sometimes froze up after a while.

Because of this, we actually believe that this lens might be the better built optic of the two. You can see exactly how these lenses are made in this post.

Autofocus

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review images batch two (9 of 11)ISO 2001-320 sec at f - 2.8

Autofocusing with the 12mm f2.8 Touit on the X Pro 1 was surprisingly speedy as the system isn’t exactly known for its fast focusing abilities. We tested the lens in both good lighting and low lighting and generally focused with the same speed. The only difference was how accurate the focusing was. In most of the photos that we shot, the focusing was very accurate but obviously became more accurate when the focusing reticule was made smaller.

When the reticule was made smaller, this lens still focused faster than the Fujifilm 35mm f1.4 X series and the 14mm f2.8 X series lens. Though the 35mm f1.4 isn’t a comparable lens at all, note that Fujifilm has done lots of firmware updates to it to improve its speed. The 14mm f2.8 is a lens that we reviewed, and it is surely worth it to note that the similar 12mm f2.8 Zeiss focused faster. To be fair, the 35mm f1.4 is a faster lens to focus than the 14mm.

Ease of Use

This lens is a tad more difficult to use than its Sony NEX mount counterpart. The reason for this is because it has an aperture ring incorporated into the design. If your mind is wired to remember said aperture ring, then you’ll have no problems.

When it comes to manually focusing this lens, Zeiss would have been much better off with adding in a depth of field focusing scale. At the press conference, the company stated that it was considered during the planning stage and it might come to later lenses.

Image Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review photos (8 of 8)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 6.4

Make no mistake–this is a Zeiss lens. For years, Zeiss has been a company that puts image quality first and have been designing lenses for many years. While their DSLR lenses often have that little bit of micro-contrast added to make your images pop, we didn’t find that with the Touit lenses–especially not the 12mm f2.8. Instead what we found is some very excellent color and contrast when the X Pro 1 was set to Velvia mode. When we set it to Astia, we were still able to get some very nice colors but in all honesty, this lens should be best used with the Velvia color setting.

General image quality can’t be complained about with this lens, but there are some areas on which it lacks.

Bokeh

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review photos (6 of 8)ISO 2001-1400 sec at f - 2.8

 

Firstly, we should note that this lens is a 12mm f2.8–and that it is extremely tough to get any bokeh at any aperture or focusing distance. Combine that with the fact that it becomes an 18mm f3.8 due to the APS-C sized sensor, and it is even tougher. However, Fujifilm cameras have a Macro mode for every lens that allows the user to focus even closer.

Now that that is all out of the way, the bokeh from this lens is stunning. While I wouldn’t really describe it was creamy, I would aim more for the words, “ethereal” and “dreamy.”

Not that many of you purchasing this lens might care about bokeh, but it is wonderful to know that when it shows up it will look positively wonderful.

Sharpness

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review images batch two (5 of 11)ISO 2001-125 sec at f - 2.8

 

This is one heck of a sharp lens. We almost never wanted to stop it down beyond f2.8 but in many sunny situations we needed to. Its sweet spot is around f4 or f5.6. But even then, it doesn’t get drastically sharper than at f2.8. When you incorporate this lens sharpness with the way that the Fujifilm X Trans Sensor renders sharpness in images, you’ve got an extremely killer combination.

Color Fringing

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review images batch two (7 of 11)ISO 2001-500 sec at f - 8.0

 

Out of the camera, you won’t really notice any color fringing: we didn’t! If anything, it might have bene created by adding an extra contrast boost in post-production.

Distortion

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review photos (2 of 8)ISO 64001-20 sec at f - 2.8

 

Towards the center of the 12mm f2.8, distortion is extremely well controlled. But like the Zeiss 15mm f2.8 that we reviewed a while back, there is distortion for sure near the edges. At the moment of publishing this review, Adobe doesn’t have a fix for it in Lightroom. Additionally, messing with the Upright mode in Lightroom 5 totally messes with the image in ways that make it not even usable.

We shot a wedding with this lens, and we can highly recommend to you that you don’t place people or someone’s head near the edges lest they look like they’re being sucked into a time warp.

Color Rendering

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review photos (7 of 8)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 8.0

 

Out of the camera with the Velvia setting, the 12mm f2.8 has some wonderful colors. When used with the Astia mode, it also has nice colors but the sweet spot comes with Velvia. Zeiss lenses tend to have saturated and contrasty colors, and because of that we recommend overexposing your images by a stop to find a native balance. The X Trans Sensor natively pulls more information from the highlights, so don’t worry about overexposing a bit. That’s the only way that I was able to get the detail in the shadows near the bottom of the image. At first, I thought that it might be vignetting, but that doesn’t seem to be the case. There isn’t very much from what we can tell.

Extra Image Samples

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 extra photos (2 of 2)ISO 64001-15 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review images batch two (1 of 11)ISO 2001-1900 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review images batch two (2 of 11)ISO 2001-1700 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review images batch two (3 of 11)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 10

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review images batch two (4 of 11)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 10

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review images batch two (6 of 11)ISO 2001-250 sec at f - 11

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review images batch two (8 of 11)ISO 2001-125 sec at f - 8.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review images batch two (10 of 11)ISO 2001-600 sec at f - 7.1

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review images batch two (11 of 11)ISO 2001-500 sec at f - 7.1

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review photos (1 of 8)ISO 64001-45 sec at f - 2.8

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review photos (3 of 8)ISO 4001-950 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review photos (4 of 8)ISO 2001-40 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 review photos (5 of 8)ISO 2001-550 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 12mm f2.8 extra photos (1 of 2)ISO 64001-10 sec at f - 2.8

Conclusions

The Zeiss 12mm f2.8 earns the highest marks for nearly everything in our eyes. We were truly amazed that it survived a mini-sandstorm while shooting a wedding when sand was literally coming out of my 5D Mk II used as my primary camera. That made shooting with it so much more of a pleasure. The user of this lens may be the typical Zeiss customer: the higher end that appreciates better build quality and image quality for the money. When they purchase this lens, they’ll be rewarded with fast autofocusing and excellent image quality on top of the already mentioned stellar construction. Sony has always had a close connection with Zeiss and Fujifilm is another company that has years of experience in the photo industry, and we can’t see any reason as to why most users would not want to have this lens in their camera bag.

The only thing holding us back from giving this lens an Editor’s Choice is the fact that we really wish that it had a depth of field focusing scale and I personally wish that the rubber rings were returned to metal or some sort of plastic.

The recommended retail price of the Touit 1.8/32 will be €670 / US$900 (excl. VAT). The recommended retail price for the Touit 2.8/12 will be €920 / US$1,250 (excl. VAT). They’re available for purchase at both B&H Photo and Amazon.

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