Our introductions to lenses tend to bit a bit of a nice padding to our reviews, but in this case we’re going to get straight to the point in an analogy.
Imagine if you will for a second that you think that you’ve met the love of your life. Though both of you may not know it yet, you’re perfect for one another. At the time that you two meet and mingle and do the whole dating thing, one of you needs to break it off. Years later though, you find one another again–and after a very passionate and wonderful moment, you truly find one another.
This is what the current Zeiss and Sony relationship is like: except in this case it’s Zeiss that’s perfect and Sony that still has some self-discovery to do.
The Zeiss 35mm f2 Loxia lens is in many ways the one for Sony–the absolutely most perfect 35mm lens designed for mirrorless cameras that we’ve ever come across. For shooters like us, using it is very much like second nature. It takes some of the best of external designs like those of Zeiss classic and modern Fujifilm to create a lens that is one that you’d be stupid not to go after.
And again, it’s not Zeiss that has us in a fit about using the lens. A problem with Sony full frame cameras that has been around for a while is what’s breaking our hearts.
Pros and Cons
– Excellent sharpness when you nail the damned thing correctly
– Solid color rendition, though not the same some of Zeiss’s best and most contrasty
– Ergonomics that make us feel like we’re coming home to our training days on film
– Great size
– Very nice manual focusing control
– Forces you to always look out at the world in the pursuit of images
– No weather sealing (correction: only at the base)
– Sony’s focus peaking system still works best with their APS-C sensors and they desperately need to update it for their full frame cameras
– Because of said focus peaking issues, we believe that this lens actually performs its best when stopped down a tad whereas we have never wanted to stop the lens down with other Zeiss offerings
– That $1,299 price tag…
We tested the Zeiss 35mm f2 Loxia on the Sony A7. For certain tests, Lumopro LP-180 flashes were used with Pocket Wizard Plus X transceivers.
Specs taken from the B&H Photo listing
|Filter Thread||Front:52 mm x 0.75 mm Pitch|
|Dimensions (DxL)||Approx. 2.44 x 2.33″ (62.1 x 59.2 mm)|
|Weight||11.99 oz (340 g)|
Taken from our first impressions post
The Zeiss Loxia 35mm f2 is a lens that is a modern manual focus optic and that can deliver incredible images in the hands of a skilled photographer. With that, we start our ergonomic tour with the front of the lens. It’s very plain with Zeiss branding and not much else.
Once the lens hood comes off, you’ll see that the lens overall becomes smaller but obviously less protected. To be fair though, the lens doesn’t become that much smaller and you may just want to keep the hood on anyway.
All controls for the lens are right where you see them in the image above. There is a giant focusing ring and an aperture ring towards the back of the lens. Between here you have a focusing distance scale and a depth of field scale that are supposed to work together to give you a subject that is in focus.
Zeiss’ 35mm f2 Loxia feels great in the hand and is very well built. In many ways, it is a modern classic with its great depth of field scale, all metal exterior, beautiful aperture ring, smooth focusing, and solid lens hood.
But for the life of us, we can’t figure out why Zeiss wouldn’t put weather sealing into this lens. It only makes sense and would further justify the price tag.
Correction: weather sealing is only at the base, not throughout the lens overall.
This lens can’t autofocus and only has the manual focusing option–just like many Zeiss’s lenses for Canon and Nikon. Instead, you’ll need to manually focus. If you’re mounting this lens on one of Sony’s APS-C E mount bodies, you’ll have no problems. It’s when you get to the full frame arena that you’ll experience problems.
Sony’s focus peaking is EXTREMELY tough to get perfectly when you shoot wide open and with the full frame cameras. This isn’t only with manual focus options from Zeiss, but anything adapted and even Sony’s own 35mm f2.8 offering. We worked with the focus peaking settings in low, medium and high and each time we needed to stop the lens down to at least f2.8-f5.6 to get the focusing perfectly there.
This is a problem that we talked about with Sony’s engineers two years ago, and we hope that it gets fixed.
Ease of Use
This isn’t a lens for the faint of heart–you’ll have to manually focus it and for that reason we recommend that it only find itself in the hands of the most experienced photographers.
For the most part, you’ll need to say good riddance to the focus peaking system and instead rely on the good old zone focusing system. If you choose to do this, you won’t be troubled at all.
ALL EXIF DATA HAS BEEN LEFT IN THE IMAGES, SIMPLY CLICK THE IMAGE AND IT WILL APPEAR IN THE URL
The Zeiss 35mm f2 Loxia for Sony full frame E mount cameras overall exhibits incredible image quality that you can’t complain about. However, they’ve done a couple of things differently that don’t make it feel or look like a Zeiss lens. For example, the very typical Zeiss micro-contrast that gives their images more pizazz is gone–same with the extra contrast and saturation that you get when shooting wide open. However, that doesn’t mean that the lens has issues. In fact, it’s incredible and even more so when stopped down just a tad.
Wide open, it’s tough to get anything sharp with this lens. When we were focusing, the Sony A7 told us we had the signs in focus. Instead, the top of the lamp came out at f2. When you get the focusing right, this lens sings the songs of your people in celebration. But when you stop it down a tad, the sharpness gets even better. Generally though, we never found a good reason to stop it down beyond f8.
It’s pretty nice–not Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art nice but still very good considering this lens is an f2 aperture offering and designed for a mirrorless camera. For sure though, it beats any Sony full frame E mount offering.
For the most part, we didn’t feel like lens gave us the typical Zeiss coloring effect. In Adobe Lightroom, we added in the Sony Vivid color profile and that worked well enough. But this lens’s color doesn’t feel like a Zeiss offering to us.
That isn’t a problem though because the colors are still quite pleasing overall.
As far as we saw, we couldn’t find any major color fringing problems with the Zeiss 35mm f2 Loxia. Even when we cranked the contrast up a bit, we didn’t find anything that we would cry about. For the price that you’re paying, you shouldn’t be complaining about it at all.
Extra Image Samples
Here are extra image samples:
– Color overall when you underexpose the images
– Size and feel
– Sharpness when you’re incredibly careful–which makes us think even more intently about our images
– The price tag makes us want to cry.
– Sony’s focus peaking issues make us sad pandas.
Without a doubt, the Zeiss 35mm f2 Loxia is an incredible lens. Before I finished writing this review, I ran it by Julius, the site’s Managing Editor. The lens totally deserves all the praise it can get, and we don’t feel like it’s their problem that the focus peaking doesn’t work out so well. Instead, we recommend using the zone focusing system to get the best images that you can.
There is so much to like about this lens: the feel, the colors (saturated but not as saturated as Zeiss usually is), the lack of major distortion, the lack of wide open vignetting (despite my personal liking of that), the size, and we can go on and on. But there is so much holding me back from purchasing one. The price is one part, but then there are also things like the way that Zeiss hasn’t put in weather sealing throughout the entire lens–which I feel like this lens needed.
But those are very personal, and otherwise the optic performs like “the one” for any Sony full frame camera user.
We award the Zeiss 35mm f2 Loxia lens five out of five stars and the Editor’s Choice Award. Want one? Check out B&H Photo’s listing.
Recommended Cameras and Accessories
Sony A7r: With a lens like this, you want all the resolution you can get especially because it is a manual focus offering. The A7r is what you want to go for in this case.