First Impressions: Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8 (Sony FE)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis first impressions product photos (6 of 6)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 4.0

When Zeiss announced their Batis lens lineup, one of the lenses that came out was the 85mm f1.8 Batis. As one of Zeiss’s offerings to boast autofocusing abilities, these lenses were designed for Sony FE mount–otherwise known as full frame E mount cameras like the Sony A7r Mk II. Given a weather resistant design, these lenses are building on a new generation of Zeiss lenses that in some ways moves away from the DSLR and puts more emphasis on what’s possible with the mirrorless camera world.

Weighing only 475 grams and boasting a very big rubber focusing ring on top of a brand new LCD display on top of the lens, there is very little to complain about with the 85mm f1.8 Batis.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the Adorama listing.

Focal length
85mm
Aperture range
f/1.8 – f/22
Focusing range
0.80 m (2.6 ft) – infinity
Elements/Groups
11 lens elements in 8 groups,
3 lens elements made from low dispersion glass
Diagonal Field of View
29 degree
Close Focus
0.8m / 2.6″
Magnification
1:7.9
Filter Size
67mm
Dimensions L x W
4.1 x 3.2″ / 105mm x 81mm
Weight
16.8 oz / 475g
Mfr #
2103751
SKU
ZI8518E

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis first impressions product photos (2 of 6)ISO 4001-180 sec at f - 4.0

The Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8 is a Sony FE mount lens–and therefore is designed for the company’s mirrorless full frame offerings. We start this tour with the front of the lens–which hosts a 67mm filter thread and a slightly recessed front element.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis first impressions product photos (3 of 6)ISO 4001-180 sec at f - 4.0

Without the lens hood, this lens is much smaller than it seems. Indeed, the hood almost seems to double the overall size.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis first impressions product photos (4 of 6)ISO 4001-180 sec at f - 4.0

The Zeiss 85mm f1.8 boasts a metal exterior and a large rubber focusing ring. This ring is pretty smooth and we wish that it had extra texture to make it easier to turn. While Zeiss’s customers complained about the old metal rings being too much of a pain to touch in cold weather, these new rubber rings are too slippery in warm weather like the humid NYC summer. If your hand is getting a bit clammy, you’ll have a not so wonderful time turning the ring–or at least attempting to.

For this reason, we wish that there were more texture.

The lens overall is devoid of controls with the exception of the focusing ring. If you want to switch to manual focusing mode, you’ll need to do so through the camera.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis first impressions product photos (1 of 6)ISO 4001-180 sec at f - 4.0

On top of the lens is the display that we’re talking about. Here you’ll be able to see lots of information about the lens.

Ease of Use

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis first impressions product photos (5 of 6)ISO 4001-60 sec at f - 4.0

When it comes to autofocusing with the lens, it will be very straightforward. Just affix the lens, focus, shoot and have fun! But the game changes once in manual focus. The Batis lenses have this uber cool futuristic display on top that conveys information about the lens to the user. You’ll see stuff like the focusing distance and depth of field. For an 85mm focal length, this works best for videographers and isn’t that useful for photographers.

Photographers can simply use autofocus or utilize Sony’s autofocus peaking feature. When it comes to the wider angle lenses though, the display window is a bit of a godsend–especially for street photographers.

Build Quality

Zeiss rates these lenses to have weather and dust resistance. When paired with the A7 bodies from Sony, you’ll be able to go out into the rain and shoot with little problems and to a certain extent. These cameras can resist a lot of punishment though nowhere as much as Pentax’s offerings can.

Autofocus

While the Loxia lenses don’t have autofocus, the Batis lenses do. The focusing performance with the A7 has to be some of the fastest that we’ve seen. It’s just about as fast as the Sony 28mm f2–and we consider that to be one of the company’s fastest lenses.

When further trying to fine tune the focusing (like eye focusing) it can take a bit of extra time. However, the focusing is very accurate, sharp, and consistent in good lighting situations. Considering that this is a portrait lens, we have yet to put it through its paces in low light.

Image Quality

Chris Gampat The PhoblographerZeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis first impressions image samples (5 of 6)ISO 2501-640 sec at f - 3.2

So far, we really like the color and the image quality from the 85mm f1.8 Batis. But for what it’s worth, the files need massaging to bring out their true potential–that’s standard for Sony sensors anyway.

Here are more samples.

Chris Gampat The PhoblographerZeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis first impressions image samples (2 of 6)ISO 4001-2000 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The PhoblographerZeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis first impressions image samples (3 of 6)ISO 2501-1000 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The PhoblographerZeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis first impressions image samples (4 of 6)ISO 2501-2000 sec at f - 1.8

Chris Gampat The PhoblographerZeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis first impressions image samples (1 of 6)ISO 4001-1600 sec at f - 1.8

First Impressions

So far, we’re really liking the image quality that this lens can deliver. But we have a lot more testing to do. Autofocusing with this lens seems to be the way to go over manual focusing in the current weather conditions as we stated earlier.

Stay tuned for our full review.