The days have finally come...
I have always wanted to try Zeiss lenses but could never justify the expense of these lenses for the Canon EF mount
Now that I am on the Sony E-mount system, both crop and full framed, it's an entirely new game for me. As a fact, Zeiss teamed up with Sony to create the high end lenses for Sony's mirroless system when it first came out. This was prior to Sony developing their G (meaning Gold) and G-Master line of lenses. The lenses were branded both with the Sony and the Zeiss logos.
My very first Zeiss lens for the Sony was the earlier 55mm F1.8 Sonnar with the dual branding. I was looking for a quality 50mm lens for photographing the Milky Way core, the Sony 50mm F1.8 lens was ok and took fairly decent photos but just didn't have the image quality I was looking for especially shooting at night. After a bunch of research for all the 50mm E-Mount variants I opted for the 55mm Sonnar, it was just the right combination for image quality (which is superb), size and weight (tiny and feels like a feather), and price (expensive but not the most expensive). G-masters are far too expensive for my taste as well as too large and heavy, The Zeiss Planar 50mm F1.4 (thought the F1.4 was extremely appealing) again the price was more than I wanted to spend. The Sigma Art 50MM while getting close to my desired price point was far too large and heavy. The Rokinon/Samyang had serious quality control issues. This left the Zeiss Loxia, and the Voigtlander both of which I had considered as well, and finally the Sony 50mm macro.
Despite my close look at the Loxia and Voigtlander, I chose the Sonnar due to the autofocus feature, not necessary for night photography, but quite handy for other purposes which I had planned for.
|Sony/Zeiss Sonnar F1.8 at home|
|Night Photos with the Sony/Ziess 55mm|
I did not get any of that "Bokeh" images everyone seems to rave about, it's not necessarily my thing.
The Batis Lens: The "Mini Otus"
So why did I not go with the new Sigma 28-70C lens? After all it had the price point, the compact size and weight I was looking for, a constant F2.8 through the focal range and the image quality of a higher end lens with the standard zoom range. The answer is... I wanted something with a character quality that most lenses don't have. despite the spectacular image quality of these other lenses, they did not have the character of the Zeiss lenses, and more specifically the Batis line. Very similar to the Otus in optical character, yet a fraction of the cost and well within my price range. There is just something about the character and look of a photo taken with a Zeiss lens, the contrast, the color rendering and the famous 3D pop which I found quite an impressive quality that the other lens manufactures lacked. They still had a tiny profile and were extremely light in weight (all less than 1 pound). I was willing to overlook the non zooming nature of their prime focal lengths, the 25mm, 40mm and 85mm are without a doubt the most versatile focal lengths in addition to the classic 50, besides I started in photography with prime lenses with film cameras so I had a lot of experience with them. As of this point after a few months of shooting with them, the 40mm has been more than sufficient in the majority of my shots and is now my official go-to lens for close to 80% of my shots. A prime lens really gets the creative juices flowing and adds a bit of challenge that zooms lack. I quite frequently found myself getting a little lazy with compositions while shooting with zooms
Some of the stellar character of the Batis lens, above photo shot at F2.8 with the focus on the branch blocking the sun
the above is a panorama of 6 shots, all at F5.6, why at that aperture? The Batis lens' "3D Pop" is most effective at that aperture yet it is still awesome at F8
Partially focused stack at F5.6, I wanted most of the foreground flowers in focus (though there is some motion blurring going on) yet keeping the background a little bit soft to maximize the depth of the distant mountains (the furthest are still several miles away)
Due to the character of the Zeiss lens (and this includes the 55mm Sonnar), my shooting and editing has had to change quite a bit, ultimately a style that I was looking for and one that differentiates from all the other photography crowds. The 2 biggest changes is my ability to get more creative with DOF (depth of field) and in my shadow adjustments in Lightroom editing, I used to brighten up my shadows quite significantly (perhaps too much), now I am far more conservative with the shadows and am more inclined to leave them alone or only slightly brightened thus keeping a strong sense of depth.
I always struggled getting that crazy narrow DOF while utilizing it effectively for subject framing.
the "3D Pop" and it's effect on the DOF really helps make subject matter stand out, especially in busy and chaotic scenes like above
It also adds to the above compositions making it feel like you are actually walking down the road to those distant mountain peaks (and they are still quite a ways away). What impresses me about the optical quality of these lenses that are superior to others is the lens distortions, the above mountain peaks are still many miles away and yet still appear massive, most other non telephoto lenses makes the scene look squished and the mountains appear very small and 2 dimensional. The most distant mountain peak is 7 miles from my shooting location yet still fills the frame quite nicely straight out of camera, the composition and 3D pop still gives the viewer a sense of that distance.
Last but not least, the above photo. I was only a couple of inches from the fallen log at a local pond pointing off towards Mount Kallahan. Shot with my 40mm I was able to get only a couple of inches from the log while focusing on the background