First of all I want to thank Zeiss Germany for giving me the chance to review these two wonderful lenses. I am not paid by Zeiss in any way and the words you read are my personal findings. I am not employed by Zeiss either.
My second disclaimer is a personal one. Usually I am a fond user of the Fujifilm X cameras such as the X-T1 or the X100T. Then again I just love trying new gear and therefor I opted for the Sony A7 as I just wanted to see how these full frame cameras perform in terms of image quality. Yes the Sony A7 does produce cleaner and sharper images than my Fuji X-T1, yes full frame is different to an APS-C sized sensor. I also thought that the A7 would produce cleaner images in terms of high ISO shots but the Fuji X-Trans sensor is a masterpice of sensor engineering and holds its ground against the full frame sensor in the Sony A7. I am sure the Sony A7S will be a lot better but that would be an unfair comparison as the A7S is built for this type of photography.
It is hard to describe but a full frame sensor does give a distinct different look to the photographs. The question is do I need it?
Now that this is out of the way lets get started.
Both lenses, the Zeiss Loxia 2/35 and the Zeiss Loxia 2/50 where mounted on the Sony A7. Some of the shots are Jpegs OOC and some are edited Raw files with Lightroom 5.7
Once again, the camera of choice was the Sony A7! Not the A7R or the A7S and also not the Sony A7II
For the girls and guys that don´t want to read a full text I´ll make it short.
Go to the shop, search the web and save up your money and go and get either one or both lenses. They are among the best lenses I have ever used!
Now for the people that like to read a bit more. Please carry on.
When you open up the wonderfully crafted white box with the lens shown on it you can see what you pay for. The first touch of the lens, be that the Zeiss Loxia 2/35 or the Zeiss Loxia 2/50, is something I have not had very often when touching a lens.
The lens is assembled in such a high quality I can hardly imagine that it could be done better. Ok, I have yet to touch a Leica Noctilux or any Leica lens, but what I feel with these Loxia lenses is pure enjoyment. Sitting on my couch in the evening, thinking about this review I keep taking the A7 with one of the Loxia lenses mounted into my hand. I just want to touch these highly crafted pieces of gear. It´s like my X100T. I just want to touch it and take the camera and the lenses out for a photo-shoot. These lenses are made for photographers and videographers in the same way.
It is a metal construction and therefor does have some heft to it. Both lenses are built like a tank. A lens built to last for many, many years giving the photographer pure enjoyment. It is not one of the lightest lenses for the Sony E-Mount. Don´t get me wrong, these lenses feel nicely balanced on the Sony A7. They fall beautifully into my hand when holding the camera.
Focusing and setting the aperture
The focus ring is so buttery smooth I thought I had to wipe my hands after using the focus ring for the first time. So smooth with just the right amount of resistance! The focus system is an all manual focus one which means that there is no electric motor inside the lens. It is a pure manual focus lens. What I LOVE about this lens, or any lens in that case, is the aperture ring. I loved it right away on the first Fuji X100 I had and this love has never left. It makes me feel connected with the camera far more than turning a dial on the body. I never liked that. The aperture ring clicks have got just the right amount of tension to them. Not too stiff but not too loose either.
These Loxia lenses have an ace up there sleeve, too. There is a so called De-Click mechanism built into them. This means that you can turn off the clicks from the aperture and have the aperture ring turn with no noise and no clicks. Ideal for videographers! There is a small tool delivered with the lens but a normal small screwdriver will do the same work in case you should lose the tool. I must admit that I personally did not test this function as I am no videographer.
Another small add on to the lens is the weather sealing. The blue sealing around the lens mount is to prevent spray water or dust getting into the camera in between the lens mount and the lens.
As soon as you take a look at the back of the lens you will find the electric contacts. Electric contacts? But I thought it is an all manual lens! Yes and no. the focusing and the setting of the aperture is purely manual. The electric contacts are there to send the exif data to the camera and to let the camera know when you twist the focus ring. As soon as you do so the automatic magnification will switch on and show the a magnified picture through the viewfinder or on the rear screen. You will have to turn this on in the menu system.
The image quality
In one word! Amazing, Stunning, Awesome! Oh, sorry that where three.
As the lenses are mounted on a camera with a full frame sensor the 35mm or the 50mm is exactly what you get. No crop factor has to be applied.
These Loxia lenses are sharp, have a wonderful contrast to them and render colors on the A7 beautifully.
At f/2 – f/2.8 the lenses are a little soft in the most outer edges. But that is not surprising at all. Do remember that you are not shooting a crop camera. The A7 series has a full frame sensor mounted inside and the flange distance is very close to the sensor. You must not think that just because it says Zeiss on the lens you are getting corner to corner sharpness across the entire frame. As soon as you stop down to something like f/4 things sharpen up. The lens becomes tack sharp across the entire photograph.
This does not mean that you cannot use f/2 at all, quite the opposite. Using the widest aperture for portrait shooting is great. You get wonderful smooth images.
Let’s get to the DOF or Depth of field:
An f/2 lens mounted on a full frame sensor camera gives you a very shallow depth of field. I will not go into any kind of calculation about this. You can find this on the rest of the internet. Let me say though that the depth of field at f/2 is very shallow.
The shot above was taken with an aperture of f/4 near the close focus range. You can also see the Bokeh of this lens. Do keep in mind that this type of plant shown on this photograph is not the best for Bokeh test. Most lenses I have used to photograph this subject produce worse Bokeh than this wonderful Zeiss Loxia 2/35.
Let’s take a look at some more sample images. I personally think this is the best way to show the quality of a lens.
What I don´t like
Not much! The only minus that I found whilst using this lens is that the focus ring has to be turned far too often to go from infinite to minimum focus distance. The upside of this is that you can focus very precisely even when the aperture is wide open and you are close to the subject. As you know, a 50mm f/2 lens mounted on a full frame camera has a very shallow DOF when close to the subject.
That´s about all that I am not quite so keen on, but I could live with that.
My personal verdict
The Zeiss Loxia 2/35 as well as the Zeiss Loxia 2/50 is a wonderfully crafted lenses. They are built to withstand almost anything a photographer could run into. I would not hesitate to use these lenses under harsh conditions such as rain, dust or any other kind of influences.
Using these wonderful all manual focus lenses on the Sony A7 was a pure joy. I love the way the focus magnification turns on as soon as the focus ring is used. The real manual setting of the aperture is just my kind. I love the connection I get when using these two lenses. By the way, the aperture changes even when the camera is turned off! Yes it is a real manual lens.
The image quality is right up where it should be for a lens in this price category. Yes the Loxia lenses are expensive but you do get what you pay for.
If I would have to choose between one of the two I would go for the Zeiss Loxia 2/35 but that is only my personal preference as I like the 35mm field of view better than that of the Zeiss Loxia 2/50. In terms of image quality both lenses are amongst the best you can get for your A7 series camera with a native E-Mount.
Pair one of the Zeiss Loxia lenses with the all new Sony A7II and I could easily live with that. Occasionaly I did have some missed shots due to my shaking of the camera. With the A7II and the 5 Axis image stabalizer it would have been even easier to focus the great Loxia lens.
Thanks once again to Zeiss Germany and my contact at Zeiss for providing me this wonderful experience of shooting the Zeiss Loxia range. I would be honored to test some of any upcoming lenses again.
Finally I want to show you some additional images which I have taken over the past few weeks. These are real world images! No special studio set up.