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Carl Zeiss Touit Distagon T* 12mm f/2.8 Lens Review

Carl Zeiss Touit Distagon T* 12mm f/2.8 Lens Review - Gary Wolstenholme reviews the new Carl Zeiss Touit Distagon T* 12mm f/2.8 lens, designed for the Fuji X-Series and Sony NEX mirrorless cameras.

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Category : Interchangeable Lenses
Product : Carl Zeiss Touit Distagon 2.8/12 T*
Price : £950
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Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Carl Zeiss Touit 12mm F2 8 Nex Lens (7)

Famed for the quality of their lenses for 35mm and medium format cameras, Zeiss has branched out into creating lenses for Fuji X-Series and Sony NEX mirrorless compact system cameras. The lens we have here is their 'Touit' 12mm f/2.8, which provides an angle of view equivalent to an 18mm lens on a 35mm camera and promises to provide the image quality and look that you would normally associate with images produced with Carl Zeiss optics. This luxury doesn't come cheap though, being priced at around £950. Still, if the performance is there, the price could be worth it for many.

Carl Zeiss Touit 12mm F2 8 Nex Lens (8)

Carl Zeiss Touit Distagon T* 12mm f/2.8 Handling and features

The external appearance of this lens is a bit of a departure from tradition for Carl Zeiss. Gone are the usual sharp angles, precisely grooved grips and silver filter ring synonymous with Zeiss manual focus lenses. Instead the old design gives way to a smoother, sleeker and generally more tactile finish, whilst retaining the same level of build quality. Despite being constructed mostly of metal, this 12mm lens is reasonably lightweight, tipping the scales at 260g for the E-mount version and 270g for the X-mount lens. This makes the lens balance extremely well with the Sony NEX-F3 used for testing.

Carl Zeiss has been working closely with both Fujifilm and Sony to develop a compatible autofocus system. Although autofocus is reliable, the speed of focus acquisition with this lens is noticeably slower than with other E-mount lenses, so a little patience or forward planning may be required in some instances. Carl Zeiss say this is something that may be resolved by future firmware updates on both Sony and Fujifilm camera systems. Manual focusing is silky smooth and precise and the smooth rubberised focusing ring a pleasure to use.

As focusing is performed internally, the 67mm filter thread does not rotate or extend during use, which should make this lens perfect for use with graduated or polarising filters. A relatively deep petal-shaped hood is supplied with the lens, which attaches flush to the body of the lens via a bayonet fitting. Closest focus is 18cm, which is ideal for exploiting distorted perspective at close distances, or for shooting in claustrophobic environments.

Carl Zeiss Touit 12mm F2 8 Nex Lens (3)

Carl Zeiss Touit Distagon T* 12mm f/2.8 Performance

Sharpness in the centre of the frame at maximum aperture is already outstanding, and clarity at f/2.8 towards the edges of the frame is good. Stopping down the aperture dramatically improves clarity towards the edges of the frame. Stopping down to f/4 results in outstanding sharpness across the frame and excellent sharpness across the frame is maintained until the aperture is stopped down beyond f/8.

Resolution at 12mm
Resolution at 12mm

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony NEX-F3 using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations towards the edges of the frame are very well controlled and shouldn't pose issues for most images, even with high contrast areas towards the edges of the frame with levels remaining below half a pixel width towards the edges of the frame.

Chromatic aberration at 12mm
Chromatic aberration at 12mm

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc. to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony NEX-F3 using Imatest.

Considering the wide field of view this lens offers, falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is incredibly well controlled. At maximum aperture the corners of the frame are only 0.8 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination is achieved with the aperture stopped down to f/5.6 or beyond.

Distortion is also very mild for a an ultra wide lens. Imatest detected 2.53% barrel distortion, which may occasionally pose issues. Fortunately, the distortion pattern across the frame is uniform, which should make applying corrections in image editing software relatively straightforward.

The anti-reflective T* coating applied to this lens does a grand job of suppressing flare and retaining contrast, even when shooting into the light. The petal shaped hood does a reasonable job of shading the lens from extraneous light that may pose issues also.

Carl Zeiss Touit Distagon 2.8/12 T* Sample Photos

Value for Money

Being priced at £950, this lens doesn't carry as much of a price premium as other Carl Zeiss lenses, which makes it very interesting, especially if the high optical quality is worth the extra to you. Sony has this focal length covered by their 10-18mm f/4 OSS optic, which costs around £690. This zoom lens sports optical stabilisation and a maximum aperture one stop slower than the Carl Zeiss optic. The closest equivalent lens in the Fuji X system is the 14mm f/2.8R, which costs around £670, but doesn't offer as wide an angle of view as this Carl Zeiss lens.

Carl Zeiss Touit Distagon T* 12mm f/2.8 Verdict

This first foray into making lenses for Fuji, as well as Sony compact system cameras from Carl Zeiss shows promise. They've managed to produce a lens with optical characteristics worthy of the Zeiss reputation, that's well designed and solidly built. Although this lens does carry a premium price, the additional cost isn't so much that it will put this lens beyond the reach of everyone, especially those serious about using quality glass with their camera.

     
  The Carl Zeiss Touit Distagon T* 12mm f/2.8 has excellent sharpness and solid build.  

Carl Zeiss Touit Distagon T* 12mm f/2.8 Pros

Excellent sharpness
Solid build
Low distortion, falloff and CA
Very resistant to flare

Carl Zeiss Touit Distagon T* 12mm f/2.8 Cons

Slow AF

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
OVERALL  

Carl Zeiss lenses are available from Carl Zeiss dealers listed here.
Thanks to Harrison Cameras for the loan of the Sony NEX-F3 used in the review.

Carl Zeiss Touit Distagon 2.8/12 T* Specifications

General
Lens Mounts
  • Sony E Mount
  • Fujifilm X Mount
Lens
Focal Length12mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size67mm
35mm equivalent18mm
Internal focusingYes
Focusing
Min Focus18cm
StabilisedNo
Construction
BladesNo Data
Elements11
Groups8
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight270g
Height81mm

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Comments


Wouldn't it have made more sense to test this lens on a Nex7? You make the point yourself that the pricepoint is quite high, so why test on an entry level camera? Surely a lot of Nex7 owners will desperately want to know if this lens suffers from the colour casts that plague many wide angle lenses on Sony's 24mp sensor. I know I do.

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15 Jun 2013 12:31PM
A superb Lens with all the quality and results you would expect from a high end Manufacturer..
I have noticed that several reviews comment on the fact that the focus Ring is rubber and the Hood is plastic.. I have no problems with this but I do think that the 'A' setting for auto on the aperture Ring could have been more positive as it is easy to move off while handling straight to f22...it would therefore have been better placed next to f2.8
light in weight and small enough to balance well on my Fuji X-Pro 1.
positively recommended...

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