Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 Apo Sonnar T* Review

Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 Apo Sonnar T* Review - John Riley reviews the new Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 full-frame lens for Sony E mount cameras.

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Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Zeiss Batis 135mm F2,8 Front Oblique View

The Zeiss Batis lenses are designed for the Sony FE and E-mount mirrorless cameras and here the 135mm f/2.8 is reviewed using the full frame A7 body. The solid metal construction gives confidence that we have here a high-quality lens, so let's see how it lives up to the Zeiss tradition.

Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 Apo Sonnar T* Handling and Features

Zeiss Batis 135mm F2,8 On Sony A7

The appearance of this chunky lens is one of sleek understatement, with hardly anything to disturb the smooth black lines. The front element, T* coated, is surrounded by a conventional 67mm filter thread. An outer bayonet is the means by which the generously sized lens hood is firmly clicked into position. Behind this, as we move towards the camera body, we find the classy recessed plates carrying the Zeiss name and also the small window for the OLED (Organic LED) display. The display shows the set distance, but also the depth of field at the set aperture. This is a nice touch.

Further back is the discrete focusing ring, made with a rubberised finish that does tend to pick up small white specks of dust at the slightest opportunity. Manual focusing is electronic, but there is probably little need for it in most circumstances as the fast, silent AF locks on without hesitation, every time. Focusing is down to 0.87m (2.9 feet), which is very usefully close, giving the possibility of really tight head portraits if required. Maximum magnification is 1:5.3.

The optical design is based on the Zeiss Sonnar of 1930, but this has moved on considerably since that time. The 135mm f/2.8 has been a staple lens for a very long time, for decades being the second lens that would be bought, after the 50mm standard that would be provided with the camera. Why 135mm? Basically, this is the longest lens that can be reliably focused by the rangefinder camera, a reminder of the Leica / Contax legacy that can be felt in photography even today. Longer than 135mm and the SLR focusing screen is more accurate.

But those lenses will be found with a very simple construction of perhaps 4 or 5 elements at most, and here we have a solid 614g of metal containing an apochromatic optical construction of 14 elements in 11 groups. Eight of these are anomalous partial dispersion glass. This design also has floating elements, which will assist in maintaining performance as we focus closer.

Zeiss Batis 135mm F2,8 Woth Hood On Sony A7
 

The diaphragm consists of 9 blades to improve bokeh, and there is also built-in OIS (Optical Image Stabilisation) that works with the SteadyShot system built into the cameras.

There is very little to note regarding the actual handling of the lens. It performs impeccably. There is good balance with the Sony Alpha A7 body, although the package cannot really be described as compact. The 135mm focal length does enable some very effective use of narrow depth of field. As a portrait lens, some may find it to be a little long and prefer something around 100mm, but it does make really tight head shots possible.

Used on an APS-C format camera it becomes a quite strong telephoto, equivalent to around 200mm in 35mm-format terms, and at this point becomes suitable for short range sports and wildlife shots. It is surprisingly versatile and a good telephoto choice for both formats.

Zeiss Batis 135mm F2,8 Rear Oblique View

Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 Apo Sonnar T* Performance

In a practical sense, the optimum aperture of the lens in terms of sharpness is any aperture from f/2.8 to f/16. Both centre and edge the performance is excellent. If we are to be pedantic, the peak is reached about f/4-5.6. There is an incredible degree of evenness, with the resolution figures almost neck and neck through the range. At f/22 performance is still even across the frame and can be described as very good, making this smallest aperture perfectly usable.

Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 MTF Charts

How to read our MTF charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony Alpha A7 using Imatest.


CA (Chromatic Aberration) is very low indeed as befits the Apochromatic description. Centrally, this is reduced almost to zero at all apertures and even at the edges there is remarkably little fringing. I doubt that further correction will normally be necessary, but there is always the option of doing this in software.

Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 Chromatic Aberration Charts

How to read our CA charts

Chromatic aberration (CA) 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 minimise the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony Alpha A7 using Imatest.

 

As with most telephoto designs, there is some pincushion distortion, measuring +1.42%, and this may well be noticed in critical work, perhaps particularly some architectural shots. It is unlikely to intrude much if at all in most general photography. If desired, it can be corrected quite easily either in-camera or in software.

Generally, there is little evidence of flare. When shooting directly into the light some loss of contrast can be seen, but there is no evidence of artefacts in the images.

Bokeh does become more of an issue with longer lenses in that it is so much easier to obtain beautiful out of focus backgrounds. Here we see some gorgeous gradation in those areas, especially useful for throwing portraits forwards in an image. The narrow depth of field makes the most of some extremely smooth bokeh.

Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 Sample Photos

Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 Aperture range

Value For Money

The Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 is priced at £1749, a high price reflecting the high quality.

If we look at the SLR marques, and this is where the Sony A7 series is arguably pitching its appeal, then we have very few 135mm lenses, almost all of them faster than the Batis.

The Canon EF 135mm f/2L USM costs £949. The Nikon AF 135mm f/2 D DC is priced at £1149. Sony A series cameras are served by the Sony 135mm f/1.8 Sonnar T* £1299) and the Sony 135mm f/2.8 STF (£1099).

This leaves three lenses, the Sigma 135mm f/1.8 DG HSM (£1399), the Samyang 135mm f/2 ED UMC Manual Focus (£369) and the Zeiss 135mm f/2 T* Apo Sonnar (£1599).

For more options have a look at the Top 12 Best Sony E / FE Mount lenses, or have a look at the Top 27 Best Portrait lenses.

 

Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 Apo Sonnar T* Verdict

The Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 Apo Sonnar T* lens is a beauty, of that there is no doubt. It oozes quality and there would appear to be little downside to it apart from the price. A lens to aspire to and, if it can be afforded, to put very high on the list of possible purchases.

Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 Apo Sonnar T* Pros

  • Excellent sharpness throughout
  • Apochromatic for low CA
  • Fast, silent and accurate AF
  • Beautiful bokeh
  • Superb ergonomics
  • Weather and dust resistance
  • Optical Image Stabilisation
  • Close focusing

Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 Apo Sonnar T* Cons

  • Very high price

Features4.5/5
Handling5/5
Performance5/5
Value4/5
Overall Verdict

Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 Specifications

ManufacturerZeiss
General
Lens Mounts
  • Sony E Mount
  • Sony FE Mount
Lens
Focal Length135mm
Angle of View18
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size67mm
StabilisedYes
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Focusing
Min Focus87cm
Construction
Blades9
Elements14
Groups11
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight614g
Height120mm

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Comments


22 Sep 2017 3:06PM
Why do you test Sony lenses with the 42 MP A7R II, yet Zeiss Batis lenses, including the 135mm F2.8, you use the lowly A7?
This will give people the false impression that the Sony lenses are much better because the Imatest values are much higher on the A7r II.

Compare Apples to Apples please!

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22 Sep 2017 4:17PM
In an ideal world there would be some universal camera body that could test all lenses on an equal footing, but the reality is that lenses have to be tested on whatever body is available at the time. To make a fair comparison, the performance is compared to the theoretical maximum for a given camera body, so yielding a set of descriptions such as "outstanding", "excellent" and so on. These are quite closely in line with each other and thus give us some idea of where lenses lie in relation to each other. In the case of this lens, most apertures are rated as excellent and we can then see what the description is for the Sony lenses.

Of course, two lenses tested at the same MP level can be directly compared as well. Hope that helps!
Just ordered this beauty.

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