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Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar T* Review

John Riley reviews the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8, the bright prime lens, ideal for portraits.


|  Zeiss Batis 1.8/85mm in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Zeiss Batis 85mm F1,8 On Alpha 7 Body

The Batis range of lenses from Zeiss is intended for Sony E mount full frame cameras, reviewed here with the Sony Alpha 7 camera body. The name of Zeiss gives us a high expectation of quality and performance, especially having just reviewed the highly recommended 25mm f/2 from the same family. Let's see if the 85mm f/1.8 reaches the same heights of performance.

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Handling and Features

Zeiss Batis 85mm F1,8 Front Element View
The Batis lenses are minimalistic in appearance, with a dark window, a smoothly operating electronic focusing ring and inlaid plaque either side of the lens barrel showing the Zeiss name being the only things to disturb the total black of the design. Removing the pinch-type lens cap reveals the lens name to be a Zeiss Sonnar 1.8/85 T* lens, with a 67mm filter thread. Removing the bayonet rear cap reveals the electronic contacts on the metal mount and a baffle to protect the rear element from stray reflections. The round lens hood clips securely and smoothly into place via its precise bayonet mount.

Zeiss Batis 85mm F1,8 Distance Display Near
Zeiss Batis 85mm - Distance Display Near

When the lens is fitted via its smooth bayonet mount and the camera powered up, the name ZEISS appears briefly in the window cut out on the top of the lens. If in manual focus mode this crisp OLED display then shows not just the distance set, but also the depth of field limits for the aperture set. If this is also required in AF modes, then rotating the focusing ring 360 degrees anti-clockwise reveals the option to have the display active in AF and manual modes, manual mode only or off. Rotating the focusing ring 360 degrees clockwise gives the option of distances in metres or feet. The default is metres and MF only. The only thing that spoils this system a little is the caveat that it is an approximation only and may not be totally accurate. Still, a very impressive and potentially useful feature.

Zeiss Batis 85mm F1,8 Distance Display Far
Zeiss Batis 85mm - Distance Display Far

The Sonnar is a classic design, this version having 11 elements in 8 groups. It weighs in at 475g, and is certainly best described as chunky. The OLED display is the only adornment that gives any information. The seal around the rear of the lens reveals this to be a weather resistant design, something which seems increasingly important and does enable us to keep shooting when the weather turns bad. During this review the weather did turn bad and the lens proved quite capable of resisting whatever was thrown at it.

Zeiss Batis 85mm F1,8 Side View With Lens Hood

One negative is that the lens does not focus closer than 80cm. This seems a little anachronistic in a world where we expect lenses to focus really close. When used for portraits it can be a little disconcerting to be constantly on the verge of moving in too close and the lens failing to find focus. It may well be that there would be compromises to quality if the focusing were to be extended closer, but in terms of handling it is a shame.

Zeiss Batis 85mm F1,8 Three Quarter View Rear

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Performance

The central sharpness is excellent from the start, very even across the aperture range and only really drops to being still very good at f/22. An outstanding performance that clearly shows in the images. The edges are slightly lower in performance but very good indeed and again very even all through the aperture range. It is only at f/22 that sharpness falls at the edge, to being just good. In practice, any aperture could be used with confidence, especially if the main area of interest is at the centre of the frame.


 

 
MTF
MTF
 

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. 

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

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

CA is minimal at the centre of the field, but is visible in moderation at the edges and this shows in the images with branches against sky. Again, this can be corrected in software.


 

 
CA
CA
 

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 Alpha A7 using Imatest.


Telephoto lenses are prone to a small amount of pincushion distortion and this lens is no exception. It was measured at +1.97% pincushion, which is reasonable for a lens of this type and unlikely to cause any problems. Corrections can be made in software if required.

The lens design and almost perfectly circular aperture deliver the most luscious and smooth bokeh. This is perfect with even busy out of focus areas and is a very high level of aesthetic performance. This is all about the “feel” of a fine lens, and goes beyond just the bald technical figures.

The effectiveness of the T* coating means that flare is well under control. No flare was observed, although to be fair the sun did not appear so it could offer the same extreme challenges that were met so well by the 25mm f/2 lens.

Mechanically, the electronic focusing ring is smooth and even, making manual focusing very easy. The speed of focusing can also be controlled, depending upon whether we rotate the ring slowly or quickly. The AF system is fast and precise, with no hunting or hesitation.


Zeiss Batis 1.8/85mm Sample Photos

Value For Money

The Batis 85mm is priced at around £909, which is of course expensive. However, it is a beautiful piece of minimalist-design and high performance technology, a premium product in every respect. The 85mm lens is a staple of most lens ranges and some have premium and lower cost options available. Nikon users have the Nikon 85mm f/1.8 G at £339 and the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4 G at £1175. Canon users can choose between the EF 85mm f/1.2 L II USM at £1499, or the EF 85mm f/1.8 USM at £249. Pentax users have the full frame SMC Pentax-FA 77mm f/1.8 Limited at £799, but for APS-C their equivalent would be the SMC Pentax-DA* 55mm f/1.4 SDM costing £649.

For Sony E fit, alternatives to the Zeiss lens might include the Samyang 85mm f/1.4 Aspherical IF, available in various mounts as well as E fit at around £239. However, this is manual focus only.

Pitched against other premium quality lenses from major marques a case can be made for the Zeiss Batis being very good value for money. Pitched against the lower cost alternatives this is less clear cut, depending very much on the requirements of the individual photographer.

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Verdict

The Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 is another lovely lens. The design and handling are a pleasure. The results ooze quality. The OLED display is an innovation that looks to be actually quite useful. The construction quality is impeccable. The only thing not to like is perhaps the price, but it starts to look much better value when pitched against other premium quality lenses. This Zeiss lens certainly delivers the goods for Sony 7 users.

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Pros

Minimalist design
High construction quality
Excellent, even sharpness
OLED distance display showing DOF
Fast and silent focusing
Image stabilisation

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Cons

Price
CA at edges
Not very close focusing

 

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

The Zeiss Batis 85mm f/2 is a beautiful premium lens for full frame E Mount users.

 

 

Zeiss Batis 1.8/85mm Specifications

ManufacturerZeiss
General
Lens Mounts
  • Sony FE Mount
Lens
Focal Length85mm
Angle of View29
Max Aperturef/1.8
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size67mm
StabilisedYes
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Focusing
Min Focus80cm
Construction
BladesNo Data
Elements11
Groups8
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight475g
Height92mm

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Comments


11 Nov 2015 3:49PM
It is such a shame the lens was tested with the A7 camera, still available but almost obsolete.
This lens was designed for the A7R MK2, and with uncompressed RAW 42mega pixels, It shows it's worth.
A little bit of swings and roundabouts, but I would prefer it to the Otus Zeiss distagon ,( Otus is 1.4 ). which is over 4 times the price.
When I purchased the Batis, I did consider the 90mm Sony G macro, which is about the same price, a very sharp lens but only F2.8,
For Macro users maybe a better choice.
A link for samples with the A7R MK2:
http://www.aswillis.com/p886517623#h5aff5271
click on slideshow.
I own many excellent lenses, but the Batis 1.8/85 has become my favourite.


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aardvark7 12 1
11 Nov 2015 5:28PM
This review merely repeats the expected verdict so is neither controversial, nor noteworthy, with one exception.
You say "for portraits it can be a little disconcerting to be constantly on the verge of moving in too close", relating to 80cm as close focus point.

Seriously? 80cm not close enough for portraits with an 85mm? Please let me know the models who are confident enough to expose every wrinkle and blackhead under the scrutiny of an 85mm lens on a 42mp camera at that range. I would love to have them pose for me...
12 Nov 2015 9:24AM
Traditionally, prime lenses would focus to a magnification ratio of about 1:10. Zoom lenses have tended to spoil us, bringing that magnification up to 1:4 or even 1:3, which is impressively close. The Zeiss 85mm focuses to around that 1:10 point and that is similar to say a 50mm lens, focusing down to 0.5 or 0.45 metres typically. This doesn't give a really close head shot, if indeed that's what is wanted. That's where the requirements of the individual come in and I like to get in close, at least some of the time. It could be much worse - I once had a Voigtlander 135mm f/4 for Bessamatic that focused down only to 13 feet, against which a metre or so starts to look much better.
27 Nov 2015 4:19PM
@AlanWillis... "...such a shame... the A7 camera... almost obsolete." Ha, ha, ha... the almost inevitable silly 'observations' the photo-poseur crowd come up with do make me laugh sometimes! Just to confirm my hunch, I took a brief look at some of your 'snapshot' gallery, Alan... and yep, as I thought, you make a MUCH better snob than you do a photographer.

Oh, do tell us more about what you own, won't you? I'll bet you have monogrammed toothbrushes...
27 Nov 2015 10:36PM
Have you ever taken a photograph, Nima Toad, none on here? LOL

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