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Zeiss Batis Distagon 18mm f/2.8 T* Review

John Riley reviews the Zeiss Batis Distagon 18mm f/2.8 T* wide-angle lens for full-frame Sony E-Mount mirrorless cameras.


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Zeiss Batis 18mm F2,8 Front Oblique View


 

The Batis range is a now well-established selection of full-frame AF lenses, designed for the Sony mirrorless range. We have here the new 18mm f/2.8, an impressively light and relatively compact lens that extends the range well into the arena of the ultra-wide. The potential for architecture and landscape is immediately obvious, but creatively there are many more possibilities. Let's see if the performance is up to the standard of the rest of the range, using the full-frame 24MP Sony Alpha A7 III body.

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Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 T* Handling and Features

Zeiss Batis 18mm F2,8 Without Hood On Sony A7III

The lens is chunky in appearance, with a heavily domed front element, but that element is nowhere near the size of the first 18mm lenses that came into the market for the Zeiss Contarex system in the 1970s. The weight, a modest 330g, is also a million miles away from the traditional metal construction of those early lenses. For this, we can thank the complex construction, a wide array of new glass types and a mixture of metals and quality plastics.

Starting our tour of the lens at the front, the beautifully sculpted lens hood bayonets cleanly into place, locks reassuringly and shows no signs of being easy to dislodge accidentally. The appearance is definitely elegant, an appeal to aesthetics as well as to quality. There is a standard 77mm filter thread within the hood's bayonet fitting.

There is a dark plastic window and when the camera is initially switched on this small OLED (Organic LED) display briefly indicates ZEISS. Thereafter it indicates the focusing distance set, plus the limits of the depth of field for the aperture in use. That is, it does so display if the camera is set to DMF or MF. This is a brilliant idea and works very well indeed. There are limitations of course, and the distances displayed are a guide rather than an absolutely precise value. Settings can be displayed in feet or metres as preferred.

The manual focusing ring is electronic and an object lesson in how to make something smooth.....utterly smooth. The speed of turning changes the speed of manual focus and if the camera AF system is set to DMF (Dynamic Manual Focus) then the ring stays active even in AF, to enable final tweaks to the focus position. The rubberised ring is very easy to grip, but the tendency to pick up dust and fibres has not been improved.

Zeiss Batis 18mm F2,8 With Hood On Sony A7III

The optical construction is 11 elements in 10 groups and is a floating element design. Typically this will enhance close-focusing performance. Focusing is down to 0.25, or 9.8 inches, offering a maximum magnification of 1:9.5. This about what would be expected for an 18mm lens. The diaphragm comprises 10 blades.

The optical formula utilises 2 Aspherical, 5 Anomalous Partial Dispersion and two Aspherical using special glass. The Zeiss T* multi-coating is well known. The lens is also weather-sealed so that it can be confidently used in adverse conditions.

Handling is perfectly fine, in fact, there is nothing to really do except just use the lens. There are no buttons, rings or other controls to distract, just the excellent OLED info window and a focusing ring. This is pure elegance of design and simplicity of operation, so as photographers we can concentrate on the making of the images.

Zeiss Batis 18mm F2,8 Rear Oblique View


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