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ZEISS Batis – Review of the complete line-up

By July 5, 2019 No Comments

Build to enable your creativity in any environment

After using the ZEISS Batis lenses for almost a year now, I can tell you all about them. And I will in this review. But one thing is certain, these lenses are just fantastic! Not only because of their image quality but also because they are lightweight and just like the Milvus line... they look great!

Review of the ZEISS Batis

Ok, to start off. Which lenses are we talking about?

  • ZEISS Batis 2.8/18
  • ZEISS Batis 2/25
  • ZEISS Batis 2/40 CF
  • ZEISS Batis 1.8/85
  • ZEISS Batis 2.8/135
Zeiss Batis review

Let's start with the conclusion, why do I love working with these lenses?

Before we go into detail about how these lenses work and why they are so great, let’s first briefly talk about why I love working with them. As you might have known I used to work with the ZEISS Milvus line before. Those lenses are fantastic and I most of all loved the 21mm ZEISS Milvus. The images that lens produces are just amazing. But then I switched from Nikon to Sony. As the DSLR lenses like the ZEISS Milvus are designed for those kind of camera’s the wide angle lenses are prone to unsharp edges on Sony cameras. This has to do with the sensor, flange distance and thus the optical formula. Long story short, I needed a new lens. There comes the ZEISS Batis family! Specially designed for the high resolution Sony cameras.
I have borrowed them a few times and later I bought my first 2 lenses as I really loved the way they work and the images they produce.

At the moment I have the 18 – 25- 40 cf and 85 mm Zeiss Batis lenses in my bag and they serve me on every shoot.
What I love about the complete system with Sony (I use the A7RII) is that combined with the Batis lenses you have a very lightweight system. I can put all of my lenses and filters in a lightweight bag like the Peakdesign backpack and off we go! No need for heavy duty backpacks when I’m out in the city, it’s a true joy.

I’ll get into detail on all other things later in this review but the next and most important thing is of course image quality.
The image quality is just amazing, as we expect from ZEISS. The images are full of (micro) contrast and are amazingly sharp. The colours are captured beautifully and the ZEISS pop is there. Especially for my fine-art works I require a sharp image with good midtone contrast and the Batis lenses give me just that.

So; lightweight, amazing image quality, gorgeous design, OLED display and the perfect pair for Sony cameras. Sounds perfect, right?
Now let’s get into detail on all of these aspects and how they would help you to get better images.

Now what is that ZEISS quality

Every photographer has heard about the ZEISS lenses and their quality, the “ZEISS pop” and the ‘expensive’ lenses they produce.
But what is it that makes these ZEISS lenses so special and are they really that expensive? Let’s dive into it and I’m sure it will surprise you in the end of this review.

"ZEISS Look"

We often talk about the “Zeiss Look” and if you are a used to the ZEISS lenses you know what I mean, but if you are new to ZEISS lenses it can be hard to describe. This is because the look we talk about is produced by many factors. Now during the ZEISS Batis discover weeks, they have provided us with some very good graphics that illustrate why their lenses produce the images they produce. Better said, all the lens characteristics are laid out in a very useful way.

Let’s go by them one by one and let me explain why all of this helps me on a daily basis when I’m out taking photos.

Sharpness

All the ZEISS Batis lenses are tack sharp. From wide open to the sweet spot around f/8 – f/11 these lenses are sharp from the centre to the corners.

I especially love the Batis 1.8/85 and how sharp it is wide open with a lovely falloff and bokeh. This lens is a true joy to use for any purpose!

For my architecture and cityscape photography I require very sharp images. On a daily basis I use the 18, 25 and 40CF for my shots. The lenses are sharp from corner to corner, even wide open. The fact that the Batis lenses deliver images with a high micro contrast helps with getting even sharper images.
Our brains see sharpness as a difference in contrast. So having an image with a high micro contrast helps the brain to perceive a sharp image.

An other thing all these lenses have in common is the low to none distortion.

Low chromatic aberration is also one of the key aspects of all Batis lenses.
The Distagon design (back focus) of the 18, 25 and 40 mm lenses makes sure that chromatic aberration is handled perfectly. Even when it is present in some very unfavourable conditions like with a fountain or something, it’s so well handled that it can be removed in Lightroom with a tick of the box. It is really stunning craftsmanship to produce wide angle lenses with very low chromatic aberrations.

For the Zeiss Batis 1.8/85 and the Batis 2.8/135 the Apo Sonnar lens design ensures images free from chromatic aberrations and super sharp from corner to corner. When you shoot wide open with these lenses you will be treated with a lovely bokey and again that charasteric ZEISS Pop, separating your subject from the background.
These focal lengths are classical portrait and wedding lenses but because I really love the way the images look from both of these lenses, I use them for whatever I can.
It’s hard to describe but you will know it when you see the images made by these lenses. See also my review on the ZEISS Milvus 2/135 lens, which is also an Apo Sonnar lens (although a full manual focus lens).

ZEISS Pop and Colors

Personally this is the reason for me to buy ZEISS lenses. Their 3D pop, which is again linked to the micro contrast of the lenses combined with the sharpness wide open and the falloff to beautiful bokeh. It helps your subject to stand out. As you know I’m not even a portrait photographer but even in architecture it helps me to get images I can’t produce with other lenses.

The second thing is the true to life colours the lenses give you. Thanks to the (made by ZEISS) T* coating and special glass elements inside the lens the colours pass through the lens elements without losing quality. The T* anti reflective coating also helps to reduce lens flares, which aids in better contrast in your images.

There is a whole article about the lens designs on the ZEISS website, which you can find here. It’s too much to cover right here and if it doesn’t interest you, I’ll just bore you with too much background information. But if you want to know more about why these lenses are so special and why they are as pricey as they are, read through it some time. You will appreciate the quality off the ZEISS lenses even more.
For some more information on the T* coatings have a look here.

Design and features

Design

The ZEISS Batis is a very lightweight design made up from high-tech plastics and a special metal housing.
Just like the design of the Milvus, I really like the Batis it’s looks. Next to that the lenses fall perfectly in your hand, giving you the optimum grip you need to stabilise your camera when taking the photo.

Weather sealed

All ZEISS lenses are weather sealed (moisture and dust won’t hurt them). Meaning you can go out in any environment be it snow and ice, rain, sand, anything. Just concentrate on getting the shots.

OLED Display

The innovative OLED display helps you finding the right focus, especially when you are manually focussing your lens. It will give you the precise depth of field. With narrow apertures it’s not always fool prove (so check your display as well and zoom in) but for setting something like the hyperfocal distance, it’s a great add-on!

When to choose

which lens?

Sometimes it's hard to choose a prime lens, especially when you haven't used that focal length before. I'll try to give you an idea when you could use every Bastis lens from the line-up.

Zeiss Batis 2.8/18
Architecture, Astro, Cityscape, Landscape

Zeiss Batis 2/25
Architecture, Cityscape, Landscape, Travel

Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF
Architecture, Cityscape, Landscape, Travel, Street, Photojournalism, Everything really

Zeiss Batis 1.8/85
Cityscape, Street, Portrait, Wedding, Photojournalism

Zeiss Batis 2.8/135
Portrait, Wedding, Close-up

ZEISS Batis 2.8/18

Zeiss Batis 2.8/18 review

The Zeiss Batis 2.8/18 mm is the idea ultra wide angle lens for all sorts of photography. Landscapes, Cityscapes, Architecture and Astro photography.

This lens serves me in all these categories. I’ve had it with me to Iceland and Lofoten to capture the night sky and the northern lights. During daytime it was the perfect companion to capture the vast views of the magnificent and unique landscapes. With my architecture and cityscape photography I love the wide view  combined with the sharpness and perfect contrast. My clients keep telling me that they like the sharp images I deliver.

As the lens is weather sealed you don’t have to hold back when you are out in the harsh environment.
The auto focus works fast and the OLED display is an extra aid in setting the correct focus.

All in all this is my go to lens when I need a wide view that tells the whole story.

ZEISS Batis 2/25

The Zeiss Batis 2/25 is the perfect wide angle lens when you need to narrow the field of view a bit more as compared to the 18mm. It’s very close to my beloved focal length of 21mm for Architecture.
For both the exterior and interiors shots it’s a great lens to have in your bag.

With the shallow depth of field it’t also a great lens to use in landscape photography where you can play with the depth of field in your shots.

Designed with the close focus distance, fast aperture, great micro contrast and amazing sharpness the Zeiss Batis 2/25 is also a great lens for photojournalism and cityscape photography.

ZEISS Batis 2/40 CF

Zeiss Batis 2/40 cf review

This lens really surprised me!
It’s an uncommon focal length as most photographers would buy a 50mm prime. But after having used the lens on my trip to the desert (read my full review here) I was really happy with the lens! I had to return it after only 2 days of using the lens but the impression was great to say the least.

Now I have a new one, which stays in my bag. This is such a fantastic focal length. You can use it for anything!
Architecture, Landscape, Wedding, Groups, Street, Cityscape, Travel, anything really…

CF stands for Close Focus. This lens is able to focus on subjects only 14cm in front of your lens! So it really invites to get creative shots or at least to try something different.

For me this is really (and unexpected to be honest) a perfect all-round lens.

ZEISS Batis 1.8/85

When you are using the ZEISS Batis lenses you will notice that the Batis 85mm and 135mm are of an other design as the other 3 focal lengths. The APO Sonnar lens design is just something different, especially if you are a portrait, event or wedding photographer.

This lens is fast, sharp, delivers that ZEISS pop, has an amazing sharpness and bokeh. Combined with that it also features optical image stabilisation, helping you even more to get those low light shots.

For me this lens really let’s me think outside of the box concerning usage of focal lengths. I’m not a wedding or portrait photographer but I really love using this lens. Be it for panoramic images, architecture close-ups, cityscape, I’ll just find a reason to pull it out of my bag and I’m sure you will to!

ZEISS Batis 2.8/135

The new medium telephoto lens for a new era is what we find on the website of ZEISS when we look up the details of the 135mm Batis. And I couldn’t agree more. The images are comparable with the 85mm (same lens design), only more compressed.

The 135mm focal length is perfect for portraits, wedding, and event photographers.

As you have seen, I try to find an other less standard usage for that focal length. Photographing intimate landscapes or isolating architectural elements are an example what you could do with this lens.

The sharpness and bokeh is just amazing, together with the fast autofocus and optical image stabilisation it’s an great lens!

Final thoughts on the

Zeiss Batis line-up.

Should you invest in these lenses to complete your kit?

The Batis lenses are truly amazing lenses. The design, weather resistance, sharpness, bokeh, micro contrast. It all comes together in these lightweight lenses, giving you the ability to shoot magnificent images in any weather.

I’ve been using a lot of brands on my Nikon and Sony cameras. The native Sony G Master lenses for instance are mostly pretty sharp (had a lot of problems with the 24-70 GM) but they just lack that extra bit that makes the images truly unique, straight out of camera. The same is true for the popular Sigma Art lenses. They perform pretty well but the images you get from these lenses are different as what you get with the ZEISS lenses.

Isn’t there anything negative? Well as I really like prominent sunstars, I’d rather see all lenses with an 9 blade aperture. But this is highly subjective to personal taste!

All in all I wouldn’t trade my ZEISS lenses for any other lens. They are always delivering the images that I need in the highest quality possible.
(fun fact, when I review an other lens I’m always faced with the fact that I’m spoiled with the quality of the Zeiss Lenses)

Prices

Ok we have talked a lot about the quality of the ZEISS Batis lenses and we all know now what makes these lenses so special. But what about the pricing of these lenses? ZEISS is an expensive brand right?!

Back in the days there wasn’t so much to choose from as today. So the price difference between the ZEISS lenses and the competition was there a few years ago. But let’s fast forward to today.

The widely popular Sigma Art line are all priced around € 1399. Compared to the ZEISS Batis, priced at around € 1300 – € 1500 the difference isn’t so big.

If you look at the quality of the Batis lenses and the small price difference. What would you rather buy next for your Sony camera?
I can assure you that it’s a long term investment and you will never regret it.

Martijn.Kort

Martijn.Kort

Fine art photographer focusing on architecture and cityscapes as well as capturing unique moments from the cockpit. Writing about photography techniques and sharing reviews. Ambassador for both ZEISS Netherlands and Nisi Filters.If you like my work, consider following me on Instagram!

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