If you’re after a standard viewpoint lens, this usually means grabbing hold of a 35mm or 50mm prime. Both of these focal lengths are good all-rounders, but as photographers, we have been programmed to adhere to these standards, which means the ZEISS Batis 40mm f/2 CF is a weirdly in-between offering.
This in-between focal length can be seen as either a positive or a negative, depending on your viewpoint. Positive in that the focal length provides a happy medium between the two standards, but a negative in that it’s neither one nor the other. But as with anything in life, we need to take it out for a test drive before forming any preconceived notions.
The ZEISS Batis 40mm f/2 CF is unfortunately only available for the Sony E-mount, but at least it’s another lens added to the list for the Sony users out there. If you have or are considering a Sony mirrorless camera, this is good news for you.
The design of the lens follows the current ZEISS principles of having a sleek barrel design, with a nicely-integrated lens hood. The lens is also remarkably light at only 361g, which means it’s extremely well-balanced on the likes of the Sony a7 III. The lens barrel has been fully weather-sealed, and is designed to take the rigors of everyday shooting.
As for the rest of the technical specs, the aperture comes in at a wide and bright f/2, with a total optical arrangement of nine elements in eight groups. The arrangement includes two aspherical, three anomalous partial dispersion, and one low dispersion elements to maintain image quality. The ZEISS T* anti-reflective coating has been applied to each element to give it that characteristic ZEISS look.
The outside of the lens has a rather fancy OLED display, which works great in low-light conditions. Also, as per recent ZEISS lens designs, the focusing ring has a smooth, rubberized feel which is extremely tactile, making it easy to hit focus within manual mode. One other standout point of this lens is its close focusing distance of just 24cm, which is nicely accompanied by a focus limiter switch to set the range to three distinct distances.
The ZEISS Batis 40mm f/2 CF in Use
The close focusing range of this lens makes it very easy to get nice, tight compositions. It’s not going to replace a macro lens with its 1:3.3 ratio, but when the focus limiter is engaged, is a quick way to keep everything in focus when you’re rattling off shots at close quarters.
The autofocus system is also respectably rapid, with only a few missed shots happening when the lens dives into very low-light conditions. The system is very quiet, which will benefit the video guys. In this regard, there are no complaints about the autofocus system or the ability to quickly switch into manual mode.
Now it’s on to that in-between focal length of 40mm. At first, you would think this is a neither-here-nor-there focal length, but in reality, it combines the best of the 35mm and the 50mm worlds. It’s wide enough for environmental portraits without any edge distortion while being narrow enough to fill the frame with a subject and part of the surroundings.
In terms of overall sharpness, unless you are an absolute pixel peeper, real-world use provides fine detail even at f/2 and a great amount of sharpness across the frame at f/4. Even with close-up images, the lens manages to render lots of detail, especially in the center of the frame.
Everything stays sharp across the frame up until f/16, where diffraction starts to take its usual toll. In terms of overall color and contrast, final image renditions were very neutral, with only a small amount of contrast and warmth added in postproduction for some very respectable end results.
When the lens is set at f/2, the nine-blade aperture does a reasonable job of producing respectable-looking bokeh. However, colors don’t transition as smoothly as expected, which means the lens excels more at the smaller apertures. With a slight stopping down of the aperture, the ZEISS Batis 40mm f/2 CF comes into its own and has more detail across the depth of field.
How Does It Compare to Third-Party?
For those who yearn for a 40mm focal length which can fit Canon, Nikon, and Sigma camera mounts, the Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art has a lot going for it. Although it costs more than the ZEISS and weighs the same as a small planet, it benefits from an f/1.4 aperture and produces some wonderfully smooth bokeh. The Sigma also benefits from the latest Art series optics, which produce wonderfully neutral contrast and color, which is a great starting point for post-processing.
The Sigma doesn’t have quite the same close focusing distance as the ZEISS, but it is amazingly sharp and great for both stills and video. This makes the Sigma a wonderful professional lens for the 40mm focal length.
|ZEISS Batis 40mm f/2 CF||Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art|
|Close Focusing Distance||24cm||40cm|
What Did We Find Out?
It turns out that 40mm can be a very versatile focal length, taking the best aspects of both a 35mm and the 50mm in one go. This means that it’s one of those lenses that can stay on your camera all day long, with the ability to get up close and personal, as well as capturing some nice environmental shots.
Its lightweight nature also means that it’s not going to be a strain after a long day’s shoot. This point can’t be underestimated, as heavyweight lenses are fine to characterize their optical qualities, but there’s nothing like a lightweight solution that can be easily thrown around all day long.
For wedding photographers, the ZEISS is very adept at capturing group portraits, along with the smaller details of the day. Half-body shots also come out with plenty of clarity and as far as lens anomalies go, there is only a slight amount of chromatic aberration displayed in high-contrast areas when the aperture is set to f/2.
The ZEISS Batis 40mm f/2 CF may not produce the most pleasant bokeh effects, but as a versatile standard prime lens, it’s a very lightweight solution that can render lots of detail with a slight stopping down of the aperture. It’s also a shame its only available for the Sony platform, but for things like environmental portraits, it’s a worthwhile contender with a very usable focal length.