It has to be said, that Zeiss lenses have that little extra something above the average crop of lenses. It’s not just the overall sharpness, but the rendition of the final image that adds that extra level of quality. If you currently own one of Sony’s full-frame mirrorless cameras, then you have access to the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8, which can act as a great portrait lens. Very useful for things like weddings and wonderful portraiture.
The idea here is for the Batis to link up to Sony’s internal workings seamlessly and offer things like autofocus and optical image stabilization. Thus, let’s see what this lens can produce and see if the attributes are worth buying into.
Let’s start off with the general specifications. Most of the workings in this lens are based on the Sonnar design, featuring 11 elements in eight groups. A T* anti-reflective coating is applied to three of the elements which cuts down on flaring and ghosting.
There’s also the benefit of autofocus and optical image stabilization, something you don’t find on the most top Zeiss lenses. Linked up to Sony’s in camera stabilization system means hand-held camera shake should be cut down to a minimum.
High-performance linear motors do the heavy lifting for the autofocus system, with no rotation of the front element. This means that a variety of 67mm filters can be fitted. The lens also has a reasonable close focusing distance of 80cm.
Inside the lens are nine rounded diaphragm blades, which should produce some pleasing bokeh. The outside of the lens has the Zeiss, simplistic design, with a very useful OLED panel, which displays the usual focus distance and depth of field markings. The plain design means that things like swapping between auto and manual focus are done in the camera.
The lens also has a rubber seal around the rear mount which prevents dust and moisture and provides a seamless fit to a Sony body. The lens balances very well when attached to a mirrorless body and weighs in at a respectable 475g. In total, the full attributes of this lens feel like something made of top quality.
Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 in Use
As you would expect from a fast Zeiss prime lens, it’s high expectations all around. Wide open at f/1.8, images are full of character, but the edges are slightly softer than in the center. Stopping down to f/4 starts to provide the best results with everything hitting a zenith at f/8. Once you get into the realms of f/16 and above, then diffraction starts to creep in. f/22 is there if you need it, but the resolution does start to tail off at this end of the spectrum.
Being a fast prime, there are elements of vignetting when the lens is wide open, but this starts to go away by f/2.8 and disappears by f/4. There’s also some clear chromatic aberration evidence in high contrast areas wide open, exhibited by purple and green fringing. Again, a little stopping down to f/2.8 clears things up nicely or this can be removed in software. As for lens distortion, there is some pincushioning, but this can be easily rectified in postprocessing.
As for overall image quality, this lens provides rich detail and, as we stated at the beginning, that little extra quality of rendition which you always seem to get from a Zeiss lens. Faithful colors and a beautiful neutral look give plenty of scope for post editing.
Fully wide open at f/1.8, the bokeh is pleasing with smooth transitions of color and although you can spend a lot more on an f/1.4 lens, the total weight, image quality and the addition of the autofocus and image stabilization make this lens far more practical for real world use.
How Does It Compare?
For the average Sony camera owner who wants a top quality 85mm prime at f/1.8, you could go for a Sony built lens in the form of the Sony SEL85F18 85mm f/1.8. It has much the same attributes as the Zeiss – nine-blade circular aperture blades, high-quality lens coatings, and efficient autofocusing, plus it’s nearly half the price.
As a general all-rounder, this lens is a great performer, but there is also a step above in quality in the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens. But, in this case, you won’t get much change from $2000. In many ways, the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 sits nicely in the middle for cost and output.
|Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8||Sony 85mm f/1.8|
|Elements||11 elements, 8 groups||9 elements, 8 groups|
|Blades||9 rounded||9 rounded|
It’s clear that Zeiss has produced a very high-quality lens, which doesn’t just look great, but also produces fantastic images. This lens also has a robust design which snaps into focus very quickly.
This lens would be ideal for situations like weddings, portraits, and even street photography, producing a high level of detail. Coupled with the high resolution of the Sony body, images have loads of crisp detail and it only needs a little stopping down to nail any deficiencies.
Although the lens may not be sharpest in the corners when fully wide open and there is some evidence of chromatic aberration and vignetting at this point, in the real world images are outstanding and you won’t be left disappointed.
It’s clearly not the cheapest lens out there, but neither the most expensive, but you always have to consider that a lens acquisition can last years and if you’re buying into the best quality possible, the last thing you think about is lens price when you’re getting top quality images.
Obviously, you can jump higher and buy into a f/1.4 lens, but this will ultimately depend on your budget and needs. In any case, the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 is a highly recommended lens with fine build quality and resulting images. It’s advisable to give this lens a test drive with a rented model before you purchase the lens. You won’t be disappointed.