If you’re currently shopping around for a premium quality 35mm lens for the Sony platform, the ZEISS Loxia 35mm f/2 is one candidate that is usually recommended. The Loxia 35mm f/2 features the usual ZEISS niceties and design assets, along with a few added extras above a usual manual lens in the form of Exif-data and the ability to de-click the aperture.
Sony already has a good relationship with ZEISS with its own line of cross-pollinated lenses. Plus, there’s a good few third-party solutions out there in the 35mm world. Which means the Loxia has to be an exceedingly good performer to stand out from the crowd.
The overall aesthetics of the Loxia 35mm are almost a halfway house between the old school looks of a Distagon lens and the svelte lines of the Otus series. The lens itself has a full metal construction, with full weatherproofing and a standout blue gasket around the lens mount.
The front of the Loxia lens has a 52mm filter thread, which is non-rotating for the likes of polarizing and ND filters. Next along the lens is the focusing ring, with just enough standout ridges to grab hold of. The aperture ring is sectioned off in thirds of a stop, which can also be de-clicked for video purposes. A metal lens hood is also supplied, which has a reasonable enough size to provide a good deal of shading in sunny conditions.
As for overall specifications, the ZEISS Loxia 35mm f/2 features a reasonably wide and bright f/2 aperture and can also be fitted on crop sensor cameras providing a 52.5mm viewpoint. The optics are wrapped around a Biogon optical design, featuring nine elements arranged in six groups, which also includes an anomalous partial dispersion element for increasing overall image clarity while also reducing the likes of chromatic aberration. All the lens elements have been treated to the ubiquitous ZEISS T* anti-reflective coating.
The focus ring can also automatically zoom the lens from within the camera. But if this feature is not to your liking, it can be easily turned off in camera.
The ZEISS Loxia 35mm f/2 in Use
For a lens with a starting aperture of f/2, we expected the Loxia 35mm to have at least reasonable sharpness across the frame wide open. The lens does exhibit a good deal of sharp resolution in the center of the frame at f/2, with the mid-frame showing its best results at f/4 and the edges at f/8.
The Loxia can get quite close to a subject at 30cm and with the aperture set at f/2, images are a touch soft, and nicely clean up by f/2.8. The whole frame starts to present its best resolution from f/5.6 at close distances.
Although the lens does exhibit vignetting when the aperture is set to f/2, the light falloff in the corners clears up by f/4 and is virtually undetectable by f/5.6. When it comes to lens flare, the lens hood helps shut out unwanted light rays. With the sun directly in the frame, there is a slight drop in contrast, but this is also expected. In terms of lens distortion, the ZEISS Loxia 35mm f/2 needs almost no correction in post-processing.
The lens also handles chromatic aberration very well when the aperture is set to f/2. There are only small amounts of green or purple fringing seen in very high contrast areas. Any CA that is displayed by the lens can be easily removed in post-processing software.
An f/2 aperture isn’t going to create the same creamy smooth effect as an f/1.4 lens, but the Loxia 35mm can still produce a pretty reasonable background blur when called upon. Bokeh seems to look its best with close-up subjects, with a nice transition of colors. Stopping down to f/2.8 produces 10-sided highlight balls, with only cat’s eye shapes starting to appear at the very edges of the frame.
If you want a lens to produce quality sun stars then the Loxia can produce these with extremely defined edges, even at the widest apertures. This makes points of light stand out remarkably well for the likes of night-time shots.
How Does It Compare?
One strong contender against the ZEISS Loxia 35mm f/2 is the Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f/1.7. The Voigtlander is a very old school looking lens, with a rock-solid build quality. It also has full manual workings and an overall fine rendition and character to images.
The bokeh on the ZEISS Loxia is a touch creamier looking, with less pronounced cat’s eyes highlights in the corner of the frame. The Voigtlander is equally capable of producing very defined sun stars. But just like the ZEISS, the Voigtlander lens needs stopping down to f/4 for the sharpest across the frame results.
The Voigtlander 35mm lens is also far more affordable than the ZEISS Loxia 35mm f/2 and also comes with a slightly wider aperture. As both lenses have their own pros and cons, it’s an idea to test both in the wild on a variety of subjects to see which one you prefer to work with.
|ZEISS Loxia 35mm f/2||Voigtlander Ultron 35mm f/1.7|
|Close Focusing Distance||30cm||50cm|
While the ZEISS Loxia 35mm f/2 is a very capable lens, it’s also a mixed bag of nuts in some departments. The lens displays good center sharpness with the aperture wide open but also shows relatively soft corners. The aperture also needs stopping down to f/8 to start to get even sharpness across the frame.
Most of the lens anomalies go away by f/4, but there is still some field curvature present at the wider apertures. If the Loxia was just one lens on its own in the 35mm field, it could be highly recommended. However, the soft corners at the widest apertures don’t make the lens the best solution for the likes of landscape or night photography. When the aperture is stopped down, the ZEISS Loxia 35mm f/2 really comes into its own, displaying excellent sharpness and contrast.
What the Loxia does display is a lot of character and a nice ZEISS rendition of color and contrast in the right settings. As always, it’s wise to have a play with this lens before committing to make sure it’s exactly up your street.