If you’ve been shooting images for long enough, you’ve surely chomped through quite a few lenses and know the worth of a good quality 50mm prime. A 50mm lens has just the right viewpoint for a bunch of uses which is why most photographers don’t mind laying down that extra bit of cash for a high-quality version.
When we are talking about high-quality optics, ZEISS is usually a name thrown into the mix, so today we are focusing our beady eyes on the ZEISS Loxia 50mm f/2. This lens is only available for the Sony range of mirrorless cameras, but if you’re lucky enough to be sitting nicely on this platform, the lens could be a nice standard solution for those who want premium optics in a relatively affordable for a ZEISS lens package.
As you’d expect from a ZEISS lens, the build quality is top-notch. The lens barrel has a full metal casing, which is weather-proofed, and reasonably well-weighted at 320g. The lens also has a cool looking blue ring around the lens mount to protect against any dust and moisture.
As typical of many of the latest ZEISS optics, the Loxia 50mm f/2 is fully manual with the focusing ring taking up most of the space on the lens barrel. The focusing ring has hard stops at both ends of the range with a smooth turning circle that makes it easy to hit focus. The lens also features a manual aperture ring that clicks every third stop and can be de-clicked for video use.
Internally, the lens comprises of a planar optical design with the ZEISS T* anti-reflective coating applied to each lens element to increase image clarity and minimize the majority of lens anomalies.
The lens comes with a substantial hood which is nicely lined with a black material to reduce any reflections.
The ZEISS Loxia 50mm f/2 in Use
A manual focusing lens is clearly more work than an example that can autofocus. However, the ZEISS Loxia 50mm f/2 has one of the quickest and most efficient manual focusing systems, where the likes of the Sony a7 II can immediately detect focus changes to hit the sweet spot.
The instant zoom facility on the latest mirrorless cameras makes it far easier to focus this lens on the go, which doesn’t make the manual focusing side of things as detrimental as you may initially think.
In terms of overall sharpness levels, the center of the frame is relatively sharp at f/2, but it hits its zenith at f/4. The corners of the frame trail behind providing good sharpness at f/2, being very good at f/5.6, and the very best at f/8. For the best overall sharpness levels, the most detail comes from the zone of f/5.6-f/8.
Due to the simple optical arrangement and 10 aperture blades, the Loxia is well adept at producing professional levels of bokeh. Out of focus colors transition extremely well with nicely rounded highlights. Bokeh will always be a subjective area, with the Loxia providing very artistic and painterly blur where it counts.
As for the usual set of lens anomalies, the Loxia does display small amounts of vignetting when the aperture is wide open. This aspect is not overly distracting and starts to disappear when the aperture is set to f/2.8. Ghosting and flaring are kept well under control, largely thanks to the anti-reflecting T* coating.
Lens distortion is also extremely low and can be easily corrected with a good lens profile in the likes of Lightroom. The same goes for chromatic aberration, with levels being extremely low, even with the aperture wide open.
Generally, it’s the overall image rendition that counts with this lens. There is no faulting the levels of color and saturation throughout the aperture range, with a good degree of contrast straight out of the camera. Although an f/2 aperture may not be the widest for a 50mm prime, it’s still very capable in a wide variety of scenarios.
How Does It Compare?
The ZEISS Loxia 50mm f/2 has some stiff competition in the Sony camp from its own Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA. The Sony has a wider aperture for low-light capabilities and is ultimately sharper across its aperture range. But it’s also roughly $100 more expensive at current market rates, so you will have to pay more for that extra slither of sharpness.
However, the Loxia has an overall more pleasing image rendition, which is largely subjective but can make the difference if you prefer this particular look. The manual focusing side of things, while being very efficient, may not be the best solution if you’re constantly working with fast-moving subjects.
|ZEISS Loxia 50mm f/2||Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA|
|Aperture Range||f/2 – f/22||f/1.8 – f/22|
|Angle of View||47 degrees||43 degrees|
|Optics||6 elements / 4 groups||7 elements / 5 groups|
Sony and ZEISS have a good working relationship and this point stands out with the inclusion of the ZEISS Loxia 50mm f/2. Manual focusing on this lens is far easier to use in reality than initially expected and it makes a very good companion to the Loxia 35mm f/2.
The lens has a simple optical design, which largely goes towards its more refined output. This results in a rich degree of color and contrast, with very professional bokeh rendition when the aperture is set to f/2. The lens is also very sharp where it counts and although the Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA and the Loxia 35mm f/2 are a touch sharper, it’s the final overall rendering which is the most important here.
The Loxia 50mm f/2 isn’t exactly a cheap lens, but it does go a long way to achieve the ZEISS look. It may not be as ultimately sharp as the ZEISS Otus 55mm, but it’s not meant to be in the fact of producing a more compact and lightweight solution, with excellent color rendition. Plus, if you are swayed by the Otus line, then you would have to pay more than four times the amount for the privilege.