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For its more than a cen­tu­ry of his­to­ry, Carl Zeiss has made lens­es for almost all types of cam­eras. Pho­to: casualphotophile.com

Writ­ing about the best ZEISS lens­es is about the same as writ­ing about the best Lam­borgh­i­ni mod­els, with the only dif­fer­ence that lens­es are still much more afford­able than rac­ing cars.

ZEISS start­ed with micro­scopes and oth­er sci­en­tif­ic instru­ments, and only then moved on to binoc­u­lars, opti­cal sights and, final­ly, lens­es for pho­to and video equip­ment. So the exper­tise of the Ger­man com­pa­ny in optics is beyond doubt.

One of the fea­tures of this man­u­fac­tur­er is that it only makes lens­es with a fixed focal length (the excep­tion is lens­es for the film indus­try) — this is a class of glass­es that bypass the more pop­u­lar zoom lens­es in image qual­i­ty.

The com­pa­ny’s optics can be found not only in the lens­es of ZEISS itself, but also in mod­els from oth­er man­u­fac­tur­ers, includ­ing Sony, Nokia and Has­sel­blad.

Today we’re going to take a look at the best lens­es from Carl ZEISS in four main cat­e­gories:

  • uni­ver­sal lens for dif­fer­ent shoot­ing gen­res;
  • wide-angle lens for land­scapes;
  • tele­pho­to lens for sports and nature;
  • por­trait lens.

Best ZEISS lenses ranking

ZEISS Batis 40mm f/2 CF: station wagon

The lens looks bal­anced on com­pact Sony mir­ror­less cam­eras. Pho­to: yearofthealpha.fi

ZEISS Batis 40mm f/2 CF designed for mir­ror­less cam­eras with Sony E mount — both full-frame and crop. Giv­en the qual­i­ty of the optics and the gen­er­al pric­ing pol­i­cy of the Ger­man com­pa­ny, this glass has a rel­a­tive­ly low price (around $1,200).

The opti­cal scheme con­tains sev­er­al spe­cial ele­ments at once, which help to get rid of col­or fring­ing at the edges of objects and in out-of-focus areas, from dis­tor­tions and oth­er aber­ra­tions. All this helps to get clear and sharp pic­tures with accu­rate col­or repro­duc­tion. The lens also received ZEIS­S’s sig­na­ture anti-reflec­tive coat­ing T*, which improves con­trast when work­ing in bright light.

One of the “chips” of the ZEISS Batis 40mm f/2 CF is con­ve­nient uni­ver­sal focal length, close to the clas­sic 35mm, com­bined with the abil­i­ty to focus very close to the object (min­i­mum focus­ing dis­tance — 24 cm). At the same time, the mod­el can­not be called a “true” macro lens, since it does not repro­duce the object on a one-to-one matrix (the mag­ni­fi­ca­tion fac­tor is 0.3x). There­fore, the abil­i­ty to pho­to­graph a wide vari­ety of objects from a very close dis­tance is more like­ly anoth­er point to its ver­sa­til­i­ty, and not an indi­ca­tor of “spe­cial­iza­tion”.

The lens body is weath­er­proof, so you can safe­ly take it with you to nature or street pho­tog­ra­phy. Espe­cial­ly since it weighs only 361 gramsdespite all-met­al con­struc­tion. There is a small OLED dis­play on the case that shows the cur­rent set­tings.

As for the pic­ture itself, the qual­i­ty of ZEISS optics is man­i­fest­ed in all its glo­ry — extreme sharp­ness even wide open f/2. At the same time, the glass pro­duces excel­lent bokeh, so for por­trait pho­tog­ra­phy (pri­mar­i­ly for por­traits in the envi­ron­ment), the lens is also suit­able.

In all respects, the Batis 40mm f/2 CF is an excel­lent all-round lens at an afford­able (for Zeiss) price, cool optics, and a ver­sa­tile focal length. In gen­er­al, the entire Batis line tra­di­tion­al­ly col­lects excel­lent reviews from users and experts, so the 40mm f/2 CF is not the last mod­el with this name in our top.

as more bud­get alter­na­tive you can take a look at the ZEISS Pla­nar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA. This mod­el is also designed for Sony mir­ror­less cam­eras, it has a “nor­mal” focal length (the angle of view clos­est to the human eye) and a pow­er­ful aper­ture. shoot­ing at f/1.4 com­bined with an 11-blade aper­ture pro­duces very nice round bokeh lights in the blur area and over­all very nice creamy bokeh. So it is suit­able for both por­traits and street pho­tog­ra­phy.

ZEISS Milvus 15mm f/2.8: wide angle

A beau­ti­ful met­al petal hood, of course, is includ­ed. Pho­to: thephoblographer.com

If you need wide angle land­scape lens, then ZEISS has a spe­cial mod­el — Mil­vus 15mm f/2.8. The glass is avail­able with Canon EF and Nikon F mounts for full-frame SLR cam­eras from these man­u­fac­tur­ers, but it can also be attached to mir­ror­less cam­eras through an adapter.

The opti­cal design con­tains aspher­i­cal and APO (“Anom­alous Par­tial Dis­per­sion”) ele­ments that help cor­rect chro­mat­ic aber­ra­tions (such aber­ra­tions appear as col­or fring­ing). The already famil­iar ZEISS T* anti-reflec­tive coat­ing is used again.

Please note that this man­u­al focus lens, so it is not suit­able for fast mov­ing objects. But for land­scapes, archi­tec­ture and inte­ri­ors, when you have time to accu­rate­ly rebuild the focus with­out too much haste — just right.

Pow­er­ful all-met­al hous­ing with pro­tec­tion from dust and mois­ture is not afraid of dif­fi­cult weath­er con­di­tions, which is very impor­tant for a land­scape pho­tog­ra­ph­er. But along with the reli­a­bil­i­ty of the design, some encum­brances come — the lens weighs 950 gramsand the fil­ter diam­e­ter is 95mm (not the most com­mon and cheap fil­ters), although the mod­el does not feel par­tic­u­lar­ly bulky.

sharp­ness at full aper­ture again impec­ca­ble, while there are prac­ti­cal­ly no dis­tor­tions and aber­ra­tions. The aper­ture, although not the best in the class, is still high enough to blur the back­ground if you sud­den­ly decide to visu­al­ly high­light a sep­a­rate object in the frame. The lens also pro­duces nice “creamy” bokeh.

If the lack of aut­o­fo­cus does­n’t real­ly both­er you, then this is an excel­lent glass for wide-angle shoot­ing, from vast nat­ur­al land­scapes to var­i­ous urban scenes.

ZEISS Batis 135mm f/2.8: long focus

Like most oth­er ZEISS mod­els, this tele­pho­to lens is weath­er­proof. Pho­to: bhphotovideo.com

On the tele­pho­to “flank” is 135mm ZEISS Batis. This Sony mir­ror­less lens cov­ers mid­dle tele­pho­to dis­tance, which is suit­able for both close-up por­traits and sports pho­tog­ra­phy from not too far dis­tances. For wildlife, 135mm may not be enough, but you can def­i­nite­ly shoot birds on a branch.

The Batis 135mm has a grip aut­o­fo­custo quick­ly catch every­thing that enters the frame.

Optics, as always, are on top: there are eight ele­ments with low dis­per­sion to reduce aber­ra­tions, and a pro­pri­etary anti-reflec­tive coat­ing. Pro­tec­tion against dust and mois­ture will delight lovers of out­ings in nature and will be use­ful for work­ing at out­door sports events.

OLED dis­play can dis­play cur­rent focus dis­tance and depth of field, which helps you esti­mate how much will be in focus, and what will remain in the blur zone. As befits a tele­pho­to lens, an effec­tive opti­cal sta­bi­liza­tion sys­tem is “on board”.

The image qual­i­ty is once again impos­si­ble to fault: it is one of the most sharp and con­trast­ing lens­es among mod­els with a sim­i­lar focal length (includ­ing the native Sony FE 135mm f / 1.8). Of course, ZEISS also has more expen­sive tele­pho­to lens­es, but the Batis series main­tains an excel­lent bal­ance of price and qual­i­ty, and the 135mm f/2.8 is a great alter­na­tive not only for mod­er­ate­ly long primes, but also for stan­dard 70–200mm zoom lens­es.

ZEISS Otus 85mm f/1.4 portraits

Like oth­er F‑lenses, the ZEISS Otus 85mm f/1.4 is com­pat­i­ble not only with SLRs, but also with Nikon mir­ror­less cam­eras via an FTZ adapter. Pho­to: cameralabs.com

If you are look­ing for some­thing faster that can blur the back­ground pow­er­ful­ly and cre­ate beau­ti­ful soft bokeh, then you def­i­nite­ly need to look for a prime with at least f / 1.4 aper­ture.

ZEISS Otus 85mm f/1.4 is just such an option. This is the ulti­mate por­trait lens, in which the Ger­man com­pa­ny seems to have decid­ed to put into prac­tice the for­mu­la “optics first” (above your wal­let too). Mod­el designed for DSLRs Canon EF and Nikon Fcan focus only man­u­al­ly and weighs over a kilo­gram. But the qual­i­ty of the optics cov­ers all the oth­er “buts”.

Its opti­cal design com­plete­ly elim­i­nates any form of aber­ra­tion, and sharp­ness is matched only by a selec­tion of top-end com­peti­tor por­traits (like the leg­endary Sig­ma 85mm f/1.4 Art). Of course, the pow­er­ful aper­ture makes the Otus a great option for low-light sce­nar­ios, such as street pho­tog­ra­phy at night. He is able to focus at a close dis­tance of 80 cm, so Zeiss itself posi­tions it, includ­ing as a lens for cre­at­ing repro­duc­tions.

The com­pa­ny has a more bud­get-friend­ly (and also non-aut­o­fo­cus) alter­na­tive in the form of the Mil­vus 85mm f/1.4, but if you’re look­ing for bet­ter opti­cal qual­i­ty from Zeiss, the Otus 85mm f/1.4 lens is your num­ber one choice.

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