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
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
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
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
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.