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Zeiss Batis 40mm f/2 CF test: ultimate quality

Posted on Oct 17, 2019

Impressive optical performance and high-quality build may make this pricey lens a worthwhile investment for some.

Zeiss’s Batis range comprises five prime lenses, an 18mm f/2.8, 25mm f/2, 85mm f/1.8, 135mm f/2.8, and this 40mm f/2, the latest arrival. All are pro-level, autofocus optics designed for Sony E-mount full-frame mirrorless cameras.

Lenses from 35mm to 50mm are usually generically known as standard lenses for the full-frame format because of the natural perspective they give.

The 40mm focal length is less common but it’s closer to the theoretical 43mm standard focal length for the 35mm format, so this lens is ideal for general use.

I tried the lens on two Sony cameras, the full-frame A7R III and the APS-C A6300 – on the latter camera, with its 1.5x crop factor, it’s effectively a 60mm.

Image The lens has a focus limiting switch on the side with three settings

If you like your optics to look smart, you’re going to love this Batis. Its smooth, curvy, weather-proofed body is a delight to the eye and to the touch. Fit it on to a camera and start using it, and the feeling that you’re using something special is reinforced with almost silent, fast autofocus and the neat distance/depth-of-field OLED readout. There is no physical scale, but behind a dark panel there’s an excellent OLED readout. It’s very clear, and to get an accurate distance readout of the depth-of-field is really handy. Adjust the aperture and you get real-time distance readout changes, too.

Manual focus is handled by the smooth running rubber coated barrel, and there’s a focus limiting switch on the lens’s side. This has three settings – full, infinity down to 40cm and 50cm down to the lens’s minimum focus distance of 24cm.

The CF in the lens’s name stands for Close Focus and this lens gets you as close as 24cm, which gives a really practical magnification of 1:3.1. A free firmware update helps ensure optimum image quality when you’re shooting close up between 24cm and 65cm at f/2. Here, the lens automatically stops down at preset values up to f/2.8 to maintain the best possible image quality.

Click the images to see a larger view

As you might expect, the Batis 40mm f/2 produces an impressive optical performance.

Wide open, the centre is crisp although the edges less sharp, and we found stopping down to f/4 was needed before the edges caught up with the centre. By the time you get to f/5.6 and f/8, the resolution of fine detail is hugely impressive and only softened slightly with diffraction at f/22.

Click the images to see a larger view

Verdict

Pros: Optical quality, OLED distance/depth-of-field scale, build, handling

Cons: It’s large for an f/2 standard lens

The Zeiss Batis 40mm f/2 is a lovely, very capable lens and a really useful focal length, too. Being Zeiss means it’s an expensive lens, but given its performance and build quality it’s well worth considering if ultimate image quality is your goal.

For more information, please visit the Zeiss website.

As featured in issue 71 of Photography News.

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