Zeiss Touit lenses on a NEX-6: my take on them

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Lenses' started by addieleman, Jul 13, 2013.

  1. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur Subscribing Member

    Nov 13, 2012
    Ad Dieleman
    Today a camera shop in my home town organized demos of the Zeiss Touit lenses and also some Sony NEX equipment, so I went there to try out the Zeiss lenses on my NEX-6. And here are my impressions after playing around with these lenses for an hour or so and looking at the results in Lightroom 5.

    Zeiss Touit 12/2.8
    Handling surprised me in a negative sense. The autofocus is slow, noisy and with a tendency to hunting, more so than the native Sony lenses I tried. Manual focus wasn’t that comfortable either, showing a sort of backlash (or hysteresis for the electronic engineers among us) making it somewhat tedious to find the focus point. I was happy to see that the lens didn’t support PDAF, on my NEX-6 the menu stated that the function was unavailable with this lens.

    In terms of image quality the lens looks quite respectable, although it wasn’t sharp across the frame at f/8, the extreme corners’ sharpness dropped appreciably. Wide-open centre sharpness is still very good and the corners aren’t too bad as well considering it’s f/2.8. Bright lights didn’t disturb the lens, it kept its contrast and I didn’t see any ill effects, excellent really. Lightroom 5 offers a profile for this lens, which yields images that are free of objectionable distortion and/or vignetting; at larger apertures you get extra noise in the corners in return because of the compensation for vignetting.

    My Sony 10-18/4 isn’t much worse at 12 mm and f/8 than the Zeiss 12/2.8 at the same aperture. Wide-open at f/2.8 the Zeiss is better than the Sony at its widest f/4 in the edges and corners, centre sharpness is very good for both. As a result, I’m not tempted to buy the Zeiss 12/2.8, it doesn’t offer much extra over the Sony 10-18/4 at f/8. Wide-open it’s faster by 1 stop and better, but for me that isn’t very important. The Sony’s handling is much better too in my opinion: much faster autofocus and smooth manual focussing and I wouldn’t like to give up the range of focal lengths it offers compared to the single 12mm of the Zeiss. Sony offers stabilization as well which compensates for its slower maximum aperture, but to be honest I like to keep OSS off to maximize image quality; when OSS is on, the left or right edge can become unsharper at times.

    Zeiss Touit 32/1.8
    This is a lens I was really keen on to test against my Sigma 30/2.8. I’m quite happy with the Sigma so this Zeiss lens had to be really good to tempt me into buying it.

    Also this lens has noisy and slow autofocus, even compared to the Sigma 30/2.8 which is not blazingly fast either; I forgot to try out manual focus. And also here I was happy to see that the lens didn’t support PDAF, on my NEX-6 the menu stated that the function was unavailable with this lens. So I’d expect no problems with focussing accuracy, but read on…

    At first I wasn’t impressed by the image quality of the Zeiss. See below for a centre crop at f/2.8 compared to the Sigma at the same aperture. I have a strong suspicion that the Zeiss didn’t focus correctly, I can’t imagine that at f/2.8 it would be that much unsharper than the Sigma. The same crop at f/4 doesn’t show much of a difference, comparison here is more difficult due to the difference in lighting. Also in some other shots it seems like it or I misses focus sometimes, enough to make a shot unuseable; whatever the cause, it’s something that puts me off! When it nails the focus, the sharpness wide-open is quite impressive, even the corners are very good and contrast suffers a bit, but is still good enough.

    All-in-all I won’t go for it. My Sigma 30/2.8 is simply excellent, and the extra 1.3 stop speed of the Zeiss 32/1.8 doesn’t outweigh the slower autofocus and hit-and-miss focussing. I know these focussing errors may be caused by a bad sample, but I’m not prepared to endure a sequence of buying-and-exchanging a lens with such a price tag.

    In my opinion the Zeiss Touit lenses really show that they’re a first generation AF lenses, a bit rough round the edges. I’m sure Zeiss will pick up and do better in future designs. At this moment I feel that AF performance and handling detracts too much from the optical qualities that are certainly there.


  2. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 22, 2012
    Thanks for the quick review. I have to say after lusting after these for the last 6 months I'm pretty glad I didn't wait and while they probably have some edge over SEL equivalents it definitely doesn't look like value for money.

    Sent from my Nexus 7 using Tapatalk 2
  3. Jefenator

    Jefenator TalkEmount Top Veteran Subscribing Member

    Nov 23, 2012
    Oregon, USA
    Thanks for sharing! I particularly value your impression of the 12mm vs the Sony's 10-18.

    I guess I'm glad the 24mm came out as a Zeiss-designed Sony lens - AF and MF are both generally great with that lens and I'm not sure how much use I have for any lens that had issues in that department.
  4. Poki

    Poki TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Aug 30, 2011
    I think MF works reasonably well on the 12mm Touit - at least it's not a problem. As for AF - it may not be fast, but for me, it's much more important that it is spot on. Without a viewfinder, it's sometimes hard to see the screen in direct sunlight, so it's pretty hard to focus manually without seeing much. Would I accept the same AF motor in my standard lens? Probably not. But as I have and love the 24mm Sonnar, I'm okay with it. :)

    Then again, I need the f/2.8 aperture and artistically, I prefer primes so much over zooms. So there really was no choice for me (unless somebody states the 16mm pancake with the UWA converter is better than the Touit).

    As for the comparison - the Sigma still looks pretty amazing - although I think f/2.8 on a crop sensor is too slow for a standard lens.
  5. Streetshooter

    Streetshooter TalkEmount Regular

    Aug 7, 2011
    Philadelphia, Pa
    Thanks for your impressions on these lenses. What I find amazing is that the lenses that are compared to are 2 lenses that sell for around $100.00 each. I have both and wonder how a lens that's around a grand doesn't just blow away a $100.00 glass. It's funny how times have changed. Zeiss was always top shelf back in the day and Sigma...well not many used them.
    It's a new dawn. Thanks again for the quick review and sorry you didn't fall in love with the Zeiss.
  6. serhan

    serhan TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2011
    Thanks for the mini reviews. After reading this, contax g lens af adapter doesn't sound that bad, esp in a much smaller package... Also soon we'll see how the new FF zeiss lenses will be...