FIELD TEST: Zeiss Touit Lenses for Sony NEX

June 24, 2013
Zeiss Touit 12mm and 32mm lenses

The promise of mirror-less cameras is lightweight and compact size compared to their bulkier heavier DSLR brethren. For much the same reason Leica rangefinders were favored over SLRs by many photojournalists, mirror-less cameras are the perfect choice when you want a smaller and more discrete camera without the noisy mirror-slap.

Until now, the optical performance of most compact lenses has not been on par with larger DSLR lenses.
That’s no longer the case thanks to two exceptional lenses from Zeiss – designed and constructed specifically for use on Sony NEX and Fuji X Series cameras with APS-C sensors. The lenses support all camera functions including auto-focus.

Thanks to my friends at Sony, I had a chance to put the new Zeiss Touit lenses through their paces on my Sony NEX-7. The first thing you notice about these lenses is their premium packaging. When you open the box it feels like you’re unpacking a Mercedes.

Zeiss Touit Packaging

As soon as you touch these lenses you’ll notice their great “feel” that can best be described as a “silky.” While the lens body and bayonet are made of a rigid metal, Zeiss has used a combination of materials inside the lenses including high-tech durable plastics to lighten their weight.

Zeiss Touit 12mm/2.8 wide angle lens (18mm full-frame equivalent) has a U.S. street price $1,250 and 99 degree angle of view. The lens is constructed of 11 elements in 8 group using Distagon retrofocus design.

Zeiss Touit 32mm/1.8 normal lens (48mm full-frame equivalent) has a U.S. street price $900 and a 48 degree angle of view has 8 elements in 5 groups. It’s a modification of the time-honored six-lens, Planar lens design – the most successful – and the most frequently copied – lens design of all time. This modification allows it to achieve significantly improved performance for use with today’s image sensors.

The gap between the Zeiss Touit’s 12mm/2.8 lens and 32mm/1.8 lens is already nicely filled by Sony’s 24mm/1.8 E-Mount Carl Zeiss Sonnar Lens and a Zeiss Touit 50mm/2.8 Macro Lens is slated to nicely round out the Zeiss E-mount line-up.

FIELD TEST

Unless you get paid to shoot copy work, I’ve never really found lens test chart results to be the best indicator of how a lens performs in real situations. “Lens Mojo” refers to the “look” of a lens that has more depth, which is sometimes called the 3-D effect. This is where Zeiss glass excels. To my taste, it’s a much more important factor to me than resolution. But for those of you who can live without pixel peeping to the corner of the frame, here’s the New York City version of a test chart.

Zeiss Touit 32mm 100 percent crop
Zeiss Touit 32mm/1.8 normal lens (100% CROPS) + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 100 • 1/4000 • F5.0

Zeiss Touit Sony sling bagThe best way for me to test any gear is to take the gear out, bang it around a bit and see how it handles under fire. I headed out to the streets of New York with my NEX-7 and these two Zeiss Touit lenses tucked into my new favorite new compact camera bag Sony’s Sling Bag LCS-SB1/B. When shooting with a small lightweight camera, you don’t want to be weighed down by the bag. Not only does this bag weigh virtually nothing, but it also hangs snug to the body making it the perfect bag for this kit. I picked this bag up in March and it’s become a favorite because of it’s messenger bag shape it’s equally comfortable fully loaded with a Sony a99 with 24-70 and 70-400 lenses plus a tablet as it is lightly loaded with a Sony NEX and a pair of lenses.

soho street portrait photography new york
SoHo is the perfect place to find a great face for a portrait.
Zeiss Touit 32mm/1.8 + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 200 • 1/60 • F4.0

portrait photography in Cuban nightclub Zeiss Touit 32mm
Ambient light portrait shot in the hallway of a dimly-lit Cuban nightclub Guantanamera NYC.
Zeiss Touit 32mm/1.8 + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 1600 • 1/60 • F2.0

American Flag in Times Square, New York, USA
Times Square, U.S.A.
Zeiss Touit 32mm/1.8 + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 200 • 1/320 • F5.6

New york street photography with Zeiss Touit 12mm F2.8
Zeiss Touit 12mm/2.8 + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 200 • 1/800 • F5.6

portrait photography 42nd street new york
Zeiss Touit 32mm/1.8 + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 400 • 1/25 • F1.8

new york fine art photography zeiss touit
Zeiss Touit 32mm/1.8 + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 200 • 1/80 • F8.0

Food Photography Zeiss Touit 12mm F2.8
If you find it impossible to eat a meal these day without Instagraming your food – at least do it right.
Zeiss Touit 12mm/2.8 + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 800 • 1/80 • F6.3

Lez Zeppelin concert New York
Lez Zeppelin in concert at the Highline Ballroom
Zeiss Touit 32mm/1.8 + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 800 • 1/80 • F1.8

Fuerza Bruta New York photographed with Zeiss Touit 32mm 1.8
High-paced performance at Fuerza Bruta New York.
Zeiss Touit 32mm/1.8 + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 1600 • 1/1000 • F1.8

Fuerza Bruta New York photographed with Zeiss Touit 32mm 1.8
Zeiss Touit 32mm/1.8 + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 1600 • 1/4000 • F1.8

Fuerza Bruta New York audience photographed with Zeiss Touit 32mm 1.8
Zeiss Touit 32mm/1.8 + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 3200 • 1/400 • F1.8

mariachi on new york subway photographed with Zeiss Touit 12mm/2.8
Zeiss Touit 12mm/2.8 + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 800 • 1/30 • F2.8

new york central park photographed with Zeiss Touit 32mm 1.8
Zeiss Touit 32mm/1.8 + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 200 • 1/100 • F9.0

architectural photography of Broadway lower manhattan
Zeiss Touit 32mm/1.8 + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 200 • 1/320 • F8.0

architectural photography dream downtown hotel new york city
Zeiss Touit 32mm/1.8 + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 200 • 1/100 • F7.1

architectural photography sixth avenue new york
Zeiss Touit 32mm/1.8 + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 100 • 1/4000 • F5.0

new york world trade photographed with Zeiss Touit 32mm 1.8
Zeiss Touit 32mm/1.8 + Sony NEX-7 • ISO 200 • 1/100 • F1.8

OPTICAL QUALITY

Zeiss lenses are my favorite lenses both for Sony Alpha and medium format. They’re sharp, smooth and very well made. If you haven’t shot with a Zeiss glass you have no idea what you are missing. The optical quality of Zeiss Touit lenses is exceptional. If you want the best optical quality these lenses are on par with Leica lenses at a fraction of the price.

Lightroom lens profile correctionsThe newly released Lightroom 5 and Abobe Camera RAW for Photoshop CC include lens profiles for both Zeiss Touit lenses. Enabling these corrections will straighten the lines at the edge of the frame slightly and remove lens vignetting from the 12mm. (I actually like the slight darkening in the corners of a frame that comes from slight lens vignetting.) There’s also a check box to “Remove Chromatic Aberration”. Checking this does ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! These lenses have no chromatic aberrations. That’s the sign of a great lens.

FOCUS SPEED

Unlike Sony’s Carl Zeiss auto-focus lenses, which are manufactured by Sony based upon Zeiss optical design and specs – these are the first AF lenses that Zeiss has ever produced. It’s merely speculation, but that may explain the name: “Zeiss will make auto-focus lenses when they get around Touit…”

In bright light, both lenses do pretty well, but in low light the 32mm can struggle to hunt for focus. The 12mm focuses more quickly possibly because you don’t need much throw to focus an extreme wide angle. That’s the tradeoff with these lenses. Great image quality / Lousy focus speed. Bear in mind, Leica M glass doesn’t auto-focus at all…

Sony latest NEX mirror-less NEX-6 and NEX-5R cameras add a hybrid dual-AF system combining Phase-detect and Contrast AF in their cameras. Because of this, Sony’s E-mount lenses like their 24mm/1.8 E-Mount will focus more quickly on the NEX-6 and NEX-5R than previous models like Sony NEX-7. Unfortunately Zeiss Touit lenses don’t seem to take advantage of Dual AF and focus equally slow on all cameras.

There is a trick to get the most out of these in low light. Rather than using the AF or MF focus settings, select the DMF focus setting for AF-S mode. Depress the shutter lightly and the camera auto-focuses on a focus point you select. Once AF locks in, turn the focus ring slightly and the LCD or EVF will zoom in on that focus spot so that you can fine tune focus if you need to.

THE BOTTOM LINE

Would I buy it? HELL YES!

You quickly get used to how to get around the focus issues because the image quality is incredible. The next reviewer wondered why the lens boxes were scratched up when he received them. Sorry about that, but FedEx had to pry them out of my fingers…

EQUIPMENT LINKS:
Order Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 lens from B&H Photo | Amazon
Order Zeiss Touit 32mm f/1.8 lens from B&H Photo | Amazon
Order Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Macro lens from B&H Photo | Amazon

Save $150 Today on Sigma FE 45mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens

Sigma FE 45mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary Lens | List Price $549 | Save $150 | Today Only $399 ORDER NOW Deal Ends 11:59pm September

Read More »

Sony Visual Story 2.0 App Adds Compatibility with Video Content

Updated Visual Story App Version 2.0 Now Supports Video in the Story Gallery and Offers Improved Connectivity and Usability for Professional Event Photographers and Videographers

Read More »

Venus Optics Announces Laowa Argus 35mm f/0.95 FF Full Frame E-mount Lens

Venus Optics announces the Laowa Argus 35mm f/0.95 FF Full Frame E-mount Lens – the world’s fastest 35mm lens and widest f/0.95 lens ever designed

Read More »

24 thoughts on “FIELD TEST: Zeiss Touit Lenses for Sony NEX”

  1. Pingback: Praktijktest Zeiss Touit objectieven voor Sony Nex door topfotograaf Brian Smith. | Carl Zeiss objectieven

  2. Pingback: Panasonic 20mm f1.7 II Pancake geplant! - Seite 4 - Systemkamera Forum

  3. Ok Brian tell me exactly what do you mean by Zeiss lenses have excellent “depth” and that they are “smooth?” ( “Lens Mojo refers to the “look” of a lens that has more depth, which is sometimes called the 3-D effect. This is where Zeiss glass excels. To my taste, it’s a much more important factor to me than resolution.” ) And you say that they are your favorite lenses for medium and full format, well ok, but what about wide-angle work with Sony A7r ‘s? What is your favorite A7r wide angle lens available NOW ? Frankly I cannot find the real-world “Zeiss Lens Mojo” effect when compared with Canon lenses on the same A7r ( using a Metabones III adapter.) Help me out here, am I missing something ?

    1. The ZA 24-70mm F2.8, ZA 24mm F2, ZA 50mm F1.4, ZA 85mm F1.4, ZA 135mm F1.8, FE 55mm F1.8 ZA and FE 35mm F2.8 ZA are all great examples of Zeiss glass with sweet Mojo. As is the $4,000 55mm F1.4 Otus if price is no object…

  4. Pingback: Save $800 on Zeiss Touit Lens Combo

  5. Thanx for the review Brian, have been a fan of the nex 7 for 2 years now, the nex 6 sits n the bag most often 🙂
    was curious if u tried this in video mode, n how it fared ?
    Rajat

  6. Hi Brian, How bendy is the 12mm Touit on a a7II, a7s? I’m mainly thinking of using it for architectural superwide. I often photograph luxury real estate and architectural photography. And have you had any chromatic aberration when testing out the lens? Love to hear your thoughts.

    1. Thank you so much Brian. Is the 16-35 fairly clean on chromatic aberrations? Allot of what I shoot is coastal properties in CA and drop in the windows. There typically an 8 stop difference between inside and outside ocean views so blowing out the windows on one shot and exposing for the exterior in another. Hope that makes sense.

  7. Brian, I am glad I found your blog. excellent review. I got a Fuji X-E1 with the 35mm and 18-55mm lenses and I could say yes, they are both uber sharp, however the images look sterile, without too much character… there is more in a good picture than resolution. That is why right I am selling them on eBay to fund a Sony a6000 plus the Zeiss 32mm (which I just bought it even though I have no camera body yet) I am sure I will get way more robust and rich files from this combo than with the Fuji. A quick question, should I get the a6000 with the kit lens? it is only 150dlls more than the body only… Regards, Ricardo

  8. Has anyone tried the Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm f/4 with a A7ii (or other A7 model)? Although you give up full frame, it seems like it could be a good companion given the 24-105 effective range, image quality and size.

  9. Pingback: Instant Rebates on Zeiss Touit Lenses

  10. Pingback: Abendrunde | Marc Heckert

  11. Only just seen this and only just taken delivery of my Touit 12mm for NEX. I’m not a keen lens-changer, so I’ve put it on my much-liked NEX C3. On my NEX 6 I have the Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS, which is good for most things. But I am very impressed by the 32mm Touit portraits – the detail and the sheer “presence”. But whether that is you or the lens…………?

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *