Last time, we took the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 out to the Newport Beach boardwalk and did a on-location photo shoot with two of our lovely models. To get some perspective on just how good the Batis 85mm really was, we compared it to one of the best AF lenses on market today, the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar (aka the mini-Otus). We drove up to Lake Hollywood Park, busted out our tripod, and did some comparison shots using the famous Hollywood sign as the backdrop.
In a real-world but less-the-scientific comparison between the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 and the venerable Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar, we found very little difference in terms of sharpness throughout the aperture range.
With the Zeiss 55mm being one of the sharpest and highly rated AF lenses, this is saying a lot for the new Zeiss Batis 85mm. In fact, pretty much most real world reviews on the Batis has found it to be very sharp right from thef/1.8. I’m sure once Photozone.de gets around to reviewing more Sony lenses, they will verify our current findings. In the meantime, here are some of our quick & dirty impressions.
Sharpness Across the Frame
While we are focusing primarily on the center sharpness for this portrait lens, sharpness across the frame is very impressive. This seems to be something that Zeiss does really well (especially with their Sonnar designs), and that’s getting their field curvatures nice and flat.
The advantage in having a balanced sharpness across the frame is that you will be less constrained composition wise. While most portraits place the subject smack dab in the middle, it’s nice to have the freedom of composing off-center.
Contrast, Color Temperature, and Vignetting
The Batis 85mm looks slightly warmer, have darker corners throughout the range, yet has better contrast than the Zeiss 55mm. What this means is that skin tones will be beautifully displayed while the darker corners, at large apertures, will draw attention to the center of the frame.
We wonder if this is a difference in coatings. Despite the fact that both lenses have the trademarked T* anti-reflective multi-coating, the Zeiss 55mm is a Sony lens with Zeiss specifications and branding whereas the Batis is an in-house Zeiss lens.
Conclusions are easier when one lens is distinctly superior than another. In this scenario, they are an even match. Sharpness across the frame is essentially the same to the naked eye. I’m sure laboratory tests can tell you the differences but I haven’t shot many laboratories lately myself (jokes).
The Batis 85mm is slightly warmer, have slightly darker corners, and is more contrasty than the Zeiss 55mm. This makes me think that the Batis is tuned to portraits, bringing out richer colors and beautiful skin tones; whereas, the Zeiss 55mm is a more of a general purpose lens with more neutral colors and brighter corners.