Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 (Sony FE) - Review / Test
Lens Reviews - Sony Alpha (Full Format)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published July 2017


You have a variety of choices when it comes to Zeiss lenses for Sony FE-mount cameras. Zeiss ZA lenses are co-developed, co-branded and marketed under the Sony umbrella. However, Zeiss is also offering several native lenses independent from the cooperation with Sony - namely the Zeiss Batis (AF) and Zeiss Loxia (manual focus) lenses. One of the most exciting of these lenses is the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 covered in this review. While the distribution channel may have changed, some things never do and the pricing falls into that category. Such ultra-wide prime lenses are never really cheap but 1500 USD/EUR is certainly on the high side. However, that's still more affordable than the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM and just a fraction more expensive than the slower Zeiss Vario-Tessar 16-35mm f/4 OSS.

The Batis 18mm f/2.8 is a "Distagon" which is, interestingly, an asymmetric wide-angle design that has been traditionally used for SLR lenses because it can provide some distance between the rear-element of the lens and the sensor plane. That being said this is not really the case here. The rear element is recessed by just about a centimeter. It's also worth mentioning that Zeiss implemented a floating system which is used to optimize the close focus performance by adjusting the distance between the groups as the lens is focused.

The quality of the construction is generally superb with a few notable exceptions. The lens body is made of metal and it maintains a constant physical length throughout the focus range. Professional and outdoor photographers will also appreciate the weather-sealing. The broad rubberized focus ring operates smoothly. So far so good ... so what's wrong? The body coating is very prone to fingerprints and scratches and the focus ring is a dust magnet. The lens looks brand new exactly once ... till you remove it from the box. We've already seen this with the Zeiss Touit lenses. Zeiss also continues with its long tradition of providing the worst lens caps of the industry. It almost falls off just by looking at it thus better order a third-party lens cap with the lens if you decide to go for it. A deep petal-shaped lens hood is part of the package.

The Batis lens uses a linear autofocus motor which is reasonably fast and silent. Typical for most mirrorless lenses, manual focusing works "by wire" thus you are driving the internal motor by turning the focus ring. Now normally that would also translate to omitting a focus scale (because the focus ring is free floating). However, Zeiss tried something different this time - they implemented a digital OLED display that provides both distance and depth-of-field guidance in manual focus mode. The display is back-illuminated thus unlike a conventional distance-scale you can also read the numbers in the dark. Quite nice but for most users it's probably not really more than a gimmick in real life.

As an interesting side note - according to some rumors sites (and some patent references), the Batis 18mm f/2.8 and Batis 85mm f/1.8 are actually based on Tamron designs.

Optical construction11 elements in 10 groups inc. 2x aspherical, 5xED and 2x hybrid elements
Number of aperture blades9 (circular)
min. focus distance0.25m (1:9.5)
Filter size77mm
Hoodsupplied, petal-style, bayonet mount
Other featuresWeather-sealing, OLED display, floating system