Best Sony FE Landscape Lenses for the Light Traveler and Hiker

User Characterization: Ordinary travel – by bike or car or plane -doesn’t prevent you from taking many of the lenses we have recommended here. But there’s one kind of travel which places serious demands on the weight of your equipment. Hiking for many days, taking your accomodation and food on your back. Or even (In the style that many European outdoor photography enthusiasts may be used to) walking through mountains going from refuge to refuge.

This is a kind of travel that takes you to amazing landscapes that you can’t access any other way. But also, every gram of lens is a millilitre of water you can’t carry, or a gram of food you can’t have. Travelling light through the land, keeping pack weight down, is by far the best way to do this. Outdoors people will spend a fortune to reduce the weight of their knife by ten grams, their tent by fifty grams and so on. Because we know it all adds up, and when it adds up it means less food or a less enjoyable and slower experience.

For some this means that it’s a little compact camera that goes with them on wilderness adventure. But what to take if we still want to do top notch serious landscape photography with our A7 series camera?

This is the second part of a series on the best landscape lenses for the Sony a7/a9 series in which we explore sets of landscape lenses for different user types.

Part 1: “Only the best is good enough”
Part 2: The light traveler and hiker
Part 3: The poor student 
Part 4: The casual landscape photographer 


Top picks: Zeiss Batis 2.8/18mm  or Zeiss Loxia 2.8/21

Both of these lenses are lighter than any zoom covering the range, and both offer state of the art IQ. I suspect that any differences between them in sharpness and contrast you see on the web is partly down to slight sample variation. You should choose whichever focal length works best for you. If you think that the pluses and minuses of the focal lengths cancels out, then the Batis is at 330g a good 70 grams lighter, which for our purposes is a good enough reason to take it: it costs a lot to save 70g at the margins by buying fancy light hiking gear! On the other hand the Loxia has nicer sunstars, and offers a more satisfying manual focus experience.


By midrange here I mean 35-60 or so. We are weight limited, so we can only take one lens in this range. Wonderful lenses like the CV 2/65 are ruled out here because of weight. As are any of the really fast lenses. So there are two questions to ask. Will I be taking macro shots? (perhaps your hike goes through areas of botanical interest) Do I prefer a wider or narrower midrange lens?

If you are going to be taking macro, then the FE 2.8/50 Macro is the hikers friend. There are lots of reasons not to love this lens for your no compromise kit. The AF is slow, the MF experience is OK for FBW but not a joy, it feels like what it is: an inexpensive modern lens.

But: it’s a very sharp and flare resistant macro, and it’s really surprisingly good at infinity—much more so than any classic short macro. So it’s two lenses in one: your macro lens and your midrange landscape lens. And……it’s only 236g!

If you aren’t taking any macro shots, then the focal length question is open. If you choose 35mm, then I think it’s either the FE 2.8/35 or the Zeiss Loxia 2/35.

The FE is the lightweight purist’s choice at only 120g.  A good copy is very sharp. If you are prepared to carry literally twice the weight at 320g, the Loxia is my preference for it’s snappier contrast against the light, and lovely sunstars—the two areas where the FE has limitations. And while the CV 35 others like is likely a better all round 35, for landscape I think there’s a touch more contrast with the Loxia.

If you prefer a longer midrange lens, a classic ‘standard’ and don’t need macro my choice is the Loxia 2/50. It’s half the weight of the CV 2/65 at 320g; and while the CV is notably better at wide apertures, stopped down for landscape purposes it’s in the same class and has the same nice sunstars.


One top pick here: Zeiss ZM 4/85. It’s not quite the amazing lens that the Loxia 85 is, but from f5.6 you aren’t likely to see a difference in a landscape print on your wall. It’s superbly sharp, nicely contrasty, has attractive 10 point sunstars and best of all for our purposes: 310g! Plus a bit for your adapter…

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David Braddon-Mitchell

David Braddon-Mitchell is a keen landscape and environmental portrait photographer. In the last decade of film he was a darkroom practitioner and worked with Olympus OM SLRs and various medium format cameras. He switched to Canon DSLRs when digital imaging improved, and made a move to Sony bodies as soon as the A7 series was born. He enjoys using a mixture of legacy manual lenses, modern manual lenses, and E mount AF lenses.

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91 thoughts on “Best Sony FE Landscape Lenses for the Light Traveler and Hiker”

  1. Excellent post!…let alone for the choices made for focal length. For those after wildlife, maybe a mirror lens to be added and you may have a suggestion with regard to best choice.
    Thank you

    1. Well this post was about landscape. Wildlife? That’s a whole other game, and would be hard to do in the hiking context unless a purpose designed trip because of the big lenses you need. Frankly Sony stuff was not the best choice for wildlife until A9 and r3, and there are still fewer lenses suitable for it than with other systems, though that is changing. But if you really want to hike and shoot wildlife, and are prepared to compromise on IQ, I’d get the latest rx10.

      1. Fully agree re: RX10 for (relatively!) compact backpacking wildlife photography. And IQ is less of a compromise than you might think because of that fast f/4 aperture and wickedly sharp lens.

  2. Landscape and people: why not the FE 16-35f2.8 or f4 + 85mmf.1.8.
    The zoom is rather heavy and rather big but combines a nice range of + two lenses.
    If I would take only one and have the need to be compact I would go for the Loxia 21mm for landscapes.
    If people was the main subject I would prefer to take my 85mm f1.8

    1. Well the article is about landscape and hiking. I wouldn’t choose the lovely ZM if people were the most important part of my trip. If traveling light and shooting people I’d go Sony 1.8/85 or the Batis.

      1. Think you mean the Sony 16-35 ZA, right ?
        Indeed the lens is rather big but combines wide and midrange.
        The zoom also prevents the need to change lenses, nice in dusty environments.
        And yes, like my new Sony 85mmf1.8 with the fast eye-AF. People witch you encounter on the way are not always sitting in a door but rather moving around.
        Actually like the article because I’ve done some hiking, more walking actually, last year in Myanmar but will do more next year in Nepal.
        The only problem could be the other people of the group will rather use 70-200 mm lenses and the 85mm will make me move in front of them…
        So, this keeps me rather busy for making the right choices for my next visit to Nepal.

        1. I think Edward De Bruyn meant what he said: The GM or the ZA 35-40s, Indeed if it’s landscape and people that would be an OK choice. But remember this sub-article is about landscape (not people work) and in the multi-day hiking context, where weight is more important than most things. My reccomendartion for multi-day hiking and landscape only use (on multi day hikes in the wilderness my companions are too sweaty and dirty to want photos taken!) would be a single lens in the 16-35 range, 18 or 21 being good compromises.

          1. Sorry Dave
            Tought it was wide plus midrange and tele. If I had to pack only one lens it would be the Loxia 21mm for landscapes.
            And if it turns out not to be wide enough I don’t hesitate to make a pano of vertical images when needed to take a wider shot.
            Proceed quit often this way with other lenses as well. Even without tripod it works very well for me.

    2. I agree with you Edward. I like loxia 21mm and primes, but if leightweight is what I want, then Sony FE 16-35mm f4 oss(518g) would bee a good choice. I Think the zoom is very nice to have because of many focal lenghts, but if you know you use the wide end of the zoom, maybe Voigländer 15mm f4.5(294g) for sony e is a good choice.

      I like my Sony Fe 90mm f2.8 g macro oss (602g), but maybe the Sony FE 50mm f2.8 macro is a better choice becuse of the weight, but the 90mm macro is also a very good tele lens.

      And we also have more zooms that could bee usefull, Contax Zeiss 35-70mm f3.4(475g), Minolta md zoom 35-70mm f3.5(365g), Minolta md 75-150mm f4(445g)

      And primes, Samyang AF 35mm f2.8(85g),Minolta md 50mm f2(150g),Contax Zeiss 85mm f2.8(260g), Voigtänder Super-Dynarex 135mm f4(250g)

      1. I thought very hard about the Contax Zeiss 35-70mm f3.4 If the article had included alternatives I would have mentioned it, because I do use it this way. I decided against it as a first recommendation because it’s a bit unwieldy on the straps of a hiking pack, compared to a small prime, so I tend to use it only on tripod after setting up camp or before breaking camp.

        I haven’t tried the little Samyang, but it if’s good it could also be a good light choice (with the bonus feature of not being too expensive to replace if something goes wrong in the wilderness)

        1. The onley drawback with Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 is chromatic abberation in high contrast scenes, I think, but if you shoot raw, you can correct it in lightroom.

          Here are some samples if have shot with Sony A7rii, which is a demanding camera, at least when it comes to sharp corners with wideangle lenses.

          The lens also comes with a small box, so it is so small, you can allways have it with you, without noticing it.
          I sold the lens because of seeking the best 35mm prime and I didn’t want the ca, I found it, Sony FE 35mm f1.4, but the weight of 630g is the drawback.

    1. Sure.
      Lighter, sharp stopped down but not as sharp as Loxia, worse sunstars and slow AF and less nice MF
      But cheaper, and better than most nifty fifties.
      A good classic 50 would do as well, say Minolta MD 2/50?

        1. Yes you are right, I was thinking about the Sony 1.8/50. I tend to think of the 1.8/55 as a Zeiss even though it is indeed a Sony design so I misread you!

          Sure it’s a great lens especially if you want to photography people, but for landscape I prefer the Loxia which is smaller (though not lighter), contrastier stopped down, a tiny bit better in the corners stopped down and with lovely sunstars.

          1. Interesting that you say the Loxia is sharper in the corners. The Loxia is relatively weak in the midframe, and most reviews say that the Sony/Zeiss 55/1.8 is sharper than the Loxia in most of the frame. The differences are pretty small, though.

            Regarding contrast, they are mostly the same. I think the main difference is that the Loxia is more flare-resistant, and the Loxia’s planar design has somewhat less chromatic aberration than the Sony/Zeiss’s sonnar design.

            I think the Sony/Zeiss is also somewhat less consistent, seeing as it has a whopping three (!) aspherical elements and is assembled in Thailand.

            See Lensrental’s MTF measurements:



          2. Lensrentals excellent test is wide open, where the 55 is way better. My comments were about stopped down. The 55 doesn’t improve as much as the Loxia. Other tests besides LR are at closer distances, where I think the 55 is slightly better. So for landscape use – stopped down at or near infinity – I prefer the Lox, though both are good.

      1. The Minolta 50 f/2 remains one of my favorite landscape lenses. If there are 3 things I don’t like about it:

        1. Flare resistance
        2. Not as great microcontrast as Loxias/ZMs
        3. 6-bladed aperture

        Literally everything else is a positive in my opinion. I’m consistently blown away by how sharp it is and how easy it is to use.

  3. Hi
    Well thought out reco’s. Thanks.
    Btw, have you seen Sony 85/2.8 for Alpha 99 series. Its a plastic wonder and very light.
    Also, FE 16-35/4 is only 518 grams against Lox 21’s 394 grams. Not much difference in weight and you will carry a routine do everything lens. Yes the size is bigger and that matters too.
    Is FE 85 not as good at landscape apertures?

    1. FE 85 is great at landscape apertures, but has worse landscape haptics (for my taste which is smooth helicoid) and worse sunstars and is a little bulkier and heavier. If I had people to shoot as well, though, I’d choose it.

      I can imagine someone choosing FE 4/16-35 and it’s a fine choice. The extra weight and bulk though against the Lox or Batis size and slight IQ advantage means (especially as I like Lox sunstars) means I no longer choose it. I did once, and I’m sure for many it is the right choice.

  4. Thanks for the fine collection of lenses, well done. I fully support your choices, for light landscape for me it’s Loxia 21, 35, 50, 85.

    1. I love those Loxias too 🙂

      I’d throw in the CV10 and – IDK what @135mm. Still waiting on something good and compact and native at that focal length.

    1. I don’t have direct experience, but indirectly I can tell you I slightly prefer ZM 85 to C/Y 3.5/100 and many people sip trust seem to think that’s opyptically in the same ballpark. Haptical issues aside though, the Contax is nice and small. But the haptics of the G converters would rule it out for me personally

  5. David, thanks for the article. I guess you’ll get a lot of different opinions about this. Apart from the 1 zoom vs multiple primes tradeoff, “landscape” is a large subject. I would like to have something wider than 18mm, but I’ve heard of regions where the standard landscape lens is a 4/200-400 plus 1.4 converter. And if you’re camping outside, that might be the ideal opportunity to incorporate sky, so you’d like a lens better suited to astrophotography (and a tripod, obviously).

    But what I actually wanted to say is “please more about this”. I’m also very interested in backpack choice, whether you carry a tripod, how many batteries (or a solar-powered charger? Other options?). What about harsh conditions (sand, humidity, frost, …)?


    1. All cool topics and interesting ideas for articles! I’ve never done Astro on a serious hiking trip, because, well after a days walking, setting up camp, dusk photography, cooking eating cleaning it’s time fir the sleeping bag! I’ve tended to do it when staying in cabins, or on road trips, or other less strenuous times. But the Batis 18 or Loxia 21 both make great Astro lenses.

      FWIW I don’t take lenses wider than 18 on long trips. I use ten to 14 mm mainly for interiors. That’s not to say that I don’t think there’s not good landscape to be had with hyper wides. Just that I’d use them less – and in long trips in the Bush you are forced to choose. I’m not going to pack a 12 and a 20, and if only one its something like 20 for me. But your style may differ…

      Longer tele? Sure there are landscape styles that use them. But I’d rather more good for an extra 2 days in the wilderness than a 400mm lens. I’ve taken an APO Lanthar 4/180 sometimes – the most compact of the well performing longer lenses – and have got some great images but again, maybe not enough to justify the weight. But if that’s your style, I’d reccomend substituting a light 180 class lens for the 85.

  6. Thanks David for this nice article. One other good choice at the long end is the Contax Zeiss 100mm f3.5 reviewed by Jannick here : nice contrast and colors, and very good sharpness in a very light and compact package.

    1. Sure that’s a great lens and a bit cheaper than the ZM. Slightly odd sunstars though. I still have mine even though in theory the ZM was supposed to replace it…

  7. This post is amazing and perfectly timed! I’m walking the Laugavegur trail in Iceland next Summer and it’s time to start getting my kit in order!

    1. Awesome walk! Contrary to my own advice here I walked that with the Sony 4/16-35 and nothing longer. I wish now I’d taken a lighter wide and a 50 or 85..

      Anyhow it’s a an amazing trip. Must be getting late in the season for it…

      1. Crazy. I’m in Iceland now and trying to do this with trip with just my 55mm Sony/Zeiss and nearly always wishing I would have brought something wider! Next trip… probably the 16-35 for sure.

        1. Ah, not the best one lens trip for Iceland.
          I have one word for you: stitch!

          Or rather three: stitch, stich, stich.

          For landscapes you can do it handheld. Shoot lots of multirow panoramas, shooting more rather than less (with more rather than less overlap). When you get home, stich them in LR or your software of choice, and then crop down to your final composition. It’s not as much fun as having the right wide angle with you: but the ones that work will be better IQ than a single lens.

  8. Nice post, for light package I would go with Loxia 21mm, Batis 85mm and Voigtlander ultron 40mm f2… light, offers the possibility of close focus… and very nice colors

    1. Fine choices. I like the Batis, but it’s just a little more than I’d carry for hiking long distances for landscape. For general travel, or when people are involved, its a great choice.

  9. Interesting article, since I’m just in the process of assembling a light landscape kit as well. So far I’ve settled on the CV 15mm III (247g), Konica Hexanon-M 50mm f2 (255g) and Leica Tele Elmarit 90mm f2.8 (model 11800, 226g) in combination with the Voigtlander VM-E close-focus adaptor (125g). The total weight is 853g. Depending on where I go, I might want to exchange the CV 15mm with something in the 24mm to 28mm range. I haven’t decided on the latter one yet. Perhaps one of the Ultron 28mm f1.9 or f2 with front filter? Any advice?

  10. What do you think of the collapsible Voigtlander Heliar 40mm f/2.8? The lens plus adapter is only around 250 g (130 g for lens, 120 g for adapter). The lens was designed specially for the Sony E-mount cameras and requires the Voigtlander VM-E close focus adapter to work, as it has no focusing helicoid of its own.–f-2%2c8-heliar-vme.html

    If you already own a VM-E close focus adapter and are going to be carrying other M-mount lenses like the Zeiss 85/4 Tessar, then adding the Voigtlander 40/2.8 Heliar for only 130 g seems like a good idea.

    1. That Heliar is a very beautiful object, and I like 40mm lenses, but it’s no lighter than the Sony ZA 2.8/35 which is a much better performer wide open and at f4. I guess they are similar stopped down. And if you aren’t carrying an M mount adapter anyway, it’s considerably heavier (also, to tell the truth, I’d probably have two adapters because moving adapters from lens to lens in the field is a nuisance. Unless, of course, all the lenses you are taking are M lenses, in which case you can leave the adapter on the camera)

  11. A few of my favorite lightweight lenses which, in varying combinations, make up my mountain/trekking kit;

    Leica WATE 16-18-21 (315 gr.) – expensive, but fairly compact and very versatile. Because of its price, I’m sometimes not comfortable taking it along in riskier situations.

    Olympus OM 18 3.5 (279 gr.) – very nice stopped down a bit.

    Olympus OM 21 3.5 MC (202 gr.) – very light, quite good at f/8.0.

    Olympus OM 24 2.8 MC (204 gr.) – Nice…

    Minolta M-Rokkor 28 2.8 (140 gr.) – Tiny, sharp. Most have white spot problem. Even with, better than many.

    Pentax K 28 3.5 (273 gr.) – Not super-light, but a great landscape lens.

    The Olympus OM 24 2.0 (290 gr.) and 28 2.0 (273 gr.) aren’t absolute minimum weight lenses either, but are still very light and can be useful in some cases for their extra speed and nice rendering.

    Leica M-Summicron 35 2.0 IV (148 gr.) – Tiny, very satisfactory also for landscapes.

    Rollei Zeiss 35 2.8 (204 gr.) – Much cheaper than the Summicron and comes close quality-wise. With adapters, the weight difference is even greater.

    Rollei (& C/Y) Zeiss 50 1.4 (220 gr.) – Curiously, lighter than it’s 1.8 brother. Special rendering.

    Rollei Zeiss 85 2.8 (MC) (200 gr.) – lighter and, subjectively, nicer rendering than the C/Y version.

    Leica M Tele-Elmarit 90 2.8 (238 gr.) – nominally heavier than the Zeiss 85, but lighter when adapters are mounted. Prone to flare.

    Leica Macro-Elmar-M 90 4.0 (243 gr.) – Expensive, but unbeatable within its parameters. Collapsable (=even tinier). Minimum focus distance of 80 cm is better than many. With extension tube or adapter, it performs well as a macro. Ergonomics slightly fiddly.

    No ultralight teles I’m really convinced about.
    The Minolta AF 100-300 APO (528 gr.) has very variable performance (sometimes very good, sometimes poor), which seems more tied to Moon phases and wind direction rather than focal length and diaphram…
    The Canon EF 100-300 5.6 L (717 gr.) is quite good, reasonably light, but also long enough to not fit well in most lightweigh kit bags & backpacks.
    Canon FD 80-200 4.0 L (635 gr.) – Very nice, but also physically too long for comfort.

  12. Good article, and of course a lot of lenses could slip into the list. My list would (and does) include the Contax G90 2.8. It’s quite compact and light for a 90, the bokeh is beautiful at 2.8, and it is sharp and contrasty. I use it with the Fotodiox Pro adapter, and it focuses relatively nicely. Perhaps some flaws, but for its size, weight, and price it is fantastic.

    I recently had a similar situation — not a hike, but a week-long meditation retreat in a beautiful place. In an old monastery, there were no locks on the doors. Camera, lenses, and ipad were in a sling bag on my back or at my side all week, so compact and lightweight was crucial. CV 35 1.7, Loxia 50, Contax G90.

    I was absolutely planning to sell the loxia 50 when I got the CV 62, but when this scenario came up before I had a chance to, I am second-guessing that decision. The CV 62 is absolutely too heavy for something like that. I’m still not positive that the Loxia 50 is the one 50 to choose above others, but for landscapes probably.

    1. Yes that was my feeling: when I got the CV 65 I realized it wasn’t going to replace the Lox 50 for hiking. I don’t think the Lox 50 is the 50 to choose above all others as a general 50. If I could have only one it would probably be 18/55 (which most of the team aren’t a fan of because of the LoCa and haptics). But it’s sharp wide open, light, and maybe a touch sharper even than the loxia centrally at wide-mid apertures. Even more important, it has eyeAF. I think of it as a compromise lens: it’s a portrait 50 that’s also small enough for hiking and good enough stopped down for landscape. Of course just for portraits you might go Zony 1.4/50; and just for non-hiking landscape Otus if you can afford it or maybe Milvus otherwise.
      But, if it’s explicitly hiking-landscape, then the Lox is back: the haptics are nicer for landscape, the sunstar is better, and it’s stopped down look is snappier…

  13. Very nice article! I usually bring the Loxia 50/2 and the Voigländer 15mm f/4.5 on my hiking trips. Especially the Voigtländer is really small and I like the 15mm perspective a lot for mountain sceneries. I’m already looking forward to the other parts of this serie 🙂

    1. Yes Voigländer 15mm f/4.5 is an attractive alternative to the Loxia 21 or Batis 18. It’s much lighter than the Laowa 15 and It’s a little lighter than either of my recommendations, the speed doesn’t matter much for landscape, and it has nice sunstars. If this was a longer article considering more options I would have put it there for sure. If I’m forgoing a zoom in the ultra wide range, though, and have to choose only one FL in the ultra wide range, for landscape I prefer 18-21 which is why I choose those two (plus they both have slightly higher IQ). But in choosing among decent lenses, focal length preference matters more than a tiny bit of IQ, so if you want to be at the wide end of ultra wide and want to minimise weight, then I agree the CV is the right choice.It is, though, famously variable (more so than their 10 or 12) so getting a good copy may not be easy.

      1. I understand the choices you made! I indeed have heard of the large sample variation of the 15mm f/4.5. My first sample was optically well, but the focus ring wasn’t working well. My second sample is optically maybe a very little less good, but I think it still can be considered as a good sample 🙂 But the variation is indeed something to take into account as well.

  14. Personally, I prefer something longer then 85 mm to really get some different shots zoomed in. Something between 135 and 200 mm. So I’d take a 21 mm, a flexible 50 and a slow 135 or 180.

    1. When I go with a two-lens kit, I’d choose a widish 24 or 35 (can go wider with panorama) and a short tele like 85 or 100 mm (can still crop in or do panorama).

      1. Yes that’s a great solution too.
        I’ve sometimes gone just 2.8/35 and ZM 85; together they weigh 440 grams and give higher IQ at 35 than most zooms, and much higher IQ at the long end than an x-70 cropped.

        You can then as you say stitch for wider, for higher quality than a wide (though more hassle) and you don’t have to crop for tele, which reduces quality.

    2. yes for people who love longer lenses and want to hike light the pickings are slim. There’s the Leica Apo Telyt; but it’s extremely expensive and not as good as the Batis 135 though smaller. The Batis is exceptional, much lighter than faster 135s but not light in absolute terms at 620g. I take it travelling and day hiking, but not overnight. I think there is still room for a small, light, sharp 4/135 for landscapers. And for even longer the modern lenses are mainly zooms which are a lot bigger/heavier, or classic primes that are good but not great. The best bet is the Apo Lanthar 4/180 that a couple of us on the team use. Its small and very good. But it’s not as good (esp in contrast and flare) as a modern premium lens of these specs would be, and is *extremely* expensive for what it is. Bastian has been using the interesting handmade 2.4/135 Aporis which is very light indeed, and may turn out to be a fine hiking tele..

      1. The Aporis is indeed a very interesting lens from spec point of view. If you could convince Bastian to publish a review, it would be highly appreciated…

        1. This review might take some time, as with the manual floating elements there is a whole lot to talk about, but I will post a few sample images on our facebook page in the meantime.

          So far I shot about 500 photos with this lens and my preliminary conclusion is: I hoped it to be a good lens (while being quite skeptical), but it turned out to be much better than anything I had hoped for. It is most certainly not a lens for beginners though and a little understanding of optical aberrations and how they affect the final image will make using it much more enjoyable.

          1. Glad to hear the Aporis is good. I was considering buying one… from Mr. Miyazaki’s hand-drawn MTF curves, it seems to be extremely well corrected. It is also very reasonably priced at $1000, compared to other MS-Optics lenses, which are more about the compact size and interesting character than bang for the buck.

            I am concerned about CaF2 frontal element, however. Fluorite is notoriously fragile. It is also sensitive to moisture and temperature changes. It cannot be heated to temperatures required to deposit dielectric lens coatings, so it is typically coated with less permanent coatings that may degrade over time.

            For these reasons, CaF2 is rarely used as the frontal element, and many manufacturers such as Nikon shun the material. Most modern lenses prefer low-dispersion glass instead of fluorite.

            I sure hope you’re using the lens with a high quality filter attached in front at all times! Take extra care if cleaning the lens, and never use compressed air in a can (those are very cold and will cause it to fracture).

          2. The MTF curves are mostly in line with what I see in my photos.
            Contrast at f/2.4 is already high (as I like it), no comparison to older 135mm designs.
            While there is some purple fringing, loCA are otherwise corrected very well, better than Canon’s EF 135mm 2.0 L for sure.
            I think it is his most useful lens so far (especially on E-mount cameras), and one where I don’t see any real competitor.

  15. 1. What about the Sony 10-18mmf4 on A7x,A7Rx , 225gr
    Sorry David I know, not really FE but almost…
    Did some of you trie it on a A7x,A7Rx body with decent results.
    If we can believe some reviewers like :
    They seem to enjoy using this lens on a full-frame.
    Since I’ve the a6300 (meanly for timelapse) always around, I could switch to the a6300+10-18mm when reducing weight is even more important and leave the heavier body-lenses in the Hotel/Home before the hike.
    Since I don’t own the lens, yet, I couldn’t tell. But I think it will not come close in IQ to the real “FE” lenses. Any of you tried this combo ?

    2. And about the remark of “nandadevieast” he has a point as well: “FE 16-35/4 is only 518 grams against Lox 21’s 394 grams”
    Thought the Loxia was much lighter, +100gr is ok for me to finally stay with the FE 16-35/4 if I could take only one lens.

    1. The central quality of the APS ultrawide is excellent on full frame, but if there is peripheral detail you care about, the really it’s not a goer in my experience.

      I am very focused on weight minimization, so that 100g really matters when packing for wilderness travel. But if your needs for weight are different, sure 4/16-35 provides more flexibility and good (though not Lox21 good) quality for a modest weight and bulk penalty.

  16. Hmm, the Zeiss ZM 4/85 is about 800 bucks! I think for that type of scratch I’ll just go for the loxia. I’ve seen it hit under 1k on ebay. Looks like a nice lens though.

    1. The Loxia is better at f4 but for practical purposes not much better from 5.6. But for hiking-landscape purposes it’s the weight to quality ratio of the ZM that is so great. You should get it a lot cheaper second hand.

      1. Contax G 90 mm f2.8 190 gr in weight and even less in $…
        Found out by doing some tests that the 90 MMS 2.8 Contax G is super sharp, even wide open.
        The only choice to make I s the right adapter and I’ not a big fan of the AF adapters.
        The adapter witch works the best for me was the manual FotodioX Pro. It allows to focus by a rather large ring.
        Better to leave it in place because installing and taking it of isn’t so easy.
        And without correcting filters the 35 and 45 Contax G performed also very nice from f5.6.

        1. That’s 190g sans adapter, right?

          It’s a very nice lens, and if you get it cheap enough it can be a fair bit cheaper than the ZM, but for landscape, if the money was not an issue, I’d go ZM because

          (1) the user experience of Contax G on Sony is not great, whether it’s manual or AF. Wheras ZM is the opposite end of the spectrum: beautiful landscape handling.
          (2) The sunstar on the ZM is better (to my taste), and so is the contrast
          (3) I think the ZM is a hair sharper, but this is absolutely the least important reason.

          Of course, as always, important not to fetishise small differences amongst good gear…

          1. Yes, Dave, without adapter.
            1. The adapter which I was referring to is this one:
            Very easy and rapid to focus and this is the biggest problem amongst most users. Must say that I tried four or five adapters beforvending with this one, even the Techart.
            Since it’s rather difficult to mount it securely and remove the adapter I leave it in place.
            But maybe it’s because I’m not doing this enough.
            2. You must be right about the sunstars, contrast is indeed weaker at f2 but totally corrected at f2.8. Effect only seen in the center, not in the corners, strange.
            3. About sharpness, must say that it’s better than most of my other lenses, did 2-300 % pixel beeping befor coming to this conclusion. Much sharper corners than my Contax Y/C 85mm, both at f2.8. Sharpness is equal to my Sony FE55f1.8 right corner (which suffers from a weak left/under corner).
            Has some very easy to correct CA
            But maybe I’ve a very good copy…

          2. The copy I reviewed and the official MTF show very good sharpness but I wouldn’t call it excellent. The ZM in contrast shows really excellent sharpness in the MTF curve.

          3. Obviously this is a matter of taste, but I would definitely choose the Contax G 90/2.8 in this case. It’s noticeably lighter and slightly smaller (adapters are about equal in size and weight between the contax g and m-mount). The G 90 is also faster, which is very nice if you want to do narrow dof landscape or shoot wildflowers. The extra speed is also valuable for handheld work at sunrise and sunset if you are traveling really light and don’t have any kind of tripod (as I often do). I find the lens to be solidly capable for landscape shooting wide open.

            As for the other points:
            (1) Landscape shooting is the one area where the obnoxious on adapter focus isn’t that bothersome.
            (2) I find sunstars to be distracting and not really attractive most of the time, so I generally prefer lenses that have more subdued sunstars.
            (3) The ZM is undoubtedly sharper (mostly I think it just has less CA), but not enough to be noticeable without really squinting.

            I really do find the Contax G series tough to beat for going light and cheap for landscape. My usual kit is the Contax G 28, 45, and 90 (substituting the 21 for the 28 makes sense depending on how you shoot).

            G 21/2.8 200g* 35mm length** ~$500
            G 28/2.8 150g* 31mm length** ~$250
            G 45/2 190g 39mm length** ~$300
            G 90/2.8 240g 63mm length** ~$200
            * not including weight of PCX correction filter if you want it.
            ** lengths are distance the lens sticks out from the camera.

            You can get all 4 for just a tiny bit more in price and weight than the loxia 85/2.4 by itself or just three for less than the loxia (without adapter).

          4. Well Sebboh, de gustibus non est disputandum and all that…
            Certainly you have the right choice if you like subdued sunstars.
            And how much of a pain G adapters are is subjective.
            I agree that if you want to go light and cheap the G series (with PCX on the wider ones) is a great option.
            The article, though, wasn’t about light and cheap. It was about light hiking and as good as you can get consistent with that.

            Our “poor student” (or if you prefer economically rational photographer) series is still to come. Though that will focus on cheap and good, not cheap and light. Maybe we should have a “discount hiker” series…

          5. Phillip – I’m not sure what the title for that part 5 would be. I mostly wanted to point out that if you really want to go small and light there are considerable size and weight savings with the contax g lenses with minimal performance loss.

            David – I probably shouldn’t have mentioned prices. I would choose the g45 over the ZA 35/2.8, loxia 35/2, loxia 50/2, and FE 50/2.8 macro for landscape performance alone. I would also choose the g90 over the zm 85/4 for performance alone, specifically performance at f/2.8 (but not over the loxia 85/2.4 obviously). These are matters of taste as you say though, which aspects of performance are most important to a given person (definitely not sunstars for me).

            At the wide end, the batis 18/2.8 and loxia 21/2.8 definitely outperform the g21 (or g28) + pcx (though I doubt I’d notice in print for anything other than astro). The question there is really how much you value lightweight/smaller size. Some people get crazy about 10g (not me). Me, I just care about size not weight.

          6. Well maybe more a general post about the Contax G lenses which covers your mod? Still haven’t really understood how it works and information on it is rather fragmented.

            Back in the Nex-days the G28 was my favorite lens even though I could never really explain why and I enjoyed the G45 as well. As I got the a7 I sold the G28 and my G45 developed some issues but I never cared enough to replace it. Some time ago I borrowed another G45, the G90 and the G35 with the Techart. I liked the optical properties of the G90 a lot but the handling (with the Techart) killed it for me. For the G45 I see a narrow range of applications.

            Sure if weight is very important the Gs are an option to consider. The focus experience, fiddly adapter changes, color shift (G28), six aperture blades (G28 and G45) and slightly weaker performance are a pretty high price to pay for a few grams gained though. The PCX for the G28 and the heavier adapter will also add a few more grams. I also think that flare resistance of the modern lenses David has chosen is a bit better.

            From time to time I feel the urge to give the G28 + pcx another chance but then the ZM25 + pcx and especially Lox21 seem more attractive to me. In the end one probably needs to put a lot of emphasis on the look of lenses so I am the wrong person to make the case for them but I see why they are an attractive option to you and would like to read a bit more about your perspective.

          7. Phillip – I’d be happy to write an overview of the Contax G line, what I love (and hate) about it, and of using the lenses on the A series sometime. I could include a description of my conversions, but that seems a bit like advertising, which the site does a good job avoiding (the conversions are not really something that can be done at home without being a machinist).

            The G28 was one of my favorites on the NEX series as well despite the fact there was a similar sized native lens that may have performed better on paper (sigma 30/2.8). What did you think of the RAW you edited from the G28 with a PCX filter on the A7RII (Mathieu’s raw challenge canyon image)? I don’t think there is any doubt that the ZM 25/2.8 and Loxia 21/2.8 are objectively better performing lenses for flare resistance and corner sharpness at large aperture. I can’t say whether I’d actually prefer them to the G21 and G28 though.

            Regarding adapters, I found the Techart to be considerably less enjoyable to use than the $20 ebay type. Of course, you know my bias towards AF and FBW. The G90 was the worse offender in terms of usability with both Techart and manual focus adapters. I couldn’t successfully use it for anything other than landscape.

      2. Thanks for the reply! I did check the flickr stream for this lens and a few other reviews. It does appear to be quite excellent. Seems used it goes for around 600 USD- which isn’t to bad. I’ll have to decide if having the EXIF and magnification is worth waiting on the loxia. This does look quite nice though and I do mostly hiking with my gear. Perhaps for around that price it might be worth it. All I have left is to plug the 85mm range with a prime and I’m all set. I don’t mind adapters either.

        1. People differ about magnification, but I and I suspect the rest of the team are not fans of auto magnification. It means you can’t focus overall without the magnification happening. I prefer to do a rough focus without mag, then move the box to where I want it, and press an assigned button. It’s actually an easier and certainly more precise workflow.

          So mag is not a reason for the Loxia in my book. Then there is EXIF. Yes, that’s handy, though I’m happy to use LensTagger to add it. (I record an audio note via the video function if I think I’m likely to forget aperture).

          But the real reason to get the Loxia if you do is the extra speed, and extra performance at f4. All that is quite useful for portraits. But the stopped down performance while measurably a little higher than the ZM is at a lever where both are so good I’d defy you to see it in the real world. And ZM is almost half the weight, which of course is why I’m recommending it for multi day hiking.

          Yes the Loxia is a better all purpose travel lens for the manual focus enthusiast. But in contexts where weight is an issue, and landscape the principal intended use case, I think the ZM is not just a cheaper option, it’s a better option.

  17. Well it’s a good little lens, so if you are happy with the haptics (which is always a personal thing) and have a great copy, then hang onto it!

  18. You can get quite a lot lighter with stellar IQ still, without or without PCX. You can have quite a good astro set up with the batis/fe 28/55 za combo too. I’d argue a stop or two and astro is more versatile than a zoom, but needs are different. So much of my landscape works isn’t always at smaller apertures.

    g21/Batis 18 (200g and 330g)

    g28/FE 28/CV 35 1.7 (220g a piece)

    cy 50 1.7/g45/FE 55 1.8 (all under 300g)

    I tend to do one of these 3:
    1) Cy 100-300 (1000g),
    1) Mino 100 f2 (500g)
    1) CY 85 2.8/contax g 90/Sony 85 2.8 (all under 200g)

    Usually it’s a 21g/CV 35 1.7/CY 50 1.7 and Mini 100 f2…total of 1,200/1,300g.

    That’s an astro, budget, IQ, rendering, weight and low light friendly kit.

  19. Great write-up, David. I’ve been trying to assemble a decent lightweight kit myself, so this is a very useful post. I don’t even have any super wide lenses, so I am using the FE 28mm F2. It’s not as good as the Batis or Loxia but it’s not terrible, I’m just not in love with its rendering. I probably would have opted for the Contax 28mm if the corners were better on that lens.

    I use the Loxia 50mm for my standard, which is stellar and leaves little to be desired. Sometimes I wish it was F1.4 but then it wouldn’t be nearly as small.

    I’m really only missing a good lightweight tele. I have a Vivitar Series 1 90mm F2.5 Macro and a Contax Zeiss 80-200mm F4 and they’re close in weight (though the length of the Contax Zeiss makes it a little more unwieldy) so I usually bring the zoom for more flexibility since I often like shooting past 100mm. It has much better flare resistance as well, which can be helpful when doing landscapes. Perhaps I’ll get the Loxia at some point but it’s rather pricey so I’ll probably make do with the CZ 80-200 for awhile.

    1. 28mm is problematic; you would think such a basic focal length would be well served, but it isn’t. Probably because camera makers imagine that most folk will use a standard zoom at this FL. You have probably seen the general cries of anguish on the forums in which people plea for a Loxia 28. I’m there. Basically there is no great small 28; it’s a measure of this that legacy ones like zuiko 3.5/28, the C/Y (barring as you say extreme corners) and the Pentax K are competitive.

      The best 28 I have used is the Zeiss ZF-I 2/28; stopped down it’s a nice landscape lens. But its not small and light so I don’t take it hiking, and while it’s better than the competition at 28mm it’s not up there with what a new MIlvus would be like, or a new Loxia.

      1. I would also love a Loxia 28. I may end up with the 21 at some point but not for awhile since super wides aren’t my favorite focal length. I had a Tamron SP 17-35mm and even if the corners were good on that lens at the wide end (they weren’t) I probably wouldn’t have used it much. As it was I hardly ever took it out. I tend to prefer 24mm or 28mm for a wide.

        So the FE 28 will work fine until something really good (and small and hopefully MF) is released. Maybe Voigtlander will release a 28 Ultron for E Mount. I’d gladly buy that as well.

  20. I would actually argue for the 16-35mm here still as best Wide option. I backpacked and hiked with that lens in New Zealand, the Grand Canyon and Utah along with my Batis 25mm and rarely used the 25mm. The 16-35mm was more versatile and didn’t mind the weight when attached with a capture clip.

    1. A perfectly reasonable choice.

      It’s what I used to do. I don’t any more; I use either the Batis 18 or the L21, and then a 31.

      I quite like the challenge of finding images to match the available focal length, and enjoy the slight IQ boost. And the feel of the smaller lens on the camera.

      But the issue of weight depends on both you and what you are doing. Last time I was in NZ I was walking with food for 10 days, and in that context every extra gram (especially given I wanted long options) mattered to me. Of course there are some who don’t mind carrying more: but everyone has a combined pack weight that makes for the fastest and most enjoyable wilderness travel, and it’s all about how much tent, food, clothing, water and camera gear fits into that envelope. If the 16-35 plus whatever else (do you take tripod? I do) fits into your envelope, great.

  21. Great series of articles. Thank you.
    For me when I am hiking you can’t beat the little Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8 on my a7ii. The combination is light and the lens is soooooooooo sharp. If I want wider then I take multiple shots and stitch in Lightroom

    1. Agreed. It’s a great little lens for hiking. It’s a great little lens for anything, except maybe slightly nervous bokeh, but well worth it for the size and weight considering how incredibly sharp it is wide open (doesn’t get much sharper as you stop down, though, but it doesn’t really need to). It is subject to sample variation, and I had a copy which went “bad” (short left side) for no apparent reason. I don’t think I bumped it. But I might get another one before the next big hiking trip. Or even try the similar looking Samyang on the grounds that that’s an almost disposable hiking lens (well that’s an exxagertion, but it seems to be about as good optically, and it would be less tragic if dropped or lost)

      1. That’s how I treat mine – I have no qualms just throwing it into the bag without any cushioning because damaging it wouldn’t be a catastrophe. It’s even smaller and lighter than the Zeiss, and I’m perfectly happy with the results.

  22. I’m obviously arriving late to the party.
    Most things have been said and mentioned, but I might add the Contax Zeiss 100/3.5 as an option among the tales. Small and fairly light. Suffers a bit from older coatings but is sharp at any aperture, at any part of the frame with lovely micro contrast.
    One of my favorites.

  23. Thanks for this great article. I’m also absolutely worried about a good performance-to-weight ratio, too. It is necessary not only on hiking trips, but on all-day events in general, at least for those who can not afford sherpa.
    Mirrorless systems can help a lot, when it has to be lightweight.
    If we talk about 90mm, I would like to mention the Leica M 2.8 range. Maybe they do not have the pop of Zeiss, but their optical quality is fine and the haptic in special together with the “onboard” lens-hood are second to none.
    Sadly a Leica style lens hood is not used in the Loxia series.

    My to-go solution looks like this:

    Zeiss Loxia 21/2.8 (52mm | 394gr)
    Zeiss Sony FE Sonnar 35/2.8 (49mm | 120gr)
    Zeiss ZM Planar 50/2.0 (43mm | 211gr) + Adapter
    Leica Elmarit-M 90/2.8 (46mm | 395gr) + Adapter

    Today I would buy the Loxia 50 instead of the ZM 50, but it was not available back then.

  24. If you are willing to compromise with a zoom (I apologize; I don’t know if that’s a *verboten* subject here. I recognize that they’re not everyone’s preference, and they’re not up to the best primes), the FE 24-105 produces excellent results between f/5.6 and f/11. Mine is almost the level of my old Contax 35-70. I’ve taken it as my only lens for three week-long backpacks this summer, and have been quite pleased with the results.

  25. Okay, I’m leaving my zooms in the dust. I fell in love with the size and weight of the 35mm ZA f2.8 and now I just want small lightweight primes all day every day.

    My question to you is, 3 lens kit:

    Small Wide Angle Prime?
    35mm 2.8
    50mm 1.8

    Ideally that small wide angle prime would be the Loxia 21mm but it’s too expensive. I’m looking to photograph buildings, nature and environments. I would love for the Sony FE 28mm to work but I’m afraid it’s not wide enough. The 16-35 f4 is perfect but way to big and heavy. What do you suggest for a small light weight wide angle prime? I badly want the Rokinon 24mm to work but I think it’s not ideal. Love the site! Please advise!

    1. In none of my kits there is a 35 and a 50 at the same time, I don’t think it makes sense, but maybe you prefer it that way.
      Voigtlander 21mm 3.5, ZA 35 2.8 and some 85 1.8 would rather be my recommendation.

  26. Very interesting article, as I think about lens composition for hiking and landscapes.
    I was thinking about Voigltander 21/3.5. Do you have experience with it? It seems very god and light as well.

    1. No I don’t though Phillip reviewed it and likes it a lot. I think from his review and others that it’s not quite as good in parts of the field as the Loxia 21, but it’s cheaper than L21, much better than legacy options, and of course the size and weight are usefully less than L21 for hiking purposes. If your kit is mainly for light hiking it would be very tempting indeed.

  27. Thank you for such great reviews and valuable information !

    I’m about to make the move to Sony mirrorless, primarily for landscape / hiking.
    After much reading, I have in mind a lightweight and moderately expensive kit with A7 mk I.

    1) Voigtlander 3.5/21 + Sony 2.8/50 macro
    2) Samyang’s 2.8/18 + 1.8/45

    The Samyang way is cheap and light with AF, but I’m afraid this might be too much IQ loss (contrast, colours)… How bad is this ?

    Also, the Loxia 50 (or Voigtlander 2/50) is tempting instead of the macro (the latter being a bit too expensive for my budget).

    What would you do ? 🙂

    1. 1) 230g + 236g = 466g
      ‎If you can carry 100g more then u can consider the new Tamron 28-200 (575 g)

      Depend what is ur composition “style”, for me, 85+ range is more usefull than WA for landscape/hike.
      fuji XT2 is kinda inexpensive too if u look for lightweight/budget

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