Since the introduction of the Contax Distagon 2.8/21 in the early 1990’s, the 21mm lenses from Zeiss have a long and glorious history of being some of the best wide angle lenses in the world. While the Loxia 2.0/35 and the Loxia 2.0/50 are refined ZM-Designs, the Zeiss Loxia 2.8/21 is the first Loxia lens that features a new optical design. Lets have a look if the Loxia 2.8/21 can keep the heritage alive. 31/05/17 Update by Bastian: I have been using this lens regularly for a year now and Jannik asked me if there is anything I would like to contribute to his review, so I added a few notes and sample images.
The Leica Summicron-M 90mm 2.0 in the version reviewed here has been Leica’s top of the line portrait lens from 1980 to 1998. In search for a decent yet fast and small portrait lens for the A7 series I decided to give this one a try, so read on to find out how it fared and if it can still be found in my bag.
Out there in the web, there is little information about the performance of the different Canon FD 35mm lenses and that is of varying quality. Since I was wondering, which of the nFD versions is optically the best I ran an extensive comparison and compared them in the most relevant categories.
Builts quality is very good, only the name plate and aperture ring are made from plastic, the rest is made from metal.
All in all it is a rather small lens and it balances very well on the Sony a7. The original lens shade is made from plastics, has a decent size and isn’t too bulky. Because the front element is rather exposed I would recommend using it.
The focusing ring travels around 100° from 45cm to 1m and a further 60° to infinity. The focusing has just the right amount of resistance but it is a bit small (8mm) for my taste.
The aperture ring has half stops from f/2.0 to f/16 and no stop between f/1.4 and f/2.0.
These results are based on the use with a Sony Alpha 7.
Minolta MC 1.2/58: Quite a bit smoother bokeh and 8, not just 6 aperture blades make it a superior lens when bokeh is important. Sharpness is similar, the 1.4/50 might be a tad better. It also costs about 6 times as much and is nearly 150g heavier.
Minolta MC 1.7/55: Not as sharp at wider apertures but it has nicer bokeh and is a bit smaller.
Minolta MD 2/50: Worse bokeh but it is sharp across most of the frame from f/2, very small and only weights half of the MC 1.4/50. This is reflected in the build quality though. It is also free of lateral CA and distortion which the 1.4/50 is not.
Zeiss C/Y Planar 1.4/50: The Planar has more effective coatings which results in a much better flare resistance and higher contrast at wider apertures. The Minolta is a lot cheaper though.
Canon nFD 1.4/50:The Canon is quite a bit sharper at f/1.4 and f/2 but and it doesn’t feel nearly as solid. Price is similar.
Zeiss Loxia 2/50: A modern lens which is sharp across the frame from f/2 with high contrast and exif transmission. Bokeh is the only real weakness I found. Oh an the price of course.
Sony FE 1.8/55 ZA: The Sony is super sharp from f/1.8 and it has much smoother bokeh. Manual focus is a pain in the a** though and it is expensive.
A typical 1.4/50 lens: Rather soft wide open, good for portraits by f/2, excellent by f/2.8 but it needs to be stopped down to f/8 for landscapes.
Images Samples in high resolution
f/2.8 or maybe f/2.4
f/4 – very good sharpness with a notable drop in the far corners