Review: Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF

Zeiss Batis 2/40 on Sony A7III

The Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF is a lens of a very popular focal length / aperture class that was missing in the FE lineup from the beginning. I am still surprised to see that it took so long to get a lens in its class with autofocus. Personally, this lens fills an important gap in my lens lineup. I have high expectations in consideration of its price point and its classy name, let’s check if it can live up to that.

Sample Images

Sony A7III | Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF | f/5.6 | full size
Sony A7III | Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF | f/2 (real aperture between f2.8 and f4) | full size
Sony A7III | Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF | f/8 | full size
Sony A7III | Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF | f/5.6 | full size

Specifications

The Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF has the following specifications

    • Diameter: 78-91 mm
    • Field of view: 56° (diagonally)
    • Length: 93 mm
    • Weight: 361g
    • Filter Diameter: 67 mm
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 9 (slightly rounded)
    • Elements/Groups: 9/8
    • Close Focusing Distance: 0.24 m
    • Maximum Magnification: 1:3.3
    • Mount: Sony-E

This is a review of my own lens.

Price : $1299/1299€

Build Quality / Handling

The build quality of the Batis 2/40 CF is in line with the other Zeiss Batis lenses. The lens has a metal barrel and a rubberized focus ring which is sticky and prone to dust. The shape of the lens is sleek and rather odd. It looks a bit disrupted without the lens hood.

You can call it futuristic if you want to see this in it. It almost looks like the Batis 1.8/85. The lens is quite light (361g) and rather tall for a 2/40 which makes the lens feel rather lightweight. The weather and dust sealed Batis design proved to be robust in our long term experiences with the other Zeiss Batis lenses.

Sealing of the lens mount (blue gasket)

The biggest difference between the Batis 2/40 CF and the other lenses in the Batis lineup is the switch for the three focus modes:

  • Full focal range (infinity to minimum focusing distance)
  • Infinity to 0.4m (Useful for fast AF in all non-macro situations)
  • 0.5-0.24m (For macro work)

It is obvious that Zeiss tried to keep the Batis lineup as uniform as possible. This has the penalty that Zeiss isn’t able to introduce comfort achievements like the AF/MF switch, aperture ring or lens button. The experience is a bit underwhelming if you use this lens after a GM prime lens.

Size comparison: Batis 2.8/135, Sony FE 1.4/50 ZA, Batis 2/40 CF, Sony FE 1.8/50

Manual focusing is comparable with the Zeiss Batis lenses which feels okay, at least with the 3rd generation Sony cameras.

This lens doesn’t have a linear transmission/coupling of the focusing ring. This makes manual focusing less direct and enjoyable than the recent Sony lenses.

AF is basically silent and fast. AF-S is accurate but AF-C seems to have a high miss rate, especially indoors. I hope the reason for this is only the light loss due to the automatic aperture closing. With lenses like the Sony FE 1.8/50 or the Sony FE 1.4/50 ZA, I am currently far more succesful in capturing my kid indoors.

I tested AF-C (Not Eye AF!) in the following scenario: I took pictures of kids in an ice cream shop at 1m distance and analyzed the 96 images that I took. I got 19% useable sharp images and 81% unsharp images, mostly front focused.

Of course, this is a focus-by-wire lens. Therefore, the lens has no hard infinity stop. A speciality of the Zeiss Batis lenses is to feature a OLED-Display on top of the lens barrel. It shows a distance scale when the lens is in MF mode.This feature is not perfectly accurate but useful if you have reference points.

About the software issues

There is quite a bit of talk about two problems that are supposed to be fixed with a firmware update in April 2019.

First: Eye AF is unreliable. I can confirm that and get very unconsistent results when I try to capture my kid. I am still wondering why nobody realised this before the market introduction but we got confirmed by Zeiss that this bug will be fixed with the firmware update.

Second: The lens is stopping down automatically as you focus closer. The reason given for that was to “keep the quality” high. I can imagine that this decision was made with test results in mind.

This is the current state:

infinity-66m: f2

66-1.5m: f2 – f2.2

1.5m-0.8m: f2.2 – f2.5

0.8m-0.4m: f2.5 – f2.8 (typical portrait distance)

0.4m-0.26m: f2.8 – f3.5

0.26m-0.24m: f3.5 – f4

This is inacceptable. Period. I really don’t like this way of customer paternalism. Most of the photographers who are willing to spend more than a thousand dollars on a Zeiss lens are probably able to choose between speed, depth of field and image quality. I think this is superflous, even at the minimum focusing distance.

What is causing the most trouble is that typical portraits can only be captured with f2.8. I don’t want to give away one stop of subject isolation, that is one of the main reasons for me to choose a 2/40 lens over one of the 2.8/35 lenses.

In this case, Zeiss chose an aperture that is just slightly rounded. Therefore, it is currently almost impossible to get perfectly round bokeh highlights. This is an unlucky decision for a product that is automatically stopping down.

After quite a few user complaints which in our opinion weren‘t handled that well Zeiss promised to address this “feature” and the Eye-AF issues in a firmware update in April. According to Zeiss after the update the aperture will only be closed up to f/2.8 and below a distance of 60cm. The firmware update is supposed to be installed by the user, a service by Zeiss won’t be needed.

Sharpness

infinity

The Batis 2/40 CF shows very good results when it comes to infinity sharpness across the frame.

f/2: Sharpness in the centre and in the midframe are already very good to excellent. Corners also show good sharpness.

f/2.8: Visible boost in contrast, especially in the centre. Corners improve a bit and are now very good.

f/4: Image is excellent across the frame.

f/5.6: Sharpness and contrast peaks.

f/8: first diffraction penalties are visible.

f/11: Diffraction is clearly visible.

Close Up

Won’t be tested with the current firmware!

Flare resistance

The Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF has generally quite good flare performance and is especially very resistant against veiling flare. Nevertheless, Ghostings can be quite pronounced if the light source is really bright.

Coma

Stars are rendered well from the center to the edges, very overexposed light sources like the bright star below have a slight halo. One of the best performances of a lens below 50mm that I have seen yet.

Full size sample Note that the OLED-Display showed 16m focus distance when the stars were as sharp as possible!

Distortion

Low pincushion distortion, LR value around -1.

Barely any distortion visible without correction

Vignetting

The vignetting performance is comparable to many lenses in its class. Looking at native FE options, most small lenses like Voigtländer 1.2/40, Zeiss Loxia 2/35 or Sony FE 2.8/35 show more pronounced vignetting.

Bokeh

First impressions: Rather contrasty/structured, onion rings, nonagonal shapes stopped down. Not the best lens for smooth and clean bokeh. Gets smoother the closer you get. Reminds me of Batis 1.8/85 in general.

Bokeh at f/2.8 (aperture is set to f2.0 in camera) and at the edge of the frame: Not too obstrusive but visible onion ring pattern and slight green outlining but also low mechanical vignetting.
Bokeh in the transmission zone: Onion rings and outlining become more visible.
Smooth rendering in close focus scenarios
Bokeh at f5.6: Outlining and nonagonal shape

Chromatic Aberrations

Lateral

This lens shows minor lateral chromatic aberrations. Even if the cameras JPEG lens corrections are all turned off, LaCA is very unobtrusive.

Branches in the extreme corner. Uncorrected JPEG file.

Longitudinal

The lens can exhibit some green/purple longitudinal chromatic aberrations under demanding circumstances. The level of LoCA is mostly low, even when I expected to see much of it. The performance seems to be a fair bit better than most competing fast Sony lenses (1.8/50, 1.8/55 ZA, 1.4/35 ZA, 1.4/50 is also better corrected).

Note that the automatic aperture closing can improve the impression artificially in that test. I’ll redo it after the firmware update.

Branches against the bright sky
Reflecting water

Sun Stars

As expected, sun stars are not very defined and are hardly ever there. Actually it is the opposite of the extremely pronounced and big Zeiss Loxia sun stars. I did a sun and a street lantern test. Note that the Batis 2/40 is already stopped down at f2 on a target that is 30m away from the camera:

Alternatives

This list could be endless in this lens class, I will try to cover the most relevant:

Sony FE 1.4/50 ZA

The Sony FE 1.4/50 ZA has a true focal length of 47mm, quite close to the Batis 2/40 CF. I own the lens for quite a long time. It is razor sharp in the central region even at f1.4 and renders beautifully with nice bokeh and contrast. It is my preferred choice for all people related photography if weight is not an issue. However, its 778g let reach for something lighter.

Sony FE 1.8/50

This is where this little lens comes into play. It is super light and very small. Its AF is fast and reliable on the A7III, something I can’t say about the Batis 2/40 CF yet. Optically, it isn’t as sharp (wide open) and well corrected, is more prone to flare, has worse MFD but better bokeh. Regarding its price, it’s hard not to recommend it.

Sony FE 1.8/55

This lens is brighter and smaller but the focal length is quite different and it also lacks the close focusing capabilities. It is very sharp wide open and stopped down. AF is very fast and reliable . Bokeh is not great either and LoCA can be a problem.

Sony FE 2.8/35

This lens is tiny and also very sharp if you find a good copy. Much worse MFD and high vignetting. Funny enough that this lens and the Batis 2/40 share the same aperture for portraits at the moment.

Sony FE 1.4/35

Like the 1.4/50 ZA, this lens is very large and heavy. It is optically quite capable but can’t reach the same optical quality in comparison. Very nice transition zone but onion ring plagued bokeh. Not the best landscape lens due to a visible midzone dip. Furthermore it has horrible sample variation. I tried it many times but didn’t get a well centered sample.

Zeiss Loxia 2/35

This is the in-house competitor of the Batis 2/40 CF. The lenses are very different from each other. The Batis is optically more capable and features AF. The Loxia has great MF, is much smaller and has good sun stars.

Voigtländer 1.2/40

Compared to the Batis 2/40 CF, this lens is smaller but much faster. It shows a balanced performance and is a good everyday option if you can live with MF. Optically, it shows worse correction and is also less sharp on the edges of the frame. Vignetting is high and MFD is much worse.

Canon RF 1.8/35 IS

This is obviously not an alternative for everybody who already owns an E-Mount camera. Nevertheless, I need to mention this lens here. It is faster, has optical image stabilization, even better MFD (still sharp without automatic aperture closing!) and is smaller, lighter and much cheaper. To me, this lens looks like the real deal in this lens class and lets the Batis look quite odd in comparison.

Conclusion

good

  • very good sharpness across the frame even wide open
  • low chromatic aberrations
  • close focusing
  • weight
  • weather sealing
  • fast and silent AF
  • low distortion
  • low coma
average

  • vignetting
  • size
  • bokeh
  • flare resistance
  • OLED display is nice to have but inaccurate
not good

  • unreliable Eye-AF (supposed to be fixed by firmware update)
  • unreliable AF-C below 1m distance
  • automatic aperture closing (will be fixed by firmware update until 0.6m)
  • non-linear manual focusing
  • sticky focus ring
  • price
  • Undefined sun stars

The Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF before the April 2019 firmware update is a beta version of an optically very capable but quite expensive lens.

It is able to render with high sharpness, contrast and decent flare resistance. It shows low distortion and coma.The Batis is also quite light, well built, weather sealed and focuses very close which makes it an obvious choice as an everyday lens. The bokeh is not really disturbing but has high contrast, outlining and onion rings.

The bad manual focus experience (non-linear) and the undefined sun stars (for those who like defined sun stars, myself included) are the major shortcomings for landscape photography.

Despite of that, the lens has three major bugs yet: Automatic aperture closing,  inaccurate Eye AF and inaccurate AF-C at close distances (below 1m). Applications like portraits that depend a lot on that can hardly be judged before we receive the firmware update in April 2019. I recommend to use single spot AF-S which turned out to be the most accurate. I hope that these existing bugs will be addressed successfully and I am pretty sure that the lens will be much more enjoyable after that. Until then, I can only recommend to get this lens if you don’t depend on AF and if you can live with the automatic aperture closing.

More Sample Images

Sony A7III | Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF | f/8 | full size
Sony A7III | Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF | f/3.5 | full size
Sony A7III | Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF | “f/2” | full size
Sony A7III | Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF | f/2 | full size
Sony A7III | Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF | f/3.5 | full size

Further Reading

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Jannik Peters

I am a passionate photographer from northern Germany and I love landscape, architecture, travel, portrait and family photography. I use manual lenses but I also enjoy the comfort of autofocus lenses, therefore both can be found in my bag.

Latest posts by Jannik Peters (see all)

26 thoughts on “Review: Zeiss Batis 2/40 CF”

  1. Hi Jannik,
    You write that the aperture varies between 66-1,5m. Is that really 66 meters? So I can shoot a photo at 30 meters and risk getting a f2.2 shot?
    My current wedding photography lineup is 24GM, Sony Zeiss 35 and 50 1.4 and Sony 85 1.8. Think I’ll be disappointed with a 24GM + 40 Batis + Sony 85 instead?

    Best
    Anton

    1. Yes, according to the display on the lens.

      It depends on your needs. The 1.4/50 offers better bokeh rendering in first, also more shallow depth of field. I could see myself replacing my 1.4/50 with the B40 after the update.

  2. Thank you for the review (and all the other ones)! So the lens will still automatically stop down, even after the firmware update. That’s simpy unbelievable. I’ve never heard of anything like this and wouldn’t have thought that a manufacturer would do this. It’s a huge disappointment.

  3. I also own a copy of the 40mm Batis. My impression regarding the eye-af issue is that it’s not an issue with eye-af reliability but with af-c consistency in certain distances to the object. Just try af-c on e.g. a flower or a leave in distances like 1m-0.6m. There my lens shows the same inconstistent behavior (looks like a slight front-fokus, similar to the eye-af trouble) as in similar eye-af scenarios.

  4. Thanks for the test, Jannik! Had high expectations for this due to it filling up the vacancy of a 35mm-ish F1.8-2 lens and even offering macro. But quite sad to find its large size, macro aperture problem and bokeh issues. Still waiting for a comfortable 35mm option with AF…

  5. Presumably the problem with the lens „stopping down automatically“ is not a problem if you photograph in „M“ (manual) mode?

  6. “The lens is stopping down automatically as you focus closer. ”
    I suppose, physically nothing changes here (aperture diameter is not changing). Most likely the lens change the focal length in closer focus. It is quite common phenomenon. But in most cases lens doesn’t “report” the real changed F-number to the camera. It seems this Zeiss lens report it, like most Nikon lenses.

          1. Yes, I was aware.
            But imho situation is not as bad with the 1.4/50:
            as it uses the higher grade 11 blade aperture diaphragm from the
            GM series bokeh highlights at least stay round.
            Needless to say I am absolutely not a fan of this automatically stopping down.

  7. It’s the most ridiculous excuse ever. Even 30 years old manual lenses improve sharpness in close focus when it stopped down, but they didn’t force to do it at least. I can’t believe they said that so proudly like they did something amazing.

    1. I agree! It appears that Zeiss has lost its way. I have insisted on how both Loxia & Batis line-ups are, and always with strong backlash.

      This is not to say that Batis & Loxia lenses are worthless or that they simply offer poor optical performance. They are competitive and competent lenses, relative to their immediate competition, there’s no question about it.

      Nevertheless, the priorities Zeiss has set, appear to be the wrong ones, and the unnecessarily small form factor and fuzzy experience offered by the Loxias, and the AF, OLED gimmick, form factor and optical design choices set by Zeiss priorities of the Batis line, are in my opinion a hindernis for the ultimate optical results and experience.

      The 90 degree focus throw of the 21 & 25mm – which are otherwise optically good lenses, makes the experience and use of this lenses a real pain. The 85mm has a great focus throw and is a lot more pleasant to use. The narrow and too close to one another focus & aperture rings, do not allow intuitive and fast manual operation. Form factor is surely an aspect of design, but manual usage, and optical quality cannot possibly be secondary priorities to size, weight and form.

      The Batis line, which offers lesser optical quality than the Loxias, is in my opinion a tru faux pas, as it appears to want to emulate other manufacturers instead of providing the elements that has set Zeiss aside from the competition, and the uncompromisig elements that Zeiss is known for.

      While the 135mm Apo Sonnar is a great lens, I’d much rather buy the discontinued Classic f/2.0 model, with a real aperture and focus ring. The rubber rings of the Batis & Milvus has never convinced me.

      While the Loxias are good lenses, I believe they could be better if the form factor – size, weight, filter thread diameter – wasn’t a priority. It doesn’t feel like the high Zeiss price tag for the Loxia & Batis lenses is justified, and both design priorities, materials and user experience appear to be inferior to preceding DSLR and range finder Zeiss lenses, and thus a significant step back to overall quality.

      The Zeiss lenses for E-mount feel like second class Zeiss lenses, and that is quite disappointing, for me at least. I’d rather adapt Classic, ZM and C/Y lenses, that provide a more enjoyable experience, and more just value for money relation.

      The Zeiss camera recently released, which I’m sure will take decent pictures, is based on a dubious social media “work flow” coupled with a contradictory – frankly ridiculous – incorporation of professional editing capabilities, is basically a premium point & shoot toy. An oversized phone with a premium lens attached.

      If the great EVF and display were on a camara optimized for optical quality and versatile photographic use, I’m sure it would be interesting. A Zeiss camera, would in my opinion, firstly be focused on providing access to all of Zeiss’ lenses, that’s where Zeiss’ ultimate treasure and advantage resides.

      Zeiss needs to get its shit together!

      1. I would like to disagree with a few of your points. While I’m not a fan of the Batis line, I love all the Loxias and I think the decision to keep the lenses small was a great decision. Sure, the ergonomics aren’t ideal, but it’s something you get used to pretty quick and the small size and wonderful IQ make it the perfect line of lenses. I’d much rather have that instead of monstrously large and ugly lenses just for that additional 1% greater IQ.

        1. I agree that the decision to keep the lenses small is a sound one, and I also consider the Loxia IQ excellent. But why not better designed ergonomics, like the ZM lenses, which feel better made and offer a much better experience? Why not a decent focus throw – and ergonomics – like some even smaller C/Y lenses? ZM & C/Y lenses were never about having the same filter thread diameter or streamlining; each lens had the size and characteristics it required, but I believe Zeiss prioritized the wrong way with Both Loxia & Batis design.

          Then there’s the flimsy lenshoods, that although made in metal, attach poorly, clatter and feel like they’re going to fall off. This, added to the inability to attach Loxia lenses without making a fuzz, focussing a wide angle lens properly near infinity with a 90 degree throw, and operating the lens rapidly with a barrel that barely has non-moving surfaces, feels cheap, precipitated, and lacking in proper design considerations.

          Bottom line, I don’t believe it’s fair to pay premium prices for products I have to get used to operating, due to poor and flawed design.

          I’m sure Zeiss could have delivered a better line of manual focus lenses, that deliver a premium experience for premium price, for which their relative optical quality is no excuse.

          If some photographers absolutely need compact lenses, that is OK, but there’s no need to cut corners at consumers expense. And this should certainly not mean that those who don’t mind a little heavier and more robust weather sealed options, should have to be out of options.

          I would have wished for compact manual leises in ZM design quality – and style – since prices aren’t that different.

          Zeiss is an excellent manufacturer, and that should be well acknowledged, but it’s lost it’s way with the design priorities for the E-mount, there’s no doubt about it.

          Cheers!

  8. What a disappointment. Thank you, Jannik, for identifying these problems.

    I have been a big fan of Zeiss (my favourite lens is the 135mm f/2.8 Batis), but this one, the 40mm f/2 Batis, is likely to be a dud.

    Badly done, Zeiss. Badly done.

  9. This is the first time I’ve heard the fe 50 1.8 described as fast focusing. Perhaps only true on the a7iii.

    Personally I’m keen on the cv 40/1.2 – so many great pictures from that lens.

  10. Thanks for the review – after going back and forth, I decided to order one to see how I like it. I’m looking to see if it can be an AF replacement for a Loxia 35 and Loxia 50mm in my camera bag.

    Part of my decision is based on the fact that I don’t see a better native lens option at 35mm with AF right now. I didn’t like the Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8 when I had it – I thought it was a good landscape lens but wide open for people, it felt flat in a way that the Loxia 35mm isn’t despite it being soft wide open.

    If it doesn’t work out, I’ll probably go back to the Loxia 35mm and keep on manual focusing.

      1. I tend to agree on the Voigtlander but I decided to move away from adapted lenses a couple of years ago and I decided AF is a must for me at this focal length. If I didn’t need AF, I’d probably be using the Loxia 35mm still even with its drawbacks.

        Also after seeing the spec sheet for the Leica SL APO-Summicron 35mm f2 at 73mm Diameter and 102mm long with a 67mm filter thread, it makes the Batis 40’s size seem a little more reasonable although it’s still quite fat. I guess all that AF electronics and corrective optics just take up a lot of space. The $4695 MSRP also makes the Batis seem like a bargain at $1300!

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