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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
Won’t be tested with the current firmware!
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.
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.
Low pincushion distortion, LR value around -1.
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.
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.
This lens shows minor lateral chromatic aberrations. Even if the cameras JPEG lens corrections are all turned off, LaCA is very unobtrusive.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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
- Review: Tamron 2.8/28-75 Di III RXD
- Review: Zhong Yi Mitakon 50mm 0.95
- Review: Sony FE 85mm 1.4 GM
- Guide: Sony FE lenses
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