Review: Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0

Introduction

Sony A7s with Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0
Sony A7s with Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0

The Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 Biogon is one of Zeiss’ manual focus lenses specifially designed for E-mount cameras. The modern design, the aperture “de-click” feature and the transfer of Exif-data sets it apart from adapted lenses. Read on to learn how it fares optically.
Update: conlusion updated (06/05/2016)

Sample Images

sunstars zeiss loxia 35mm 2.0 fe e blue hour vernazza italy cinque terre sony a7s
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 | f/11 | panorama from 5 shots | higher resolution
close up zeiss loxia 35mm 2.0 bokeh blossom kirschblüte cherry sony a7s
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 | f/2 | full resolution
architecture loxia zeiss 35mm 2,0 biogon sony a7s
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 | f/2 | full resolution


This lens was also featured in my fast 35mm manual focus lenses comparison you might want to have a look at.

Specifications

The Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 has the following specifications:

    • Diameter: 62.1 mm
    • Field of view: 63° (diagonally)
    • Length:  66.0 mm (with caps)
    • Weight: 340g
    • Filter Diameter: 52 mm
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 10 (straight)
    • Elements/Groups: 9/6
    • Close Focusing Distance: 0.3 m
    • Maximum Magnification: 1:5.8
    • Mount: Sony E

You may also have a look at the official page.

The ZM version has a similar design but has not been optimized for the thick filterstack of the A7 series cameras (see the “A7 series cameras and Leica-M wide angle lenses” section in my 28mm 2.0 Ultron review). You can take a look at the specifications here on the offical page as well.

The Loxia 35mm 2.0 can be bought for $1300/1150€ at Amazon.com/Amazon.de (affiliate links), the Zeiss ZM 35mm 2.0 Biogon is a tad cheaper at $1100/1050€ at Amazon.com/Amazon.de (affiliate links)

Disclosure

The Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0, alongside the ZM version with Leica-M mount, was kindly provided free of charge by Zeiss Germany for reviewing purpose for a duration of 4 weeks.

Handling / Build Quality

Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 and Zeiss Biogon 35mm 2.0 ZM with Voigtländer Helicoid adapter
Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 and Zeiss Biogon 35mm 2.0 ZM with Voigtländer Helicoid adapter

The build quality of the Loxia is very nice and the most part of the lens is made of metal. There is also a blue rubber gasket at the rear of the lens, albeit there is no E-mount camera body with true weather/dust resistance available to date.

The focus ring has just the right resistance and it takes ~180° from infinity to 0.3 m. The aperture ring has third-of-a-stop click-stops and turns about 120° which is a little more than I prefer as it takes quite some time to go from f/2.0 to f/11. One can also “de-click” the aperture ring to make it stepless which I think is mostly interesting for filming purposes.

The included hood is mostly made of metal, but sits not very tight. This may be a problem of this very sample, as I can’t assess by how many people this review unit has already been used.
There is also another feature: when turning the focus ring the camera automatically zooms in but to be honest I found this behaviour to be slowing down my shooting (as I prefer to move the box first and then zoom in), so I turned it off in the camera menu.

In the picture above I included the Zeiss ZM T*35 mm 2.0  Biogon  and one can already see how similar the dimensions are and how similar the front lens element looks. Turning the focusing ring from infinity to 0.7 m or the aperture ring from f/2.0 to f/22 both takes about 120° with this M-mount lens.

Vignetting and colorcast

vignetting_loxia35 sony a7 s pre cooked raw files

Some of the vignetting is being already corrected within the RAW-files, take a look at our Loxia 21mm 2.8 review, to read more about this. Still, vignetting is better corrected with the Loxia in comparison to the ZM version and about average for a lens with these parameters. I didn’t notice any traces of color cast on the edges.

Sharpness

infinity
sony a7s a7 ilce-7s loxia 35mm 2.0 sharpness field curvature
The sharpness in the center is pretty decent even at f/2.0. The midframe reaches very good resolution at f/4.0 and the corners at f/11. For landscapes and architecture I recommend shooting at f/11. For a modern lens with such a high price tag this is not a very good performance. I included a second shot taken at f/2.0 but this time focused on the corners, to show you the impact of the field curvature: the corner is a little sharper but the center is out of focus now.  I would also like to remind you I am testing with a 12mp A7s here, so the corners may look worse on the 36 or 42mp sensor at 100% magnification.

But I also want to additionally show you a comparison between the Loxia and the ZM version, as the corner performance on the A7 series cameras has indeed been greatly improved here:


comparison 100% crop of corner (A7s, focus on center): Loxia 35mm 2.0@2.0 (before) vs Biogon ZM 35mm 2.0@2.0 (after)

close focus
sharpness close loxia 35mm 2.0 carl zeiss sony a7
At the close focus distance and the widest aperture the image is a tad soft (which is the case with many lenses without a floating elements design), from f/2.8 onwards sharpness is excellent.

Flare resistance

zeiss loxia carl lens flare sun in the frame work against brigt light sony a7s a7 a7r
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 | f/11

With the sun directly in the frame the photo above is the worst I could produce. Apart from the lens flare there is also some loss of contrast. With the sun outside the frame the hood certainly does a good job, as the following comparison shows:


comparison: no hood (before) vs hood (after)

This is a pretty average performance, better than many older lenses, worse than some of the newer ones.

Coma

loxia 35mm 2.0 a7 coma sunstar night long exposure

The coma correction is pretty bad until stopping down to f/4.0 so I would not recommend using this lens for landscape astrophotography or for nightly cityscapes below f/4.0.

Distortion

Distorion characteristics of Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0
Distorion characteristics of Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0

Distortion is actually a non issue with this lens. It also does not seem to be corrected in RAW files, as it simply isn’t necessary.

Bokeh

loxia 35mm 2.0 bokeh sony a7s series ilce close up
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 | f/2 | full resolution

The quality of the bokeh is a mixed bag for me. At close distances (see photo above) the quality is quite good and the cat’s eye effect is not too pronounced either, but going farther away from the subject, outlinings start to appear and depending on the background it may also look quite busy (see example below).

loxia 35mm 2.0 bokeh sony a7s series ilce close up
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 | f/2 | full resolution

The outlining is much less pronounced at f/2.8  but keep in mind, because of the straight aperture blades, when stopping down, points of light become 10-sided figures.


Bokeh, f2.0 (before) vs f2.8 (after)

Sunstars

bridge loxia 35 mm zeiss 2.0 biogon sony a7s sunstar sunstars blendensterne
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 | f/8 | full resolution

In case you read any of my other reviews you already know I do like 10-pointed sunstars as produced by the 28mm 2.0 Ultron and the 50mm 1.5 Nokton. Luckily all of the Loxias to date also produce these and therefore it was a joy to use this lens for city and nightscapes stopped down.

bridge loxia 35 mm zeiss 2.0 biogon sony a7s sunstar sunstars blendensterne
100% crop from photo above

Chromatic aberrations

longitudinal

loca zeiss loxia 35mm 2.0 f2
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 | f/2 | 50% crop, minimum focus distance

Depending on the distance between you and your subject the bokeh may show traces of green outlining, apart from that the correction of longitudinal CA is pretty good, as can be seen in the 50% crop above.

lateral

I was really pushing the lens here, but even in the uncorrected image I can hardly spot any CA (this applies to the whole aperture range). This is simply excellent performance here.


Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 35 mm 2.0 | f/11 | CA 100% crop before/after extreme corner

Alternatives

Voigtlander Ultron 1.7/35 – I think this is the strongest competitor. It shares the great sunstars and build quality. The bokeh wide open of the Voigtländer has less outlining but much more pronounced cat’s eyes. Because of the thick filter stack the Voigtländer has more problems with field curvature but I would stop down both lenses to f/8.0 to f/11 for even sharpness across frame anyway. What you are giving up with the Voigtländer is the option to declick the aperture ring (interesting for filming) and the transfer of Exif data which the Loxia offers, but you also gain a faster maximum aperture and it only costs roughly 2/3rds of the Loxia. .

Sony Zeiss Sonnar 2.8/35 ZA T* FE – Although it may look similar at first sight, this is a completely different lens. It is a little smaller, has autofocus (and a fly-by-wire focusing ring), only 7 aperture blades, distortion is a little higher and because of the incorporation of aspherical elements the bokeh can show onion rings. This lens is not for me, but in case you rely on autofocus this is your cheapest 35 mm option for the A7 cameras right now (albeit I think it is pretty expensive for what it offers).

Sony Zeiss Distagon 1.4/35 ZA T* FEI haven’t laid my hands on one of these yet and I’m not particulary keen on changing that, as I see no point in using these large and heavy lenses on A7 cameras, although I expect much better edge-to-edge sharpness at smaller apertures and better coma correction. To be totally honest with you here: I also have a Nikon D800 DSLR – which in my opinion is more suitable for using big and heavy glass – and one can also find more sensible priced native lenses here, which are optically least as superb (and do not use fly-by-wire focus rings).

Older manual 35 mm lenses – There are simply too much options here to cover them all but you may start taking a look at our Canon FD 35 mm comparison in case you are looking for a cheaper option.

Conclusion

good

  • very good center sharpness and contrast already at f/2.0
  • build quality and handling
  • correction of longitudinal and lateral CA
  • distortion
  • sunstars
average

  • flare resistance
  • bokeh
not good

  • soft corners at wider apertures (field curvature)
  • coma correction (below f/4.0)
  • price

When comparing the Loxia 35mm 2.0 Biogon E directly to the Zeiss ZM T* 35mm 2.0 Biogon there are many similarities: bokeh is pretty much the same as are contrast and sharpness in the center of the frame. The bokeh can be distracting at certain distances and is only smooth near the minimum focus distance and shows some minor outlining at f/2.0 towards the edges. But bokeh is also a very subjective thing, so take a look at the examples and decided for yourself.

The differences appear when taking a look at the corners of the frame: the ZM never gets really sharp in the corners, a problem it shares with many older Biogon designs on the a7 series (the Contax G 21mm and 28mm 2.8 come to mind here), whereas the Loxia has pretty even sharpness across the frame at f/11. Unfortunately the lenses do share some negative aspects as well: the coma is pretty bad until f/4.0 and albeit the consideration of the thick filter stack in the optical formula there is still some field curvature left and so until f/8.0 the extreme corners at infinity don’t look particularly good. The build quality on the other hand is top notch and rarely leaves something to be desired.

I really admire the boldness of Zeiss to release a line of manual focus lenses in a time where most people are merely talking about eye-autofocus, image stabilisation, fine tuning focus with USB docks and all the other bells and whistles found in some modern lenses. Keeping the same (small) filter diameter for the whole lineup is also something I really like. In case you read any of my other reviews on this blog you already know I don’t like fly by wire focus and I don’t care for mediocre corner performance at wider apertures in case a lens has nice bokeh at maximum aperture and is sharp across the whole frame at f/11 and produces nice sunstars which are all boxes that can be ticked here.
But there is one problem I see here: this is a native E-mount lens, it carries the Zeiss brand name and a very high price tag so I would have expected better corner performance at wider apertures and better coma correction. Especially because of the fact that the Zeiss Loxia 21mm 2.8 and the two Batis lenses are such great performers.  Another problem is the strong competition, there are no less than three native 35mm E-mount prime lenses (which all carry a Zeiss tag by the way) you can buy today, alongside a huge number of manual lenses which can be adapted (see the Alternatives section).
Designing a lens always means to compromise and when taking a look at the heritage of this lens – which lies in the film era – you see that the emphasis has shifted from aspects such as low distortion and low lateral chromatic aberrations (which can nowadays easily be corrected in post) towards better corner sharpness and coma correction at wider apertures in completely new designs (I think of the 21 mm 2.8 Loxia or the Sony FE 28 mm 2.0 here for example).

So, who is this lens for? Anyone, who looks for a small yet native 35 mm E-mount lens with great build quality and transfer of Exif information or who is primarily filming and can therefore make use of the “de-click” function of the aperture ring. In case you are looking for great across the frame sharpness at wider apertures or you are planning on using a 35 mm for astro landscape photography this is probably not the right lens for you. I have to admit though, stopped down contrast and sharpness are great, as are the sunstars and this lens yielded me some very nice images within the rather short period of time I had the chance to use it, but personally I think it is overpriced for what if offers.

Update 06/05/16:
Despite some of the technical shortcomings I have bought this lens myself now. In retrospective the photos I have taken with this lens have something about them I really like, I think it is best described as a very punchy micro contrast. Take into account most of my photos are taken stopped down, this was indeed the best (small) 35mm lens for my needs.

The Loxia 35mm 2.0 can be bought for $1300/1150€ at Amazon.com/Amazon.de (affiliate links), the Zeiss ZM 35mm 2.0 Biogon is a tad cheaper at $1100/1050€ at Amazon.com/Amazon.de (affiliate links)

If this review was helpful to you, please consider using one of my affiliate links. I will earn a small commission on your purchase and it won’t cost you anything. Thanks!

Sample Images

queensferry crossing bridge edinbrugh scotland stay cable zeiss loxia 35mm 2.0 sony a7s
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 | f/11 | panorama from 4 shots | higher resolution
loxia 35mm 2.0 architecture ludwigsburg stuttgart oldtown altstadt historical
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 | f/11 | full resolution
zeiss loxia review 35mm 2.0 bokeh close up hoodoo beach strand italy italien
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 | f/2 | full resolution
sunbeams sun forest field corn a7s loxia zeiss carl
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 | f/11 | full resolution
sony a7s loxia 35 mm f/2.0 bokeh interior architecture hotel
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0 | f/2 | full resolution

I have set up a flickr album which contains some shots taken with the Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0.

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My name is Bastian and for many years I have been mostly shooting Nikon DSLRs. As of today I have made my transition from Nikon to Sony and I am mainly using small but capable manual lenses. My passion is landscape photography but I also like to delve into other subjects from time to time.

33 thoughts on “Review: Zeiss Loxia 35mm 2.0”

  1. I have the Loxia 35 and compared it in the past against a Sony Zeiss 35mm f2.8 during trips to Europe and Asia at the end of last year. I bought the Loxia 35 first and considered replacing it with a used 35mm f2.8 to free up some cash. Overall my experience with its performance is consistent with your review but I kept the Loxia 35 and sold off the 35mm f2.8. The coma issue is a real problem but manageable by stepping down to f2.8 for nightscapes. The edge performance issue I think is overblown by reviewers based on the photos I’ve taken and seen – it’s there but you really need to be pixel peeping to see it at f8 or f11. I also don’t know when I’m taking brightly light landscapes at f2 or f4 and focusing on the extreme corners so I think it’s an unrealistic and narrow test condition.

    Where I do think the Loxia 35 distinguishes itself are that 1) the colors are punchier and more contrasty than the Sony Zeiss 35mm – like in your sample image #2, 2) whatever design flaws or intentional design considerations that’s in the lens, it does give it a far better 3d pop and subject separation than the 35mm f2.8 like in your sample pictures 3 and 4, 3) the lack of distortion does give it a different rendering from the 35mm f2.8 – it almost feels like using a 50mm lens but in a 35mm perspective, 4) the center sharpness is very high, which may contribute to point 2 that i made., and 5) excellent ergonomics

    Some of the above considerations may or may not matter and some of it can be postprocessed out but I think the out of camera photos are noticeably more pleasant to me vs. the 35mm f2.8 although that is not a bad lens by any means. I shoot in raw but don’t really post process that much so for me, great out of the camera pictures is a strong positive. As for the price, I think its a better value at MSRP than the 35mm f2.8 for what you’re getting overall however at the current used prices, I think the 35mm f2.8 is a better value today. I wouldn’t buy a batis 35mm f2 to replace this since the form factor is noticeably bigger but I would sell it in an instant if they release the 35mm f1.4 distagon zm in a loxia format that fixes the smearing issues on that lens.

    Just my 2 cents but overall thanks for putting this review together.

    1. Dear Tony,
      thanks for sharing your point of view on that lens!
      I agree with many of your above mentioned points (especially contrast), but regarding coma and
      corner resolution I must say there are (albeit rare) times when I am not using a tripod, like in the evening during a strawl through a city.
      With the Nikon 20mm 1.8G or the Loxia 21mm 2.8 I can take a handheld shot at 2.8 and still get very good edge to edge sharpness and unobstrusive coma, with the Loxia 35 this is not the case.

      If I had to choose between the 35mm 2.8 and the 35mm 2.0 I would probably also go for the Loxia, but I think the used price (which is around 700-800€ in Germany) is better at reflecting the value of this lens.

      Regarding the 35mm 1.4 ZM: count me in 🙂
      For me this is one of best 35mm lenses out there to date.

      Bastian

    1. Dear Geoff,

      thanks for your feedback and sharing some of your photos taken with the 35mm 2.8!
      I wish we had as many choices with other focal lenghts, too 🙂

      Bastian

  2. The Sony/Zeiss Distagon 1.4/35 ZA T* FE is heavy and big but it could be the best 35mm ever made! For that reason alone I think you should test it. The reviews out there are incredible.

    1. Dear Thomas,
      to be honest I don’t think there is the best 35mm ever made.
      To talk just about one aspect I would clearly distinguish between the best 35mm for landscape use and the best for portraits.
      With straight aperture blades you get wonderful sunstars (as is the case with the Loxia), which is great for cityscapes, but I would totally prefer rounded blades for any kind of portraiture work.
      Which gets my to the point, why there are so many reviews out there I don’t like:
      Many reviews are only about the technical aspects – which are of course important – but lack the connection to real photography.
      I honestly can’t take reviews with only 5 shots from the reviewers living room – or even no shots at all – seriously.
      But in case anyone kindly provides the Distageon 35mm 1.4 FE ZA for review I will gladly do it and maybe I will change my mind about that lens then 🙂

      Bastian

      1. I think Jannik has the FE 1.4/35 maybe you could persuade him to part with it briefly. Tell him his baby is getting bored with this lens being pointed at him!

  3. i do like your reviews mainly centered on the sony A7 cameras but sometimes i find them a little unprecise. for example the loxia 35 is a very good lens for astrophotography but you say it is not suggested for this purpose. i personally find it the best compromise between the so so FE 35 2.8 and the too big Zeiss 35 1.4.
    I finally bought a second hand loxia for € 770 (the price as new is really too high..) and i really think it is an excellent lens (especially for night photography which i do a lot)
    so many times adapted lens show so many defects that it is questionable if it worth the effort to buy an adapter,search for the lens on eBay..etc
    yes,it all comes down to money,but after many many lens i have tried in 20 years of intense amateur photography i came to the conclusion that it is better to have fewer very good lenses than many decent ones.
    Of course this is just my opinion.

    1. Dear Nicola,
      I dont know what you are doing in terms of astrophotography, but you can have a look at what I do: https://www.flickr.com/photos/bastian_k/albums/72157646585487931
      I use my lenses mainly wide open to keep ISO and noise down, so what is important here is decent sharpness at wider apertures right into the corners and the absence of coma.
      Unfortunately I can’t say either about the Loxia 35.
      One could also buy a Sigma 35mm 1.4 Art including adapter for less, which really excels for astrophotography because of the absence of coma even at f1.4,
      although this would never be my walkaround lens on an A7 series camera.

      If you are using your lenses stopped, e.g. with a tracker, you may come to other conclusions, but you will also have to deal with blurred foregrounds and/or use blending or other techniques in photoshop, to deal with this.

      Bastian

      1. Dear Bastian,
        thank you for the reply.
        well yes we have a different approach to night photography. I try to stop down to at least f4 to get the best out of the lens but use f2 to focus (i find that f2.8 lens make the framing a little difficult at night with the A7-A7R). Samyang 35 1.4 is also very good for night photography ( not much different than Sigma’s 35 1.4 apart from the distortion, on the Samyang,which is in my opinion too high.But t’s much cheaper than the Sigma)
        I’m not keen on heavy lenses on the A7 since the camera is so light that it looses sense with a heavy lens attached.
        All this said the Loxia 35 is better than the FE35 2.8 and better than the Samyang 35 1.4 (much less distorted and much lighter).
        Nicola

  4. Thank you for the great review Bastian! Your thoughts are very similar to mine. I’ve had the Loxia 35 for about 6 months now, and I 100% agree with you that the lens is not worth it at retail price. I prefer my FE 35/1.4 in almost all regards except for the obvious size/weight difference. What I’ve found about the Loxia 35 is that wide open, there are also significant spherical aberrations – something that has ruined many of my pictures unfortunately.

    A small thing – your link to your Loxia Flickr gallery actually goes to your Leica 90mm gallery.

    1. Dear John,
      thank you for your feedback (I corrected the link to the flickr album, thanks for noticing! 🙂 ).
      I totally agree on the spherical aberrations (they should also be the reason for the coma performance),
      in daylight they didn’t cause me much trouble actually (although you can see traces of their impact in the lower left corner of the tree branch sample photo, as well as the corners of the black and white photo), but with point light sources in the frame (e.g. cityscapes at night), especially near the broders, this becomes quite the problem wide open and kept me from taking some shots (without a tripod).
      Bastian

  5. Is this lens recommended for purely landscape photography purposes? Very interested in the small size and I am a fan of how the Loxia lenses render with nice microcontrast and sun stars.

    1. I can definetly recommend this lens for landscape and architecture photography where you mostly stop down the lens.
      Sunstars are great and so is microcontrast.

  6. Hello Bastian – thank you for your helpful reviews! Have you used this (or other Loxia lenses) for infrared? I have an A7R converted to 850nm IR, and I wonder how this lens’ resolution compares in IR to Canon or Sony-Zeiss 16-35/4 at 35mm. In both of the latter, it’s a bit soft in IR, just as in normal use, but one never knows what results may occur in IR. For example, my Zeiss ZE 15/2.8 is no better than the two 16-35/4 zooms when used for IR! Thanks.

    1. I am sorry, I have no experience with IR photography. You might want to check if there are any information on the ZM 35mm 2.0 Biogon, as the optical formula is quite similar and same may be the case for the IR performance.
      Bastian

  7. I am torn between this lens and the Voigtlander 35mm f1.7 ultron VM.
    I don’t think field curvature will be a problem for me, but what about sharpness and contrast? Is the zeiss much better?
    Thank you.

  8. Bastian: Just some thoughts – The boats along the near side of the pier, in particular nearer the center of the image, are very soft, as is the boat in the lower center, and what appear to be birds? Not so with the edges along the same plane. Judging by the water that appears to be receding at the left side lower center, I’m guessing a longer exposure and some movement in the water is causing this? Otherwise, I think the lens is performing quite well. I just purchased a Loxia 35 (used) and will likely move my Sony Zeiss 35 2.8, I’m sure. Also, I’m moving from my “adapted” Zeiss glass to native mounts for my A7R II, as most would concur results will improve with elimination of an adapter. Thanks for the review!

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