Review: Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4

Introduction

carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review
Sony A7rII with Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 Sonnar

Before the newest entry of the Loxia line was introduced we were guessing what combination of focal length and maximum aperture it might feature: 90mm 2.0? 100mm 2.0? 85mm 2.8? 100mm 3.5? We were all wrong as none of us had an 85mm 2.4 on his list. When the first pictures and the technical data appeared many were put down by the maximum aperture and especially size and weight. The mtf-graphs on the other hand look very promising with hardly any sharpness falloff towards the borders, putting this lens in the territory of the Leica APO-Summicron 90mm 2.0 or even the Zeiss Otus 85mm 1.4 on paper, which both cost two to three times as much. So let’s find out what Zeiss’ newest lens has to offer!
Last Update: 12/28/16: review finished, conclusion updated, new sample images added

Sample Images

carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review venice italy bokeh panorama
Sony A7rII | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/2.4 | panorama from 4 shots | higher resolution
carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review portrait head shot black white
Sony A7rII | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/2.4 | full resolution
carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review portrait head shot concert big band
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/2.4 | full resolution

Specifications / Version History

The Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 is the newest offering in the Loxia lineup following the 21mm 2.8, 35mm 2.0 and 50mm 2.0 and is to my knowledge the first 85mm with a maximum aperture of 2.4 made by Zeiss. It has the following specifications:

    • Diameter: 62.5 mm
    • Field of view: 28.63° (diagonally)
    • Length:  94.8 mm
    • Weight: 594g
    • Filter Diameter: 52 mm
    • Number of Aperture Blades: 10 (straight)
    • Elements/Groups: 7/7
    • Close Focusing Distance: 0.8 m
    • Maximum Magnification: 1:7.2
    • Mount: E-mount

You may also have a look at Zeiss’ official page.

The lens costs 1399€/1399$ and availability is somewhat limited right now, your best chance therefore might be getting one of ebay.com (affiliate link).

Handling / Build Quality

carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review
Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4

The build quality of the Loxia is very nice and the most part of the lens is made of metal, but with nearly 600g it is also much heavier than the other Loxia lenses. 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 ~220° from infinity to 0.8 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/2.4 to f/11. One can also “de-click” the aperture ring to make it stepless which I think is mostly interesting for filming purposes. Unlike my Loxia 21mm 2.8 my sample of this lens does not feature a hard infinity stop, infinity is a bit before the mark.

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.
The included hood is also mostly made of metal and quite large.

Vignetting

carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review sharpness resolution contrast vignetting

Wide open there is visible vignetting of roughly 1.9 EV, stopped down to f/4.0 it is merely ~0.8 EV and from f/5.6 (~0.4 EV) onwards negligible. There is no Lightroom profile for correcting this yet.

Sharpness

infinity

carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review sharpness resolution contrast

You can also download the full resolution shots here.

By f/11 you start loosing details to diffraction, otherwise it doesn’t really matter which aperture you use between f/2.4 and f/8.0 for center and midframe, the differences are pretty much negligible in my book. The corners are best at f/5.6 and f/8.0, but already very good at f/4.0 and usable to good at f/2.4. The houses in the corner crops already look quite good wide open, but the fine detail in the trees is lost. Also be aware I have increased the exposure on the corner crops for f/2.4 and f/2.8 in post to match the others.

close focus

carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review sharpness resolution contrast

The performance near the minimum focus distance is excellent as well, even wide open with the 42mp A7rII and looking at 100% crops. In the center I can hardly see any improvements on stopping down further.

Flare resistance

carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review
Sony A7rII | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/8.0

Most of the time flare resistance is very good, as in the shot above. Nevertheless, with a low winter sun this is the worst I have seen from this lens so far (I haven’t used the hood for this shot):

carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review
Sony A7rII | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/2.4

Bokeh

carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review bike bokeh
Sony A7rII | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/2.4 | full resolution

Sonnar lenses are known for their very smooth bokeh and this seems to be also true for the Loxia 85mm. But with a maximum aperture of 2.4 it just isn’t as easy throwing backgrounds out of focus as it is with faster lenses (see comparisons below), especially when not being super close to your subject.
Probably because of the small diameter of the lens the cat’s eye effect – describing light discs becoming ovals towards the borders and corners – is quite pronounced.

Comparison Loxia 85mm 2.4@2.4 <-> Loxia 85mm 2.4@4.0:


Before: Loxia 85mm 2.4 @ 2.4 | After: Loxia 85mm 2.4 @ 4.0

Comparison Loxia 85mm 2.4@2.4 <-> Leica Summicron pre-Asph 90mm 2.0@2.0 (same distance to subject):


Before: Loxia 85mm 2.4 @ 2.4 | After: Leica Summicron pre-Asph 90mm 2.0 @ 2.0 (shot from same position)

Comparison Loxia 85mm 2.4@2.4 <-> Leica Summicron pre-Asph 90mm 2.0@2.0 (same size of subject):


Before: Loxia 85mm 2.4 @ 2.4 | After: Leica Summicron pre-Asph 90mm 2.0 @ 2.0 (shot from different positions for same subject size)

Comparison Loxia 85mm 2.4@2.4 <-> Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0@2.0 (same distance to subject):


Before: Loxia 85mm 2.4 @ 2.4 | After: Jupiter-9 85mm 2.0 @ 2.0 (shot from same position)

Coma

carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review coma correction koma point light sourcesWide open and stopped down to f/2.8 point light sources towards the borders are visibly deteoriated. Stop down to f/4.0 and the problem mostly goes away.

Sunstars

carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review sunstar sunstars blende blendensterne starburstFrom a Loxia lens you expect well defined 10-stroke sunstars and the 85mm definetly delivers here. From f/4.0 onwards the sunstars are as beautiful as on the other Loxia lenses. Of course this comes down to what rendering you prefer, so decide for yourself!

Distortion

carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review sharpness distortion

There is only a small amount of pincushion distortion. A Lightroom profile is not available yet.

Chromatic aberrations

longitudinal

carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review
Sony A7rII | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/2.4 | 50% crop, minimum focus distance

The correction of longitudinal CA (loCA) is pretty good, only slight traces of magenta and green outlinings are visible. Below is a real world stress test.

carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review loca ca chromatic abberations aberration
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/2.4 | full resolution

Focus shift

carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review focus shift sonnar sonar Sonnar designs are known for a few characteristics and one of the more unfavourable ones is the tendency to show some focus shift issues. Focus shift means that on stopping down the plane of optimal focus shifts, so to get best possible results at f/4.0 with an f/2.0 lens it might be necessary to stop down to f/4.0 first and then focus. On the Loxia 85 the focus plane might shift a little bit towards the camera on stopping down if you are splitting hairs, but it is in fact nothing to worry about with this lens.

Alternatives

Leica Summicron M 90mm 2.0 pre-Asph
I have been using this lens for quite some time now and I really like it. It is small, it is fast, bokeh wide open is nice, sharpness and contrast are very good stopped down. But it also features a whacky aperture diaphragm (see review) which produces not-as-nice-as-Loxia sunstars, sharpness at closer distances is not really good wide open and the work against bright light certainly isn’t something to write home about. Corner to corner sharpness is not as good as the Loxia either. It is a tough call between these two. If you are merely looking for a portrait lens that might stir you towards the Leica, if you are looking for a very high resolving landscape and architecture lens you are probably better of with the Loxia.

Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8
I haven’t used this one myself but I know you will be asking for it anyway 🙂 Despite the same focal length these lenses are very different and in case you need AF you have your answer already. Regarding the optics the Batis is no slouch either, but because of the use of aspherical elements you might spot some onion rings in the bokeh and from the first comparisons I have seen the Batis is not as high resolving as the Loxia. I still think to a majority of customers the Batis will look more appealing as it is faster, lighter, cheaper and offers AF.

Sony GM 85mm 1.4
I haven’t used this one either but Jannik is at the moment. It is 1 1/2 stops faster which is a lot, it is also about 200g heavier and for the price of a new Loxia you might even find a used GM. This really comes down to what you want to shoot, if you need f/1.4 you know it and you will be way more interested in this lens than the Loxia.

Canon EF 135mm 2.0L
Even with a decent adapter this lens is cheaper than the Loxia and offers great across the frame sharpness as well. But it also allows for a much shallower depth of field at the same time. It is of course way bigger and a bit heavier, but if traveling light and small, flare resistance and rendering of sunstars are not your main concerns, this is seriously worth a look.

Tokina AT-X Pro 90mm 2.5 Macro
A macro lens reknown for it’s beautiful bokeh. Have a look at Phillip’s review.

Other 85mm lenses:
There are some more interesting 85mm lenses which we didn’t lay our hands on yet: the Leica APO Aspherical Summicron 90mm 2.0, all the Leica Elmarit (90mm 2.8) and Summarit (90mm 2.4/2.5) lenses, the Zeiss ZM 85mm 4.0, which is said to be a very good performer stopped down, and of course the many legacy lenses. From the mtf graphs I have seen I doubt any of them will beat the Loxia when it comes to resolving fine details, but if that really matters (to you) is a completely different question.

Conclusion

good

  • excellent sharpness (already wide open) at all distances across the whole frame
  • bokeh
  • sunstars
  • correction of longitudinal CA
  • distortion
  • build quality
average

  • flare resistance
  • size
  • vignetting
not good

  • price
  • weight
  • coma correction until f/4.0

There are 3 native E-mount 85mm lenses available now and I think this one will have a hard time appealing to potential buyers as it won’t win any numbers games: Maximum aperture? Too slow. Weight? Too high. AF? Nah. Price? Too high. Size? Too big.
I think the average customer will pick the Batis 85mm 1.8 while the bokeh lovers will pick the GM 85mm 1.4 anyway.

So, who is this lens aimed at? I think people looking for maximum image quality who don’t need a faster aperture and therefore do not want to pay the size, weight and price penalties that come with the Otus lenses. This lens is quite similar to the Loxia 21mm 2.8 in terms of contrast and corner to corner sharpness, in case of the latter I tend to say even better. And sharpness is great across the whole distance scale, at infinity and at the minimum focus distance.
The quality of the bokeh wide open is also very natural as the lens features many special glass elements with anomalous partial dispersion but not a single aspherical lens element, so you won’t encounter any onion rings making it actually a nice “allround” lens.
There is hardly any real flaw, flare resistance is not perfect, coma performance wide open isn’t great, but for an 85mm lens the latter is not of real importance to me.
All in all a very well behaved lens that won’t appeal to too many people because of the moderate maximum aperture and of course the price.

Personally, I have now replaced my trustworthy Leica Summicron 90mm 2.0 pre Asph with this lens. For my shooting the benefits (especially sharpness at closer distances, shape of aperture blades and color rendition) easily outweigh the half stop I am loosing. But also keep in mind: for really shallow depth of field photography I am using my Canon 135mm 2.0L.

Sample Images

carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review bike bokeh
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/2.4 | full resolution
carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review architecture sunset
Sony A7rII | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/5.6 | full resolution
carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review bike bokeh
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/2.4 | full resolution
carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review
Sony A7rII | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/2.4 | full resolution
carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.4 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review
Sony A7rII | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/2.4 | full resolution
carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.0 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review bokeh close mfd minimum focus distance macro
Sony A7rII | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/2.4 | full resolution
carl zeiss loxia 85mm 2.4 sonnar sony a7 a7r a7r2 a7rm2 alpha alpha7 review portrait head shot black white
Sony A7s | Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4 | f/2.4 | full resolution

About me

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. You may follow me or take a look at my flickr-account http://www.flickr.com/bastian_k or visit my homepage http://www.fotoworkshop-bw.de  (only available in German).

Further Reading

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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.

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29 thoughts on “Review: Zeiss Loxia 85mm 2.4”

  1. Gosh I’m surprised by how much larger the bokeh balls are from the Summicron Pre-Asph; it’s just a little bit slower and a little bit longer, but I guess the two together add up…

  2. I wonder how this compares to the contax g 90mm f2.8, which is much cheaper. Looking forward to your updates!

    Also the voigtlander 75mm f1.8 seem to offer good size/ weight for pairing with a7 series.

    1. I second the need for a comparison with the 90mm Sonnar G, and would add the 85mm 2.8 Sonnar CY (slightly less sharp than the 90 but with better color rendering IMO).

      I have and love the 21 Loxia, so that is probably my answer right there.

      1. I’ll third this – only because several Sony users I’ve talked to / discussed online, when this Loxia was announced being a rather slow lens, said “This will have to be significantly better than the Contax G 90 to earn its keep.”

  3. Thanks. Very interesting comparisons.
    [I think the Jupiter and Loxia images have been swapped with respect to the description]

  4. Just bought a Voigtlander Color Heliar 75 2.5 and i am really surprised by the quality of the lens on the A7r. It’s a small and light lens too ! Yes,there is some fringing but it is easily removable. And of course it’s €250/300 vs €1400 of the Loxia…
    Sure it won’t be as perfect as the Loxia but i suggest you do a review of the lens in the future because it is quite surprising.

      1. I’m a big fan of colour heliar too.
        It does have a lot of LoCA wide open which is not super easy to remove, but stopped down its killer sharp across the field at mid distances.
        At wider apertures it’s not super contrasty either.
        On multi day hiking trips I tend to bring as a core pair either a 35 and the Heliar, or a 50 and the ZM 4/85.
        Actually the ZM 4/85 is something you might want to review: perhaps not as great as the Loxia 85, but half the weight, and I doubt if the quality difference would be visible in a print.

          1. Wow how did you guess I had those two?
            I haven’t done controlled tests – but my impression is that the Zeiss has a lot more contrast at all apertures, though stopped down resolution is likely similar. The zeiss deals with backlight much better. I think the Zeiss is better wide open than the V is stopped down to f4, but they are getting close at f5.6. The V has worse colour correction – Lots of LoCa at wide settings, and bit more corner CA stopped down.

        1. Thank you for the answer David ! I was attracted by the Zeiss 85 f4 but finally bought the Voigt 75 f2,5. Cheaper,lighter and faster aperture. I find it a good/very good lens. I mainly shoot landscape so sharpness at infinite is important. Would like to try the Zeiss but they are rare on eBay and cost around €500. I bought the Voigt for € 250
          Regards
          Nicola

  5. Wow very nice review. Can you make a “Zeiss in House Battle” of the 85 Loxia and the 85 Batis… Same Pricerange Same focal length.

    Thanks.

    ps: ich dat review net op deutch jefunden … ob schreibst du jetzt nur noch auf englisch?

    1. We will try to get a Batis 85mm for that comparison 🙂

      Most of my reviews are only available in english, as most people understand it and it takes quite a bit of time to translate them, which I rarely have.

  6. • SMC Pentax FA 77mm f1.8 Limited (full frame; famous for bokeh; weight: 270 grams)… and • HD DA Pentax 70mm f2.4 Limited (full frame from around f4.0; aperture blades: 9 rounded; weight: 130 gram ‘pancake’). 64 & 63mm in diameter, aluminum construction, and very amenable to smooth manual focus operation. 7 and 6 elements respectively: the resultant color, micro contrast rendering, and 3D effect at all apertures demonstrate the benefit.

  7. I miss the Samyang 85 f1.4 in your list of alternatives. Very nice Lens (same weight) but 1.4 and the best Bokeh you might get (same level as the GM).
    LG, Reinhard

    1. I have included almost no f/1.4 lens in the alternative section (except for the GM).
      If you are looking for an f/1.4 lens you will not be interested in the Loxia and I think vice versa it is the same thing.

      1. I can understand your aproach but the Canon 135 is even more displaced when comparing light 85’s.
        But for me it is of course a question of alternatives. I prefer a light setup (using the Voigtländer 15 III, the Sony FE28, FE 55) and hoped for a light 85 f2 with a weight around 300g. But with a weight of 600g it is no alternative to my Samyang 85 wich I add to my kit for weddings. A good modern manuell 85 lens with a decent weight is still missing (I hoped the loxia would fill this gap).

  8. In which place would you put the Tokina AT-X 90mm 2.5 Macro in the row of the alternatives? Is this lens comparable despite its age?

  9. hi,
    nice review! i have a question: how does the loxia compere with the zuiko 100 2.0, especially on the ar2?
    i do a lot of architecture, but i would like 2.0 for people (and cats!), so i’m in doubt, wich one would be the better choice.
    i wish you a happy new year
    joachim!

  10. There is something special about the Loxia lenses’ rendering. Pictures look classy with subtle and special beauty that sets them apart from other lenses. That being said, I’m happy with my Batis 85mm and 25mm, and I don’t think I will ever acquire that 85 Loxia. I am considering replacing the 25mm with the Loxia 21, but even this is not an easy decision to make. It is annoying that the weakest loxia, the 35mm, is the one that makes most since in the entire lineup. I wish it was anything near the 21 or the 85 optically.
    The three native 35mm for Sony suck, each in its own way. The ZA 1.4 is gigantic and not very impressive wide open. The ZA 35 f2.8 is slow and produces flat images that look like the ones taken by a cellphone camera. Loxia 35 is perfect in size but not really sharp wide open with a lot of SA….. Zeiss, please give us a Batis 35 f1.8.

    1. I don’t think the Loxia 35 is as bad as most people say it is,
      but of course I would also prefer if it was more like the 21mm and the 85mm.
      Oh, and there is a reason I am using the 35mm 1.4 ZM now, as I
      absolutely share your view on the other native 35mm lenses…

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