The ZEISS Batis 2.8/135 is the fourth lens in the Batis range and the first 135mm for Sony cameras with an E-mount. It is also the longest telephoto lens with a fixed focal point that you can buy for this system. On a Sony camera with APS-C sensor, such as the A6300 or A6500, you have a very nice long telephoto with this handy Batis, which you can continue to enjoy if you ever switch to a Sony with a full-frame sensor such as the A7III or A7R III.
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LONGEST E-MOUNT TELEPHOTO: ZEISS Batis 2.8/135
A 135mm on full frame is a good medium telephoto lens that can also be used for portraits, although you have to take a few more steps back than with the more usual 85mm portrait lenses. You can, however, also use the ZEISS Batis 2.8/135 on Sony’s APS-C cameras. On APS-C, you only use the middle part of the image field, so the effective field of view corresponds to that of a 200mm. Then you are talking about really serious telephoto effect. With a 200mm, you get much more compression in your image and you get that nice, flat telephoto effect in, for example, landscape shots. You can also use a 200mm nicely to isolate details or bridge distances. With this Batis on a Sony APS-C camera such as the A6300 or A6500, you have an ideal combination for pop photography, for example, from the audience perspective or for the shooting indoor sports. The choice of f/2.8 for the brightness means it is a relatively light and compact telephoto. And f/2.8 is pretty bright for a 200mm-equivalent lens. This lens is only available in Sony E-mount and has, like all Batis lenses, autofocus. And just like the Batis 1.8/85, the 135mm has optical image stabilization. Zeiss does not include this in the type designation, but it is certainly there. The new Batis 2.8/135 is, just like the other lenses in this series, also extra-well sealed to prevent penetration of dust and moisture.
The Zeiss Batis 2.8/135 has the same modern and minimalist design as the other lenses from the Batis series. This design is strongly reminiscent of the excellent ZEISS Otus lenses. Unlike the Otus lenses, the Batis lenses do have autofocus and are also lighter and smaller. A unique feature of the Batis is the very classic focal length in combination with the brightness of f/2.8. Most 135mm lenses being released now are brighter and therefore bigger and heavier. The ZEISS is not very light or small either but is still nicely balanced on the relatively small and light full-frame cameras from Sony. On the even smaller A6500 and A6300, it is a hefty lens. The build quality of the Batis is very good. The lens feels very solid and has no play anywhere. The only control element is the wide focus ring. That ring is nicely dampened so that manual focusing is also very nice. That focus is ‘fly-by-wire’, as it is called. By turning the ring, you send a signal to the camera, which in turn controls the autofocus motor. It works great. The only minus is perhaps that the whole lens is quite smooth. Even the focus ring has no profile. If you want to change lenses on a rainy day, you have to pay extra attention to prevent them from slipping out of your hands. Just like the other three Batis lenses, the 2.8/135 also has the beautiful OLED display that shows the set distance and the depth of field.
The Batis is not equipped with printed or engraved markings for the distance setting or the depth of field. Zeiss has come up with something unique for this: an OLED screen on the lens. This shows in black and white the set distance in meters or feet and the depth of field at the set aperture. The advantage of an electronic system is that the information can adapt, and the Batis takes advantage of that. The clear display of the depth of field in feet or meters gives you, as a photographer, a lot of control over the positioning of the focus in the shot. The advantage of an OLED display is that it can be read well both during the day and in the dark and that the information adapts to the sensor used. This means that when using a Batis lens on an APS-C camera like the Sony A6500 or A6300, you will see different values for the depth of field than when you use the same lens on a full-frame A7.
The Batis 2.8/135 has an Apo-Sonnar design. A characteristic of Sonnar design is that the lenses often have a nice bokeh. That beautiful bokeh is clearly visible in our practice shots. Blurry light sources have nice soft edges, and the inside of the bokeh balls is also very nice and soft. The lens design consists of 14 lens elements that are divided into 11 groups. One of the lens elements is apochromatic. That makes this no ordinary Sonnar, but an Apo-Sonnar. Due to this element, chromatic aberrations are minimal. Both in our lab tests and in practice, you do not actually see any chromatic aberration, even without lens corrections. The lens is therefore outstandingly designed. Partly because of this, the sharpness is particularly high. In jpeg, there is virtually no difference between the different apertures. In RAW, the lens scores slightly lower without corrections at full aperture. The reason is that the Batis at f/2.8 in RAW has about 1.6 stops of vignetting. You can leave that, so that you get a natural vignette that can work very well in portraits. Or you can have it corrected automatically.
It is not marked as such, but the Zeiss Batis 135 mm f/2.8 does indeed have image stabilization. This image stabilization works together with the built-in image stabilization in the new Sony cameras, but it is also a solution on, for example, the Sony A6000 that has no stabilization. With the image stabilization, you should be able to book a profit of about 4 stops. On an equally stabilized body we could indeed get sharp shots with much slower shutter speeds than was possible without stabilization. With a little practice, about 1/15th of a second should be possible.
The autofocus is one of the trump cards of the Batis. ZEISS makes a series of Loxia lenses for the Sony cameras with E-mount. Those do not have autofocus. The autofocus of the Batis does its job well but is not very fast. In the test lab, it was apparent that there were some differences in the focus when we focused on one subject ten times in succession. In practice, however, almost all shots were very sharp. With three-dimensional subjects, you will therefore not soon see these differences.
ConclusiON: REVIEW Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8
- High image quality
- Little distortion
- Solidly built
- Built-in image stabilization
- Weather resistant
- Smooth design is not always practical
- Not particularly bright
- Hefty price
Batis outclasses zoom lenses with brightness, construction and image quality, also on APS-C.
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The Zeiss Batis 2.8/135 is a unique lens. Many photographers now prefer the ease of use of a zoom. But zooms that are somewhat close to the dimensions and weight of this Batis are less bright, and the picture quality is also inferior. The Sony GMaster is just as bright and also has good image quality. But such a big, heavy, white telephoto zoom is not really well balanced on a compact Sony A6500. The Batis 2.8/135 is a very good alternative. It is a real telephoto on APS-C. It is sharp and bright and also lighter, smaller, black and therefore more discreet.