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The Zeiss Batis 18 mm f/2.8 is the most wide-angle lens in the Batis series from Zeiss. The Batis lenses are lenses with a fixed focal point and autofocus especially for the Sony cameras with E or FE mount. On a full-frame A7 or A9 camera, this lens works as an extreme wide-angle, but you can of course also use it well on a high-end APS-C model such as the Sony A6500. Then this lens is a moderate wide angle with fantastic image quality.
The Zeiss Batis 18 mm f/2.8 is a light and compact super-wide angle for the mirrorless cameras from Sony. In terms of image quality, on the other hand, the lens is a heavyweight that can compete with the best and that already seems to be ready for cameras with more than 50 megapixels. On the APS-C cameras from Sony, such as the A6000, A6300 and A6500, this lens has a field of view that corresponds to that of a 27m on full frame. That is a nice focal point that is very popular for documentary photography. You get a bit more with it than with a moderate wide-angle like a 35mm on full frame, but you also do not have the extreme perspective as with a 24mm on full frame, which means that people are stretched out a little less in width. In short, on APS-C you get a lot in frame, without too much perspective distortion that you get with more extreme wide angles. The Zeiss Batis 18 mm can therefore also be used on APS-C. In terms of dimensions, it is more of a lens for the A7 or A9 cameras and, when we look at the price, we might find it a shame to use this lens only on APS-C. But if you want the best for your APS-C camera or you have a full-frame Sony body in addition to APS-C, then the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 is a must.
The Zeiss Batis 18 mm F/2.8 is perfect on Sony’s APS-C models.
In addition to the Batis 18 mm f/2.8, Zeiss has four other lenses in the Batis series. These are the 25 mm f/2, the 40 mm f/2, the 85 mm f/1.8 and the 135 mm f/2.8. The Batis 18 mm f/2.8 has the biggest field of view of the five Batis lenses. The Batis is not the only 18 mm from Zeiss. An 18 mm f/2.8 is also available in the Zeiss Milvus series. The 18mm Milvus is only available in a Canon or Nikon mount and weighs – depending on the version – at least twice as much as the Batis. Without the adapter you need to use a Milvus on a Sony, the lens is more than an inch longer. And the Milvus, just like the Zeiss Loxia’s for Sony E mount, can only be focused manually. The Batis is therefore smaller and much lighter and has autofocus as well. This makes it a very attractive lens if you are looking for a good wide-angle for your Sony. We found the image quality on full frame to be very good. And if you only use the center of the image, it will only get better.
BUILD AND AUTOFOCUS
The Zeiss Batis 18 mm f/2.8 is compact and light. However, Zeiss has not made any concessions on building quality. The lens is extra-well sealed against dust and moisture and can be used in all weather conditions. The Batis lenses look like a smaller version of the famous Zeiss Otus lenses. The streamlined design is very modern and minimalist. The curvature of the lens is continued in the form of the lens hood. You can clearly see that it is one whole, both functionally and aesthetically. The lens does not have a separate aperture ring, only a wide focusing ring. The only thing that the focus ring does is send a signal to the camera when you turn it. It is therefore not directly linked to the focusing motor. But the ring is nicely dampened. In line with the minimalist design, the focus ring does not have grooves or other profiles. The disadvantage of this is that you cannot feel where the focus ring is with the camera held to your eye. And with wet or slippery hands, you have to be careful when changing lenses that you don’t drop the Batis.
The lens does not have image stabilization. That is not common with these types of focal points, and it’s not necessary on the Sony A6500 because that camera has stabilization in the body. On the Sony A6300, A6000 and the models without viewfinder like the A5100, you have to do without image stabilization. Make sure the shutter speeds are fast enough or use a tripod to get the maximum quality out of the lens. The autofocus of the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 works very quickly and – as you would expect on a mirrorless system camera – also very accurately. If you focus manually, you can automatically use the magnification of your focus area for maximum accuracy.
The Batis does not have 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. For example, the indication for the depth of field adapts to the sensor size. The screen can also be read in the dark and can be switched off when needed.
VIGNETTING, FLARE AND DISTORTION
There are hardly any lens errors with the Batis 18 mm f/2.8. Chromatic aberrations are virtually absent and can be easily corrected if necessary. The Batis has no problem at all with backlighting, and reflections are well suppressed. Vignetting is a bit visible. For a wide angle, that’s not strange, and you can almost say that a bit of vignetting at full aperture is a kind of characteristic of Zeiss lenses in general. On APS-C, it’s not bad, because you do not get the full-frame corners in your image. In RAW, the vignetting is about 1.3 stops, and in jpeg, it’s corrected to less than 0.8 stops at f/2.8. That is almost negligible.
The distortion on APS-C is of course also somewhat lower than on a full frame. In RAW, we measured it at around 1.2% barrel-shaped, and in jpeg, it’s reduced to less than 0.5% pincushion-shaped thanks to the lens corrections. Only in the most critical architectural shots will you see any of it, but it’s not much. If you want to reduce it all the way to 0, you can of course do that in post-processing.
The Batis 18 mm f/2.8 has already surprised us on full frame with its high image quality. And that also applies to the Batis 18mm f/2.8 on APS-C. The lens scores great immediately at full aperture. The center sharpness is high immediately at full aperture, and the corners hardly lag behind. After stopping down one stop, you are actually already at the maximum quality. However, the differences between all apertures up to f/11 are very small, and really negligible in a practical sense. In fact, you can use this lens with confidence at any aperture up to f/11, and you don’t need to stop down to achieve optimum quality. You choose the aperture solely on the basis of the required depth of field.
CONCLUSION: REVIEW Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8
Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 is also on APS-C one of the best-performing wide-angles we have ever tested.
The Zeiss Batis 18 mm f/2.8 is not cheap, and you can also buy a more compact but less bright wide-angle zoom for this amount, such as the Sony 10-18 mm f/4. You then compromise on image quality. That of the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 is so good that we can’t imagine it will be surpassed quickly. If you’re looking for the ultimate image quality from your Sony A6500 or you have an APS-C camera as well as a full-frame model from Sony (or you’re thinking about that), then the Batis is a fantastic moderate wide angle for APS-C, and you can use it as an excellent extreme wide-angle full frame as well. And the lens is more than worth its price. The Zeiss Batis 18 mm f/2.8 is one of the best-performing (super) wide angles that we have ever tested, both on full frame and on APS-C.