Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 is one of the best-performing super-wide angels that we have ever tested. The corner sharpness especially is very good for an extremely low focal length. That is remarkable, given the dimensions and the weight of the lens, which is specially designed for the A7 series. And you notice that. It sits nicely in the hand and fits completely with the light A7 in terms of size and weight.
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The Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 is a light and compact super-wide angle for Sony’s mirrorless cameras. In the area of image quality, the lens is a heavyweight that can hang with the best and that seems to be entirely ready for cameras with more than 50 megapixels. Wide and sharp, from corner to corner: Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8. Zeiss makes two series of lenses especially for Sony’s mirrorless models. One, the Loxia series, is manual focus and consists of a 21mm, a 35mm, a 50mm and an 85mm. The other series, the Batis series, has auto focus and at the moment also includes four models: an 18mm, a 25mm, an 85mm and a 135mm. The Batis lenses are relatively light and compact auto focus lenses with high image quality and a modern design.
The Batis 18mm F/2.8 is specially designed for the high-quality Sony A7 series. You notice that.
The Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 offers the biggest field of view of the four Batis lenses. The Batis is not the only 18mm from Zeiss. In the Zeiss Milvus series, there is also an 18mm f/2.8 available. The 18mm Milvus is only available in Canon of Nikon mount and weighs, depending on the version, at least twice as much as the Batis. Without the adapter that you need to use a Milvus on a Sony, the lens is also already more than a centimeter longer. And the Milvus, just like the Loxias, can only be focused manually. The Batis is thus smaller and much lighter and has auto focus on top of that. That is quite a feat by Zeiss.
BUILD AND AUTO FOCUs
The Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 is compact and light. Even so, Zeiss has not made any compromises on build 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 shrunken version of the famous Zeiss Otus lenses. The streamlined design is very modern and minimalistic. The curve of the lens is carried through in the shape of the lens hood. You clearly see that it is both a functional and an aesthetic hole. The lens has no separate aperture ring, only a broad focus ring. That focus ring only sends a signal to the camera and this is not linked directly to the focus motor. Even so, the ring is beautifully dampened. In line with the minimalistic design, the focus ring does not have grooves or other profiling. The disadvantage of that is that you cannot easily feel where the focus ring is when you are holding the camera to your eye. And with wet or slick hands, you have to watch out when changing lenses that you do not drop the Batis.
The lens has no image stabilization. That is not unusual with this kind of focal length, and it isn’t needed on the second-generation A7 cameras and the Sony A6500 because these also have image stabilization in the body. OLED The Batis also has no printed or engraved markings for the distance setting of the focal depth. Zeiss came up with something unique for this: an OLED screen on the lens. This shows the set distance in meters or feet in black and white and shows the focal depth for the aperture set. The advantage of an electronic system is that the information can update, and Batis takes advantage of that. The indication for the focal depth, for example, adapts to the sensor size. The screen can also be read in the dark and can be turned off when that is needed. In the following video, Zeiss shows what can be set and how it works:
VIGNETTING, FLARE AND DISTORTION
Lens errors? Next to a high sharpness, good lenses are characterized by the absence of lens errors. And there are few with the Batis 18mm f/2.8. Chromatic aberrations are practically absent, and can be corrected if needed. The Batis has no problem at all with backlighting, and reflections are suppressed well. There is some vignetting. Certainly at full aperture, the center is somewhat lighter than the corners. In RAW, the vignetting is nearly 2.2 stops, and even after stopping down, it does not drop below 1.5 stops. In jpeg, it is corrected somewhat, and the vignetting is 1.4 stops at f/2.8 and then drops to a negligible 0.8 stops at the other apertures. You can see it as a lens error, but it also gives the shots some character. Vignetting is easy to remove completely with lens profiles in post-editing, but that did nothing to make our practice shots look nicer.
When we reviewed the Batis 25mm f/2, we were already surprised by the high image quality. And that also holds for the Batis 18mm f/2.8. The lens scores great even at full aperture, not only with high center sharpness, but especially with the very good sharpness in the corners. With the introduction of the Sony A7 series, it was soon apparent that many compact wide angles designed primarily for rangefinder cameras did not perform well on the A7 models. With the 18mm Batis, Zeiss shows that it actually is quite possible to design a compact super-wide angle for the A7 that is sharp from corner to corner. The center sharpness is already maximum at full aperture in JPG. Only the corners improve a bit after stopping down. The best results are achieved at f/5.6. In RAW, we see that it is the center that improves a bit. The differences, however, are small, and in a practical sense, negligible. You can actually confidently use this lens at any aperture up to f/11, and stopping down to achieve optimal quality is not necessary. You choose the aperture based solely on the focal depth needed.
Super-wide angles like this Batis are also ideal for shots of architecture and interiors. A condition is that the distortion be low. That is where many wide angles, and in particular wide-angle zoom lenses, struggle. The Batis is not completely free of distortion, with nearly 1.4% barrel-shaped deformation. It is not even completely removed in the jpegs. Those who want to be rid of it entirely will have to apply the lens profile for the Batis 18mm f/2.8 in Lightroom.
ConclusiON: REVIEW OF Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8
- Best corner sharpness of all the wide angles reviewed for this system
- Little deformation
- OLED with focal depth and distance setting
- Compact and light
- Solidly built
- Smooth design not always practical
- No built-in image stabilization
- Price matches the high quality
Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 is one of the best-performing super-wide angles that we have ever reviewed.
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Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 is not cheap, and for this price you can also buy a (less bright) wide-angle zoom. You do give up some image quality then. The combination of high optical performances in a compact, light housing actually makes this Batis an easy first choice for photographers who want to get the most out of the 42-megapixel sensor of the A7R II.