The Zeiss Loxia 2.4/85mm is a short telephoto lens in terms of focal point. At the same time, it is the longest Loxia in the series. It is a unique lens: without autofocus but with an aperture ring. It is compact and very solidly finished. And the image quality is phenomenal. On APS-C, this 85mm works like a 135mm on 35mm and is a real telephoto lens.
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For the connoisseur: Zeiss Loxia 2.4/85mm
An 85 mm is mainly purchased as a portrait lens because of the nice working distance when taking portrait photos and the beautiful background blur that you get due to the often high brightness. The Loxia 2.4/85mm is different. Of course, you can make portraits with it. But the lack of autofocus and therefore automatic focusing on the eye means that there are better choices for portraits. The brightness is also not terribly high. And on APS-C, the Loxia 85 mm does not work like a short telephoto, but like a 135 mm on 35 mm. Hence, like a real medium-long telephoto. You buy the Loxia with an APS-C camera mainly to get the typical compression of the perspective that is characteristic of medium-long telephoto lenses. It is primarily a beautiful lens for travel reporting and landscapes. The Loxia is modern and classic at the same time. Classic because it only has manual focus and an aperture ring. Modern because the design and finish are up-to-date and because the optical design has been specially adapted to the mirrorless Sony cameras.
The aperture ring is more than just a design joke. You can adjust the aperture with this ring when the camera is built into a film rig. There is also an option for videographers to have the aperture not click. This allows you to adjust the aperture steplessly. The Zeiss Loxia 2.4 / 85mm is the fourth model in the Loxia series. The other models are a 21mm f/2.8, a 35mm f/2 and a 50mm f/2. They are compact and – very unusually – all have the same diameter. They are lenses for the connoisseur. For photographers who love quality. Who love lenses that focus silky smoothly and render with razor sharpness. The Loxia 2.4/85mm has no image stabilization. Because it has to be compared on APS-C with a 135 on 35 mm, image stabilization may not be a superfluous luxury. This makes the A6500 the ideal APS-C camera for the Loxia.
The Zeiss Loxia 2.4/85mm is a beautifully built lens. It is slim but quite long for an 85mm. The diameter is exactly the same as the other three Loxias, which is handy if you use a rig for video work. When switching lenses, you can just leave the follow focus where it is.
The weight is higher than you would expect. The Loxia is a combination of quite a bit of glass and a lot of metal for the housing, and you feel that. The focus ring is large and turns smoothly and feels like it will keep doing that for years. The focus has hard stops for distance and up close, that’s a relief relative to many of the modern “fly-by-wire” focus systems. Of course, it’s also nice when using the lens with a follow focus in a video setup. The aperture ring is not unique to the Loxia lenses. Some Sony GM lenses also have one. What is unique is that the Loxia does not have a mode in which you can also choose the setting on one of the wheels on the camera. On the other hand, with Loxias, setting the aperture can also be clickless. You do that by turning a small screw in the mount. Of course, Zeiss delivers the key needed to do this. A clickless aperture is nice when filming. Then you can steplessly adjust the exposure while recording. You can of course also fit the aperture ring with a toothed belt for use in a rig. In that way, the Loxia is actually a cine-lens and a photo lens in one.
The Loxia 2.4/85mm is also well sealed against the elements and naturally has an extra gasket on the mount. We have a few points of criticism as well, even though they are small. The main point of criticism is that between the immense focus ring and the aperture ring, there remains a very thin edge of lens that does not turn. That’s too thin and too smooth for handling the lens well when you want to change lenses. You are therefore forced to turn the focus ring to its hard stop to remove it from the camera. An example of how Zeiss should have solved this can be found on almost all Nikon’s manual focus lenses: a ribbed metal ring that does not turn and with which you can handle the lens. A second point is that the center of gravity of the lens is fairly far forward, and the balance on the camera is not entirely optimal, certainly not in combination with the lighter APS-C cameras. These are small points that do not diminish the phenomenal quality of this Zeiss Loxia.
The image quality of the Zeiss Loxia 2.4/85mm is virtually perfect. Immediately at full aperture, it achieves very high values over the entire image field and that virtually does not change with stopping down. Distortion and chromatic aberrations are almost completely absent. The only difference in the image quality that you see with stopping down is that the vignetting decreases. It is not high in RAW at full aperture, but it still decreases slightly to f/5.6. In jpeg, the vignetting, due to correction in the camera, is already quite low at full aperture, and after stopping down, it only decreases. Aside from the vignette, you choose the aperture you need just to control the light and to get more or less depth of field. We have seldom seen a lens with such even scores that are also so high. The Zeiss Loxia 2.4/85mm is an exceptional lens.
Of course, this 85mm lens, with a maximum aperture of “only” f/2.4 has a disadvantage in bokeh relative to brighter sort-mates like the Sony 85mm f/1.8, the Zeiss Batis f/1.8 and the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM. The bokeh balls of the Zeiss Loxia 2.4/85mm are therefore smaller than with other 85mms at full aperture. But the quality of the bokeh is really beautiful. The edges of the bokeh balls are generally nicely soft, and the middle is beautifully even without onion rings or other structures that can make the image restless. Even if you do not have any light sources in the background, you will see that in the background blur. Branches and leaves in the background melt away beautifully softly.
ConclusiON: REVIEW Zeiss Loxia 2.4/85mm @ APS-C
- Fantastic image quality
- Beautifully built
- Clickless aperture as an option
- Smooth focus
- No autofocus
- Aperture not adjustable on the camera
- No image stabilization
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Zeiss Loxia 2.4/85mm: Fantastic build and image quality for connoisseurs, also on APS-C
The Zeiss Loxia 2.4/85mm is a phenomenally good 85mm. But it is not a jack of all trades that we would recommend to everybody. The brightness is less high than with alternative 85mms, and it has no autofocus. Those who can look past that (or wants to) have a fantastic lens with the Loxia 2.4/85, both mechanically and optically. And it is also an excellent choice for photographers who film a lot, or videographers who also like to photograph.