Batis 2.8/18 – Review by Vladimir Morozow
Vladimir Morozow used the beauty of Moscow for testing the new ZEISS Batis 2.8/18. Read his detailed review to see his great photos and find out how content he was with the performance of the Batis 2.8/18.
by Vladimir Morozow
At the Photoforum 2016 trade show in Moscow there was a world premiere of a new ZEISS lens for Sony α7 series cameras. The company announced an ultra wide angle lens, the so-called Batis 2.8/18. For the lens was presented in Russia for my field tests I received a sample with quite a symbolic serial number: 00000001!
In the past few years, I extensively have been using Sony cameras of α7 series for my work. Therefore, it was with great interest that I took up the testing of the new ZEISS Batis 2.8/18 which was a logical continuation of the AF ZEISS lenses lineup with E mount.
Now the ZEISS Batis family includes three lenses: The 1.8/85, the 2/25 and the new 2.8/18. With great pleasure I use the 85 and did quite a lot of commercial jobs with it. I do not use the Batis 25, because in my personal lineup this focal range is successfully covered by the ZEISS Loxia 2.8/21. However, 18mm is already a true ultra wide, so I had to test it to make conclusions of my own.
The Batis 2.8/18 is a retrofocus lens created on the basis of a Distagon construction and enjoying a really great field angle of 99 degrees. The company first used the inverted telephoto lens construction back in 1952 to create the 5.6/60 lens for Hasselblad 1000F. ZEISS has been continuously refining it ever since, struggling with inherent for this asymmetric construction flaws such as for example longitudinal chromatic aberration.
Currently the Distagon is evidently the very best construction of all ZEISS wide angle lenses. Designers do their best using computerized calculations and optical glasses with previously inaccessible features. Just like the other family members, the lens is perfectly assembled. Ergonomic aluminium barrel is dust- and waterproof and according to the designers is made to resist years of use in demanding environment. In my opinion, between all Batis lenses the 18mm has the fastest and quietest autofocus. During the test at times it seemed to me it was constantly focused, and the focus confirmation was just a formality.
I tested the lens using my workhorse α7R II, but it can be used with all Sony E-mount cameras, whether full-frame or APS-C. I’d like to start my hands-on review beginning with the following image since it shows very clearly how the lens draws a landscape perspective from foreground to infinity.
When used for shooting in open spaces the lens — if the image is correctly framed — is able to deliver its full ultra wide potential. I took the next shot on a street of the city, being tightly clamped by the houses. Usually no other lens except for an ultra wide angle is able to show the scope and perspective of such a place. The only thing a photographer has to do in this situation is to level the camera on two axes using the built-in electronic leveling support in the viewfinder.
The picture clearly shows the lens is ‘straight’, rectilinear, without express barrel distortion. All vertical lines in the image remain upright and straight. If the scene is symmetric, a correctly positioned camera gives us a picture with a distinct perspective and without any geometric distortion.
This particular picture shows very clearly that a balanced and richly detailed composition is a real strong point for the Batis 2.8/18, and the following symmetric picture is a perfect illustration of the fact. The lens has no built-in image stabilizer, but the stabilizer of the camera Sony α7R II itself allows to get absolutely sharp images without a tripod at surprising slow shutter speeds.
Due to the effective image stabilization I was able to close the aperture to f/11, and still could shoot the interior of the store handheld at 1/60 sec, with great depth of field and with superior display of detail the lens shows all over the field.
Here is another proof of the high resolution the lens proudly delivers.
These crops clearly show the resolution and depth of field of the lens, which is able to render both pebbles at your feet and objects in the background with superb sharpness.
This image is taken on an evident purpose: to how the lens performs at the minimum shooting distance. The camera is tripod mounted, the lens focusing ring is at the first figure of its scale — 3, the distance to the focal plane is 25 cm (10”).
ZEISS Batis 2.8/18 is a superb example of today’s ultra wide angle lens design. I am sure having seen the test images I took you have no doubts at all in such an assessment.
The legendary German brand successfully used the state-of-the-art technologies to ensure maximum efficiency for a time-proven Distagon retrofocus optical construction. Excellent correction of aberrations and distortion minimizes both internal camera processing and computerized post production.
As a logic result, using the new lens with almost extreme wide angle a photographer is able to put into action all the powerful potential of his mighty mirrorless system camera of today — and undoubtedly of tomorrow as well.