Touit and ZM lenses on the Sony Alpha 7R – a good connection
Christian Dandyk likes to work with compact system cameras. And he appreciates the excellent imaging quality of ZEISS Touit lenses. He also feels the new Sony Alpha 7R with full-frame sensor can be easily combined with Touit lenses, which are optimized for APS-C sensors.
Christian Dandyk is a versatile photographer. Dance photography, street photography, portraiture and landscapes, as well as test images with the newest lenses and cameras are all part of his wide repertoire. Around two years ago, he started to switch to compact camera systems with E-mount; previously he had used a full-frame single-reflex camera. “The cameras are nice and light, and ideally suited to my type of photographic work.” The Touit 2.8/12, Touit 1.8/32 and most recently the Touit 2.8/50M became a permanent part of his gear. Since the Sony Alpha 7/ 7R was introduced in the fall of 2013, lenses with E-mount are now for the first time available for full-frame – an enticing option for Dandyk. The larger CMOS sensors offer twice as much light-sensitive surface as the APS-C sensors. This reduces noise, improves the rendering of colors and gives the photographer a higher dynamic range. Moreover, the Alpha 7R does not have an anti-aliasing filter, which increases the sharpness of the images even further. “I simply didn’t want to miss out on such a significant improvement in quality.”
Since he knew the lenses should have no problems matching this quality, it was clear to Dandyk that he could continue using his existing portfolio of ZEISS ZM lenses and adapt them to the Alpha 7R. “The time-proven ZM series not only covers full-frame, but also delivers excellent imaging performance and high build quality. I particularly liked the quiet click-sound when setting the aperture.”
Given these many benefits, Dandyk is prepared to accept some limitations, such as the lack of an electronic connection to the camera. The fact that he has no autofocus when using ZM lenses he also does not see as a disadvantage — quite the opposite: “The long focus throw in combination with the focus peaking and focus magnifier of Sony cameras makes your work as a photographer a lot easier, enabling you to focus more precisely. That even exceeds what many autofocus lenses can do.”
Images like this still-life, detailed shot of the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, in which the transition from sharp to out-of-focus areas as your eye moves towards the back underlines the oppressive mood of this memorial site, demonstrate the performance of the adapted ZM series. “The Tele-Tessar T* 4/85 ZM and the C Sonnar T* 1,5/50 ZM are excellent lenses for the Alpha 7 and Alpha 7R, and as such are my absolute favorites and tip for these cameras. On the other hand, I must say that ZM lenses below a focal length of 35 millimeters can’t be ideally adapted for the A7 and A7R because discolorations can appear at the edges. Also, the sharpness in the edges can weaken with decreasing focal length. This deterioration, however, has nothing to do with a lack of quality of the ZM Biogon, but with how the construction as a whole is adapted. The flat angles of the main beam path of these wide-angle lenses, which were originally developed to be used on rangefinder cameras, cannot be used optimally when adjusted for the image sensors of compact system cameras. In the focal range of 35 millimeters, I like to use the Sony RX1R. This camera, which has a ZEISS Sonnar T* 2/35 that fits perfectly and is already firmly built-in, is hard to beat for this focal length.”
Even in situations where adapting would have been a good option, Dandyk decided to keep using the Touit lenses on the Alpha 7R: “I didn’t want to have to do without my Touit lenses. They not only create excellent images, but taking pictures with the Touit lenses is simply really fun. I have 36 megapixels at my disposal, but only use 15. You might say that’s a waste. But for me and many other photographers it’s usually more than sufficient because you seldom need to make large prints of the images. If, however, you do need to, you can still rely on the FE lenses from Sony/ZEISS, which were developed for the Alpha 7/7R and illuminate the full format: the Sonnar T* FE 2,8/35 ZA, the Sonnar T* FE 1,8/55 ZA and the Vario-Tessar T* FE 4/24-70 ZA.“
Dandyk also likes working with the Touit lenses when taking pictures of buildings. The Touit 2.8/50M allows him to accentuate details, whereas the Touit 2.8/12 lets him capture total views better. “For anyone who wants to photograph city architecture, for example the Sony Center in Berlin, the Touit 2.8/12 is the ideal lens. The images are by and large distortion-free and sharp into the edges.” With 99 degrees (diagonal), the Touit 2.8/12 currently has the largest angular field of any E-mount lens when used on Sony cameras with an APS-C sensor or on the Sony Alpha 7/7R in crop mode. As a result, it corresponds to the angular field of an 18-mm full-frame lens. Larger angular fields on a Sony Alpha 7/7R are currently only possible with adapter solutions (for example Distagon T* 2,8/15 ZE or ZF.2).
This interior view of the Olympic Stadium in Berlin was rather a casual shot, but according to Dandyk shows very clearly the performance of the Touit 2.8/12. “What fascinates me about this picture are the details. When you enlarge it, you can see an enormous amount of detail. The sharpness is simply phenomenal, from the rows of seats in the foreground, where I got up very close, all the way into the far corners of the stadium.”
For studio photography, too, Dandyk prefers the Touit lenses. While taking pictures of the street and breakdance group “Samuels Crew”, he used the Touit 1.8/32 for the first time in such a setting – and was impressed. “Fantastic sharpness, great color contrasts, simply ideal for this kind of shooting.” For the location, Dandyk chose a dance school in Berlin with a unique atmosphere: With the aperture almost closed, the flash, which was reflected in the mirrors of the dance floor, appeared as stars.
“The Touit 1.8/32 creates really wonderful stars. Taking pictures with these lenses in the studio is so much fun. The sharpness is incredible and everything just works perfectly: the colors, the contrast. Also, when I use ZEISS lenses, I know I’ll always achieve a consistent look. If I change a lens during a shoot, the colors and contrasts remain constant across all images. That’s why I’m prepared to make some compromises – good compromises – between the APS-C lenses of the Touit family and the full-frame of the Alpha 7R.”
About Christian Dandyk
Christian Dandyk was 13 when he learned the craft of photography from a professional. From that point on, his dream was to become a photographer himself. But life can often go in a different direction and Dandyk first worked for a management consultancy. He finally fulfilled his original goal at the age of 40. Today he has his own studio, organizes the Alpha Festival for photographers in Berlin in cooperation with Sony, and gives photography workshops.