Zeiss Loxia 50/2 review

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37 Responses

  1. Martin Martin says:

    Great review—a thoroughly enjoyable read.
    I already have too many lenses at overlapping focal lengths, but I am still interested in the 35/2.

    • Hi Martin,
      from my brief touch on Photokina, Loxia 35/2 loos very promising. The question do I need it however, is… another question 🙂 I hope to get it soon for testing.

      Regards,
      Viktor

  2. Marek says:

    It is very interesting to read about the optical optimisation on Loxia for the protective glass on A7 series. I’ve seen a photo by Steve Huff with A7s and Sonnar C 50mm 1.5 and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it (without Sonnar being optimised). Considering you are a Sonnar fan, can you comment on how this lens perfoms on A7 series in your eyes?

  3. Hi Marek,
    I believe there are few reasons why you saw a photo from Steve Huff with A7s and Sonnar C 50/1.5 and not noticing anything wrong with it.
    1. If you are talking about photo in his A7s review, you can’t see anything wrong because the target is not flat. The astigmatism caused by sensor protective glass affects mostly corners and edges. But to see how bad they are, you should shot flat target wide open. In a real life, you will rarely find a need to do something like that (except in astro photography or some specific copying work), so it doesn’t really matter.
    2. Sony A7s has much larger photo sensels that are capable of collecting more light than its densier brothers A7 and A7r. In other words, Sony A7s is much less prone to problems caused by steep light rays hitting the sensor.
    3. Zeiss Sonnar is not pure symmetrical design such as Biogons e.g. it is more tele-centric. That means that due to less steep light rays projection, the protective glass refraction causing astigmatism is not as much pronounced.
    4. Wider the lens of symmetrical design, more pronounced astigmatism will be. When I tested on Photokina Loxia |35/2 and 50/2, improvement in corners was much more significant between Loxia 35/2 and Biogon ZM 35/2 than between Loxia 50/2 and Plannar ZM 50/2. That can be seen from my tests too.

    I like Sonnar design more, but I haven’t used Zeiss C 50/1.5 ZM on Sony FF yet. I tested it with the chart, but that lens was never meant to be sharp across the frame like Plannars e.g. On the other hand, for some reason I like it more on my film Leica than on digital. It shows more character with nice BW film at 400 ISO, than on any of my digital bodies. I am not scanning my film works, so I can’t show it, but you’ll find many samples on the web.
    Don’t forget that Sony FE 55/1.8 ZA is Sonnar type too 🙂 While I usually don’t like lenses with high accutance, that lens is exception.
    From all lenses above however, I like most CV 50/1.5 Asph. But to be honest, comparing images with model above, even I would have hard time to tell them apart without reading description. That’s how close in a real life, most standard lenses are…

    Cheers,
    Viktor

    • Ernst Haas says:

      Hi Victor. Very nice review. I have to agree with you in terms of CV 50/1,5. Awesome rendering and for people no comparance to the other lenses. Probably not as sharp (sitting on my Ipad I can’t tell for shure) as Sonnar 1,8 and Loxia but by no means clinical and very lifelike. Would have liked to see also an example of the Cv from the model on the garden bench. Slightly cooler and therefore curious how it looks like. Is the Cv also great for landscape work? I relly think hard to replace my FujiX-T1 with a A7ii. Since returnimg to D810 I simply miss something in my Fuji files. I once tried the A7r but couldn’t live with the shutter shock and flickering view finder.
      Regards Ernst.

      • Hi Ernst, thank you very much for your kind words.
        In my experience, CV is very good for landscape at apertures from f5.6 and smaller. It’s peak performance in terms of even sharpness across the frame is at f/16, but due to the diffraction I suggest to move around f/11 if possible. It has good flare resistance (keeping nice contrast) and good micro-contrast with (as you mentioned) slightly cooler colors.
        There are certainly better landscape lenses (when extreme sharpness is needed across the frame), but most if not all of them are much larger and usually more expensive.
        My A7r sits on the shelf and I used it occasionally for lens testing mostly, but very often I have to throw away obtained results because of the shutter shake… Let’s hope that Sony will bring improved version and uncompressed RAW (or lossless compressed) in the near future.

        Cheers,
        Viktor

  4. Pontus says:

    Very informative and detailed review, presented in a hilarious and very personal way! Loved reading it, thank you!

  5. michal says:

    Hi, thats really great review! thanks a lot. I would like to ask you if you also wrote a review on CV 50mm f1,5 on A7 body? If so, I can’t find it on your web page.. Do you think its a good option for a7? I love its rendering and look but isn’t it too soft even stopped down in corners? How does it compare with loxia 50 or other fast primes? thank you!

    • Hi Michal,
      I haven’t made the review for CV 50/1.5 Asph. yet, and I am not sure that I will, because of the time reasons. We have to focus on rather main stream items to increase traffic on our site, because we need finances to keep it alive.
      To your question – CV 50/1.5 is ok on A7 stopped down to f/5.6 and smaller. I don’t remember how it deals with flares though.
      Cheers,
      Viktor

  6. Herman says:

    Enjoyable review, read nearly all of it, although the Loxia 35mm will likely be the lens I will go for, should I buy me a Sony A7 (II)! And I’m hoping for a Loxia 25mm or rather a 21mm as an addition.

    I’ve never understood what people do need AF in wide angle shooting for.

    My questions:
    Is focusing by wire really such a cumersome and unprecise matter your basketball court example suggests?
    I’m considering to attach some of my Contax SLR lenses at the Sony A7. What’s your opinion as to IQ with lenses from the film era?

    May I call your attention to a mistake of yours? It’s Planar (and not Plannar) – or do you want to fall out of favor with the Zeiss folks? 😉

    Cheers,
    Herman

    • Hi Herman,
      thanks for mentionning Plannar. I will try to correct it where its possible. Focusing by wire depend on the lens, but in general it is nowhere near mechanical geared focus in terms of control and fine adjustment precision. The best is of course if you can try it somewhere, because it is kind of subjective opinion.Your Contax SLRlenses should do very well on Sony E. With A7II you can also have image stabilization if it matter to you (slightly heavier body though and probably more possibility for potential elctronic failure). I have following Contax C/Y lenses – Planars 50/1.4 and 1.7 – good, typical Zeiss rendering, Distagon 28/2.8 – very good without significant corner problems, but I would avoid A7r, 60/2.8 Makro Planar, Sonnar 80/2.8 and 135/2.8 – all very good.
      I believe that Sony E mount is great for playing with those legacy lenses. You can find many gems among them.
      Cheers,
      Viktor

  7. Frank Adamo says:

    Fantastic review! I asked Zeiss to comment on whether the Loxia 50/2 was designed for maximum sharpness at the image plane like other modern Zeiss lenses, or for “smooth transition to out-of-focus areas” as was claimed for old zeiss lenses (pre-Contax/Yashica). I’m waiting for their reply. What’s your opinion on the “3D” quality of very old zeiss vs. the newest Zeiss lenses?

    • Hi Frank and thanks for comment. Zeiss experts says that it was designed for classical look, whatever that means. In reality however, I was never huge fan of Zeiss Planar design, but I liked very much their Sonnar design for its character and Distagons for their crispness. Just check new Otus lenses, they are both Distagon based.
      If I would have to describe Loxia 50/2, it would be something like Mercedes C class car. There is very little that you can criticize about its performance, but not enough to say WOW. That famous Zeiss 3D will depend very much on lighting, background and colors, but the high micro-contrast of Loxia 50 will certainly help it. If you like manual focus or you shot lot of video using Mf as professionals do, I would highly recommand Loxia. If you are photographer looking for charismatic or specific rendering, I would probably look elswhere. Not because Loxia is bad, but because it is sometimes too good 🙂

      Cheers,
      Viktor

  8. Ted Bowling says:

    Frank, excellent review. Thanks for your hard work.

  9. Amin says:

    Fantastic review. Thank you.

  10. gr says:

    Skin texture on that woman looks filtered way too blurred looking and unprofessional looking.

    • You might be right GR, but I couldn’t spend much time on retouching them all, so it went with the batch process. I like super smooth skin anyway (you’ll find it in most of my portraits, because on the prints sking gets a bit of the texture from the matt paper, and as you can read in the preface, I noticed that skin was smoothened. There are other parts of the review where you can judge technical performance of the lens.

      Cheers,
      Viktor

  11. Franky DS says:

    Thank you for your great review, enjoyable to read.

  12. Rob says:

    Excellent review and comparisons. There is no doubt that the Sony 55 is a superb lens, but for some reason, I prefer the rendering of the Loxia 50 in all of the portraits. It might best be described as silky sharpness.

    • Thank you Rob for your kind words. I have similar feelings about FE 55/1.8, but hey, we all see things slightly differently and that’s the beauty of our hobby.

      Cheers,
      Viktor

  13. Bruce says:

    Hello, and thanks for the very thoughtful and detailed review.

    Did you apply the same processing to all images in each batch? I’m noticing some marked differences in contrast and color saturation and I’d like to know whether those variations are caused solely to the lenses themselves or whether there is another explanation.

    • Hi Bruce,
      all images before sample images are processed (just very basic RAW processing, if not stated otherwise) identically.

      If you are talking about sample images with live model, they are procesed similar but not identical. (In the introduction to the sample images part I wrote description of what is presented).

      I tried to give readers both – controlled tests, where you can compare technical aspect of the lenses and free ride – what the images would look like if I process them as I would normally do.

      There are several reasons why there is no much sense in doing same processing or avoiding processing at all, when shooting in a real life condition, but most important are lack of full control of light, distance to the model (live person) etc. Chaging lenses between shots takes some time and lighting can (and usually does) change too, it would be exteremly hard to keep same composition and distance to the model etc.

      As I wrote – sample images are trying to offer a little bit different and much more subjective perspective of the lens review. They don’t have any empiric value however. (But controlled tests in the first part, does to certain extent)

      Cheers,
      Viktor

  14. Fabien says:

    Hello,
    Do you see a real difference between the loxia 50 and the Leica summilux 50 when mounted on a A7II? Beside the fact that the Leica is faster, is there such a huge gap in terms of image quality that would justify to spend that much money for the Summilux? Thanks in advance.

    • Hi Fabien,
      I haven’t tested neither lens on Sony A7MII but their performance on Sony A7 should be similar. As Leica Summilux 50/1.4 wasn’t part of this review, I can only speak about my experiences. Leica’s biggest advantage is the speed itself and the way it renders blurred background. However, as with most Leica lenses, you should expect much better performance on its native body, especially toward edges.
      Loxia on Sony A7 bodies is simply better optically corrected and will deliver technically “cleaner” image, while Leica Summilux might add a bit more of “character” for the portraits (but that will depend on particular lighting and background situation).
      If you don’t need f/1.4, Loxia would be my strong recommendation.

      Cheers,
      Viktor

  15. Fabien says:

    Thanks a lot Viktor!

    In fact I already have the Loxia 50 and I’m very happy with it. But I was wondering about the Summilux for its character. There is also the Zeiss 50 ZM Sonnar 1.5 that I like and could be a complement for different protraits.

    Fabien.

    • Hi Fabien,
      Zeiss Sonnar 50/1.5 ZM is very special lens, but technically speaking, it stays behind Loxia or Sony FE 55/1.8 e.g. especially wide open. Artistically speaking… it’s a matter of taste. I like it very much.

      You might want also to check – “new” Voigtlander 50/1.5 Nokton, or even Mitakon 50/0,95 which will certainly be interesting addition to standard and well corrected 50mm lens such as Loxia 50/2.

      Cheers,
      Viktor

  16. Luis Fernando Frandoloso says:

    sorry, what lens is CV 50 1.5? Voigtlander? thanks

  17. Ulrich says:

    Hi Viktor,

    Nice in-depth review, well done.
    I know this review is relatively old … but I hope you don’t mind that I comment on it.
    – Firstly and foremost, Sony 55, Loxia and Planar 50 are all Zeiss lenses
    – Secondly. it’s not every day that similar lenses from the same company are scrutinized
    – Lastly: since the lenses come from the same mint, it’s no wonder they perform similarly …
    – To my eyes, the results of the chart shots: 1. Sony, 2. Loxia, 3. Planar (no pixel-peeping)
    – There is just one thing that does not add up: Sony’s lens is 55mm NOT 50mm

    I found it a great idea that you also showed some pics with the Voigtländer 50 / 1.5 Nokton !!! Too bad you didn’t include more of those.

    Bottom line: rendering of colors and details was best for Voigtländer and Sony. Please also have a second look at the pics you took in Prague with the highway. The details from the Sony were far superior to the Loxia.

    In other words, in real world experience, not only the IQ of the lens matters, but how you feel with that same pic from a different lens. I would recommend both the Voigtländer and the Sony.

    With the Techart-Pro adapter due to hit the market, you will be able to have AF on all MF lenses, if you’re willing to shell out another ~250+ Euros.

    That’s just my 2 cents worth …

  18. Hi Ulrich and thank you for your comments. Here are few remarks that you might consider:

    1. Sony Zeiss lenses are not Zeiss lenses. The original optical design of those lenses was proposed by Zeiss, but Sony adjusted original proposal for production, added electronics and AF engine and most importantly, they managed production optimization too. This means, that Sony took full responsibility for the look and performance of the final product. Zeiss helped as a consultant in this process and provided final lab measurements. Sony Zeiss lenses are thus Sony lenses, based on Zeiss original proposal. Real Zeiss lenses are designed and optimized by Zeiss (with a help of third party suppliers) and production is under Zeiss supervision up to the QC.

    2. Regarding ISO 12333 chart test, I won’t agree with your conclusion, because it depends on which zone you are exploring. Sony FE 55/1.8 (at f/2) has edge in zones B and D, but in other zones, including center, Loxia is sharpest. From f/5.6 all three lenses are almost indistinguishable with Planar lacking only in extreme corners.
    As you noticed, it is complicated to compare two lenses of different focal lengths, even if 5mm doesn’t mean much at used FL.
    In a conclusion, I would put Loxia and Sony on the same level when it comes to field relevant “sharpness”. Planar suffers a bit on Sony A7x in the extreme corners, but in the other parts it is on par too.
    Pictures that I posted from the city of Prague or from the models can’t be considered as a test of sharpness (amount of detail), simply because there are too many variables that is not possible to control in a real life situations. As I mentioned in the review, those pictures serves just as a guide to the lens rendering tendency, certainly not as a showcase of their best performance. By tendency I mean – level of microcontrast, flare resistance, native distortion, field curvature, axial CA etc. In other words, if you see some differences (except for the sharpness and colors that might be affected by AWB) and you like one look more than other, than this test has some value. IMHO this test shows, how insignificant are technical differences listed in LAB test, when lenses are used for the real life photography.
    I am barely using AF on any of my lenses, including FE 55/1.8 or 70-200/4, but I assume that for most folks out there, Techart-Pro might be popular gadget 🙂 Some reliable testing by serious testers is advisable before purchase and I am curious to see it. There were too much hype about AF adapters (such as Techart Contax G e.g.) which at the end didn’t fill the promise, so I will be careful this time…

    Thank you again for all your comments and verbal support.
    All the best,
    Viktor

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