Zeiss Loxia 85/2.4 vs Zeiss Batis 85/1.8 vs Sony FE 85/1.4 GM vs Sony SAL 85/1.4 ZA. Battle of 85mm lenses for Sony E Mount – Comparative Lens Review
Sample Gallery and Conclusion
In the sample gallery, you should find portraits made on the comparative purpose. The intention wasn’t to check the sharpness or amount of the bokeh, but to try to get most out of each lens. Most of the shots were taken wide open, even if in the real life, I will rather used aperture stopped down to at least f/2.8. For larger files please visit Flickr Album
All four tested lenses are superb, especially for their main intended purpose – portrait. Sharpness should be for once deeply buried at the end of the preference list, since there is little to ask for. Nevertheless, there are many other relevant differences that should be taken into consideration. My impressions and recommendations are as follows.
Sony FE 85/1.4 GM
Superb portrait lens with slightly lower micro and global contrast (which might be a good thing for portrait), very smooth out of focus rendering, high quality plastic coat on metal framing, that seems to be very durable and is lighter and more pleasing to hold than metal. This lens comes at the premium price, but you can enjoy all benefits of advanced Sony AF features, such as eye AF (very useful for arranged portraits). It is big and rather heavy though, so if you are shooting portraits casually, you should consider some more compact solution. While in my testing, Sony FE 85/1.4 GM wasn’t sharpest of the bunch (could be sample variation?) it was always more than sharp enough. Color accuracy was very good and at right WB setting, skin tones were pleasing. Auto focusing is fast enough for portraits, but not for sport or fast action, where massive optical elements are limiting its speed. Lens has least mechanical vignetting which results in nice regular circular highlights toward image borders. There is some focus breathing though that might be a problem for video creators. All in all, this is lens for advanced, demanding photographers, who are looking for both – speed and beautifully balanced rendering for portraits. Highly recommended if you can afford it.
Sony Planar T* 85/1.4 ZA with LA-EA4
This is today, sort of budget option, if you go with second-hand market. If you have adapter, lens itself can be found in good condition for around 900 EUR. That is great bang for the buck, because Planar has plenty of sharpness and character to deliver. Beside cumbersome adapter, which also limits most of the advanced AF features, its main “problem” is purple fringing. Otherwise it is surprisingly sharp already at f/1.4 and it has very smooth bokeh with least focus breathing problem. Without adapter it is much more compact than Sony FE and also somewhat lighter. More compact size for transport (with the adapter packed separately), can be very important sometimes. Color accuracy is however shifted toward warm tones. Flare resistance is exceptional. I can recommend this lens (I own it myself) for everyone who wants high quality optics at great speed and reasonable price. There are some limitations as listed above, but sharpness is explicit and overall character rather unique.
Zeiss Batis 85/1.8
AFAIK the only AF portrait lens from Zeiss. Contemporary design made of light metal, lot of glass and soft rubber, makes this lens outstanding in appearance. Batis is fastest auto focusing lens in this test, suitable not only for static but also for medium speed moving subjects. It has somewhat more pronounced vignetting and traces of pincushion distortion, but it is very sharp up to the corners, with great contrast and accurate color rendition. It features slightly slower aperture at f/1.8, but it’s ability to isolate subjects is not affected. Batis is a great choice for every photo enthusiast especially for Zeiss lens lovers. New Sony FE 85/1.8 might come close in optical performance ,but with Zeiss you have guarantee that your lens was individually inspected to fulfill most rigorous production demand, that colors will be matched not only within same product line, but across all older, recent and hopefully future product lines and that you will always get great product support if needed. This would be my lens of choice for the family portraits.
Zeiss Loxia 85/2.4
Loxia is unique lens in many regards. It is made for those of us who enjoy manual focusing at its best. It is clearly addressing video makers, offering attributes of a great importance – compact size, superb build quality, ensuring longevity, greatly dampened focusing , Zeiss geared rings accessory , de-clicking of the aperture ring, full exif recording. Loxia is bitingly sharp from its widest aperture with great contrast, color accuracy and flare resistance. It does show some vignetting though and I would like to see improved grip for mounting the lens (whole body is focus ring which rotates when you try to mount the lens) but those are very minor issues. Loxia is also very compact, it is made to be carried and used instead of displayed on the shelf. It fits Sony A7 series so greatly that you simply don’t want to put other lenses instead. I own Loxia 21/2.8 and 35/2. Loxia 85/2.4 is out if my budget recently, but I have no doubts that it will find the way to my bag sooner or later. Loxia 85/2.4 alone, or as part of the Loxia collection is a superb lens for travel photography.
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Thanks for all your hard work in doing this. Of these I have the Batis which I really enjoy and the Voightlander which, despite some flaws, is quite light and renders well. I also have a C/Y Zeiss 85mm 1.4 and the Helios 40-2 which is based on the Jena that you prefer. I am interested in the Loxia, which the budget may one day allow, as the Loxia 50mm I own is a personal favorite.
Hi Chris, you have lovely collection there. While Batis does everything very well, Loxia is certainly attractive on its own way. I’d love to own one myself.
Thanks a lot, Viktor! This must have been a very hard comparison. I used the Batis and the GM. The Batis is sharper wide open as you mentioned in the review, but the bokeh is harsh at some situations (and great at others). Currently I’m keeping the GM until Sony releases a 135mm 1.8 for FE, because this is my favorite portrait focal length.
I think Sony marketing campaign overhyped the 85 GM. It’s kinda soft wide open, and gets to the level of sharpness I like at around F2. It is less than what I expected really, but the bokeh is better the Batis, that’s why I’m keeping it (for now).
thank you for your comment. I tend to agree about Batis bokeh, but for the Sony FE, I think it is great lens in fact. As I said at the beginning of the review, all of those lenses are much ahead of my needs and competence, but Sony FE has very nice rendering of OOF areas and slightly lower contrast (in comparison to Zeiss), which makes it distinctive portrait choice. Batis however has faster AF, Planar is cheapest and sharp as hell and Loxia is smallest. Before you go with expected Sony 135/1.8 (shouldn’t take too long AFAIK), you might want to check new Batis announcement. I can’t say what it is until it is officially released, but since I had it for the test, I can say that it is exceptional lens in every regard. Give it a try if you can, when it comes. I promise you won’t regret 😉
You tested the new Batis 135 and you think it’s an exceptional lens in every regard? WOW
Thanks, Viktor for the Batis teaser 🙂 I think it will be announced tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to it.
That being said, the sample shots I saw so far showed a bit harsh bokeh, but you are one of the few lens reviewer I trust, so I will definitely give it a try. I already put my GM on sale because I really cannot stand the size and wight. I will continue to use the Apo sonnar with metabones until I can get that Batis 🙂
Victor, is that Sony 135/1,8 information based on just a guess or do you have some information that there is one coming up? I’m trying to decide if I should get the Sigma 135mm + adapter or hold off until there is a native sony lens. I don’t want to wait more than 6 months. Thanks
let’s call it a rumor and threat it as so. Even when we know something, things can rapdidly change (firmware problems, production optimization, delivery prospect etc.) so just go ahead with what is recently available. I will certainly consider also Sony SAL 135/1.8 (if you are after super fast aperture), since it is very good lens that you can have for as low as 1000 USD (second-hand) and if/when Sony E become available, you can re-sell it with a small loss. With new Sigma, you might lost a bit more and I wasn’t impressed by its bokeh from the sample images that I have seen so far.
If you can live with f/2.8, Batis 135/2.8 is a superb lens.
Thanks Viktor, much appreciated. By the way I am a big fan of your review style, it’s very comprehensive. Keep it up!
Thanks Maciej, we will try!
Thanks, Viktor for the Batis teaser I think it will be announced tomorrow, so I’m looking forward to it.
That being said, the sample shots I saw so far showed a bit harsh bokeh, but you are one of the few lens reviewer I trust, so I will definitely give it a try. I already put my GM on sale because I really cannot stand the size and wight. I will continue to use the Apo sonnar with metabones until I can get that Batis
Hi Yasser, Batis 135/2.8 review is online now and you can check many sample images in VBL review here. As for the bokeh, it is neutral with well corrected aberrations – there is no sphero-chromatism (colored highlight outlines and no significant stroking of highlights either). Highlights are also free of artifacts such as onion rings and the only downside is pronounced mechanical vignetting causing cat eye highlights toward image edge. Bokeh is smooth and in combination with great sharpness and hogh micro contrast it delivers superb subject isolation.
Thanks a lot, Viktor! I read the review, and it’s a good lens, but the price is crazy, given how similar it is to the Samyang.
If your GM is soft wide open, return it because that is NOT how this lens performance. I did not pay that amount of money for a soft lens…if it was, I would have sent it back. Mine is fantastic!
It’s not soft, I never said that, it is slightly softer in comparison to Planar ZA in the center, but IMHO it is deliberate design choice. In comparison to other two lenses (Batis and Loxia) it is a bit apples to oranges, since it is much faster lens. It is indeed great lens, enjoy yours!
The 85mm GM is just a beast!
🙂 I assume you have it. Congrats!
Another comparo tour de force, Viktor, thank you. 3D Kraft did an excellent early comparo of O85 and B85, and I concur with your views on these two. I shoot travel (street portraits and scapes) and favour slower, simple design lenses, so the L85 is a lay down misere for me. People miss that ‘found’ human subjects (esp. strangers, esp. women) react very differently depending on the ‘frontal area’ of (mainly) lens diameter.
MTF wise, L85 is Milvus85 level IQ at half weight/size and has better corners. Needs no distortion correction in post. It’s true Sonnar design (no asph) with CZ’s very good APD glass (hence the high weight for 7/7 manual lens). I feel very fortunate to have one. Typical Zeiss micro color/micro contrast and deadly infinity results at f5.6-f8 too. Feels bomb proof, ‘industrial art’. cheers.
I agree Philip, Loxia is little (relatively speaking) gem. I bet it will keep its value better than its electronic peers over time.
Thanks for the comment and support,
Fantastic article Victor. Maybe the Loxia one day.
Thanks David, I wish you get one!
Very good comparison in deed, thanks Viktor! Nice to see the ZA 85 included in here, the first wow-lens I ever got. Great to see that it holds its own against the new designs (despite its flaws). I dont have it anymore as it was stolen from me and when I switched from A to E mount I got the batis and later the GM as well. It somehow still has its place in my heart, as the later two never really replaced it completely. It had this special something for me… Dont get me wrong, the later two are great (batis for traveling GM for serious work), but still, sometimes I miss the ZA rendering…or perhaps its just nostalgy 🙂
Thanks Jozef, It might be the lack of focus breathing what makes Planar ZA special. At the minimum focus distance, it is capable of creating larger highlight circles in comparison to GM at the same conditions, which makes subject standing out more/differently from the background. It is also very sharp (at least my copy), but it suffers from heavy CA. I like it to.
The loxia is simply breathtaking! I could live with any of them, but give me the loxia!
Great lens for sure!
Hi Viktor and thank you for your objective reviews. In this article on the specifications page there’s a small typographic misplacement of filter diameters (should be Batis 67mm while Loxia is 52).
Again thanks for all you efforts.
Thank you Harout for your kind words and spotted fault. I will correct it asap.
Best review ever