This week, I got a deal on a Zeiss Batis 1.8/85 from KEH that I couldn’t pass up. So good was the deal, in fact, that I picked up a Sony A7RII to use this lens. I’ve been very happy with the use and results from my Sony RX1RII with the Zeiss 2/35 and I was eager to get back to my favorite portrait focal length of 85 mm. The buzz around this lens was so good that I had to give it a go. I had a handful of large format lenses I was no longer using, so I sent them off to KEH for store credit (which adds a 5% bonus to your trade-in), waited a couple weeks for a mirrorless lens sale to come by, then pounced on this lens.
The Nerdy on the Zeiss Batis 1.8/85
Aside from the Zeiss 2/35 on my RX1RII, this is the only fully autofocus lens I have owned from Zeiss and my first in the E-Mount system. Previously, I have owned or used everything in the ZF.2 (Nikon) mount as well as the ZM (Leica) mounts, but they have all been manual focus only. So seeing this sleek design with just one rubbery ring was a whole new visual experience – and a beautiful one at that. OK, let’s talk specs for a brief second on a handful of technical stats on this lens.
- Developed specifically for the Sony E-Mount mirrorless system
- Lens Design: Sonnar
- Length: 85 mm
- Aperture: f/1.8-f/22
- Minimum Focus: 0.8 m
- Elements / Groups: 11/8
- Angular Field (diag. | horiz. | vert.): 29° / 24° / 16°
- Length: 92 mm (105 mm with cap)
- Filter: 67 mm
- Weight: 452 g
- Features: Autofocus + Image Stabilization
- Cost: ~$1199 US
Build and Design
The weatherproof full-frame lens is sculpted to an elegant and smooth design. At 452 g, the Zeiss Batis 1.8/85 has some weight to it, but such a solid feel with its metal construction and high grade plastic hood. Mounted to my A7RII (640 g), the weight is fairly balanced in my hands. The rubber ring is easy to grip in all conditions and rotates smooth (click less). The lens has a built-in OLED display which gives focus distance and depth of field readings (you can display these in metric or imperial systems).
Autofocus and Image Stabilization
Autofocus on the Zeiss Batis 1.8/85 is zippy for my standards. From the minimum focus to infinity, it’s just a half second. And silent at that speed to boot. In bright light as well as in shadow, it seemed to have no trouble nailing it. Based on the pixel size of your sensor, the lens will display the accurate focal distance and depth calculations on the OLED display. As an aside, this bright readout is a dream in the dark.
Manual focus feels very smooth as well. Gripping the rubber ring and turning quick gives a very short focus arc. But if you decide to rotate the ring slow, you gain a large sweeping arc for fine tuning your focus. I like that it has the intelligence to know if I need speed or accuracy.
Though the Mark II line of A7’s have built in body Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) it’s great that the Zeiss Batis 1./85 has OIS it as well. This can be enabled or disabled through the camera. For me, this means shooting in lower light without bumping the ISO.
So, how does this lens really perform with all that electronic wizardry? Excellent. The lens is sharp at all apertures and, wide open, focus is spot on with edge to edge sharpness. I feel surgical sharpness happens at f/8. I see little to no chromatic aberration in even the most extreme conditions. Vignetting isn’t an issue in typical Zeiss fashion.
As a portrait lens, I feel you are getting what you expect. The skin tones are marginally muted and warm, though slightly cooler than typical Zeiss glass. It is really close to how I adjust the color in post and is the combination I prefer for my work. I also find this a great walk-around lens in town that handles the vibrant New England colors like a champ.
You really can’t talk about this lens without mentioning the legendary Zeiss bokeh. This lens did not let me down. The bokeh, to state a cliché, is buttery smooth. The Zeiss Batis 1.8/85 gives the professional rendering I expect in a high-quality portrait lens; separating your subject from the background and giving the image a real pop. I see no worming or odd orbs, just a very eye-pleasing field out of focus background.
The Zeiss Batis 1.8/85 is just a wonderful portrait / short tele lens for the Sony E-Mount. It has a solid build and consistently performs to my high standards in regard to speed, sharpness, and bokeh. For me, it was an excellent first lens in my new E-Mount kit and know this one isn’t going anywhere.