12 Top ZEISS Lenses 2018
ZEISS’ reputation for building excellent optics precedes them and with well over 100 years in the business, it’s easy to see why their lenses have so many fans.
Since 1890, ZEISS has been producing lenses for photographers and ePHOTOzine has reviewed quite a number of them to date but as of yet, we’ve not compiled a top list of our recommended ZEISS lenses but that’s where this article comes in.
Below you’ll find the lenses, out of all of the ZEISS optics we’ve reviewed, we believe are the best. Several factors are taken into account, including the overall scores, price and how each model performs.
If you don’t see your favourite ZEISS lens on this list it’s either because we’ve not reviewed it yet or it didn’t score high enough to knock the other lenses from the top 12.
You can read more about each lens that’s featured in our top list over in reviews (click the lens name to take you to the specific review) and you should also take a look at our news section where you’ll find all of the latest ZEISS news.
1. Zeiss Batis 40mm f/2 CF
Quality, lack of compromise and elegance of design. These are the things that characterise the new lens, one which I have found very exciting to use. It also does not fall into the trap of being clinically sharp without having that indefinable character. It manages to be crisp and clean in terms of its images, but they also have the sparkle that gives that emotional element. Sometimes this is referred to as “pixie dust”, the magical extra ingredient that makes great lenses.
Thus the new Zeiss Batis 40mm f/2 CF lens justifies its price tag and it has that extra quality that makes it an Editor’s Choice.
2. Zeiss Milvus 15mm f/2.8 Distagon T*
15mm lenses are beautiful to use and offer unique results. There are several excellent choices on the market, and ZEISS enthusiasts will welcome this moisture and dust resistant lens. The Milvus 15mm f/2.8 Distagon T* offers excellent sharpness while creating virtually no CA or flare. Bokeh is lovely and the lens offers excellent ergonomics so it feels great in use.
3. Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 Apo Sonnar T*
The Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 Apo Sonnar T* lens is a beauty, of that there is no doubt. It oozes quality and there would appear to be little downside to it. It’s definitely a lens to aspire to and, if it can be afforded, to put very high on the list of possible purchases.
4. Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8 Distagon T*
The temptation may well be there to go for the wider 15mm lens at the same price, or one of the alternative 15mm offerings. However, the Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8 does offer a smaller, lighter lens that is easier to focus and handle and may even be more universally useful. It is not a lower cost option but the optical performance is virtually the same. This leaves the lens as a very tempting option that could be a superb travel and landscape companion.
5. Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4
The Milvus 85mm f/1.4 is, without a doubt, a superb lens. It is fairly bulky, quite heavy, but well balanced and it is a gorgeous example of fine engineering. But above all, the fast 85mm is a very exciting lens to use, offering a very pleasant perspective on the world, whether for portraits, landscapes, street photography, close-range sports or any other short telephoto applications. The wide aperture offers the ability to continue shooting as the light fails. There’s no AF, but the other qualities shine through and certainly justify giving it very serious consideration.
If the price can be afforded and the lack of AF is acceptable then the Zeiss Milvus is one of the very best 85mm lenses available.
6. Zeiss Milvus 21mm f/2.8
The Zeiss Milvus 21mm f/2.8 lens is a very fine example of quality lens manufacturing. Its main drawback may be the lack of AF, but if that can be accepted then its optical quality is impeccable and it would be difficult to find a more pleasing lens to use. Yes, the price may seem high, to some, but we would expect it to be a very long-term investment and spread over many years hard use that price may well be acceptable. All-in-all, the Milvus makes a very powerful proposition.
7. ZEISS Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA
The ZEISS Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA offers a very high standard of performance, including very appealing bokeh, and a superb level of sharpness throughout. In terms of quality of results it speaks for itself, and if the price can be afforded then the lens should offer many years of excellent service. This is another superb lens from the Sony/Zeiss lens family.
8. Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 Distagon T*
The Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2 is just a lovely lens. The design and handling are a pleasure and the results ooze quality. The OLED display is an innovation that looks to be actually quite useful and the construction quality is impeccable. The price, for us, looks as though it’s at the right level and it’s definitely a lens Sony Alpha 7 series owners can aspire to.
9. Zeiss Loxia 25mm f/2.4 Distagon T*
The Loxia range is an attractive proposition, with useful focal lengths and, if the 25mm f/2.4 is anything to go by, excellent qualities. The new 25mm f/2.4 is compact, beautiful to use in a most traditional way, full of the tactile high grade feel that is rarely seen. Some may question the manual focus, but with this lens, it is so easy to find the point of focus that with minimal practice it should soon become second nature. Admittedly that will not suit everyone.
All in all, a lovely lens that matches well to the Sony FE full frame mirrorless cameras.
10. Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar T*
The Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 is another lovely lens. The design and handling are a pleasure and the lens is certainly built well. The only thing not to like is perhaps the price, but it starts to look much better value when pitched against other premium quality lenses. This Zeiss lens certainly delivers the goods for Sony 7 users.
11. Zeiss OTUS 55mm f/1.4 APO Distagon T*
If the objective is the best possible technical quality then there is no doubt that here is a lens that’s probably as good as we can get. It’s not a compact travel lens, it’s not weather resistant, so as a constant companion it might well be a burden. In the studio, it will excel.
The lack of autofocus may also be a drawback as manually focusing the lens is very critical and quite difficult to get right every time. Inevitably, when standards are so high we will become more and more critical and it becomes obvious when we are even slightly astray.
If the need for this quality is there and the price is within range, then the answer is very clear – buy the Zeiss OTUS 55mm f/1.4 APO Distagon T*.
12. Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO Distagon T*
In 28mm optics, because of its f/1.4 bright aperture, the Zeiss Otus is really on its own. The quality is magnificent, but the bulk and weight are both very high so we would need to be very sure that we needed that f/1.4 aperture rather than the f/2 alternative that Zeiss themselves offer.
If we need the fast aperture and we can afford the price, then quality is not the obstacle. The only other consideration is the sheer weight and size as it is not a casual lens to carry. But overall, in terms of the quality of results, it scores very well.