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Friday, 07 April 2017


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135mm is way longer than I almost ever use, but when I shot Contax I picked up a mint-condition f/2.8 Sonnar for a couple hundred bucks. A lovely lens, and I say that as a heretical non-fan of the 85mm Sonnar. They're not much more expensive even now.

This lens exemplifies exactly why I don't shoot Sony any more. While there are nice cameras and now a decent selection of nice lenses in the system the costs of rebuilding my system in Sonyland looked very scary indeed. Yes, there are adapters but these are a a partial solution. A couple of my older lenses (45 & 90TS, 135/2) didn't play all that well with the Metabones and A7r I had.

Given their recent strategy on pricing I have actually started to wonder if Sony really care about sales in a not hugely profitable camera division or just want to showcase their sensor tech...

My guess is that the reason the Zeiss Batis 135mm f/2.8 is priced so high is because of the declining market and Zeiss' small place in it. There are fewer photographers interested in and able to buy the lenses they make, yet there are fixed costs associated with producing lenses at scale. Focal lengths like the formerly ubiquitous 135mm were much lower priced when they were being produced in the hundreds of thousands.

In 1981, the Olympus Zuiko 135mm f2.8 sold for $142.95 at 47th Street Photo in NYC.

Looking at Meleagris gallopavo, I feel like I have a good idea of what the dinosaurs looked like. And what it felt like to have one look at you. Brilliant! (in both senses of the word).

S'funny: 10 years ago you couldn't give away a 135mm lens. It was almost like manufacturers kept them in their catalogue out of habit. Too big and too slow to use indoors handheld without a flash. Not enough reach to use for sports. It was kind of like the king of "fits in nowhere well." My theory at the time was that it was only originally produced because it was the longest practical lens you could use with an optical rangefinder (now, now: no posts from Visoflex lovers. . .). I feel like their lunch got 'et by zoom lenses, kind of like the 50 (but for different reasons).

I think I own a couple because they always could be found in the "used" bin of one's favorite photo dive with stickers on them begging for interest at $69. And me, I have poor impulse control when it comes to screaming bargains on things I don't really need. Maybe I'll slap one on the ol' hoss today and take advantage of mud season/overcast skies.

I view Zeiss' recent effort with respectful awe and disbelief. Kind of like, I would buy it in an alternate universe where it scratched some itch to own the complete line of lenses. Still, if you are going to do it, do it with style.

Here's talkin' turkey at you.

BTW, here is what Wikipedia says about the origin of the name "turkey" for the bird (never knew until today. Thank you, Internet):


Mike, Nope, isn't all good. NO ISO 3 like Tech Pan. No ISO 25 as we had with Kodachrome. No mechanical mirror lock on DSLR cameras as we have use for decades. Also, would like Eye Focus as with the Canon EOS3. That worked well for some of us.
Would love to have these super lenses. Odd though that to get them you revert to Manual Focus rather than trusting all the computer controlled focus modern cameras offer and are stuck with focus screens that, for the most part are not the equal of the basic screens that came with our Canon and Nikon Pro bodies.

I have no doubt that the Zeiss Batis line of lenses produce amazing images. But if I were going to spend $2000+ on camera equipment in pursuit of image quality, I would get the
Sigma sd Quattro H body with a Sigma 35mm (e45.5mm) f/1.4 Art lens. I should be able to capture some very impressive images with that combination also.

I'm not saying don't believe what you see in my images; I'm saying don't believe what you see in anyone's images.

My local brick and mortor dealer rang the other day to advise me the new Sigma 18-135 zoom had arrived, at C$1899.00.
Would i be interested?

Told him actually was seriously thinking of disposing of all my camera gear; the whole process is not enjoyable anymore. And he did note the last time i was in to his shop three weeks prior even using the four-wheel walker was difficult; getting old physically and rapidly is no fun!

Best sell and makes somem oney on the goods.
Film is dead (ditto my photography) so the F100 may well be next on the block.

....."but I'm jealous of people who get to collect and use lenses like the Zeiss Batis series all the same. Just saying'."
Mike, if you were a professional turkey shooter then I could see spending all that money. But it seems like a very seasonal job to me.

Way back when the Nikon EM came out, I bought one for my wife.
She absolutely loved it, The E lenses were all 'sleepers'
I bought the 50 1.8, the 100, 2.8 and the 75-150 3.5. We were both astonished by their quality.
I still have the whole kit.

I can only speak to Minolta from the mid-1970s to the very early 1980s. I started with an SRT model and finished with an XD-11. By the time I got around to getting a 135mm, it was the f/2.8 MD version and it was on sale for $99. I got started with Minolta and the SRT kit with 2/50mm MC bundled in. I wound up loving that combination especially that lens. And I came to trust the "low-end"/low-cost Minolta equipment, around the f/2.8 to f/3.5 maximum aperture. I had no choice at the time because I couldn't afford anything else of comparable quality. But I poured time and soul into learning the art and craft of photography, and the Minolta equipment never failed to deliver.

Which brings me back around to the Batis. This class of current photographic equipment has pushed me completely out of this end of the market due to its high cost. Inflation doesn't begin to address such exorbitant price increases. These lenses, along with the Sony α7 series, have crossed over into the Veblen marketplace, which I refuse to participate in. I will instead learn how to make the best work I possibly can with my Apple iPhone 7 Plus. That smartphone represents the true future direction of photographic equipment.

[This comment applies to BOTH of today's posts! Thanks. --Mike]

135mm has to be one of the most awkward focal lengths known to man. Second only to 70mm. It's always too long or two short.

I quite like the 135mm focal length, possibly because my very first system was a Minolta X-370 with a 50 f/2, and a 135 f/3.5 that I scraped together the coins to buy, as what if I remember right was my very first photographic purchase. The 135mm angle of view turned out to be very congenial to me.

This Zeiss does seem a bit rich but hey we live in a world where you can buy $10000 speaker cables so ...

That said I have an old Rokkor 135 f/2.8 on eBay that no one is buying at my asking price of $30, and it's at least 1.5% as good as this Zeiss ;o)

Funny, just three years ago (to the day) I bought a f:2.0 135 mm Zeiss Apo-Sonnar for Nikon mount for "only" 1775 EUR. And while it's 50% heavier than the Batis the dimensions are very similar ...

For the record, I have a Nikkor 135/2.8 AIS lens that I bought used for about 100 GBP as a lightweight mid-speed tele for my Nikon D810, and a damn nice lens it is too. IMHO f2.8 is plenty fast enough at 135mm, and infinitely preferable to the ultra-large, ultra-heavy, ultra-fast tele primes that no-one in their right mind would carry more than a few hundred yards from the car.

One can dismiss the Batis line as an overpriced series of lenses, but I think there is more to it than that.

As I see it, the Zeiss Batis line is not intended as a budget friendly line of prime lenses. There are many offerings from Sony and Samyang at much more affordable prices. Historically, the premium lens lines included both advanced optical elements with non-standard glass (either material or shape or both) paired with wide aperture design. The smaller aperture designs made do with a simpler and less expensive construction (with the clear exception of Leica M lenses which have never been about value).

The Batis line is interesting for being sharp (even wide open) with controlled lens aberrations in a moderate aperture design. This makes them smaller, lighter, and less expensive than a similar quality design would be in a larger aperture lens.

There is nothing exciting about the aperture for focal length of any of the Batis lenses, but the optical design is not the same as that of the usual moderate aperture prime which is designed to a much more affordable price point. The other supposed benefit of this line is a greater level of quality control and consistency than less expensive production processes allow.

The lens diagram for the 135/2.8 shows 14 elements of which 8 use anomalous partial dispersion glass. This lens also has autofocus, optical image stabilization, and a floating focus group. The popular Samyang 135/2 uses 11 elements of which 1 is an ED element.

Whether they are worth the price is an individual decision and all premium products suffer from diminishing returns relative to cost, but it is worth understanding the details of the product when making an evaluation.

I'm mixed on this lens. I like the fact that it bucks the trend for faster and bigger lenses. Speed is nice, but a bag full of fast lenses is heavy and expensive. The Batis is only expensive, but not heavy for what it does. what I dislike is obviously the price. A lot of camera gear is getting more expensive and whenever canikon replace a lens with a newer model, the newer model costs more than the old. The Batis 135 clearly aims for the high end market, a gamble really since high end slow 135 is a nonexistant market.

But if the quality is really good then Zeiss may be on to something: modest weight and size, fancy IS and sophisticated AF is pushing the boundaries. I don't even need to think about the 1980s, an option like this wasn't on the table even five years ago!

In 1999 Minolta made you pay 2299 DM for the:
MINOLTA STF 2,8 (T4,5) / 135 mm; (exchange rate to dollar was 1:2 at that time) .... so this 135mm premium smooth transition lens should have been priced 1200 $ in the US.

Today I own the Samyang 135/2 for my Sony A7R2. A superb lens that costs 1/4 of this new Batis 135. However, after looking at the excellent review at verybiglobo, The Batis has that Zeiss look I learned to like (and optimize) already in the early 1980's. Batis also has AF and OSS. AF = more keepers. OSS combined with IBIS is very efficient = more keepers. The Batis is also lighter. Optically you can't get anything bettter.....
And it is also affordable!.... Compared to some Otus and Leica lenses that is.
I will sell the Samyang and my Batis 85/1.8 to partly finance the Batis 135. My old Zeiss MF 85/2.8 (Contax) will be used more often.

Put the word "Photography" and the price goes up. Then again i just bought a used Nikon 135 AI manual focus for $100. in greast shape it does the job still works drive nails with it too....

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