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Saturday, 21 April 2018


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The issue here isn't so much Zeiss, but Sony, because Zeiss offers several 35/f2 lenses that will work on the Sony A7III via adapters, plus one that mounts natively without an adapter.

You'll have to live without autofocus, though.

Given that today's typical sensor is at least a stop faster than the fastest film back then, and that f/2.8 lenses tend to be better wide open than f/2.0 lenses are wide open, I'd say f/2.8 is the new f/2.0. At least that's what I keep telling myself.

There's a somewhat pecualiar twist to this. The lenses you mentioned are Zeiss designs manufactured and sold by Sony under their brand but with the blue rectangle on the side. The only 35 mm lens for the FE mount that Zeiss sells under their own brand is the Loxia 35/2, which happens to have the right size and speed! Unfortunately, all these lenses are expensive and have some annoying drawbacks. Still, I'm happy a lens as small as the 35/2.8 is available and a similar fast vs slow divide doesn't exist at other focal lengths in the system.

I distinctly remember f/2.8 as being considered fast for anything other than a 50-58mm lens.
I also remember that at the time the only reason anyone bought the fast version of a lens was so that it would be easier to focus on a manual focus SLR with a ground-glass / microprism / split image prism screen rather than the aerial image in autofocus cameras.
I think that is the reason for some fast lenses from the 1970s that are flat out awful* wide open but really good stopped down. The Nikkor 55mm f/1.2 (not the unobtanium 58mm) is a notorious example.

My budget has me shopping at the Samyang store, where the difference between the 35mm f/1.4 and f/2.8 is similar. The f/2.8 isn't quite a pancake but certainly qualifies as an Oreo, and makes the a7 almost tiny. And remind me, why do we need a fast 35mm lens on a camera with ISO gazillion that you can hand hold at 15 minutes or whatever?

*except that the contrast was so low that it compensated nicely for the bump in contrast from push processing, so there is that, and the lead guitarist in a flock of birds effect is kind of cool.

I am sure you would love the tiny Sony-Zeiss 35/2.8. It is a beauty in sharpness and IQ, and with the IS and ISO headroom of the A7 III you would never need more than f/2.8.
Cheers, Fritz

The Evolution of Useful Things: How Everyday Artifacts-From Forks and Pins to Paper Clips and Zippers-Came to be as They are.
by Henry Petroski

Companies and other organisations don't have DNA: what they have is culture, and culture is what means Zeiss lenses will be what you expect Zeiss lenses to be, Apple devices will look like you expect them to look, Gretsch will make guitars which sound like Gretsches and so on.

Large organisations, such as countries, can have many cultures. There are organisations that fail to develop develop a culture at all, which generally are horrid to have anything to do with.

I hear ya, Mike. However, there is the fact that modern ISO performance is so good that the extra stop you'd get from a mid-mid lens may not be that important.

If they sold you what you wanted, you wouldn't buy more.

You solved your own problem with your anecdote about the pigs photos: 35mm Summicron. F2. Tiny. German glass.

I think there is something like DNA in minds.

I do see your viewpoint, and I think the size of many premium lenses right now is ridiculous. Why do they have to be so big/heavy, when Leica lenses can be much smaller?

I'm sure you will get lots of agreement here. The only 1.4 lenses I use are old 50mm manual ones, and they are pretty small by modern standards. With AF lenses, the Pentax Limiteds are about right-sized to me at 1.8. I have an FA 35 f2 Pentax that would be about perfect if it were just a little sharper on the edges. Pentax is supposed to eventually release its 50 1.4 behemoth, and I keep wavering on getting it. It has the look of many recent fast lenses, long and heavy.

I suppose this kind of complaining puts us somewhere between Goldilocks and The Princess and the Pea.

Oh, yes, I hear you about medium speed lenses. The Oly 1.8 series for m4/3 is great that way. I expect they're what I'll eventually end up with. But I'm twisted even further. I want even slower and much less modern. Not to mention no zooming allowed...

I want a 25/2.8 Tessar. Single coated like the ones from the mid-40's to mid-50's. There was a certain look - sharp in the center but almost creamy "not sharp" on the edges - that the Tessar had. I have several for large format that are some of the greatest lenses I've had the pleasure of using. No, I can't do available darkness with them but that's not usually my style of photography. For landscapes and informal portraits by available light in daylight or normal shade? Nothing finer.

A companion 35/2.8 & 85/2 (Sonnar?) would leave me overjoyed. Especially if, since these are by modern standards cheap and easy to make, I could get all three for a price I could actually afford.

If wishes were fishes...

Mike, it is neither surprising or unusual.
Any company with a large lens line has been making slow and fast versions of key lenses basically forever.
And really fast lenses for full frame cameras basically have to be large,so the size and cost disparity has been with us forever. I think it is a good thing.
It is nice to have the choice, and in a couple of instances I have bought Both the fast and slower versions of the same lens, because as you point out there are other differences besides speed.
If you really like lenses, it's a good reason to stay with the same mount, you can accumulate lenses over time that you probably wouldn't buy if you were changing systems--not because you don't like them or they are not useful, but for practical reasons like cost.
In my case, it's Canon, and I have and use the 135mm f/2 and the 135mm f/2.8 SF (a defocus control to take the edge off for portraits, but is otherwise dead sharp.
The 85mm f/1.2 & F/1.8 the smaller lighter lens also focuses faster I also have the 100 f/2
Then there is the 50 f/1.4 and the 50 f/2.5 Macro, but 50 is mostly too short for a macro but it is incredibly sharp.
I'm probably not alone in this and I use and enjoy all of them.


I'm hoping Zeiss fills out their line of Batis lenses for FF E-mount by adding a 35 and a 50 (or 55). The existing Batises (Batii?) take what you might consider the middle road: 2.8/18, 2.0/25, 1.8/85 and 2.8/135. While somewhat bulky, especially with their hoods, they are reasonably light. For example, the 1.8/85 weighs 12 oz. less than the Sony 85 mm f/1.4 GM. (And don't get me going on the f/1.4 Sigma Art lenses.) I've used the 18, 85, and 135 on an A6500 and various A7 models, and I think they're all very good lenses.


I feel likewise, and in that regard was pretty happy when Nikon started producing the f/1.8G primes (20mm-85mm range). In my opinion Nikon hit that sweet spot of size/weight/price/performance.

The Zeiss Loxia and Batis lines seem to be the ideal medium-size, medium-speed lenses for E-mount, though they're maybe not medium-cost. I recently picked up a used Loxia 50mm, and it's just about perfect for me. The Loxia 35mm f/2 might be just what you're looking for!

I've got 'yer 35mm f/2 right here...

"But what I've found is that chasing lenses is more important."-Thom Hogan

How do other manufacturer's fast/slow twins match up, size-wise? Is the degree a Zeiss thing, or is it just the physics?

I'm a little curious as to how often you shot at f2 when you have an f2 lens? Certainly the extra stop from 2.8 is useful for focussing even if shooting at a smaller aperture, and under lower light conditions that advantage would only increase. Not judging, just curious.

Personally, as a man of no means (nor King of the road) my pocketbook remains content w/ 2.8 as a fast lens.


I have a Sony A7 rII and have longed for a good, not too large 35/2 AF. 35mm lenses are my favourites, and f/2 ones seem such a great compromise to me at this time. I'm never buying the 35/1.4's because of size and weight, and the f/2.8's seem a bit too retro. I did the f/2.8 thing in the 60's.

I did buy the 28/2, and it is my most used lens on the camera, but I'm just not a 28mm sort usually, so it just isn't as comfortable. Same thing for the 85. The 85/1.4 isn't for me, so I'm getting the Sony 85/1.8. Reasonable size, price and handling and in line with the body. In practice the 85/1.4's I've had for other systems were usually stopped down a bit so that a bit more of a portrait was in focus.

The Sony system in particular seems in need of moderate, high performance moderately sized lenses as the bodies are quite light and small for FF, and outsize lenses are more out of place than on a Canon 5D4 or Nikon 850.

A set of f/2 AF lenses that were decent at f/2 and outstanding at f/4 or f/5.6 of 35 and 85mm focal lengths are my dream for the camera, with maybe an added 20mm f/2.8 of similar quality.

Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 for Sony

Fuji may have heard you, their fast line is f/1.4 and 'slow' (cheaper) f/2 rather than 2.8 (no aim to open a Fuji vs RoW discussion).

Hi Mike,
There is another Zeiss option that you’re probably already aware of: the Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2. Of course, you have to focus manually. I use the Loxia 50mm f/2 and it’s a fantastic lens that pairs really well with my A7ii IMHO. Although the price is getting up there, I bought a nice used example, which might make it the type of lens you would prefer. Just depends whether you’re willing to put up with manual focus, I guess.

Funny how the underlying physics haven’t changed since the early ‘80s either. Those darn photons.

There is also the Zeiss Loxia 35 f2, if you don't mind no AF.

Am I the only one disappointed that you didn't add your pictures of the pot bellied pigs to the post?

There's also a big gap between the cheap standard zooms (f/3.5-5.6) and the super duper f/2.8 ones. There's another one between the slow cheap tele zooms, (again f/3.5-5.6) and the f/2.8 ones.

On an APS-C camera, a 50-135mm or 50-150mm f/4 would hit the sweet spot. Reasonable aperture, compact, not too heavy, just the job. I don't think there is a lens like that on sale.

The reason I know that Sony will dominate the ILC market is that I have been lusting for E-mount glass from Zeiss, Voigtlander and Laowa. There is so much of it available, and that Loxia 35mm f2 looks right up your alley.

Nikon made a lot of quite nice f/1.8 WA primes recently that were very good value.

Fuji make 1.4 and 2.0 versions of many primes.

Seems most companies moved on from f/2.8 except Sony. Perhaps it is their lack of DNA? They haven't evolved ;-)

There's 28/2 that's pretty compact. Not the same, I know, but close enough maybe? And the new 85/1.8, not very small, but not that big either. Actually, A7 with the 85/1.8 should be close in size and handling to most of the film slr's of yesteryear, including the RTS. Plus, you could always adapt contax/zeiss lenses to the A7 - with its viewfinder tricks like zoom and peaking it shouldn't be hard to work with.
There's plenty of choice if you're willing to sacrifice autofocus :)

"Pot-bellied pig farmer.”

My English is in decline. Your spelling is right but thought of a man with a huge belly.

Should that have been “pot-bellied pigfarmer?”

“Pot-bellied pig-farmer” perhaps?”

After it closed, some of Industrial Photo's employees moved to various Penn Camera (now closed) locations, and some even migrated to Service Photo in Baltimore. I too was a U of MD student and would hang out at Industrial in Silver Spring and continued to visit until the very end. Sad to note that you can count on one hand the number of true camera stores around these days in the DC/Baltimore region.

I absolutely agree though; the f/2 or thereabouts lenses tend to deliver a lot for the money. For example, Nikon's current f/1.8 primes are mostly really good. If I ever somehow get the money to get a FX Nikon the first two lenses I'll buy are the AFS 20/1.8 and 85/1.8. Can't decide what I'll have in the middle (both 50mm and 35mm are boring to me) but I know that it'll cost me less than a 24-70/2.8 zoom!

You had a Leica way back then? Wow! And thereafter the Contax 139Q, too, which is, in many ways, a better camera than the M6. Sometimes, camera store guys (like Chris Niccolls and Jordan Drake) have a mystique all their own, as must have had "Ray the pot-bellied pig farmer", though I think few farmers are pot-bellied ;) due to their vigorous outdoor life.
Here in India, a pig (pot-bellied or otherwise) farmer is the lowliest of the breed, looked down upon by even the poultry farmers. Things might change if they take to selling cameras on the side, though ;)

One of my great frustrations is that the usual "normal zooms" are only made in the slow version, not the fast version :-).

No, it's not you, Mike. Sony offers an FE 28mm f/2.0 lens for the A7 series. And it's pretty good. There's no reason they can't offer an FE 35mm f/2.0. Perhaps it's just a cynical strategy designed to get us to spring for the f/1.4. But, at $1500, it's not going to happen at my house. I don't have that kind of money to throw around. Besides, I'm not a fan of big, heavy uber primes.

Mike wrote, "Companies don't have DNA and neither do product lines, "

But companies' customers do and that DNA brings them back to what they know and are comfortable with. Current customers are the DNA that successful companies ignore at their own risk.

Something wrong with the Loxia 35mm f/2?

There is the Zeiss Loxia 35mm f2.0. It's manual focus, and manual aperture, but it connects electronically with the Sony. As you know, that provides one-touch focus magnification, and transmission of exif information. Build quality is more old-school metal than new school engineered plastics. It's size is in between the "fast" and "slow" 35mm lenses. B&H should send you one of those to try. It would be great to read your comparison of the three 35mm lenses.

Sony do have that lens. It comes attached to an RX1... body. There is your one body, one lens year with a Japanese body and a small German f2 lens. The search is over.

I fully agree. I do opt for the Nikon 50mm 1.4 because it is still small and very light. But for the 85mm and 35mm, I have opted for the 1.8's because of the relative size and weight advantages. And even more so on the mirrorless bodies that are smaller, the size and weight of those 1.4 primes seems unbalanced.


Isn't there a Zeiss Loxia 35/2 that would fill that gap quite nicely?

While I would appreciate it if Sony could come out with an f2 version of this lens, the f2.8 35mm has been on my aging A7r for most of the nearly five years I've had it, and I even though never find myself wishing for that extra stop, I suspect if I were to add in the IS of the newer models, I would have even less of a reason to do so. However I do appreciate the smaller, lighter first-generation A7r body, even if activating the shutter is akin to flicking a coin into a slot machine. ;)


I must be getting old and nostalgic. After many years and handling many varieties of lenses, I have arrived - home again - and shooting almost every street scene with my all time favourite focal length.

50mm Summilux-M. Old style and non-aspherical.

Dan K.

Semantic ambiguity. Ray the pot-bellied pig farmer.
You hadn't mentioned Ray as being pot-bellied, but you know, readers who might not be paying close attention could interpret it that way :-)

I'll take the smaller, lighter, cheaper guy every time...

PS- Can just imagine HCB walking about with one of those 1.4 monstrosities...

One assumes that Zeiss realizes that few people can afford the (no doubt) gargantuan price of their gargantuan lens, so they designed a (comparatively) mass-market lens. The 35/1.4 is a 'halo' lens, built to show that they can do it, much like automakers who build 600hp performance sedans.
I agree with you, too, a 35/2 (or its format equivalent) is a sweet spot lens. The Leica 35/2 ASPH was a favorite for ten years or so... its value is reflected in the gargantuan asking prices for them today, used or new.

I think the Batis 25mm f2 is calling you.

I hate to say it but ZEISS got there with the Loxia lens and it is rather good, if you can give up the AF. A 35mm f2 lens for me is near perfect, in whatever camera I have.

For 1 1/2 extra stops in that Zeiss 1.4 (in these days of practically unlimited ISO) you are carrying a lens that is: twice the price, more than 3x the size and more than 5X the weight!

I believe that the what is happening here is the decision to make one product for the person that must have the best and is prepared to pay for it and one that is affordable and can be cheaper partly because it will be produced in much greater quantities. There is probably little market advantage in making a compromise product.

It's worth mentioning that whatever this is, it's not entirely Zeiss. I have a Zeiss 35mm f/2 Biogon which is a recent lens (I think I bought it after 2010, new) and it's not huge. Of course that's an M-mount lens and perhaps people who use M-mount cameras won't put up with vast lenses. It's probably also not as good as the vaster lens in some mostly meaningless sense. So that would lead to some speculation as to whether it's Zeiss or their market: perhaps some people want big, super-perfect lenses?

And, of course, I also have the CV 40mm f/1.4 which is probably made in the same factory as the Zeiss lenses, and is tiny. It's also probably much less good in a similarly meaningless sense than the Biogon (also longer, of course). But you can carry a camera with that lens on in one hand, all day, with it up the sleeve of your coat if it's raining so it stays dry.

If you can live without autofocus (and close focussing in this case), I would recommend the Minolta-Leica lenses made for the CL. One of my favorite posts of yours since discovering your blog sings the praise of the Minolta 2/40 M-Rokkor (and the 40mm focal length in general). Pair it with the 4/90mm M-Rokkor to round out the theme celebrating Japanese and German cross-pollination.

I had the opportunity last year to get a used CL kit with both lenses at a camera shop outside of Seattle for $750 and have been kicking myself since for passing it up. This recommendation is admittedly a sort of vicarious wish-fulfillment.

Hear here. Although in my youth I chased after speed and had not one or two but four different 1.2 lenses (a 50mm nikkor, a 35mm Voightlander in M mount, a 50mm canon in LTM, and a 50mm EOS), these days I value light weight. I still wish I had a pristine version of that LTM lens, which I remember as fondly as Mike and his Takumars.

Fuji, to their credit, is making some f/2 lenses that are really quite nice (I have the 35 f/2). Also, one of my all time favorites, the 40mm Ultron in F-mount, is both tiny and an f/2. In addition to being lighter, they focus faster than their large-aperture counterparts. Really nice, all in all.

My most recent lens post: http://chrisstump.com/index.html :)

There’s a lot of pent-up demand, in the community of Sony users, for a 35mm f2. Sony have given us the perfectly nice 28mm, so why not 35 also?

I bought Sony's 28f2 for my A7R2 (now A7R3). It's a nice lens but I rarely used it at f2. A few month's ago a local camera shop was selling the 35f2.8 at a 20% discount. The 35 is on my camera by default and the 28 rarely gets used at all.

But Sony do provide a 35f2 with autofocus. Unfortunately it's welded to the body of the Sony RX1 series.

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