Zeiss Batis 18mm F2.8 VS Zeiss FE 16 – 35mm F4

Posted on Posted in Landscape

Every photographer should have a wide angle lens in the arsenal and if you own a Sony Alpha that wide angle should be the Zeiss Batis 18mm. I recently traded in the FE 16 – 35mm F4 for the Zeiss Batis 18mm F2.8 and I thought I might share my thoughts on the two wide angle lenses for Sony.

At first I was thinking this could possibly be a big mistake; swapping a versatile good quality lens for the 18mm prime but then i came to a conclusion.. Go wide or go home.

Zeiss Batis 18mm F2.8
Zeiss Batis 18mm F2.8

For many photographers, the idea of having an 18mm prime would likely reside in the ‘nice to have’ basket, especially at $2k AUD. So before I took the plunge I did a little research. Scanning through my landscape portfolio, what i found was; most, if not all of my best images using the 16 – 35mm were actually at 16 – 20mm and in fact rarely used the lens anywhere near the 35 mm end.

Easy Decision

Next step – online reviews. Usually I would take most online reviews with a pinch of salt. The reviewer is most often sponsored, or wanting to be sponsored so they say good things. But surprisingly, i couldn’t believe the overwhelming positivity surrounding the Zeiss Batis 18mm from all reviews. Comments like ‘the Batis is one of the greatest wide angle lenses of all time’. I am happy to report the reviews were spot on.

Black and White Brooklyn Bridge leading lines
Brooklyn Bridge – 18mm, f/20, 1/8sec handheld,  iso 50

Performance

The Batis blows my mind. OMG. I didn’t know what a sharp lens was until i started shooting with the Batis. FE 16 – 35 and the Batis are both Zeiss Lenses but you can clearly see the better performance of the Baits straight off the back of your camera. The Basis just pulls that extra level of detail from the scene, and perhaps I noticed is more as I’m using the A7ii and a 24mp sensor, instead of the a7Rii big brother. This lens proves that investing in good glass first and worrying about high megapixel count later is a good move.

jetty Perth at sunset over looking perth city
Perth Jetty – f/13, 25sec iso 100

Weight Matters

You won’t appreciate how light this lens is until you go in a camera store and handle one of these bad boys. The Batis is incredibly light. It doesn’t look very light, but once you mount it on to your camera you will be  reminded of why you went to mirrorless. I just spent 5 days walking around New York with the 24 – 70 G Master hanging off the camera body, and when i switched to the Batis i just didn’t want to take it back off.

Change Your Perspective

So you’re not a landscape photographer? You still need a wide angle. The fixed 18mm will change your perspective, the wide angle will challenge you to make a completely different image to what you might be use to at say 50mm. The beauty of it is, you can now accentuate the foreground, use the leading lines and create deeper vanishing points.

Melbourne buildings from Birrarung Marr Park
Melbourne – 18mm f/14 0.5sec, iso 100

My advice is take the Batis out for a day without any other lenses at hand, in no time you will be looking at things differently and the panic of not having your zoom on hand will slip away.

Personally I’m not a big fan of a 50mm, I find it a little boring. I much prefer being at the wide angle or otherwise going into telephoto range and compressing the image. After all the camera is there to help you see things in ways others don’t, and that starts with a lens that alters perceptions.

Green feature of St Collins Square, Melbourne
St Collins Square, Melbourne – 18mm f/5.6, 1/60 sec iso 100

Some More Features of the Zeiss Batis 18mm

The OLED display is cool, but you will forget about it after about 5 minutes. The idea of it being there is really nice but I just don’t find myself looking at it. F2.8 is interesting at such a wide angle, there is some bokeh to be had, and F2.8 can really make a street scene look interesting which will appeal to street photographers.

standing on Brooklyn bridge with girl posing.
Brooklyn Bridge 18mm, f/2.8, 1/640sec, iso 200

Distortion is minimal with the Batis, and easily corrected in Light room.

There are some more features which I won’t get into here, but I will mention a few annoying aspects of the Zeiss Batis 18mm, the lens cap for one just doesn’t seem to stay on. I did read about this in reviews, so I am just waiting for the moment I realise I’ve lost it, it will happen. The 18mm, I have on one or two occasions wished is was more like 14mm or 16mm due to a tight location… but hey I can’t have my cake and eat it too.

the flat iron building in new york with a taxi in the foreground
Flatiron 18mm, f/11, 1.0sec iso 100

Sony 16 – 35mm G Master

Rumours are the next big lens to hit Sony users in 2017 is the Sony 16 – 35mm F2.8 G Master, which I think will be an impressive lens if it’s anything like the 24 – 70 F2.8 G Master. The G Master will definitely give the Batis a run for its money in image quality, but I’m sure the price and weight won’t be anything like the Zeiss.

snowing in aspen, picture of a hut standing on its own
Aspen, Colorado 18mm, f/2.8, 1/60sec, iso 3200

So if you can’t tell I am in love with this lens. It’s defiantly a challenge to find new compositions while attempting to fill the frame without over cluttering. It really makes you think about how you will go about shooting a scene. The Zeiss 16 – 35 was a good lens, its does an ok job in terms of quality, but if you are sticker for detail, sharpness good colour rendition then the extra money is well spent on the Batis 18mm f2.8. I wonder now if I should have got the Batis 85mm instead of the G Master?! oh well.

Eerik

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