Last week I was privileged by Zeiss to test out a new line of lenses made for two Mirrorless digital camera systems; the Fujifilm X, and Sony NEX mounts. Being keen to mount Zeiss lenses on my XPro1 from my experience as both a Contax shooter in the 90’s and a Hassalblad shooter in the 2000’s is an understatement. I love Zeiss. Carl Zeiss was a German who pioneered lens manufacture in the 1840’s and is responsible for classic groupings of optics that would advance the image resolution of photography. It would be a truism to say, photography owes something Zeiss.
The new lenses have the silly and catchy name of Touit, named after a tropical parrot. Thus far they have released two lenses, a 32 mm f 1.8 and 12 mm f2.8. The plans to expand the system with a third lens, a 50 mm f2.8 macro are eminent. Further lenses will certainly follow. By this time, many blogs and review sites have posted info on the Zeiss Touits and I don’t want to repeat what has already been published, so I’ll just take you through my observations and work while I put the lenses to the task. As Richard Schleuning from Zeiss explained, these lenses were targeted towards “those that make photographs as opposed to those that take photographs”. I’m sure we could geek out on what that’s supposed to mean, but can agree that we most likely want to make photographs. By nature I’m a giver not a taker so that sits well with me. Thank you Richard, and Carl.
The lenses can be categorized as “luxury” lenses. They are made with a tactile consideration befitting a high end product. Beautiful matte black metal barrels and rubberized and recessed focus and aperture rings. Not bulky like the Fujifilm lenses and much more solid than the NEX system lenses, you can feel the quality build in your hands as well as in your wallet.
The 32 mm 1.8 Planar is the standard lens providing you with a 50 mm view on the APS-C size sensors. Counter that to the Fujifilm 35 mm 1.4. As I said before, the lens feels and looks great on the camera. I found the focus to be as fast if not slightly faster than the Fujifilm lens. The 32 mm comes with a large plastic lens hood, I prefer the slick and small Fujifilm metal hood to the Zeiss. Richard explained they chose plastic to keep weight down. When I tested the lens I went sans hood, the hood adds about 2.5 inches and I feel if your going Mirrorless, then go small.
After I made this image I really found the figure in the baseball cap off to the right annoying visually. I shot it at 1.8 and figured what if I had made that image with the Fujifilm lens that is a 2/3 stop faster. Would I have gotten more pleasing bokeh and thus have “blurred out” the unwanted figure?
So I conducted a test by putting the camera on my trusty Oben carbon fiber tripod and shooting this still life in my apartment between the two lenses. I have uploaded a very large image so feel free to pixel peep. Also please feel free to comment which of the two lenses produced the look you like the most. Me, I have to say I love more blur that is attainable with the Fujifilm 35 1.4, but the 9 blade aperture on the Zeiss certainly does have a smooth and pleasant blur. Notice the harder edges of the green plant in the back ground as well as the embroidered skull. I do like the slightly wider field of view on the 32 mm. I also notice a color shift between the two lenses. I had a Lastolite 30″ 5 in 1 silver gold reflector off to camera right acting as a warm fill. The Fujifilm 35 mm seemed to
Macro is superb with-out really being a macro lens. The 32 mm can focus down to 1.21 feet. Please consider the background of a macro shot, I think it is easy to get all caught up in the subject and then make a mistake in the background. I saw this purple flower in front of the pattern like bark of the tree and really concentrated on filling the background with the texture of the bark and being careful to not get anything but the tree in the background. The flower was easy, but man, look at that soft out of focus mottling of the bark. Yum.
The 1.8 rocks in low light when combined with the amazing low light capability of the Xpro1.
Thus far I’m impressed with the lenses. They do cost about 1/3 more than the all ready fairly expensive Fujifilm X lenses. Are they worth it? Stay tuned for part two, where we will see more of the 12 mm lens and some low light tests. Please don’t forget to add your comments on the 35 mm Fuji vs. the 32 mm Zeiss comparison.