***October 2017 Edit: I have used this lens for over four years now, and it is still my go-to choice for a “normal” APS-c lens. Firmware updates over the years to both Sony bodies and the lens itself have made all focus accuracy issues go away, though the motor itself is still noisy. Regarding sharpness, the lens performs better on the more recent a6500 due to a better on-sensor microlens design. Throw in the in-body image stabilization the camera sports, and it makes the Zeiss another clear winner.***
Click here for my first impressions of this lens. IMPORTANT! If you are unfamiliar with my lens review style, please reference THIS POST first! If you are only interested in my comparison of this lens to the Sony 35mm f/1.8 OSS, scroll down to the bottom of this page. 🙂
Well it’s about time! Ever since Sony released the specifications for the E-mount in April of 2011, NEX photographers have longed for attractive alternative lens offerings from third-party lens manufacturers such as Tamron and Sigma. Sony liked Tamron’s more-compact 18-200mm so much, it was rebranded as the SEL18200LE. Sigma’s low-cost, zero-frills 19/30/60mm f/2.8 primes all provide outstanding image quality for their price. Even Rokinon/Samyang/Bower/(you name it) surprised everyone with their surprisingly affordable and high-quality 8mm f/2.8 fisheye!
It’s better to arrive late to the party rather than never at all though (the Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 is a Sony-branded lens so it doesn’t count), and Zeiss decided 2013 was the year to introduce their new “Touit” (pronounced like “too-it”) line of lenses for both E-mount and X-mount. In addition to the 32mm f/1.8, a super-wide 12mm f/2.8 is available now, and a 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar (how Zeiss spells “Macro”) should be available by fall. These lenses are all designed with the serious mirrorless shooter in mind, providing optics that are lightweight and compact, yet powerful enough to resolve fine detail across the large APS-C sensors found in the tiny camera bodies.
What many wonder though: are these premium lenses worthy of the Zeiss name, usually associated with outstanding overall optical performance, loads of micro-contrast, and stellar build quality? I can’t say much about the 12mm f/2.8 (other than that it looks very nice), but let’s take an in-depth look at its more “normal” brother!
Full Name: Carl Zeiss Touit Planar 1.8/32 T*
Dimensions: 2.56 inches/65mm in diameter, 2.83 inches/72mm in length, with a light weight of only 7.05 ounces/200 grams. With the tested NEX-7 only weighing 12 ounces, the entire outfit is very manageable for long shooting sessions, even without a camera strap.
Close-Focus: Listed as .98 feet/.3 meters. This is the exact same as the Sony 35mm.
Price: $900 new ($720 as of October 2017). I purchased mine from Adorama. Back when I preordered this lens, Adorama kept me updated on its shipping progress through regular emails. Their shipping charges are also very reasonable. If you buy this lens or anything from Adorama using that link, it helps this site out to purchase more lenses for review. 🙂
Miscellaneous: 9-bladed semi-circular aperture stopping down to f/22, standard 52mm filter thread, large rubberized “fly-by-wire” focus ring, semi-unit focusing (center lens assembly moves in and out for focusing) via DC motor, metal mount, metal barrel, plastic bayonet-style lens hood, pinch-type lens cap, matte all-black finish to reduce reflections and appearance of dirt/grime, engraved and filled markings, made in Japan
In terms of pure mechanical craftsmanship, nothing has ever beaten my ever-growing kit of AI-s Nikkor lenses. Many lenses of today are built with lightweight plastic to aid low-power ultrasonic motors in fast focusing. This makes them easier to use in more situations, but severely takes away from the lenses’ durability. With their relatively recent “Z” lenses for DSLR cameras, such as the Distagon 15mm f/2.8 and Makro-Planar 100mm f/2, Zeiss has revitalized the tradition of old—heavy, all-metal manual-focus optics with a focus on fantastic technical and artistic performance.
Here’s the problem: such a lens on a mirrorless camera just wouldn’t work. Not only would autofocus draw too much power from the smaller batteries, but the sheer size and weight of DSLR-designed lenses don’t fit within the mirrorless ecosystem (though, admittedly, I use relatively heavy Nikkors on my a6500 and NEX-7 all the time…).
So Zeiss had to cut a couple corners on the Touits, understandably so. The hood is plastic, and Zeiss reports that some of the internals are of polymer construction. This helps shave off as many ounces as possible, but at the cost of decreased perceived durability. Though it’s hard to tell exactly where the weak points are, I won’t go around dropping the lens to see when or if it will break. That said, the outer metal body feels more than strong enough to stand up to most hard bumps with little more than a scratch.
One item of note that will be discussed a bit more in the accompanying comparison to the Sony 35mm: though the Zeiss sports a very nice focus ring, autofocus has some issues. Not only is it relatively slow and noisy, but it also back-focused considerably at f/2.2-2.8 on numerous occasions. Whether it is an issue specific to my lens or not, I’m unsure.
All this taken into consideration, how does the 32mm stand up to my four pillars of shootability?
- Small size? Yes! The 32mm, without the hood, makes for a very compact kit in relation to other e-mount primes. With its extra-long hood attached (which is reverse-mountable), the lens lengthens considerably.
- Light weight? Yes! At just over half the weight of the tested NEX-7, the Zeiss balances comfortably in both hands.
- Smooth operation? Yes and no. Mounting is smooth, the hood firmly locks into position, and adjusting aperture with Tri-Navi is a cinch. Manual focusing is also a joy with the ultra-damped and rubberized focus ring (even though it is still fly-by-wire). However, optical stabilization, as found in the Sony 35mm, is missed, and autofocus can be clunky every now and then. Zeiss claims to be releasing a lens firmware update by Fall to hopefully help with focus issues.
- Generally favorable optical performance? Yes, and then some! Though not perfect (despite the Zeiss name), the 32mm excels in many technical and artistic areas of photography.
I had my doubts with the 32mm after initial testing. Performance in areas like vignetting and distortion threw me off guard for such a high-priced optic. However, after spending more time with the lens, I began to see the benefits of high cross-frame sharpness and essentially negligible chromatic aberrations. Though not a lens I’d recommend for video in the least, the Touit 32mm is a go-to choice for demanding photographers in the market for a fast “normal” lens for their NEX or Fuji X cameras.
Starting off with 100% crops of center sharpness, we see just how capable the 32mm is. Detail is just a tad soft wide-open, but even the veiling haze is nothing to worry about, taking away very little contrast and sharpness. Stopping down only to f/2.2 completely removes this haze. Sharpness continues to climb even higher and essentially peaks at f/4. However, zoomed in to an unrealistically close 1100%, I can see just a tad more detail at f/5.6. For all intents and purposes though, it’s extremely difficult to find any differences between the two apertures in actual photography. Sharpness and contrast remain high throughout the rest of the aperture range, with f/22 showing the telltale signs of image-degrading diffraction.
It is corner sharpness that really shows off the Zeiss’ strength. Despite the vignetting, there is plenty of detail even wide-open, and sharpness improves to an excellent degree at only f/2.8. Stopped down further, corner sharpness reaches its peak at f/5.6, though f/8 is very close in comparison. Contrast is still excellent throughout the range, though again, f/22 looks dull even in the corners. Unfortunately, corner sharpness never really catches up to the centers at any aperture, no doubt falling prey to the infamous offset microlenses of the NEX-7’s packed sensor. Corners would be expected to perform a little better on lower-resolution cameras such as the Sony NEX-6 or Fuji X-E1. Other reports I’ve read not just about this lens, but other native e-mount optics, suggest such an outcome.
On another quick note, I can’t pick up on any field curvature, and focus shift is all but absent from f/2.8-4.
Sharpness at Infinity
The Touit 32mm continues to be a super-sharp lens even focused to infinity. To assess this, I shot the all-too-familiar local clocktower:
As in the test chart shots, corner sharpness just can’t match the razor-sharp performance of the centers, at least on the NEX-7. That said, corners are still plenty sharp even for the pixel-peeper. Also, it’s great to see that both the center and the corners peak at f/5.6.
Sharpness at Macro
The 32mm is such a sharp lens, it’s a real shame that the close-focus distance is only about a foot, same as that of the Sony 35mm f/1.8. Fine detail actually peaks across the frame at f/4, rather than f/5.6 at other focus distances (though, f/5.6 is essentially just as sharp):
However, there’s still a bit of a silver lining for those wanting to get close with the Zeiss: this lens is amazingly croppable on the NEX-7, even at wider apertures. Click on the below image for a 1 megapixel crop:
It may be interesting to see this kind of sharpness combined with the close-focusing ability of the upcoming Makro-Planar Touit 50mm f/2.8. Time will tell!
As a fast-aperture lens, the Touit 32mm is expected to provide smooth out-of-focus backgrounds in contrast to a sharp in-focus subject. With its normal field-of-view, bokeh will only show up at mid- to close-range focus distances. However, as we’ve seen above, the Zeiss’ planar design provides technically superb results. Does this adversly affect its artistic rendering, despite the 9-bladed aperture (which usually foreshadows superb bokeh on my Nikkors)? Click on the image below for larger examples.
Per my standard bokeh test, this arrangement of small and equal-sized dolls (the wide-angle perspective makes them look like different sizes) had to be performed at a close distance, about 2 feet. That means the following observations should apply to close-focus bokeh only. Wide-open, everything from backround (far left) to foreground (far right) bokeh is pleasingly smooth. Throughout the rest of the aperture range where bokeh is noticeable (by f/11, everything starts coming into focus), close-foregrounds (right) become mildly distracting due to doubling artifacts starting at f/2.8. At f/8, foreground bokeh begins to show distracting doubling as well.
Unfortunately, bokeh takes a turn for the worse as the focus distance increases.
The effect of bokeh at medium focus distances can either take away from the 32mm’s appeal or add to its unique character. It all depends on how you choose to look at it. If you want creamy bokeh at medium focus distances (which is difficult to do for a lens covering this field-of-view anyway), the 32mm Touit isn’t your lens. We can see exactly why bokeh is distracting by taking a look at out-of-focus highlights, or circles of confusion.
At all apertures, out-of-focus highlights at medium focus distances have hard edges along with an odd hotspot near the center of the highlight. Whether this hotspot could be due to a possible centering problem with my specific copy, I’m not sure. A piece of good news, however, even at f/2.8, the aperture shape is mostly circular (thanks to having 9 blades).
Superior control of chromatic aberrations is one of the largest reasons to own the Touit 32mm. Take a look at this worst-case scenario, shooting branches against a 2-stops-overexposed sky:
Keeping in mind this is the highest level of contrast you’ll find in any real photographic situation, it’s astounding to see essentially zero purple fringing at any aperture. Though there is some odd red-tinged fringing wide-open with a width of about 5 pixels, purple fringing hovers around only 1-2 pixels wide until completely disappearing at f/5.6. This kind of fringing will never be noticeable at the image level (even the weird red fringing), and for the perfectionist, it’s extremely easy to edit out in Lightroom.
Now, take a look at the out-of-focus branches immediately surrounding the branch tested for purple fringing. Wide-open, there’s a bit of out-of-focus lateral chromatic aberration, but it’s mostly ignorable. Stopped down any further, and out-of-focus LoCAs are completely absent. Well done, Zeiss.
With its T* multicoatings and extremely deep lens hood, it is easy to think the Touit 32mm would have no problems with flare. That is…not the case here. Take a look at the video below shot in B&W to emphasize the reflections:
Yeoch. Though this is a worst-case scenario (bright sun shining through underexposed trees), I’m still quite surprised to see so many reflections both on and off-axis, as well as long streaks emanating from the sun. There isn’t much veiling flare, so that’s a plus.
As a fast and APS-C–only lens, the Touit 32mm exhibits heavy vignetting:
By f/8, cross-frame illumination is even.
The Touit 32mm fits in the “normal” field of view. In the world of SLR lenses, even fast normal lenses tend to have little to no distortion. Just as with flare control, this lens has problems here:
I wouldn’t recommend the Tout 32mm for architectural photography, but at least the curve is uniform and correctable.
Let’s hit the old recap on this Touit:
Pros and Cons
- Excellent build quality all-around with a solid metal feel, despite some internal polymer construction
- Smooth operation with a rubberized focus ring and metal mount
- Superb sharpness across-the-frame, immensely croppable
- No noticeable field curvature or focus shift
- Contrasty rendering at most apertures
- Very pleasing bokeh and out-of-focus highlights at close focus distances
- Negligible chromatic aberrations
- Low veiling flare
- Relatively slow autofocus via noisy DC motor, semi-unit focusing
- Corners, though sharp, aren’t as sharp as the center of the frame
- Close-focus distance could be a little shorter
- Distracting OOF highlights and bokeh (or bokeh with “character”) at medium focus distances,
- Multiple flare reflections and streaks
- Strong, but expected, vignetting
- Noticeable barrel distortion for a normal prime
- High price at $900
The Bottom Line
The Touit 32mm can be a difficult lens to recommend. On one hand, it’s probably one of the highest resolving native E-mount lenses you can currently buy, with amazing build quality and uniform control of chromatic aberrations. On the other hand, some problems with basic optical performance, noisy autofocus, and somewhat busy bokeh can potentially turn many photographers off. While other, much less expensive alternatives exist for both E-and X-Mount, this Zeiss brings a welcome high-end option to the table for critical photographers that place both a high emphasis on technical image reproduction and mechanical craftsmanship.
BONUS! Compared to the Sony 35mm f/1.8 OSS!
The most obvious competition to the Zeiss is the already available—and highly reviewed by myself—Sony 35mm f/1.8 OSS. At exactly half the price of the Zeiss and sporting features the Zeiss can’t match, they’re worth comparing. First up, some size comparisons:
With each lens’ hoods removed, the difference in length is forgivably small. Add the hoods though, and the Zeiss turns into a conspicuously longer lens. The illusion of larger size via the circular lens hood of the Zeiss also contrasts starkly with the seemingly-small petal-type hood of the Sony. Though both lenses are all-black, the Zeiss’ matte finish mutes reflections and is aesthetically more pleasing.
Both lenses are also clad in metal, though the Sony’s outer layer feels much thinner and brittle, while the Zeiss feels very solid. By comparison in build quality, the Zeiss wins, hands-down.
Getting one missed feature right out of the way, the Sony sports very effective optical stabilization, which I’ve found to effectively eliminate normal hand tremors for long handheld shutter speeds. I have to be more careful with the Zeiss. Whereas on the Sony I can push down all the way to 1/8th of a second with reliable results, I hardly ever find myself going below 1/30th of a second shooting with the Zeiss. Even then, I shoot in burst mode to ensure I get a couple sharp shots out of a group. For low-light handheld shooting, the Sony is the way to go. Also, any sort of handheld video work is easy with the Sony, the stabilization reduces enough camera shake to simulate that of a steadycam in the right hands.
Speaking of video work, stay away from the Zeiss unless you shoot with an external mic and manually focus everything. Focusing on the Zeiss is accomplished through a DC motor, while the Sony uses a completely silent ultrasonic motor. The difference in noise—and focus speed, somewhat—is instantly discernable:
But let’s move on to a pixel-level comparison in a real-world scenario. I took both lenses out to find a landscape that had a couple features to test for chromatic aberrations, sharpness, and flare. I came across this semi-backlit field:
First up, a center sharpness/aberration comparison. Make sure to click on the image so each crop is displayed correctly on your monitor. Zeiss crops on the left, Sony’s on the right:
Right off the bat, we can see the different kinds of fringing each lens exhibits wide-open (this is even more “worse-case” than my previous aberration test, as the sky is almost clipped white!). The Zeiss shows a red tinge, while the Sony is all purple. At f/2.2, most fringing in the Zeiss is gone, while the Sony still lags behind. An interesting pattern starts to emerge as we look through all the crops. The sharpness of the Zeiss is one stop ahead of the Sony at almost every aperture (i.e. f/5.6 on the Sony looks about the same as f/4 on the Zeiss). Both lenses, at 100%, begin to look pretty dull as diffraction sets in noticeably by f/16. The odd coloring in the bottom left of the Zeiss crop at f/22 is a stray flare reflection. Overall, though, both lenses are plenty sharp in the centers.
Now, let’s see if that holds true for the corners. Again, click on this image to zoom correctly on your monitor:
Here we can see a slight difference in vignetting, with the Sony’s corners darkening a bit more than the Zeiss; it’s not much, but it’s there. In the way of chromatic aberrations, though the Zeiss still shows a bit of a red tinge on the roof, there’s little purple fringing. The Sony is a different story; the roof filled with fringing until straightening up at f/5.6.
But sharpness, there’s a huge difference here. At every aperture from f/1.8 through f/8, the Zeiss runs circles around the Sony, even with the Sony’s advantage of a tighter field-of-view (more pixels filled with data of the structure than the Zeiss). At f/11 on, both lenses look about equal, just because diffraction is equally affecting both. That high cross frame sharpness I talked about earlier? This is what I mean. 🙂
It wouldn’t be a final comparison without taking a look at both lenses’ handling of out-of-focus lateral chromatic aberrations. I’ve begun to notice the fringing more and more every day I go out with the Sony 35mm that I was taken aback by the Zeiss’ performance here. At the same time, the below two images can be a comparison of the bokeh each of these lenses can produce. Zeiss on the left, Sony on the right, both at f/1.8 with the same white balance. Click on the images for their respective 100% crops:
An interesting note, this example isn’t even a worst-case scenario. I did this test late in the day as the sun was setting, so all light is soft and ambient. On top of that, the lily isn’t even against a dark background to make the fringing worse. I’ve seen much worse from the Sony. Even then, the aberrations are still visible with the 35mm, while the Zeiss 32mm has a color-less transition from in to out-of-focus. Keep in mind that out-of-focus aberrations are much harder to tame than in-focus purple fringing.
One more thing, even at close focus, we can see that the Sony has a bit smoother bokeh, while some of the foliage with the Zeiss is busier.
So then, this brings me to another conclusion to those considering both of these lenses for their NEX:
If you are looking for high cross-frame sharpness (even on the NEX-7), negligible aberrations, a bit less vignetting, and much better build quality, look for the Touit 32mm. If, instead, you are wanting image stabilization, better control of distortion, smoother bokeh, and you don’t mind less sharpness and much worse aberrations, the Sony is a great choice at a much lower price.
That’s all for this big review, guys and gals. I hope you found all the information you were looking for. I WILL be selling one of these lenses soon on eBay, and the Sony will probably be the one to go. I don’t do video and low-light photography enough to really justify the optical stabilization in the Sony 35mm, and the times that I DO go out knowing shutter speeds will drop, I bring a tripod along anyway. I’ll keep you all updated in a post about it soon. 🙂
I wonder how the touit compares to the ZM 35/2 biogon.
personally i hardly see 400euros improvment over the sony.
also the touit hat no 3D POP as far as i see. …
Never tried any of the Zeiss rangefinder lenses. I would like to, though I know anything wider than 50mm has serious corner issues on the NEX-7.
And I agree, given how well the Sony performs, the Zeiss isn’t as good a value. Keep in mind there IS a possibility that I have a really good copy of the Sony and/or a bad copy of the Zeiss. Not sure.
Like I mentioned, I’m not accustomed to spotting the 3D pop Zeiss lenses are known for, so I didn’t talk about that in the review.
another thorough review Matt, have ever considered submitting any of your pictures to Photoboto’s? They’re a great community of photographers and I’m sure they’d appreciate your work, the link to submit is as follows http://www.photobotos.com/submit-a-photo/ let them know I sent you and keep them coming
You know, back when I started this site they were one of the first places to follow me. I do need to see if I can send a few photographs their way. Thanks!
That’s how I found them too
Great review and very consistent (though your images are better than mine) with the results I’m getting with the Touit 32.
So far, I like the lens quite a bit, but I’m more impressed with the 12mm and the Sony Zeiss 24/1.8E, which remains my go-to lens when I only want to carry one.
Thank you Andrew (and again for the images/impressions with your 12mm).
As the 24mm is about $1100, and the 12mm $1250, I would hope they were at least a little better. 😉
I’m happy with all three (and also with the Sony 50/1.8 OSS). The 24 really is special, but then 35mm and 135mm were always my favorite focal lengths in the film days, so it’s natural that I would prefer the 24 on APS-C.
Were it not for the plethora of 50mm’s I already have (50mm f/2, 50mm f/1.8, 50mm f/1.4…), I’d test and possibly keep the 50mm f/1.8 OSS by now. Many NEX photographers love that lens. 🙂
Do You plan on testing the sony zeiss e 24 1.8 ? if so even thou they are different focal lenghts the can be compared in shots like the ones u made… so please compare the touit to the e 24
Hey Alexander. Unless a reader/camera store sends me a copy to review, I don’t see myself reviewing that lens. For one, it’s already been extensively reviewed by multiple other sites, even on the NEX-7.
However, the main reason is that I don’t see potential photographs in a wide-angle perspective. The 32mm Zeiss is the widest I own, and it’s plenty wide for all the applications I need it for.
However, I have followed the Z24 ever since announcement, and have read many of its reviews. It’s still one of the best lenses you can get for your NEX. 🙂
In my eye at least, the 24 is a bit better than the 32. Almost no barrel distortion, outstanding bokeh if you can focus close enough and about the best corner sharpness of any lens I’ve ever used, including my Leica R series 35/2.8.
ok , one question then: When u do the sharpness test with abcdefgh… lines:
– what size are the fonts and
– what font kind is it and
– depending on the focal length do you vary the distance on order to get the exact same framing of the lines?
I know the last one is stupid probably because self explanatory
Make sure you check out my lens review style post (linked at top of review), it helps give you a sense of how big these letters actually are.
-Don’t know the exact font size…
-…or kind of font
-Yes, I vary shooting distance to always get full framing.
Each line of corner letters is about 3/4th an inch wide, so we’re talking about really, really fine detail here. 🙂
I have the sel24 so i if u told me the process of how exactly u make the abcdefgh… lines test I could do it and sent u the files for a comparison at least for this part of the review… the thing that really bothers me is the CA of the SEL24 now if I knew the 32 is much sharper then I might get it and sell the 24 …
Sure, the link to the file is here: http://www.pbase.com/iangreyphotography/image/82910480. I printed it at a high-quality photostore at an 8×12 size. The file technically prints at “true photo quality” 300 dpi at 12×18 (which would allow me to focus further away from the chart). Unfortunately, the prints I make at that size are useless for testing lenses on the high-res NEX-7. Each shot, at each aperture, is manually refocused to ensure pinpoint accuracy (every now and then, even CDAF can mis-focus in a controlled environment). After that, I import the RAW files to LR4, crop as close as I need to, and export without any post-production.
To arrange the crops, I use GIMP.
I will check it out.
OK so I will do it then once we get the new printer. Old one broke a week ago right about the moment when we wonted to print boarding cards/tickets lol. Whithin 10 days I´ll send u the results.
The zeiss 24 doesn have barrel distortion but the opposite, pincushion
Good review although it took me a while to work out why the image samples look so poor on my iPad. It looks like they are still in ProphotoRGB which produces weird desaturated colours on non colour managed browsers. They look great on the MacBook but then I rarely browse the Internet on that these days 🙂
Well shoot, that’s a shame it doesn’t work well cross-platform. When I’m working with my RAW files in Lightroom 4, colors only match what I’ve been editing if I export in ProPhotoRGB. In standardRGB or AdobeRGB, yellows never turn out right (heavily de-saturated), in my file system or online. It’s odd, because some websites don’t support the expanded colorspace. My photos on G+ look much better than they do on Facebook for this reason. Thanks for pointing that out, I’ll put an addendum to my “Lens Review Style” and some of my reviews letting my readers know this.
Great job on the review. I rented the Touit for about a week now. My first impressions weren’t all that great. But the more I used it the more I became attached to its sharpness. The only other lens I could compare it to is my Minolta 50mm 1.4. The colors definitely look better on the Zeiss. The biggest turn off for me with this lens is the auto focusing. It’s slow and hunts for the focus point. Is it worth the 900 bucks? That’s a tough one. I probably won’t get it because of the auto focus. We’ll see how I live with out the lens. I may go for Sony’s 35f18.
Thanks, Lee. That high-sharpness (and low aberrations) will be something to miss if you go for the Sony—especially if you are shooting with a NEX-7. However, the Sony is by no means a bad lens with its better focusing and stabilization. If you’re looking for a copy, we may have to talk. 😉
Looking to sell your 35mm Matthew? We may have to talk ;D
Actually, yes. 🙂 I regretfully still have not listed the lens on eBay. If you haven’t been able to tell from the lack of posts lately, I’ve still been pretty busy with a multitude of obligations.
Thanks Matthew for the thorough review. Having the SEL35 that I like, and the PEN F 38 that I adore, I was never truly tempted by the Zeiss (not to mention I find their price tags ludicrous). Yup, sharpness seems MUCH improved over the SEL (which is no sharpness queen by any mean), but I doubt it outdoes the PEN F… The AF in the SEL is acceptable without being impressive, so anything *below* that performance is not something I’m interested in. Furthermore, being a shallow DOF nut, the not so compelling bokeh is also a dealbreaker. So overall I definitely won’t be looking further into this lens, but thanks for the very well done review.
Glad you liked the review, Marla. I have never used the much-revered PEN F lenses (nor will I, as their prices are starting to soar!), though I have heard special accolades towards the 38mm. Keep in mind that the 38mm is a full-frame lens, so it’s relatively easy to have better corner sharpness against a lens of APS-C design.
Keep in mind that while AF performance is a little worse speed-wise and a lot worse noise-wise than the Sony, Zeiss sent a press blurb a couple months ago that a firmware update for the lens would be available this month. How/if it improves autofocus, I don’t know (but I’ll update the review with it if it does change anything on the NEX-7).
I’m a shallow depth-of-field junkie myself, which is why I tend to go telephoto for my photography. I knew going into the Zeiss that shallow depth-of-field would only exist in special cases in my photographs (close-focus or wide-open at medium distances). What I needed the Zeiss for was great sharpness wide-open for my candid assignments at work, as well as tack-sharp performance for landscapes (which it has in spades at f/5.6). Though the bokeh isn’t as smooth, the complete and total lack of aberrations both in the in- and out-of focus areas make it the winner for me.
But! It’s not a lens for everyone, and I understand that. 🙂
Hi. Will you compare the above lenses to the Sigma EX DN 30mm 2.8f?
Thank you in advance.
Hi there Gabriel. The sheer amount of reviews of the wonderful little Sigma 30mm put me off wanting to review that lens any time soon (especially with me getting into full-frame land soon with the A7/A7r!). However, from all that I’ve read from reviews and other photographers, the Sigma is a great lens that resolves detail very well even at f/2.8. Sharper than the Sony, but a little behind the Zeiss. Bokeh on the Sigma is a little harsh, too. If you don’t mind the slowish f/2.8 speed, then it’s a lens to consider, given the very affordable price.
I’m very interested in how this Zeiss lens compares to the Sigma 30mm f/2.8. That lens is dirt cheap, it gets a lot of praises and it’s tested extremely well on dxomark.com. I think the optical results can come uncomfortably close to the Zeiss.
Hey Nick! A comparison between the two lenses would be great, but there’s already a plethora of Sigma 30mm reviews out there that dig into the nitty-gritty of what the lens can do. If someone were to send me a lens to try out, however, I may still give it a go.
No lie, the Sigma definitely presents a better value. But, it is 1.3 stops slower than the Zeiss, isn’t built as well, and seems to have a bit more issues with CA. Apples and oranges.
One quick note, don’t put any amount of stock into DxOMark test numbers. Their controlled-environment tests (which they don’t even release their method to the public) do not translate to photographic applications. Always trust reviews with real photographs. 🙂
Thank you for your reviews.
Thanks for this! Trying to buy one of the two now. Thinking I’ll get the Sony. Now to decide between the 35 and the 50mm…
Owned the 50mm, but only for a couple days to resell it for a friend. From what I’ve seen and read from it, it’s just as capable a lens as the 35mm. Glad the review helped you out.
Great review you got here..
Hi Matt, i need help with your insight..
I have the 24mm f1.8 n im considering to get either touit 32mm f1.8 or Voigtlander For Leica M 35mm F/1.2 II ASPH Nokton with voigtlander lens adapter.
Some people say that the touit 35 is basically the same sharpness n quality with the 24 sonnar, just different focal length, what do you think?
If it is indeed about the same, then would u prefer to just get the voigtlander with the adapter if you were me to get a higher quality lens for nex6?
Some theory suggest that using lens with adapter will greatly reduce its quality, apart from just manual focus and manual apperture..
Again, if you were me, which path would you choose? Touit or voigt?
Many many thanks for the help! Appreciate it =)
The Touit’s sharpness is on par or better than the Zeiss 24mm. Though I do not own the 24mm, tests I have read on multiple reviews show the similarities. This is to say that both the Zeiss lenses are nice and sharp for any real-world application.
I am not familiar with the Voigt, at least not much more than that it is a super-fast 35mm. From what I remember, it is not so great until f/2, but from then on out it performs as you would expect a high-quality fast 35 to perform. Read up on some reviews and photographs before you come to a conclusion.
As far as adapters affecting image quality, only the very low-quality made-in-china adapters (around $30 or less) may give you problems with either light leakage or misalignment. Look for some well priced adapters like the Fotodiox PRO line or something similar to start and go from there if you take the Voigt route.
Thanks for the speedy reply =)
I do my best, take care. 🙂
hey – great review and very helpful. Thanks for your efforts
Glad you found it useful, take care!
Thumbs up for this review!! Thank you very much Matthew. Appreciate it very much!
Assuming that you like to take pictures of a crawling baby… What would be the preferred lense? Touit or Sony? Read lots of comments, that the autofocus of the Touit is (by far) not as fast as the focus of Sony SEL. However, would the Autofocus of Touit be fast enough anyway? I am looking to use the lense with alpha 6000…
Thank you again
Hello there Timo, glad you like the review. To my knowledge, the Touit 32mm currently can use the PDAF points of the a6000, which is leagues faster than the CDAF of my NEX-7. Though the Sony will likely get you slightly faster results, the Touit will be more than fast enough for a baby. Just make sure to check that the firmware on the camera and lens is up to date and you should be set!
Thank you – now I’m confident!!
Regards from Germany
PS: Natural Inversion… Simply stunning! Thank you for posting
Edit: just saw the news, that Zeiss recently released a FW update (v. 02) to support hybrid autofocus @ 12&32mm…
Glad it’s official now!
What a superb in-depth review Matt, thanks a lot for your hard work. Kinda wish I’d found your site before I invested in the Sel35f18 for my A6000 as it probably would’ve swung me towards the Zeiss. Now the firmware update for the Zeiss is available I’m still very tempted to make the switch …
Hey! Glad you liked the review. Even when the lens was 900 dollars new, I still thought it to be a better value than the Sony lens, as long as video and a lot of low-light work wasn’t on your slate of image-making (OSS). With the prices they go now, combined with the firmware update, there’s more reason than ever to go the Touit way. 🙂
Thank you for your awesome reviews!
The 32mm Touit is now on sale at B&H for $499 which is only a $50 difference from the SEL35F18. I own an a5000 and was looking to upgrade my kit 1655pz. With the price now at $499, would it be a clear choice over the SEL35F18?
Oh. WOW! Thanks for letting me know on this. I thought the Touit was a better buy than the Sony even at $900. At only $50 more it’s a no-brainer now. Go for it!
So it looks like the price has come down to be almost equal to the Sony. Does that now change your POV?
A reader last week mentioned the same thing. Now that the Touit is only $50 more than the Sony, it’s a must-buy if someone is comparing the two, unless they absolutely prioritize having OSS (shaky hands) or silent focusing (useful only for video, you’ll never find the Touit’s focusing a bother even in quiet situations).
Matt, now that they released the update. Does it support the full PDAF? Unlike the Sigma just being in the center. Thanks
Yes, especially with the new price I would definitely recommend it over the Sigma unless all you want is the cheapest lens.
Thank you for your large rewiev. It is great.. I wonder that now both lens are very nearly price on b and h
What can be your choise on these conditions… If you will answer i will be glad… Best regards
Hello! Sorry for the late response. Unless OSS is needed for low light and/or shaky hands, the Zeiss is the much better lens at a similar price.
With that low cost, really debating on both. The quieter motor would be nice for video – and with a baby on the way, that’s a definite use case scenario.
I always should preface the quieter autofocus thing to mention that if you “really” want to get good audio, you should be using an external mic anyway off-camera, but with a baby on the way I can understand you wanting a simpler approach that can get you great results too. What’s nice is that you can’t go wrong either way.
Great review! For your comparison between the Sony and the Zeiss, are the images from the Zeiss Touit corrected for distortion or not? Thanks.
I used the adobe lens profiles for both lenses, with the exception of test images (i.e. not the real-world shots). Thanks!
Hello Matt. Appreciate your insights and reviews. I’m the proud owner of the 12mm and 32mm Touit’s, as well as the FE 55mm Zeiss. I’m trying to position myself for a potential move to FF later, with an interest in using both FF and APS-C formats. I’m looking to add something in the ~35mm and ~135mm FF equivalent for my a6000 and am considering the Batis lenses. However, their availability is quite limited. As it relates to 35mm FF equivalent, would you suggest the Batis 25mm over the SZ 24mm? Thanks in advance.
Hey there Chris, your only hope for getting that 135mm FF format natively on aps-c is the batis 85mm, unless you want to go my route with a manual focus lens like the Nikon 85mm 1.4 (that Zeiss Otus though…if money wasn’t an object…).
Regarding the batis vs SZ, the Sony is a lot older lens design that just barely managed to squeak out the detail from the NEX-7’s sensor. Reviews often complained about its lack of corner sharpness and CA’s. From what I’ve seen of the batis, it has much better build quality, holds its own wide open even in the corners, and seems to have much less CA. That OLED display looks neat too. If you get a deal on a used 24mm, you couldn’t complain, but I would go for the Batis.
Never mind – I see you already answered that question. Thanks!
Now that the new sigma 30mm 1.4 DC dn is out which would you pick?
I have read a few reports on the new Sigma. It is a decent lens after f/2, but at f/1.4 especially it has some sharpness and purple fringing problems that are a bit hard to correct. If speed is what you need though, it’s a good alternative, though there is not much difference between f/1.8 and f/1.4 in real-life use. If the wide aperture is not important, I still recommend that cheap Sigma 30mm f/2.8 that is great for pocket shooting. I do wonder how the new Sony 50mm f/1.8 e-mount lens (full-frame) on an A7 compares to the zeiss on aps-c, though.
I have an a7 and the 50mm 1.8 (new one) and it has some purple fringing also. Trying to find the best portrait lens for the a6000, but without spending the money on the Zeiss 55mm.
That’s a shame, though for the price I knew there would be shortcomings. You may want to take a look at the lenses Mitakon offers, but getting that separation at an equivalent 85mm focal length is tough without spending some cash. That’s why I like the legacy 85mm primes. They still give a good long portrait look of ~135mm, and have great separation. They can also be had on the cheap by comparison.
However, I’ll let you in on a little secret that I haven’t posted on the main site yet…I’ve just put an order in for that Laowa 105mm f/2 STF lens for Nikon mount. I saw ephotozine’s review and I couldn’t wait any longer, haha. It’ll be the first lens I’ve bought in well over a year, can’t wait to review it.
Great review, Matthew! Just out of curiosity now that the review is a couple years old, did the Zeiss firmware update change any of the negative characteristics you experienced? I know the AF speed/functionality was improved by the firmware update, but I’m not sure if the other things mentioned in this review would be affected by firmware.
Thanks! I actually have an incoming lightly used 32mm Touit for my a6000. I can’t wait!
Hey there Tony! Glad you liked the review, hard to believe it’s been a couple years already. Unfortunately the firmware update was only for the PDAF models, so the functionality on my NEX-7 was unchanged. From reports I have read, though, the AF is a bit snappier and hunts less with the new firmware on a6000 and up. Hope you enjoy it! It’s still a trooper of a lens for me.
Well done! But I’ve did my DD and for me the winner between Zeiss Touit 32mm f1.8 vs Sony 35mm f1.8 and Sigma 30mm f1.4, the winner is the Sigma! (Compared on a Sony A6000)
The 1.4f Sigma is very sharp and my most used prime. But its AF hunts a bit in my a6000 and is slow. It is not petite also.
This is a very well written review. Thank you. Did you also try the Zeiss 24mm 1.8 and the Sigma 30mm 2.8 and 1.4? Any comparison points with those?
Thanks amansk! I have not shot with any of those other lenses, but what I do know is they are all good in their own right. The Zeiss has long been a high-performing option ever since the NEX-7 (with the exception of the purple corners on that camera, it was about the best lens you could buy at the time). The Sigma 2.8 is a good cheap option if you don’t need shallow DoF, though I am not familiar with the performance of the 1.4 variant.
I would think that the two Sigma lenses would be a better value option than the Touit. Perhaps, Matthew could consider a comparison to the Sigma lenses and then try to justify the higher cost of the Touit.
Couldn’t agree more, if Sigma or someone else sent me a review copy of either lens, I’d gladly give it the proper treatment. When the Touit first came out, it definitely was overpriced compared to the 30mm f/2.8, even if it had better performance (it does in most areas based on other reviews I’ve seen). At current non-sale prices, the difference is a bit over $500. I’ve seen the Touit go on sale for much cheaper before, though. The f/1.4 version coming in at only $140 more than the f/2.8 Sigma looks very enticing!