This spring, I picked up another E-mount Zeiss for my personal collection, the Zeiss Loxia 2.8/21 fully manual wide-angle lens. The only other E-mounts I have reviewed from Zeiss so far have been the Zeiss Batis 1.8/85 and Zeiss Batis 2.8/135. I have to say, this one is a completely different beast; and not only because it is fully manual.
The 21mm length has always been an interesting one for me. I've owned the Zeiss 21mm in both Leica M-mount (Biogon) as well as Nikon F-mount (Distagon), so you know I've had a long history with it. It's perfect for landscape, architecture, and even getting some close-up subjects with smooth bokeh backgrounds.
Per usual, a little of the nerdy with the tech specs, then I will move on to some of my initial impressions.
Zeiss Loxia 21 Tech Specs
Here is a quick run-down of the listed specs of the lens. Again, this is one designed to fit like a glove with the A7R II. This is an all mechanical lens. If you were to put this on an ASP-C body, the equivalent is 31.5 mm.
- Developed specifically for the Sony E-Mount mirrorless system
- Lens Design: Distagon
- Length: 21 mm
- Aperture: f/2.8-f/22
- Minimum Focus: 0.25 m
- Elements / Groups: 11/9
- Angular Field (diag. | horiz. | vert.): 91° / 81° / 59°
- Length: 72 mm (85 mm with cap)
- Filter: 52 mm
- Weight: 394 g
- Cost: ~$1424 US
Full Size Raw Sample
Below is a 100% zoomable raw file, taken wide open at f/2.8 and ISO 200 from the Zeiss Loxia 21 taken on the Sony A7R II. Click the image to peek around at pixels and the amount of detail in the distance. Also, check the edges and see that this lens is truly (nearly) distortion-free. The image to the right of the interactive one is after a Rebecca Lily Preset (one-click action) on how I like my images to look.
BUILD AND DESIGN
I am going to sound like a broken record here, but this is another Zeiss lens built like a tank. Much more solid than the Batis line, these are all metal construction. If you're familiar with M mount Zeiss or Leica glass, you have an idea of the build. The focus barrel is buttery smooth with a long 90° throw and has nice ribbing for easy grip whether bare handed or gloved. The aperture ring is solid and clicks nice into place with a range of f/2-8 - 22. The ring can also be "de-clicked" for silent use with video.
The water-resistant lens was designed with four anomalous partial dispersion elements and one aspherical element to control chromatic aberrations (purple fringing) and also has the legendary Zeiss T* coating to reduce ghosting and flare as well as increasing overall contrast in your images.
At 394g, this is much lighter than the Batis 135 (614g) & 85 (452g). If you've held a Leica Summilux-M, it's about the same weight and about 20mm longer. It makes for a great walk-around lens without adding much to the overall weight of your kit.
I am really happy with going to f/2.8 on a 21mm. This allows for handheld use in crappy light. I realize many prefer this length for landscape / tripod use, but I find I get away with handheld most of the time.
Focusing on the A7R II is really spectacular. The manual focus engages the "zoom focus assist" feature of the camera making sharp focus a snap. There's no play in the focus ring, and it's tight enough to hold it's place.
Below are a few more images from my walking around with the lens over the past few months. I shot a variety of scenes so you can look for fringing, distortion, color, sharpness, and so forth. I am really happy with what this lens is producing, even if it isn't a daily lens. When I have situations to use it, I am so glad I have it. Honestly, I like it a bit more than the Leica and Nikon mount versions from Zeiss.
This week, I picked up some ND filters to use with it and will update this post in the future with some long exposure work I am planning.
OK, on to some details on what I like.
The colors out of this lens are so good for me. Sure, I still use my presets to get the final look, but I really like how neutral the colors are coming off this lens. I didn't really shoot any portraits with this so I won't comment on skin tones. But for nature, the blue sky looks like how I see it with the naked eye, the green lives are accurate, and the subtle tones of the ocean are all there. Below are a few early fall foliage shots, with one straight into the sun. Click to see them full sized.
Bokeh is not usually something I look for in a 21mm. But from the image below of the Morgan you can see that it really adds a nice subtle touch to up-close work.
I like a lens that's sharp, but doesn't need to be clinically sharp. This one has the right balance for me. Viewing the images just above and below, I feel it has what I desire and my style shooting. And that's edge to edge. At f/2.8, it's very pleasing. Hitting f/4, you're talking clinical. Can't complain here.
The Zeiss Loxia 21mm is an excellent piece of glass. Not only beautiful to look at and a gem to hold, but also gives some outstanding results. If you're in the market for a great 21mm for your A7, give this a look. Don't let the manual focus scare you off - it's a piece of cake to use and as reliable at nailing focus (in my book) as the Batis AF line.
I've always been a fan of the 21mm length and what Zeiss does with them. No let downs here and it's become a permanent part of my collection.
All (edited) images in this set edited with Rebecca Lily's Pro Set IV.