The Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 is the best super-wide angle e-mount lens available for Sony mirrorless cameras today. The Batis 18mm is incredibly sharp from corner to corner, and provides high contrast images with deep color saturation. As an avid hiker, backpacker, and traveler, I’ve found the Batis 18mm to be a lightweight ‘do-it-all’ lens that always gets the job done. I’ve been using this lens non-stop for the last few months now, and will share my experience with sample photos in the following review.
Lens Construction, Handling, And Build Quality:
The Zeiss Batis family of lenses includes this 18mm f/2.8, as well as a 25mm f/2, 85mm f/1.8, and 135mm f/2.8. The Batis range is for Sony e-mount only. For those wondering what ‘Batis’ means, it’s a genus of passerine birds in the wattle-eyes family. Zeiss uses this bird family nomenclature for each family group of it’s mirrorless lenses, ie. Touit and Loxia.
All of the lenses in the Batis family share a minimal tulip bulb design that I find very attractive. There is a simple elegance about the Batis design that really makes this 18mm lens stand out when compared to my other more utilitarian lenses.
The Zeiss Batis 18mm is constructed using a combination of metal and plastic, providing a durable and robust build in a light weight 11.6oz package. In the middle of the Batis 18mm is a rubberized infinite scroll focus ring that feels great in hand on the rare occasions I need to focus this lens manually.
The Batis 18mm is 3.94″ x 3.15″, but grows substantially in length and width when used with it’s flower pedal lens hood. With a 77mm filter thread and a front element that’s a little susceptible to flares, the lens hood is a must while shooting out in the sun. Make sure not to lose your lens hood, because a replacement will set you back $77!
The Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 has a metal bayonet and is weather and dust sealed. As someone that shoots 95% of my pictures outdoors in occasionally very harsh weather, this quality weather sealing is a major bonus. When attaching the Batis 18mm to my Sony a7rii, I can feel the blue rubber ring create a seal with my lens mount. This keeps much more dust out than my other lenses, which means less sensor cleaning.
I switched over to Sony full frame cameras with an A7ii and A7rii last year after owning an APS-C a6000 for three years. I would have switched over sooner, but couldn’t find a suitable replacement for my super wide angle Sony 10-18mm lens. That zoom lens is lightweight, takes incredible images, and is perfect for adventures when I’m looking to pack light. My first full frame wide angle was the Sony 16-35mm zoom lens that I brought with me along Iceland’s Ring Road. It was a nice lens that helped me capture some memorable images, but I hated using it due to it’s weight and size. At 11.64oz, the Batis 18mm is 7oz lighter than the 16-35mm, and doesn’t give up anything in build quality or weather sealing. I do miss the added range of the zoom, but I’m willing to trade that flexibility for the size and weight savings.
The Batis 18mm was designed via collaboration by Sony and Zeiss, and manufactured by Sony in Japan. Quality control is then done by Zeiss to ensure that the high Zeiss standard is met and held.
This lens is constructed using 11 elements in 10 groups. The elements are coated using the superb ZEISS® T*. This anti-reflective coating minimizes flares and other aberrations. The T* (T-star) coating can sound like a bunch of marketing talk, but I’ve found this 18mm to be extremely resistant to flares. The color rendering, contrast, sharpness, and resolution is also second to none. This is the same T* used on my superb Sony Zeiss 55mm.
One very unique feature on the Batis line of lenses is the use of an OLED display for focus distance and depth of field readouts. The design is intended to assist users in poor lighting conditions, but I’ve found this feature to be more of a gimmick. The autofocus on the Batis 18mm is near perfect, and the only time I use manual focus is for long exposures. In these cases, I only need to set my focus once and then I’m done.
Specs and Stats:
Dimensions: 3.94″ x 3.15″
Weight: 11.64oz (330g)
Filter Thread: 77mm
Focal Length: 18mm
Aperture: f/2.8 -f/22
View Angle: 99°
Minimum Focus Distance: 9.84″ (25cm)
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Image Quality And Performance:
If you skipped the first half of this review and jumped straight to this sample image section, I don’t blame you! I’m guilty of doing the same thing when researching lenses. Nothing shapes my opinions on a potential lens purchase quite like the images captured by other photographers. Below you will find a wide range of images that I’ve captured in my 8 months of owning the Zeiss Batis 18mm.
As an avid hiker, backpacker, and traveler, landscapes make up the vast majority of the images I capture. For this reason, I tend to shoot with a wide angle lens on my camera far more often than not. I’ve found that 18mm provides the perfect field of view for the desert and mountain landscapes I photograph most. At first, I thought I might miss the extra 2mm from my Sony 16-35mm, but that has never been the case. The corner to corner sharpness of the Batis 18mm has really been amazing, capturing every detail in frame.
With it’s wide 99° viewing angle and fast f/2.8 aperture, the Zeiss Batis 18mm is a superb lens for interior and exterior architecture. I don’t shoot any commercial architecture, but do photograph my fair share of buildings while traveling. A wide lens like this really helps capture everything I’m seeing when in small rooms or tight corners.
Shooting portraits with a wide angle lens can be a real challenge due to perspective distortion, since your subject has to be much closer to your lens when compared to longer focal lengths. It’s important to note that perspective distortion is not the same as optical distortion (barrel and pincushion). The Batis 18mm has very little barrel style optical distortion, and that which exists is easily correctable with the built in Lightroom profile. Perspective distortion is more difficult to work around, as you have to get close to your subject or move farther away and crop later. For this reason, I don’t shoot too many close-up style portraits with the Batis 18mm, and instead focus on full body portraits that integrate the surrounding landscape.
I don’t do a lot of long exposure photography or astrophotography, but know that quite a few people do. The Zeiss Batis 18mm is able to capture a lot of light with it’s maximum aperture of f/2.8, making it a lens ideally suited for long exposures. I was really surprised with how sharp and detail rich my night sky shots came out with a single exposure.
Low Light Handheld:
As a lightweight hiker and traveler I very rarely have a tripod with me. This means I need a lens that can capture sharp low light shots without having to bump my ISO to high or my shutter speeds to slow. The max aperture of f/2.8 on the Batis 18mm pairs very well with the in body stabilization of my Sony a7rii in this regard. I prefer a max aperture closer to f/1.8 for these uses, but when I only bring one lens with me, the Batis 18mm is more than serviceable.
With a retail price of $1499, the Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 is one of the more expensive wide angle lenses for full frame Sony mirrorless cameras. Is it worth it? To me yes, but that’s a questions you’ll have to answer for yourself. The Batis 18mm is a lightweight lens that delivers amazing images every time I put it on my camera. Many of my hiking and travel outings take me to places I’m not likely to return to. For this reason, I need to get the best shots possible knowing I won’t get a redo. I’m more confident in the abilities of the Zeiss Batis 18mm than of any other lens I own.
Looking at the e-mount competition you’ll see a few wide angle alternatives. If you’re okay with manual focusing, the $800 Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 and $850 Venus Optics Laowa 15mm f/2 could be nice options. If you need auto-focus, you can take a look at the $2200 Sony 16-35mm f/2.8, the $1250 Sony 16-35mm f/4, and the $1600 Sony 12-24 f/4. After researching the price, size, performance, and handling of each of these lenses, the Batis was the clear winner for me. If you want to try a few of these lenses out for yourself to see which one works best for you, try out Lensrentals.com so that you can rent before such a big investment.
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