Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8 Review

Specifications

Aperture
f/1.8 – f/22
Size
81 x 92 mm
Filter Thread
67 mm
Weight
475 g
Max Magnification
0.1265
Min Focusing Distance
80 cm
Number of aperture blades
9, Rounded
Elements/Groups
11 / 8
Optical Stabilization
Yes
Weather Resistance
Yes

We love shooting with the Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8 lens for Sony mirrorless E-mount, which we use with the Sony a7RII and the Sony a9.

Build Quality

The Zeiss Batis series are well-designed lenses. The Batis looks sleek and modern, with its gentle taper towards the front element and a smooth, minimalist exterior. The lens also balances very well on the camera. It weighs 475g or approximately 1.05lb.

The weather sealing on the lens mount is tight and has rubber gaskets. The plastic lens shade is a bit large, but it is effective for keeping flare at bay.

[Taken with Sony Zeiss Distagon 35mm f1.4]

There is a fun OLED display on the lens body that shows depth of field. It can double as a distance meter if you like to know approximately how far away something is, unless it’s so far away that the lens can only display an infinity marker.

Autofocus

Autofocus is generally good, but it has a tendency to hunt a little in low light situations. It won’t be a sports lens, but it can take some good candid shots.

We also tried out the lens in a studio setting with two lights sources, the Nissin Air Commander with Di700A for Sony flashes. The setting was ISO 100, 1/100th shutter speed, and 85mm f4.

The continuous eye autofocus feature on the a7RII struggled a bit in this situation due to the very low exposure pre-flash-fire and the subject looking away most of the time, but still managed to find the eyes even while he was looking down.

Image Quality

We stay at f1.8 for a lot of our photos because we know what the lens is capable of at its widest aperture. When combined with 42 megapixels on the a7RII, the camera and lens capture a ton of detail, dynamic range and color depth. The combination has such resolving power that the resulting image can be cropped to 120mm+ equivalent and still retain about 16 megapixels of resolution.

This lens renders quite similarly to the Sony 55mm f1.8 ZA, which is also a Sonnar design. The areas that are in focus tend to be razor sharp even wide open at f1.8, and the areas that are out of focus tend to have a lot of contrast while still being very smooth. The result could be what some have referred to as the “Zeiss 3D pop,” making the subject stand out vividly against the background.

[Sony 55mm f1.8 ZA on the left; Batis 85mm f1.8 on the right]

The tighter field of view is generally more flattering for portraits, but less of the environment can be seen.

The background blur is usually very smooth and free of the onion ring bokeh that can sometimes happen with the Sony 55mm f1.8 ZA. Backgrounds with lots of overlapping foliage and branches will appear somewhat busy. Interesting effects can also happen when foreground elements overlap with background highlights.

The center of the frame has more circular bokeh balls. Towards the edges of the frame, the background blur can exhibit some cat’s eye bokeh, or more elongated shapes instead of perfectly circular highlights. This is also similar in behavior and appearance to the 55mm that we are used to, and this was something we also expected based on other reviews. Some people enjoy this look due to the fact that it can appear as a large swirl or circle framing the scene, but it can also be distracting.

If there will be highlights in the background, and the cat’s eye bokeh is not desired, stopping down to around f2.8 to f3.5 will make the background highlights more circular.

When shooting near the minimum focusing distance of 80cm or 2.6ft, the depth of field is very thin, and the background blurs away to a soft cream. The areas in focus remain so sharp that individual eyelashes are discernible.

The color rendition of this lens is a bit more saturated and have more contrast in the tones compared to the Sony 24-70mm f2.8 GM lens, which is more muted and flat. When we take photos with both the Batis and the GM and process them the same way, we often prefer the photos taken with the Batis.

There is a noticeable amount of pincushion distortion and vignetting with this lens, but these are easily correctable. I often leave them uncorrected because the vignetting can look good for portraits.

The lens is suitable for landscape purposes due to its sharpness and contrast. Stopping down to f8 or f11 will result in an image that is sharp to edges of the frame.

Shooting into the sky near sunset is something we do frequently, and the Batis 85mm performs superbly for this. The flare is generally well-controlled, and there is very little chromatic aberration or color fringing in even high contrast scenes.

The lens can flare when shooting directly into sunlight, with some interesting red-colored circular flares as well as more typical green-yellow flares. The flares are remarkably well controlled and only seem to appear when the light is in very specific areas. Shooting into the sun will also cause a small loss of contrast and softer, more muted colors, though less than with other lenses we’ve used.

Summary

Pros

  • Excellent build quality with gaskets and weather sealing
  • Silent, accurate and acceptably fast autofocus
  • Sharp across the entire frame, even wide open
  • Smooth background blur
  • Very minor chromatic aberration
  • Good contrast and rendering
  • OLED display and sleek design gives the lens a modern touch
  • Lightweight and compact, with a large lens hood that can make the lens look more serious

Cons

  • Only f1.8
  • Expensive at $1200
  • Pincushion distortion and vignetting are strong (but correctable)
  • Can flare strongly in some situations
  • Cat’s eye bokeh balls (may be a positive for some people)

This is one of those lenses that at first seems like an overpriced brand name luxury piece, but it’s easy to see why so many people fall in love with it. The Zeiss Batis 85 is amazingly sharp wide open. The resulting photos have the Zeiss pop, contrast and rendering that makes it almost effortless to create great portraits. It’s light enough to take with us almost anywhere, and small enough that it doesn’t get in the way.

At the time that we bought the Batis, there was no other native E-mount 85mm. Now there are a number of great options, such as the Sony FE 85mm f1.4 GM and the Sony FE 85mm f1.8 for $600. However, both of the other Sony 85mm lenses have slightly more chromatic aberration and don’t fare as well in backlit situations.

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17 responses to “Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8 Review”

  1. eliot says:

    gasp! they exist! i still have yet to find one in stock.. are they out and about now? i havent looked in a week… off to browse! have a great thursday!

  2. Burns says:

    What a great, beautiful and detailed review!

  3. Marius says:

    I own this lens and A6000. A lot of chromatic aberrations. A6000 has included correction for chromatic aberrations in jpegs. Useless. Why you don’t say that!? You lie people in order for them to buy this lens . Bad!

  4. Hi Marius, we shoot only RAW, and don’t own the a6000. On our a7RII and a7II, we see virtually zero chromatic aberrations. If you can show RAW-converted samples from your a6000 with “a lot of” CA, please provide them. Otherwise, our review stands as is.

  5. Gabe says:

    Marius you are a stupid whiner!
    CA first of all is EASILY correctable. Second, it was tested on FF not an A6000 so since you likely have no idea how this can affect the results, go research it as I am not going to make it easy for you.
    Next time, try not to make a fool of yourself

  6. Steve Johnson says:

    Thanks for the well-done review!… with excellent photos illustrating performance aspects. A question- does the camera support in-camera correction of Batis distortions for jpegs as with the Sony lenses? …I don’t have Lightroom, or other post tools.

    Beautiful website, and beautiful photography! Thanks very much!

  7. John says:

    Thanks for the informative quick review. Still can’t decide if should pair my A7II with this lens or Sony’s new 85.
    On the other hand, that’s a nice problem to have.

    Many thanks,
    John

  8. Hi John, thank you for commenting. From our research and reading others’ experiences with the Batis 85 vs. Sony GM 85, we decided to stay with the Batis 85 for the following reasons:

    1) Faster autofocus speed and quieter autofocus for video. The GM takes noticeably longer to autofocus than the Batis, which is important for us when taking photos of our running kids.

    2) Lighter and smaller. The difference in depth-of-field between f1.4 and f1.8 is there, but even at f1.8 we often find that one eye is out of focus.

    3) Cheaper price.

  9. Pamela says:

    I have an a6000 and the Zeiss 55/1.8 lens. I also have the Batis 25/2. I love the Batis 25/2 and am contemplating trading in the 55/1.8 for the Batis 85/1.8. I mostly do travel, landscape, and portrait (small kids) photography. Love the 55/1.8 but can’t justify 3 lenses. Any thoughts?

  10. Hi Pamela, thank you for your comment. We did sell our 55mm/1.8 lens after we got the Batis 85mm, because we found that we prefer it in almost every case. I think you would likely be very happy with the 25 and 85 Batis combination.

  11. Rose and Charles says:

    Hi Pamela, thank you for your comment. We did sell our 55mm/1.8 lens after we got the Batis 85mm, because we found that we prefer it in almost every case. I think you would likely be very happy with the 25 and 85 Batis combination.

  12. Deaw says:

    Hi Rose and Charles,
    Great review and great image. Could you please tell me how you setting your camera. Which mode? such as which creative style when you shoot?

  13. Hi Deaw, thank you for your comment. We generally use aperture priority and default creative styles, shoot in RAW and post-process the photos after.

  14. Edgar says:

    Hi I have the A7ii w/kit lens and Sony 50 f/1.8 lens. I’ve been taking pictures of my wife and daughter as well as landscapes. Now I am searching for a better lens to shoot my family but will also be shooting a friends concert indoors with low light. Have been looking at quite a few like the Zeiss 55 f/1.8, Zeiss 16-35 f/4, Zeiss 24-70 f/4, Sony 24-240 f/3.5-6.3 and now the Batis 85 F/1.8 Pretty sure you can tell I’m an amateur and all over the place so please guide me toward the right direction that you think will better suit my needs. Thanks!

  15. Hi Edgar, there is a Sony FE 85mm f1.8 coming out soon, and that might suit your needs a bit better. There is also a rumored Zeiss Batis 135mm f2.8 which would provide better reach for concert type shots.

  16. Daniel says:

    Thank you for the review. How is the autofocus speed when used on the a9? Would the pair focus quickly enough for fast-moving kids sports indoors and outdoors?

  17. Hi Daniel, the autofocus speed is very fast on the a9, and fast enough for most use case scenarios for full-body shots. However, at close focusing distances it might miss critical focus. You can also look into the Sony 85mm f1.8 lens which has similar performance optically and in autofocus.

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