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Jul 11

Review: Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar T* (Fuji X)

The Zeiss 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar, which fills out the trio of Touit lenses for mirrorless cameras, has finally arrived.  This line, for both Fuji X-mount and Sony E-mount, is separate from the lenses that Zeiss creates with Sony specifically for their E-Mount and A-mount cameras.  The Touit 50mm is a true 1:1 macro lens and with a short telephoto focal length can potentially pull double duty as a portrait and general purpose lens.  While the version reviewed here is for the Fuji X-Mount, the E-Mount version of the lens should be identical in every way, save for the absence of an aperture ring. This lens has been anticipated for quite some time, so let’s dive in.

The Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar T* on the Fujifilm X-T1

The Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar T* on the Fujifilm X-T1

If you’re not familiar with my reviews, I review from a real world shooting perspective.  You won’t find lens charts or resolution numbers here.  There are plenty of other sites that cover those.  I review products on how they act for me as a photographic tool in real-world shooting. 

Build Quality and Handling

The Zeiss 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar with the included hood

The Zeiss 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar with the included hood

The Zeiss 50mm f/2.8 Macro is a solidly built lens with a sturdy metal barrel, a metal lens mount and grippy rubber aperture and focus rings. I am not really a fan of the rubber control rings, as I think it reduces the tactile feedback when using the lens, but it does provide for a nice grip.  The lens is fairly dense, and significantly larger than the Fuji 60mm f/2.4, though still small enough to handle well on the Fuji X-T1.  It would be a bit unwieldy on a smaller body such as the X-M1 or X-A1, but should handle well on all the other Fuji bodies.  The weight and metal build lend the Touit a feeling of extremely solid construction.  This feels like a premium lens.

The focus ring, as mentioned, has that thick rubber grip, which should provide good purchase in all weather.  While I am not a big fan of the rubber feel, the focus ring is damped quite well, with nice resistance and smooth focusing action for manual focus.  Given the less than stellar macro-range autofocus capabilities that I’ll talk about shortly, manual focus will get a fair bit of use with this lens when shooting near maximum magnification.

The lens also features an aperture ring for the Fuji X-mount, with 1/3 stop detents from f/2.8 to f/22 and the A setting for automatic aperture selection.  The aperture ring is nice and firm with very solid selection points.  It may even be slightly too firm, as there is some tendency to jump multiple steps when the ring gives, but overall, I would prefer it to be stiff like it is than loose.

Focus and Performance

The Touit 50mm has a split personality with regards to autofocus.  The lens features a focus motor that is significantly quieter than the motors in the other two Touit lenses, and for typical subjects in good light, focus is quite quick.  If there is adequate light and you’re using the phase-detect points on an X-E2 or X-T1, the focus will snap into place nearly instantly.  If phase detection doesn’t lock on, it’s still reasonably quick in good light.  In fact, the lens keeps up quite well in continuous autofocus on my X-T1.  Be sure to check out the samples of my daughter on her bike, both of which were taken as she rode directly at me while the X-T1 and Touit 50mm tracked her.  Overall focus accuracy in good light is excellent, as you’d expect from a hybrid AF system.

The Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar

The Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 Makro-Planar

However, once the light gets dim or you begin to focus closer up, the Zeiss 50mm f/2.8 starts to falter a fair bit.  When trying to get some candid shots of my son in my family room, the lens was very hit and miss.  Sometimes it would lock on fine, other times it would fail completely.  I would not recommend using AF in dimmer light for anything that requires quick response.  The speed slows down considerably and there’s a good chance you’ll miss your target entirely.

The same can be said when using AF at high magnifications. Once you begin focusing in the macro range, the lens becomes extremely slow to focus.  For some reason, even when the ‘macro’ mode is enabled, the Touit 50mm will very often have a preference for the background instead of your close-up subject. I missed a lot of shots when shooting butterflies at our local conservatory due to the lens suddenly switching from the butterfly in my view to the plants 20 feet behind it.  It was very frustrating.

The point of both of these main problems is that the Touit 50mm desperately needs a focus limiter.  Fuji cameras have a semi-limited ‘macro mode’ , but it doesn’t do much with this lens.  There is still far too much of the range that is accessible when Macro Mode is off.  As a result, if you’re in lower light and you do a full button press and the camera misses focus…the lens will go completely through the range and back before firing off a shot and allowing you to refocus.  It does this slowly, and in some cases, if I missed focus, it was two to three seconds before I could attempt to refocus again.

Things are worse when Macro Mode is enabled.  While this will allow the lens to focus right up to 1:1, there is nothing to keep the lens from focusing OUT of the macro range.  The result is that tendency to focus on the background, which can make it very difficult to get the lens to focus back in the range of your subject.  I can’t imagine why Zeiss would design a 1:1 macro lens and put no form of focus limiting switch on the lens.  In any case, when shooting in the macro range, you’re almost certainly going to want to use manual focus with this lens.  The good news is that it is very easy to see the focus point with a good EVF like the one on the X-T1, and manual focus is a breeze.

One other point about handling and focus.  Because this is an internally focusing macro lens, the real focal length will get shorter as you focus closer.  With the Touit 50mm, that results in an extremely short working distance at 1:2 and closer.  When comparing to the Fuji 60mm, which is nominally only 20% longer, you need to be almost half the distance to your subject at 1:2 than you need to be with the 60mm.  At 1:1, working distance is only about 2 inches (without the hood), making lighting difficult and potentially spooking insects.  With the hood attached, the lens focuses essentially to the edge of the hood at 1:1.

Continue: Image Quality

About the author

Jordan Steele

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Admiring Light; Photographer; Electrical Engineer and Dad

8 comments

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  1. Duster Von Shank

    What’s with all the cartoon levels of color? Really odd to say the least.

    1. Jordan Steele

      I did push the one shot of the Trinity Church a bit much, and I’ve backed that off a bit. The rest look pretty natural to me, and I didn’t do a ton to them. The butterfly shots (which do look slightly surreal) I actually backed off saturation a bit. The colors in those are due to the surrounding backgrounds…there’s super bright pink and red glass sculptures in the butterfly garden that made for the colorful backgrounds. I’m viewing on a hardware calibrated high end monitor and things look pretty normal to me.

    2. David

      I think the colors look pretty good. With macro especially, bold colors make a lot of sense to me.

  2. HF

    Very nice review. I wanted to buy one, since the colours and contrast are great, but I don’t like the small working distance. That’s why I am using my FF macro on the Fuji with good success. Is this a lens you would buy, or would you personally wait for a 100mm macro (or even consider the Fui 60mm + close-up lens)?

  3. Sam

    Great review as always Jordan.I haven’t yet taken the plunge and ditched my FF kit for a Fuji setup, but the existence of a true macro removes one of the final obstacles. The lineup of X-mount lenses is now very impressive but I’m struck by just how many options there are in the 50-60mm range. If I’m not mistaken when the two new weather sealed zooms are released there will be ten (!) X-mount lenses that fall into that range. It would be nice to have a few longer primes and in particular a macro with a longer working distance. Still, reading over your reviews makes a compelling case for the switch. Thanks for producing such a thoughtful, informative site.

  4. Richard

    The review talks about how the 50 compares to the 60 in working distance at 1:2, but how do they compare at 1:2 in terms of sharpness, contrast, and bokeh?

  5. Richard

    Having this lens less the a week so far I glad I got this over the FUJI 56 as I needed a copy lens and portrait lens. Boken of this lens is fine for me as F5.6 – 8 or so is what I shoot at.

  6. Harvey

    Have you tried the AF of this lens with the firmware updated to version 2? Which focus mode were you using when the lens hunted in low light?

  1. Mirrorless Year in Review 2014 - Admiring Light

    […] long-awaited 50-140mm f/2.8 OIS, which is a truly exceptional optic.  Zeiss also released their Touit 50mm f/2.8 Macro for both Fuji X and Sony E mount cameras.  In all, Fuji has really fleshed out their system in […]

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