- Compact and very solidly built lens that feels at home on the A7 cameras
- Outstanding manual focus feel
- Very sharp stopped down
- Beautiful color and contrast
- Smooth and pleasing bokeh at smaller apertures
- Very low distortion
- Chromatic aberration and vignetting are present but kept in check
- Lens hood design is poor, overlapping the focus ring
- Sharpness wide open is fine, but below expectations given the price
- Poor bokeh at wide apertures
- Manual aperture limits usefulness
I’m a big Zeiss fan, and I have been for a long time. From the first time I mounted my very first Zeiss lens: a Contax/Yashica mount 50mm f/1.7 Planar, I was hooked. I love the color, the contrast, the sharpness. I’ve owned a number of Zeiss lenses over the years. In C/Y mount, I’ve owned the 50mm f/1.7, the 85mm f/2.8 Sonnar and 85mm f/1.4 Planar and I currently own the Contax G 90mm f/2.8 and the Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8. I was really looking forward to trying out the Loxia. It seemed to be the perfect size and the best compromise in aperture between the slower Sony/Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 (which I really liked), and the faster and much larger Sony/Zeiss 35mm f/1.4 (which is downright phenomenal.) Perhaps that’s part of the reason I feel so let down with the Loxia 35mm f/2 Biogon.
The Loxia is a good lens, let’s get that straight. It’s beautifully crafted, has an absolutely wonderful manual focus feel and has great color, contrast and sharpness at smaller apertures. The problem is: so do a lot of other lenses. At f/2, where it differentiates itself from the FE 35mm f/2.8, it’s frankly not great. It’s got decent sharpness at f/2 over most of the frame, and it’s got good color and contrast at f/2, but the edges are only OK and the bokeh can at times be an eyesore. If this were a $500 lens, I’d give it a pass for less than perfect performance at f/2, but for $1,300 it needs to be exceptional. If you’re going to use it stopped down, where it’s quite excellent, the FE 35mm f/2.8 offers similar sharpness and rendering at a significantly lower price, in a smaller package, with autofocus.
The thing that bugs me the most is that my Canon FD 35mm f/2, a lens 30 years old and $1,000 cheaper, has extremely similar optical characteristics. The Loxia has a bit more contrast wide open, and has a very slight edge in sharpness at f/2, but the FD is slightly sharper stopped down and in all other things, save for vignetting, they are extremely similar lenses. The Loxia’s a manual lens, but the electronic connection should allow the aperture to stop down upon shooting, thus making the lens better for shooting people than an old adapted lens. Overall, I was left feeling that the Loxia is simply overpriced for what it gives you, despite being a relatively good lens. Of the three 35mm FE mount lenses I’ve reviewed, I liked it the least of the three, and ultimately, I can’t recommend it in light of the other options available.
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