Customer Review

95 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Stellar! A must-have lens for any NEX shooter (and might be the only one some will ever need), December 31, 2011
This review is from: Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA Lens for Sony NEX Cameras (Camera)
This is an optical masterpiece for NEX shooters. It stands tall above all the other currently available E-mount AF offerings in just about every category. It's priced accordingly, of course. But even if you're having reservations about spending $1k on a prime lens, consider the fact that this particular gem has the optical quality of modern Leica aspherical lenses that cost 3-4 times more. The all-metal construction and smoothness of the focusing ring exudes quality and remind me of precision-built pieces of jewelry from Leica, except this one will also auto-focus on an NEX body!

I am also a Nikon DSLR and Leica M9 shooter so my expectations were already sky high when it came to camera lens quality. This lens truly delivers. If you have an NEX-5N or C3 with the brilliant 16mp sensor or the resolution monster that is the NEX-7, your camera deserves this lens. Depending on what type of shooting you do, it may be the only lens you'll ever need. Ever since I received mine, it has not left my NEX-5N and when I finally get my grubby hands on an NEX-7, it will likely live in that body almost permanently as well. On the APS-C sensor, it is at the ideal "normal" focal length of 36mm for almost every type of photography. One can do landscapes, close-ups, portraiture, get nice bokeh, and improvise just to get about any type of shot with just this lens. If you don't mind the extra weight and size, it's the ideal walk-around lens for the NEX camera and even has an impressive close-focus distance of half a foot for a very welcome semi-macro capability. Lets face it, just about any quality lens will look and feel out-of-place in the very compact NEX bodies, so this is a small price to pay to get the amazing images it will deliver.

Compared to a Leica 28mm Summicron M Aspherical: Not the same focal length but close enough to compare since it's another lens that I own that I've actually been using on the NEX-5N with a Leica M to NEX adapter. Now that that I have the 24mm 1.8 Zeiss, the Summicron will go back on the Leica. To my eyes and based on just jpegs straight out of the camera, the Zeiss 24 is actually sharper at f/2 than the Leica 28 Summicron is wide open. What's amazing to me is how the Zeiss doesn't lose much sharpness even wide open. There is some chromatic aberration in bright high contrast areas and corners softness, but so does the Leica 28, and overall, this is negligible and only an issue for pixel-peepers. The color rendered by the Zeiss is very similar to the "glow" that most people love about Leica lenses. The Leica 28 can only close-focus to about 3 feet while the Zeiss 24 is good to 6 inches making it much more versatile on the NEX body. Obviously, the Zeiss can also autofocus on the NEX body, which is just icing on the cake. The Zeiss is also $3000 cheaper than the Leica 28 Summicron so even at its price of $1k, it's a hell of a bargain.

Compared to a Nikon 24mm 1.4G: For fun, I mounted one on the NEX-5N with a Nikon-G to NEX adapter and it looks and feels absolutely ridiculous! Aside from balance issues from having a monstrosity of a prime lens built for a full frame pro-DSLR body mounted on a compact NEX body, it's just not worth using when you can have the amazing Zeiss 24mm 1.8 that is almost as good optically, yet can also autofocus and is fully integrated to the NEX with regards to aperture setting (Nikon lens will rely on a vague manual non-stepped aperture ring on the adapter). The super-expensive Nikon prime might have an advantage in corner to corner sharpness but not by much, and again, only apparent to pixel-peepers.

Conclusion: If you have an NEX camera, get this lens! It might be all the lens you'll ever need for this camera system. It is expensive but worth every penny considering it is at an ideal focal length for NEX bodies for almost every type of shooting, can close-focus to 6", and is optically comparable to the best Leica and Nikon has to offer. It's lens like this that make me think about how my days of shooting with a bulky DSLR might be numbered. With the great low-light sensor in the NEX-5N and the ultra high-resolution sensor in the NEX-7, there isn't an image I can take with the Nikon D700/D7000 than I can't take with the NEX + Zeiss, save for action/sports shots that require faster and more precise AF-tracking or longer telephoto lens. Once Sony/Zeiss release more lenses of this caliber, the NEX system will be a true alternative for DSLR enthusiasts (and some pros).

UPDATE 2/25/13: I've had this lens a little over a year now and still believe it is the best E-mount lens available on the NEX system, even after the introduction of the excellent 10-18 f/4 and 35 f/1.8. It now spends time in between my NEX-5N and NEX-6 and with the lens firmware update, these newer NEX cameras' hybrid-AF systems do show a noticeable improvement in AF performance in good light, though any low-light AF improvements have not been as obvious. I love this lens. And good news for those who also own the Sony RX1 full frame compact: if you already own the SEL24F18Z, you don't have to spend $180 for the fancy and overpriced LHP1 metal lens hood especially made for the Sony RX1's fixed Zeiss lens, because the SEL24's plastic lens hood fits perfectly on the RX1's bayonet attachment (so even 49mm filters still work) and even clicks into place like the LHP1 hood does. There's no vignetting even though the RX1 is a full-frame sensor, and you can even reverse-mount the SEL24F18Z hood on the RX1 for extra protection when storing. Perfect fit.
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Showing 1-6 of 6 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 1, 2012 7:11:19 PM PST
Excellent and detailed review, Lars! It is commentary like this that make me interested in seeing just what the awesome Zeiss 24 can do on the new Sony NEX-7. Based on this and other reviews of the NEX-7, it appears that one can finally have a truly small and portable camera/lens combo without sacrificing image quality as compared to a DSLR!

Posted on Jan 4, 2012 10:01:48 AM PST
Very interesting review, particularly the comparison with Leica Summicron. How do the images compare when you use the Summicron with your M9 instead of the nex/adapter combination? Secondly, can you recommend a good adapter? I am waiting for my nex-7 and would like to use my old Leica lenses with it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 6, 2012 4:42:01 PM PST
Lars Milano says:
Images are equally as good using the same summicron lens on both cameras. Color rendition on the NEX is actually more accurate based on recent shots, while the M9's image files show just slightly more depth and dynamic range. This is probably more attributable to the fact that the M9 sensor is full frame vs crop for the NEX. The Leica has that characteristic "Leica" look if you're familiar with that. Also, my recent shots with the NEX-5N have all been jpegs while my M9 files are RAW, so probably an unfair comparison. I recommend the fotodiox pro adapter (NEX to Leica M). It's available here on amazon for $80. Don't get the cheaper non-pro fotodiox adapter because it is cheaply made and has a little bit of "play" on the mount.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 11, 2012 5:44:29 AM PST
Thank you Lars. Very useful information.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 11, 2012 5:44:50 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 23, 2012 8:52:09 AM PST]

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 23, 2012 8:51:33 AM PST
[Deleted by the author on Jan 23, 2012 8:51:51 AM PST]
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