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Customer Review

133 of 139 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A very good value., December 26, 2011
By 
This review is from: Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA E-mount Prime Lens (Camera)
I pre-ordered this Zeiss lens very early on in August 2011. Getting this lens over a week ago, I wondered whether my implicit trust in Zeiss as implemented in a Sony E-mount is justified. I have used several excellent Zeiss lenses with my Nikon dSLR and wanted to give an auto-focusing version of one of its proven design a try with the Sony NEX-5N.

It is early days yet I am already inclined to give this lens a 5-star on account of its very good performance wide-open and even more, when stopped down to f/2.5 onward. The center is sharp wide-open and the corners improves visibly by f/2.8. Color, contrast and detail are all superb, while vignetting is minimal wide-open. This lens is very well-balanced and it is difficult to exaggerate how well this lens draws and renders an image. Clarity and acuity are immediately noticeable when transitioning from one of the Sony lenses to this lens.

The lens comes in a soft black bag and also comes with a hood that can be reversed into the lens for a compact carry. It takes a 49mm filter. Is the lens expensive? Do I want this lens to be priced less? Definitely. But as an owner of several Zeiss lens and knowing full well what these lenses can deliver, I cannot in good point claim that this lens is expensive. If anything, I would consider this lens as very good value. I could actually go farther in my praise of this lens but in this time of economic dislocation, it would be imprudent for me to say this so I will leave this praise where it is now.

If I am forced to look for a weakness in this lens, I would say that it exist in two areas. The first is that this lens is nowhere as small or as light as the Sony 16mm f/2.8. It is a fairly big lens and substantially increases the size of the NEX-5N when mounted. But I am very willing to forego my critical assessment of this lens' size and weight vs the Sony 16mm f/2.8 as the latter would be a very poor second and simply does not compare to this Zeiss lens in terms of its optical performance. It makes it very painful for me to look at the images taken with the Sony 16mm f/2.8 when I compare this with the Zeiss 24mm f/1.8.

Then as a dSLR user, I would actually look at the Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 and call it as small and light in relation o to the Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G which I use with the Nikon D7000 + MB-D11, and occasionally on several tests, with the NEX-5N. The Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G simply overwhelms the NEX-5N in terms of size and weight making an Arca-based lens-support all but necessary. Transitioning to the Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 on the NEX-5N from the Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G dramatically drives home the bulk and weight difference. From this perspective, this lens is neither big or heavy for me but believe that I should highlight its difference on this point vis-a-vis the Sony 16mm f/2.8. This lens' size via-a-vis the 16mm f/2.8 is easily justified and offset by its stellar performance.

The second area of weakness I see in this Zeiss lens is its tendency to flare and its chromatic aberration under harsh light transitions. While these perhaps cannot be avoided given its wide-angle coverage and its fast f/1.8 aperture, it can be a bit disconcerting when the much humbler Sony 16mm f/2.8 can easily match it in this area at the same aperture settings. I have the latest version of ACR and Lightroom and neither are very successful in removing the purple fringing. Yet I am quite accepting of this lens' weakness on this point as even the stellar Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G does not unduly out-perform it in this regard. Yes, the Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G is better but not by much. Given the size and weight penalty of using the Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G not to mention the lack of auto-focus when mounted on the NEX-5N, I cannot be overly critical with the performance of this lens.

EDIT: 2012 March 8

As expected, this lens holds up very well with the NEX-7. Used with the NEX-5N and NEX-7 weak AA filter, this lens renders scenes so indescribably well that one has to use this lens to appreciate how good it is. Matched with the higher resolution of the NEX-7, the details are incredibly sharp and clear though I make it a point not to shoot this lens beyond f/8.0 when lens diffraction will make its impact felt. Overall, I highly recommend this lens to anyone who wants to get the best possible image with their NEXs using a native E-mount lens.
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Showing 1-10 of 12 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jan 3, 2012 2:34:28 PM PST
Albert Wang says:
Great review- I'm wondering if you've done a direct comparison of sharpness between the Sony 24/1.8 and your Nikon 24/1.4, both mounted on the NEX-5N.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 4, 2012 10:23:19 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 4, 2012 10:24:34 AM PST
AMDG says:
I have done a quick comparo. The Nikkor 24mm f/1.4G being a full-frame lens has a bit of an advantage in terms of sharpness at the corners even wide-open but even more so from f/2.8 onwards. With both lenses set at f/1.8, the Nikon again has a bit of an advantage in terms of sharpness and contrast, specially in the the center area but this is not a surprise as the Nikon is now step down 2/3-stop while the Zeiss is wide-open. If the corners are not critical, the Zeiss is excellent on its own wide-open.

Where the two lenses differ significantly is the way the Zeiss renders an image. It is difficult to pin it down and while I also like the way the Nikon 24mm f/1.4G renders, there is something in the way that the Zeiss lens renders that makes it different and stand out from the other images taken with the Nikon. This is specially noticeable at f/2.0 to f/2.5 This actually reminded me of the results of a comparo I made with my Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G against the Zeiss 100mm f/2.0. In that comparo, both had very pleasing images yet each render their respective image quite differently from the other.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 4, 2012 10:31:25 AM PST
LGO says:
I have not had a chance to compare the optical properties of these two lenses but it seems that the above post has already answered your query.

I also have a Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G and a Zeiss 100mm f/2.0 and have the same experience in how these 2 lenses renders differently from one another and yet both producing excellent quality images. The closest Nikkor lens that I have which can compare to the Zeiss 100mm f/2.0 in terms of its rendition is the Nikkor 200mm f/2.0. The Nikkor 85mm f/1.4G is very good yet there are times when I would still choose to use the Zeiss 100mm f/2.0 despite this lens being a manual-focus lens simply because of the way the Zeiss renders the image.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 31, 2012 2:01:24 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 31, 2012 2:02:59 PM PST
Dan says:
Does anyone know where I can find good sample pictures with the Carl Zeiss? Dpreview has a few but if they're not very good -- most of them are at large f-numbers and not very useful for comparison purposes.

Also, a bit off-tangent but I'm finding the vignetting to be very annoying with the kit zoom lens. I'm reading this is not a problem with the Sonnar, is that correct?

In reply to an earlier post on May 9, 2012 8:31:14 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 9, 2012 8:32:01 PM PDT
G. Q. Tuazon says:
It would be very interesting to compare the new Nikon 28mm f1.8G once it is released against the Zeiss 24mm f1.8 lens. If the contrast, sharpness and IQ are similar, then the Nikon might be a good overall choice since you can still use it with your Nikon camera.

Lens selection when it comes to bokeh and IQ in most cases becomes more of a personal choice. Great review.

In reply to an earlier post on May 10, 2012 12:57:41 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 10, 2012 1:08:21 AM PDT
LGO says:
Given how Nikon has hit the ball out of the ballpack in all its recent 1.8 prime lenses (35mm, 50mm, 85mm), I am certain that the upcoming Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G AF-S will again be a great lens which I will very much enjoy using with my Nikon FX and DX bodies. Being a full-frame lens, the Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G will likely be better on a NEX than the Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 in purely optical terms as it only makes use of the lens' sweet spot in the center.

Yet there are downsides to using the Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G on the NEX that makes it worthwhile to own the Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 even while I will also own a Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G. While less expensive than the Zeiss 24mm f/1.8, the Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G is considerably bigger and heavier. The requirement of a lens adapter further add to the size, weight and bulk of the final package, affecting the balance and making the overall package less agile and convenient other than for tripod shooting. Once the Arca rail is added to the NEX+Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G combo, the resulting package is not as ideal for handheld shooting.

Next, the Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G lens will not auto-focus on the NEXs. I have gotten very fond of using the face-recognition AF feature of the NEXs and have come to rely on this for quick and fast shots. The ability to assign priority on which face from a multitude of faces to focus is a delight. While manual focus using 3rd party lenses is fast and quick on the NEXs, the face-recognition AF is still much faster and more convenient. This alone makes it worthwhile for me to get the Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 even while I have also ordered a Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G for my Nikon dSLRs.

Finally, that 4mm difference in focal length between the 2 mentioned lenses in a NEX translates to a longer field of view of approx. 6mm on an APS-C sized sensor. This 6mm difference makes the Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G a bit too long for those instances when one needs to shoot wider.

Interestingly, Sigma has recently released a 19mm f/2.8 native E-mount lens for the NEX. This lens on an NEX will give the same FOV as the Nikkor 28mm f/1.8G on a full-frame dSLR. While not as fast, the low price and the small compact package plus the excellent performance of this Sigma prime makes it a no-brainer acquisition for use with the NEXs. I have ordered one and eagerly await its arrival.

In reply to an earlier post on May 13, 2012 5:47:00 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on May 13, 2012 5:47:44 PM PDT
Nobody is going to be able to send you sample pictures for you to view and then make a decision whether to buy it or not. You have to assume that this lens is better, as it is carries the Zeiss name. All you have to decide is to spend the money. I have this lens on my Nex 7. I am a " serious photographer" and I will likely never find out (or try to find out) whether the money was well spent. GJ. P.S. Does it appear that people are buying similar lenses just to compare and then post their findings? See G.Q. Tuazon's remarks.

Posted on Oct 1, 2012 1:44:44 AM PDT
Just to clarify. With this lens, there's no need for an adaptor? Also, auto focus works? Thanks. I have NEX7 and I use Canon 50mm f1.4 with adaptor and the aut focus doesn't work.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 4, 2012 7:20:37 PM PDT
LGO says:
M. San Agustin says

"Just to clarify. With this lens, there's no need for an adaptor? Also, auto focus works? Thanks. I have NEX7 and I use Canon 50mm f1.4 with adaptor and the aut focus doesn't work."

Yes, this lens is a native Sony E-mount lens and can be mounted on the NEX-7 with no need for adapter. The autofocus works and the lens aperture setting can be set from the NEX-7.

In reply to an earlier post on Oct 4, 2012 10:04:35 PM PDT
Thanks os much for takign the time to respond.
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