My First time with Zeiss by Toni Ahvenainen

My First time with Zeiss

by Toni Ahvenainen – His blog is HERE
About eight months ago I started my Sony Alpha related photography project called ‘ Year of the Alpha – 52 Weeks of Sony Alpha Photography‘. The aim of my project was to find my inspiration again for photography and gain better understanding of my own photographic eye. On top of that I decided to set up a photo blog, where I would share my images at least two images per week and hoped it would gain some interest plus convoy inspiration to other photographers like me. Right from the start I got lucky and my site had much more traffic than I ever believed would be possible. Because of this the project turned into something that has given me a lot of inspiration and energy, not only for photography, but for life in general. It is also partial reason why I am doing this story here today.

As I have already introduced my photography project here before and with greater length I won’t go anymore into details. You can find the earlier story about my project here.

Because of my photography project and the way it had drawn attention in social media circles, an unexpected opportunity came to me: Zeiss was willing to support my photography project and they would let me use two lenses from their Touit line up. If you haven’t yet become acquainted with the Touit line up before, it is the new family of Zeiss lenses which are targeted to mirrorless system cameras (Sony E-mount & Fuji X-mount). All the lenses have full autofocus capabilities and they represent a modern Zeiss design with black matte finish and more contemporary look – but most importantly they convoy the famous Zeiss optical quality for mirrorless system cameras.

So, at one Friday afternoon, after UPS delivery had brought me a parcel which I had opened with child-like enthusiasm, I had two Zeiss lenses in my hands that in real life would be very much out of my reach: Touit 2.8/12 & Touit 2.8/50M. I had of course read about the famous Zeiss from countless photography sites likes this, but never believed I would get opportunity to actually shoot with them. Like for many other photographers the most exciting lenses and their magical qualities were always something I could just see through a store display window. And while the Touit is not exactly an Otus (optically the most advanced DSLR lenses currently available, also build by Zeiss), for my photography it was a unique opportunity and something of which I consider myself to be very lucky. For return favor I would need to tell story of my experience with the Zeiss lenses.

Like any true and committed photography enthusiast, I was very interested to see how these lenses would affect my photography. What will be my first impressions? How will they fit into my shooting habits? How I will be using these lenses? What kind of optical qualities will they have and will I be able to find the famous ‘Zeiss look’, described with terms like Zeiss contrast, punchy colors and 3D-pop? In short, what will be my first time experience with Zeiss?

I will be exploring these and other questions as well for 10 weeks in my photo blog. The Zeiss lenses will accompany me with a theme called ‘Season of Touit’. With this theme I will move away from the standard focal lengths that I’ve used thorough the year so far and concentrate doing ultra wide and close-up photography which are, regarding the perception of the depth, kind of extreme ends. If you are interested, you are most welcome to follow my story through this season. Later on I will do a more complete story about my findings right here at the Steve Huff’s website where it will surely find the most friendly and kind audience one could ever hope. (Thanks for the opportunity, Steve!)

To give you some insight right now, I can already say I’m very impressed by colors and contrast the Zeiss Touit lenses convoy. At the first day, right after I had opened the parcels, I did a short photo walk and immediately noticed that the images looked a bit different from my cameras lcd. Maybe more vibrant and subtle regarding the overall look. Am I imagine things, is this just the placebo effect, I thought to myself. Even at home, looking pictures from computer screen, I felt certain anxiety because the pictures looked different and better, but felt that I didn’t have right terms to conceptualize this difference to myself. After using these lenses for about a month, I honestly feel they have trained my eyes for better understanding of how good optics will affect the contrast and colors.

I’ll show couple of examples here taken with Touit 2.8/12 & Touit 2.8/50M. Everything you see here has been post processed with my own regular methods and with a help of VSCO film pack 4. While the pictures in this state doesn’t offer a neutral starting point, if there even exist one, for detailed analysis of Zeiss look, they however represent the great results I’ve been able achieve with these lenses – and which I think are extraordinary regarding color & contrast. In future article I might also present images that will be better suitable for detailed analysis, if I find meaningful ways to do it.

Thank for reading my story and if interested you can follow it at: www.yearofthealpha.com. Also remember that within five or six weeks I’m going to do a longer story which I’m going to share right here at the Steve Huff’s website.

Toni Ahvenainen


Snap from the street – Didn’t do much of post processing with this snap, but immediately thought that nothing from my camera has looked so good before regarding colors & contrast. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/50M — ISO100, f/6.3, 1/400sec, raw)

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The Great Divide – Touit 2.8/50M doubles as a macro lens and let’s one approach the wonders of the macro world. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/50M — ISO250, f/10, 1/80sec, raw)

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Simple landscape – I just love how easy it to get great clarity and contrast with these Zeiss lenses. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/12 — ISO100, f/4.5, 1/200, raw)

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Unusual church ceiling – Relatively fast wide-angle lens like Touit 2.8/12 offers certain freedom in dim lighted interiors like churches. (Sony Nex-5N with Touit 2.8/12 — ISO400, f/2.8, 1/25sec, raw)

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From Steve: Thanks Toni! If anyone would like to submit a user report or guest article, just click here for details!

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13 Comments

    • Thanks for your kind words d.good! Especially coming from as experienced photographer as you are (I visited your site at http://www.alifeinfocusphotography.com). When it comes to religious questions, we all have to stay true to our hearts – and have respect for difference. Which I’m sure you agree with. 🙂 Again, thanks for the positive words, they really mean much to me.

  1. I love your pictures, Toni! And I’m very happy for you, to experience the thrill of shooting with a really fine lens.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Dirk! As a relatively little experienced photographer, it has surely been thrilling experience as you said. I was thinking this other day and thought that my current camera, Sony Nex-5N, might become *the camera* for me to always remember, just because of this project. It might be same with these lenses, because they are the first ones from Zeiss I have. Great times to be alive! 🙂

  2. Great samples! I don’t own a touit, i’ve made currently 98% of my pictures with AF lenses yet, but i do love zeiss lenses, since my childhood, and i’m glad to own a few classic C/Y mount Zeiss primes & Zooms. For the most part, i love the 28/2.8 & 35/2.8 Distagon, have both in MM-Version, mint, i must say in general i love the 3D Pop and rendering style, these old T* deliver…and especially, that these lenses are manual focus primes or zooms, that works way well together with the focus peaking feature onto my NEX5, A3000 and A7, the former Cropsensor DSLM are best used together with a Lens Turbo II adapter, much cheaper than the MetaBones Speedbooster, but way great results.

    I know Steve loves his famous Leica Bodies & especially lenses, i do love Zeiss much more. Into the End, i’m just a Amateur who loves to take pictures, that’s all that counts for myself, to preserve, capture the present for the future, and that i could shoot what i want, where i want, postprocess how i’d like it…if ppl like the photographs, i’m way glad, if not…that’s okay, because i do like them.

    Cheers & always good light, guys.
    Marc

    • Thanks for your comment, Marc. Sounds like you have a great collection of classic Zeiss lenses. One source of inspiration for me is to know that someone somewhere has used same gear as I have for great results. Having Zeiss classics you will have loads of great examples to chase!! 🙂

    • Thanks for the kind words, Jan! Because Steve’s site is updated so often with great stories, I’m actually surprised (and glad of course) to hear that someone remembers my post. Like already mentioned in this story, Steve got one of the nicest audience of all websites. 🙂

  3. I’ve heard that higher-end Zeiss’ (like the ZMs) have that 3D pop in them but does anyone know if the Touit line does also?

    • That 3D pop is a matter of high contrast and sharpness on your subject combined with nice out of focus transitions and a smooth bokeh in fore- and background.

      The Touit 50 2.8 certainly has all this, so it’s up to the photographer to achieve it with good composition. The Touit 32mm 1.8 ist super sharp but lacks the smooth bokeh in some situations. The 12mm 2.8 (I own it) is great for landscape, even at low light. You can focus very close and achieve some very nice 3D pop with smooth background. But it’s not a portrait lens so don’t expect any pop at portrait distance.

    • Hi Vernon! I’m no optical engineer, but I think ‘3D pop’ is a term originating from Zeiss user base and is therefore not a concept of optical design itself. As Hans already answered, certain ‘3D pop’ is probably result of high quality optical design, fitting focal range/subject and – if possible – optical design choices. I’m sure that certain ‘3D pop’ can also be achieved with high quality glass from other manufacturers and it’s not just Zeiss specific, even the term is coming from the Zeiss user base.

      Other than that, working with these lenses I think there is really no ‘second class’ Zeiss lenses (although the Otus is a matter of its own which makes anything look mediocre). The Touit’s are as good as is gets with APS-C and they are not ‘cheaper versions’ of ZMs for example. I think some photographers have misinterpreted Touit’s because of different family name which differs from standard naming – but it actually seems that Zeiss is going for this kind of naming system for all future lenses (Loxia for example). The other proof of Touit’s high quality is in their visual look – if you look carefully you’ll see that they share same visual aesthetics with Otus lenses. All in all, it wouldn’t make sense to do any ‘cheaper versions’ in general because what would Zeiss be without its reputation? Everything they do they have to do with high quality (though there are older optical designs in their current line up, but that’s where the Otus comes along..).

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