The Zeiss Loxia 85 f/2.4 Lens Review. Beautiful Perfection.

The Zeiss Loxia 85 f/2.4 Lens Review. Beautiful Perfection.

By Steve Huff

I remember it well. Reviewing the Zeiss Loxia line with the 21 (review), 35 (review) and 50mm (review) lenses made for the Sony E mount. They were to me, the 1st QUALITY manual primes for Sony shooters. They also reminded me a bit of Leica M glass. Smaller, all manual, solid construction, and that Zeiss 3D pop, color and depth. Mated with the latest Sony A7 series cameras, what comes out of these lenses are just about as good as it gets in the world of 35mm full frame.

Of course, with that lineup from Zeiss with wide to medium tele (21-50) there was something missing for some of us who prefer a longer lens..a mid telephoto portrait prime…or a good old 85mm!

Many were expecting an 85mm f/2 in the Loxia line since the 35 and 50mm were f/2 designs. The 21mm is an f/2.8 design but with a wide angle such as a 21, we have no real need for a superfast aperture design. We can hand hold wide angle lenses longer, and depth of field is greater the wider we go, so f/2.8 is a perfect balance of speed and size.

There’s no need to fear, bokeh balls ARE here!

With the 85mm I saw some online a bit upset that the lens was not an f/2 design, but rather an f/2.4 design. Even I was wondering to myself…”Why an f/2.4″? But it makes sense really. With these lenses coming out at such a rapid pace for the Sony E mount system, we already have wonderful and fantastic FAST primes to choose from. The Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 is a statement lens when it comes to IQ. It’s gorgeous in build, feel and design but being an f/1.4 lens it is large and it is heavy. Worth it to many though as it is also Auto Focus and one hell of a lens.

So here comes the Zeiss, with it’s manual focus design and with an f/2.4 aperture. When Zeiss sent me the lens to evaluate a while back I was happy to see the size. It’s small for a fast 85mm prime. In fact it is quite skinny and just a tad long. With the lens hood on (all metal) it is quite long looking but still small and light when compared to almost any other Auto Focus fast 85mm prime lens.

An out of camera JPEG from my Sony A7RII with the Zeiss 85 f/2.4 This lens renders in a sharp yet creamy way with typical Zeiss color.

So away I went, attaching it to my Sony A7RII and I would bring it with me every now and then to snap photos wherever I could to evaluate the lens. I was curious if it would be sharp, if the Bokeh would be “nervous” and if f/2.4 was a large enough aperture to achieve that shallow DOF we all love and sometimes crave.

This shot below answered my questions immediately:

YOU MUST CLICK THIS TO SEE THE LARGE VERSION WITH 100% CROP. IF YOU ARE ON A LARGE DISPLAY YOU WILL SEE HOW AMAZING THIS LENS IS WIDE OPEN!

LOOK AT THAT CROP ABOVE! This is manual focus, f/2.4, Sony A7RII from across the street. I focused on the statues face and everything here from the color to the detail to the gentle way it renders the details….it’s pure Zeiss. It’s about as good as it gets in an 85mm at this aperture. I was blown away when I saw this shot on my iMac 27″. It just screamed “QUALITY”. No softness here, no off color, no CA, no issues. After seeing  this shot I knew this lens was better than I was, meaning…it is better than what I can produce with it and when you have a lens like that, there is really nothing bad to say about it.

A couple more detail shots with crop, be sure to click them to see the full 100% crop!

The detail, even when wide open is astonishing. The crops here show just how much detail can be had…

This is a no compromise 85mm lens, and to me, a tad better than the Batis in build, feel and use. But I love manual focus lenses. They just have that “feel” that takes you back to old school lenses On the new Sony’s this lens is just beautiful.

I was in Sedona AZ (one of my all time fave places) and saw this statue with some soft light hitting it. The rendering here is lovely and the colors spot on. 

I am not usually an 85mm daily driver kind of shooter. Instead my all time prime lens preference has been the 50mm lens. I have owned so many 50mm lenses and today I own the Leica 50 Summiulux SE, a couple of Sony 50mm’s, the Olympus 25 f/1.2 and 4-5 other 50’s. I admit, some rarely get used but it’s my focal length. Shooting with the 85mm for me is a nice change of pace as it can break up the monotony of my routine. Same goes for the 28mm focal length that I now prefer over the 35mm focal length.

After using this Zeiss, I feel a setup of the 21, 50 and 85 Loxia to be an awesome setup for any Sony shooter who prefers prime lenses, and like that tactile feel of manual focus. Using manual lenses can be very rewarding IMO. When you have to work at a shot, or dial in that focus to where you need it..and the image comes out just as you had hoped, it can be a very good feeling. That is partly why I have always been so drawn to the Leica M system. It’s rewarding. Using Loxia lenses gives some of that same feeling. Solid well made lenses, manual focus, manual aperture and they work so so well on the Sony A7 series of cameras. They also make manual focus MUCH easier than using ANY OVF camera (optical view finder). When you turn the dial on a Loxia lens, when mounted on a Sony A7II, A7RII or A7SII the EVF automatically will blow up and magnify so you can clearly see what you are focusing on.

I never missed focus using this lens on my A7RII.

Click the images for larger and better views

Pure Beauty

This lens, as I used it day after day impressed the hell out of me, but then again, so did all of the other Loxia lenses. There is nothing negative I can say about them, and believe me, I tried to sit here and come up with a negative. There simply is none. Many may say “well, this could have been an f/2 design”. Well, sure. Even I said that as well before the lens arrived. I was ready to pan this lens just for being an f/2.4, yet that was silly of me. I soon realized that Zeiss knew what they were doing when they designed this lens. If it were an f/2 design it would be much fatter, larger and heavier to reatain this level of quality. This means, it would not get used as much by some who hate lugging large lenses and let’s face it…most of us do not enjoy lugging around huge heavy lenses for long periods of time. It would have also stuck out like a sore thumb sitting next to the 21, 35 and 50mm loxia lenses. Also, when shooting longer focal lengths such as 85mm, the DOF (depth of field) gets more and more shallow. For example, the Sony G Master is an amazing f/1.4 85mm lens, but focus on an eye of your subject, at a close distance, and the nose will be out of focus as will the ears.

Depth of Field becomes razor thin at this focal length when shooting at f/1.4. So by keeping the aperture to f/2.4 you will be able to focus easily, you will have you subject in focus and the lens will remain small and lighter than a larger aperture design. It will also COST US LESS! Instead of $1800 the Zeiss Loxia 85mm comes in at $1399. While still not “cheap” you do get what you pay for when it comes to quality glass. Even though these lenses are made in Japan (NOT Germany as some may think) they are about as quality as they come. They are pure beauty when it comes to looks, build quality, design, and ease of use.

Click on the samples for larger. All below were shot wide open at f/2.4. The Bokeh is not offensive in any way, and almost gives us a painterly quality..so using it is akin to using a brush and paint to create your art.

One thing that is easy to see here by scrolling down through the photos here is the color. I recognize this color signature well, and I have seen it in nearly all Zeiss lenses from the M mount 50 Planar to the Batis Auto Focus line for Sony.

It’s that blend of bold yet gentle and yellows and greens and blues have a nice rendering to them. Hell, all colors do. Reds are never overbearing.

If you have not noticed yet, I really really like this lens. It’s as good as any 85mm lens I have tried, yet IMO…the colors this lens delivers is better than even the Sony 85 G master lens. 

A few more from the Zeiss 85mm Sonnar f/2.4 Loxia

My Conclusion: Loxia 85mm F/2.4 Sonnar Lens

Well, I think you guys know what I feel about this lens. It’s beautiful in every way from size, build quality, ease of use and design. It’s focus barrel is smooth as silk and the aperture dials click in with confidence yet they are never sloppy or stiff. The lens comes with a metal lens hood yet I never experienced any flaws such as flare, CA or ANY of that. This tells me that this lens is an optical masterpiece that many may glaze over of not think about due to the aperture. Trust me my friends, we do not need f.1.4 in an 85mm lens. In a 50mm? It’s awesome to have that speed but in an 85mm, after using the Loxia I do not think I would ever go back to a large unruly heavy f/1.4 85mm lens.

This lens is a full frame lens, so it can be used on the Sony A7 series or any of the APS-C cameras from Sony (A600-A6500), etc. Compared to the other amazing 85mm lens from Zeiss for the Sony E mount, the 85mm Batis, this lens offers similar qualities but a more “rounder” rendering. I prefer the Loxia to the Batis in all areas but the Batis is one beauty of a lens as well. All comes down to if you want Manual Focus (Loxia) or Auto Focus (Batis).

For me, part of the charm IS the manual focus and the gorgeous color that comes from this lens. With the Loxia you have a just about perfect 85mm lens for the Sony E System. I titled this review with the words “Beautiful Perfection” for a reason. This one will be tough to beat by any manufacturer. 

The lens comes in at $1399 and can be purchased at my recommended dealers below:

B&H Photo

Amazon

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16 thoughts on “The Zeiss Loxia 85 f/2.4 Lens Review. Beautiful Perfection.

  1. Center punch looks pretty sharp. 3D full on in affect and the colors are typical contrasty Zeiss if that’s your thing. Not much to complain about but the bokeh is choppy like a cobb salad. I like cobb salad every once in awhile but it’s not something I want everyday. Same with this lens. Nice to take out here and there but not my first or maybe even second choice. Nice color but that bokeh……

    1. I just want to say I take back this comment. After buying the 50 I’m actually blown away. There is that magic of pop and color I don’t get with other lenses. The more I’ve looked at this 85 as pictures have been coming out the more I’m drawn in. It’s evil sharp stopped down for landscape use and those colors. So addicting…kind of like voigtlander but in a different way.

  2. This is a perfect review of a perfect lens, Steve. Both, lens ànd review, have absolutely nailed it!
    You know I am a very convinced Loxia user. It is thé lens line for the A7 series IMO. Although this 2,4/85 is not really a “light weight” lens, since it’s build like a tank (as all Loxia’s are), it’s still very compact (just a tad ticker than the ZM 85, which is an f/4!) and as such, again IMO, perfect to be used in all circumstances, and to be taken anywhere. I think it’s also a tad better, regarding IQ, than the Batis (which I’m gonna trade in for this Loxia). And yes, f/2.4 in 85mm, with this stunning quality wide open, is better than most faster 85mm lenses. As a matter of fact, I don’t know of any (with the exception of the Otus, which I think is a no-go for daily use, due to size and weight) that performs better at F/2.4 (which, like you said; gives absolutely beautiful bokeh).
    As a matter of fact, I would like to repeat your whole review, Steve, because I agree with it word for word. The A7 line with Loxia is thé alternative for the Leica M system IMO, even better, ànd for a justifiable budget, as far as I’m concerned. Finally! Sony and Zeiss did it! I hope yet other Loxia’s will follow in time…

  3. Love the small size and F2.4. I have always felt like the F1.4 lenses are more useful on film when you often shoot with ISO100-400. But on today’s digital cameras, a sharp F2.4 is more than capable for most of the situations with a size and weight advantage in every shot you take. Thumbs up for Zeiss for the design. Thanks for the review Steve!

  4. “but still small and light when compared to almost any other Auto Focus fast 85mm prime lens.”

    Please.

    Zeiss Loxia 85/2.4 – 594 grams
    Sony Zeiss 85/1.4 – 650 grams
    Zeiss Batis 85/1.8 – 475 grams
    Nikon 85/1.8 – 350 grams
    Canon 85/1.8 – 425 grams

  5. Hahahaha – It makes me laugh to see that you keep on shooting the guy in the cafe with his paper, even though he looked back at you as if he would kill you when you did take his picture years ago for one of your reviews 🙂 And you kept on shooting images from hin ever since – love it 🙂

      1. Oh. Ok. But you seem to remember to what image i was refering.
        Would have been a fun story though 😉
        There is always the discussion wether to ask before you shoot or not. I think if you act sensible it is ok not to ask, because results are so much better often times imho. Especially when you do street photography and documentory stuff.

  6. Great review as always! I had high hopes for this lens and knew it was going to be special. Question, you said it was long. Did it “feel” too long on the A7 line? I have the 21, 35, and 50 and love them all. Thanks again.

  7. Thank you for the review and samples. I am warming up to this lens as a companion for my Loxia 35/2 and 50/2 lenses as a compact, relatively lightweight travel kit. I am particularly impressed by the image quality of the 85/2,4, despite my early disappointment that it was not an f/2. It is smaller and lighter than my Summicron 90/2, which has none of the integration features.

    I have a Sony 90/2.8 Micro and Batis 85/2, so it seems overkill in this range. Neither of these lenses are as compact, and manual focus is a better option for landscapes and travel. I used a 335/50/90 with my Leicas for over 30 years, so It is a comfort zone for me.

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