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Full review of the Zeiss Touit 12mm F/2.8 'E' mount lens. 

summer2013/z12boxII.jpg
Box and contents

 
 
The Sony NEX-C3 was used for this review.  For a better understanding of terms and methods used in this review, go here.
 
The usual center, mid-section and corner crops are located at the very bottom of the page.
 
  
Introduction.
 

The Zeiss Touit 12mm F/2.8 became available in early 2013, and is currently made for Sony e-mount APS-C, and Fuji X-mount camera systems.  I'll be reviewing the Sony version here.  

 

Zeiss enters the autofocusing lens market with two initial offerings; the 12mm f/2.8, and 32mm F/1.8 lenses.  So far, the Touit line is made for APS-C sized sensors only.  Apparently, Touit is the name of a cool bird (Raphus cucullatus), and is pronounced 'do-it'.  I'm not sure why Zeiss decided on the focal lengths here, the 12mm has the same coverage as an 18mm in 135 film format, and the 32mm about 50mm.  Both Sony and Fuji have 35mm lenses out that are quite good, and priced less; and Fuji even has an excellent 14mm lens, so I'm not sure these focal lengths were a super smart choice by Zeiss.  However, Sony is lacking in an ultra-wide angle prime, so I guess it makes some sense, but at a price point of $1250, it will probably be out of reach for most E and X system owners.

 

Fit and finish are good.  The lens appears to be clad in high quality plastic with a less expensive dull pot-metal mount.  The focusing ring is covered in rubber that collects dust easily, but cleans up easily too.  The hood fits on the lens with a snug fit when attached in the forward shooting mode, but when reversed over the lens to save room in the bag, it's really hard to mount, and you may break the hood if you get mad quickly over stuff like this; I don't think it's made to mount in the reverse.  The lens is made in Japan. 

 

The aperture blades are very noisy for some reason; check it out yourself by switching back and forth between review and live mode with AF turned off.

 

Zeiss uses a bunch of exotic glass in the construction of the lens, see view below.

 

NOTE: my brand new copy of this lens was missing the front lens fascia; the piece that covers the screws that you see in the picture of the front below.  Word to Zeiss, beef up your QC!!  Initially, after unpacking it, I thought it was supposed to be like that, but after checking the product shots from other reviews, I found my lens was missing that part, oh well.

 

Filter size is 67mm.  So far, Sony has only one e-mount lens that uses this size, the two versions of the 18-200mm; the less expensive Sony Tamron version of the 18-200mm uses 62mm.

  
Focusing.  This lens auto-focuses quickly and mostly accurately, and has a somewhat loud focusing motor, and sounds like an electric toothbrush when focusing; tough luck for you video nuts out there as the noise will probably be picked up by the cameras mic.  The front filter ring doesn't turn when focusing, so your grads will work great.  Don't use a polarizer with this focal length, it leaves a noticeable dark band because of the massive coverage.  The focusing ring is easy to turn, and is damped about right.  The focus ring rotates about 270° from close in to infinity, so you have plenty of room for getting your subject in perfect focus, and you need it with this lens at F/2.8 believe it or not!
 
 
In the box is the lens, front and rear caps, plastic petal-type hood, and owner's manual. 
 

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Requisite product shots.

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Zeiss X-ray view of Fuji X mount version.
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Apparently, the front fascia has been omitted by Zeiss as a cost saving measure!
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Back side
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Side shot.
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Zeiss supplied MTF graph

 
 
General information and specifications.

Lens

Ziess Touit 12mm F/2.8   Mfr# 2030-526 E-mount; 2030-527 X-mount

Box contents

Front cap, rear cap, plastic petal hood, and user's manual.

Cost

Approximately $1250 

Build quality

Good.

Additional information

This lens is made for Sony 'E' mount cameras, and won't work on 'A' mount cameras.  Also available for Fuji X mount. 

Specifications below

 

Optical configuration

11 elements in 8 groups

Angle of view

99˚ diagonal, 89° horizantal, 66° verticle.  Equivalent to about 18mm in full frame (135 format) terms.

Aperture

9 blades, curved

Full frame and APS-C

Sony E mount APS-C and Fuji X mount only.

Depth of field and focus scales?

Nothing for Sony, but has aperture ring on Fuji.

Minimum focus, image plane to subject

About 7.0"  (180mm)

Minimum focus, end of lens barrel to subject

About 3.5" (89mm) from front of lens barrel.

Hard stop at infinity focus?

No.

Length changes when focusing?

No.

Focus ring turns in AF?

No

Filter size

67mm.

Filter ring rotates?

No

Distance encoder?

Yes
 

Max magnification

1:9 or 0.11x 

Min. F/stop

F/22  

Sony teleconverter compatible?

No

Length changes when zooming?

N/A

Dimensions WxL  (my measurements)

3.23" x 2.48"    82mm x 63mm.  2.55" (65mm) wide at focusing ring.

Maximum  extended length (my measurements)

Lens does not extend.                                                 

Weight bare (my scale)

9oz, (257g) bare.

 
 
Optical qualities summary.
 
Lens flare/ghosting.  Very good control.  See examples below.
 
Light fall-off.  Has odd pattern, but not a big deal.  See samples below.

Color fringing (CA).  Excellent control of lateral, and just a tad of axial type at F/2.8, but it's mostly gone at F/4.  
 
Bokeh.  Harsh if you can get any in real pictures.  See crops below.
 
Color.   Seems about the same as Sony lenses.
 
Close-up filter.  Not tested.   
 
Coma.  Small amount at F/2.8.
 
Regular filters: don't cause any additional light fall-off.  
 
Filter size.  67mm.  Only one e-mount lens uses this size, the two versions of the 18-200mm, but not the less expensive Sony/Tamron version (uses 62mm).
 
Distortion.  moderate barrel type.
 

summer2013/z12dis.jpg
Moderate barrel distortion

 

The pattern is moderate barrel, distortion correction sliders are able to almost eliminate it.

 

 

Bokeh samples.

 

           F/2.8

             F/4

summer2013/z12bok28.jpg
summer2013/z12bok40.jpg

           F/5.6

             F/8

summer2013/z12bok56.jpg
summer2013/z12bok80.jpg

 

Bokeh looks harsh at all apertures.  In reality, you probably won't get any background blur unless focusing on something very close, say a foot or two away.  In the crops above, I focused on something about 18" (.5m) away, and the background is about 12' (4m) away.  Foreground blur is pretty smooth, which is predictable.

 

 

Light fall-off

 

           F/2.8

              F/4

summer2013/z12lf28.jpg
summer2013/z12lf40.jpg

           F/5.6

              F/8

summer2013/z12lf56.jpg
summer2013/z12lf80.jpg

 

There is not much of a problem with light fall-off or 'corner shading' with this lens at the widest aperture, but there is an odd pattern, see the dark patch in the middle of the image?  It's noticeable at all apertures, but not something to worry about in real pictures.

 

 

Flare and Ghosting

 

summer2013/z12gst.jpg

 
This full image ghosting sample is the worst I could come up with as I waved the lens around the sun high in the sky!  Contrast is good, and I only see a couple of small ghosts, one in the lower left corner, and a very small pink one at the left edge of the cactus in line with the corner one and the sun.
 
 
Axial color fringing.
 

     F/2.8

     F/4

summer2013/z12cf28.jpg
summer2013/z12cf40.jpg

 

Axial color fringing can occur anywhere in the image, but goes away as you stop down the aperture.  I see a little magenta around the highlights at F/2.8, but it's mostly gone by F/4.

 

 

Coma samples.

 

           F/2.8

             F/4

summer2013/z12coma28.jpg
summer2013/z12coma40.jpg

           F/5.6

             F/8

summer2013/z12coma56.jpg
summer2013/z12coma80.jpg

 

Coma sometimes shows up in the corners of fast (F/1.4-2.8) wide to medium length lenses, and takes the forms of birds, bats, or jets!  The Zeiss 12mm F/2.8 has mild coma at F/2.8, and almost nothing stopped down farther.   Crop is of a small Christmas tree at the very corner of the image, about 16' (5m) away.  See how the corners sharpen up as you stop down the aperture.

 
 
 
Let's check out the close-focus capabilities of this lens.

The sample shot was taken with the Sony NEX-C3 16.2MP camera, so don't compare it with others that were taken with 12 or 24mp sensor cameras.  The subject is a standard US stamp, 0.87"x 1.0" or 22mm x 25mm.  The shot was taken as close to the subject as focusing allowed; in this case 3.5"" (89mm), measured from the front of the lens barrel to the subject.  
 
The Zeiss 12mm F/2.8 has a reproduction size of 1:9, which is quite small.  F/5.6 was the sharpest close focus aperture.  The close focus shot is pretty sharp with decent contrast, but it's nothing special.  I see moire stripes here, (shows in birds read head and branch) but it probably wouldn't show up when focusing past a foot or so, unless maybe taking pictures of window and door screens. 
 
Zeiss says the coverage at close range is 8.66" x 5.67"  (220 x 144mm)
 

summer2013/z12mac867.jpg
As close as you can get, F/5.6. No larger size

 
 
Conclusion
 

Overall, the Zeiss 12mm F/2.8 lens turned in a great performance, producing sharp images with nice color and contrast at F/2.8, and very sharp images across the frame at F/5.6.  There isn't much to complain about, but on the revised addition coming out in a couple of years a quieter focusing motor would be welcome.  I'm also hoping that Zeiss will make sure the quality control department inspects its lenses a little more thoroughly in the future; as stated in the intro, my copy (brand new, not a 'review' copy) was missing the cover for the front of the lens, maybe called a 'fascia' ---that shouldn't happen on a very expensive lens; in fact, this is the first time I've ever received a lens that was missing a part.  If this lens was a Sigma I'd be on a rant like usual, but I'll give Zeiss the benefit of the doubt here this one time.

Who will buy this lens?  The Zeiss 12mm F/2.8 is a specialty lens, meaning it won't appeal to a wide audience.  This lens covers a lot of real estate, so you have to be careful about your compositions, otherwise, if you just want to 'get it all in' as they say, you images will probably suck.  One might use it for interior photography, although that's almost too wide, things start to look weird along the sides, but you can get away with it using thoughtful framing.  Probably a better use would be landscapes or small outdoor spaces that are hard to photograph with longer lenses.

 

The price of the Zeiss 12mm F/2.8 lens is very high at $1250, and it's not for everyone.  However, if you're looking at this focal length for whatever reason, it does produce excellent image quality, and would be worth the price in limited situations.  For Sony E-mount users, there currently is no real competition; the closest might be the Sigma 19mm F/2.8 (review), or Samyang 16/2; they're not nearly as wide, but are way less expensive, so if you don't quite need 12mm, consider those two.  Fuji X-mount users have the Fuji 14/2.8 that's rated very well, and is less expensive, so I'm not sure the Zeiss 12mm F/2.8 makes any sense.

 
 

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Sample crops from the centers, mid-sections and corners.

 

 

          Center

          Mid-section

             Corner

F/2.8

summer2013/z12ctr28b.jpg
summer2013/z12mid28.jpg
summer2013/z12corn28.jpg

F/4

summer2013/z12ctr40.jpg
summer2013/z12mid40.jpg
summer2013/z12corn40.jpg

F/5.6

summer2013/z12ctr56.jpg
summer2013/z12mid56.jpg
summer2013/z12corn56.jpg

F/8

summer2013/z12ctr80.jpg
summer2013/z12mid80.jpg
summer2013/z12corn80.jpg

F/11

summer2013/z12ctr11.jpg
summer2013/z12mid11.jpg
summer2013/z12corn11.jpg

 

The centers are very sharp wide open, but slightly less bright because of light fall-off.  The mid-sections are reasonably sharp at F/2.8, and better at F/4, but max out and look very sharp at F/5.6.  The slightly soft corners don't seem to respond to changes in aperture from F/2.8-4; but sharpen up nicely at F/5.6.  Extreme corner sharpness is best at F/8, but the centers start to soften, so use F/5.6 for maximum sharpness unless depth of field is an issue.   

 

A word about focusing; this lens is tough to get perfect focusing at F/2.8, you need to be really careful and precise, I had to take about 10 or12 test shots to finlay get the absolute sharpest centers at the widest aperture, (using both AF and manual focus).  About half the shots were just a hair less sharp, not really noticeable unless flipping back and forth between images, but something to consider with high megapixel sensors.  I mention this because most short focal length lenses I've tested are easy to get perfect focusing, meaning you don't have to be so precise in your focusing to get the sharpest shots.  Oddly, the Zeiss 12mm has a large focus throw, about half a turn, so one would think you would have plenty of 'leeway' in this regard, but apparently not so with this lens.   Do not worry much about this, because at F/4 and smaller there are no problems. 

 

Exposure differences are from light fall-off.  Manual focusing was used, along with manual white balance.

 

The subject is a rock and weeds about 25' (7.5m) away.

 

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