Up until now Carl Zeiss has been known for creating high quality DSLR lenses, but it has now turned its attention to the professional end of the compact system camera market with two new lenses for Fujifilm X-series and Sony NEX cameras. We looked at the Carl Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8, which is an ultra wide-angle lens that’s perfect for a range of subjects, including landscapes and wedding photography. With 11 elements in eight groups and a nine-blade aperture, it’s made in very much the same way as a DSLR lens but on a much smaller scale. At just 270g for the X mount, or 260g for the NEX mount, it’s lightweight and in keeping with the size of the camera bodies it’s for. Despite being made by a third party, both Fujifilm and Sony have helped Zeiss create a lens that maintains the compatibility of one of their own lenses.
The build quality of the lens suggests this is an optic that’s made to last. The overall construction is metal, with a rubberised focus ring that provides a comfortable level of resistance and an incredibly smooth manual focus in still and video modes. The aperture ring is made of the same material and offers an equally smooth control for changing aperture. It’s so smooth, in fact, that it can easily be operated with a single finger. This may not appeal to everyone, but for us it’s a pleasure to use. Without the lens hood attached the 12mm isn’t a looker, but as soon as the hood is connected to the front the aesthetics of the lens are transformed.
But this is subjective – it’s how good the images are that’s important, and in terms of image quality the Zeiss performs like a lens designed for a full-frame DSLR, with f/8 and f/11 occupying the sweet spot. All the other apertures are very sharp in the centre, with the exception of f/22 where overall sharpness drops off. It’s not too much of a problem because f/16 is considered the best minimum aperture for APS-C cameras. At f/2.8 the lens is impressively sharp in the central area of the frame, and only drops off at the outer edges. There’s a small amount of fringing at the edges of the frame, which is most visible but not a major problem, at f/22. When shooting lens test charts there’s a minute amount of barrel distortion, but when we say minute we really mean it. Overall, image quality is stunning and you really won’t be disappointed by it.
- Street price: £529 (Price as of June 2016)
- Full frame or APS-C: APS-C
- Lens mount: Fujifilm X, Sony E
- Max aperture: f/2.8
- Min aperture: f/22
- Minimum focus distance: 18cm
- Visit: www.zeiss.com
This review was first published in the July 2013 issue of Practical Photography - download back issues here.