Review Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8

The Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 is a portrait lens/short telephoto lens that is specially designed for mirrorless full-frame E-mount system cameras from Sony (Sony A7 series). Those choice was made for the famous Zeiss Sonnar design. That name is, because of the high brightness, derived from the German word Sonne. The lens consists of 11 lenses in 8 groups. The lens elements are made from various special glass types in order to deliver superior image quality, which lets the high resolution of (in the case of our test) the Sony A7R II come into its own. The Zeiss Batis 1.8/85 is a very good choice for wedding photography and portraits, because the high brightness and the long focal length offer room to play with isolating the subject from the background. The nine lamellae of the nearly-round aperture ensure a really great bokeh. Thanks to the built-in optical image stabilization and the special coatings, the ZEISS Batis 1.8/85 can take pictures under the most diverse challenging lighting conditions.
​Click on the product for specifications, prices and test results.

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8: SUBLIME IMAGE QUALITY


 Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 & Sony A7R II @ f/4.5, 1/1500 sec, 100 ISO (edited RAW)

The T* anti-reflection coating of Zeiss works very well, so that under normal conditions you will not have any trouble from flare and ghosts.


Zeissbatis85On the lens, which is delivered in a beautiful box, it says that it is made in Japan. The build quality is outstanding, with a modern matte-black appearance without any frills. There are no buttons on the lens. This lens is a bit larger and heavier than the Batis 25m f/2 and weighs a bit less than a pound. They do have the same filter diameter (67mm), which is handy for using filters. The great lens hood is made of plastic. That’s nice if you take a blow from it by accidentally bumping into the Batis. You can mount the lens hood backwards on the lens for transport. As far as I’m concerned, the marking that helps you to place the lens (a small blue dot) could have been larger. If you are changing the lens by touch in the dark, that’s quite difficult.
A shortest focus distance of 80cm (from sensor to subject) is quite long. Those who are accustomed to creeping up close to the subject will—figuratively speaking—now and then bump their heads because the shortest focus distance is not short enough.

Focus AND auto focus: A CLASS apart

Manual focusing with the Zeiss Batis is a unique experience.

Whether you turn the focus ring quickly or slowly makes a difference. In the first case, you only have to turn the focus ring a short distance, so that you can work quickly. In the second case, you have a very long focus arc, so that you can focus accurately. Normally, a lens either has a focus ring with a small turning arc, with which you can focus quickly but with which it is difficult to choose the focus distance precisely, or a lens has a very long focus arc, with which you can focus very accurately but with which you cannot work as fast due to the long focus arc. Zeiss Batis offers the best of both worlds.
The rubber focus ring has no relief, so I can imagine that manual focusing is more difficult if the lens is wet, or if you are wearing gloves.
The Zeiss Batis has a focus-by-wire mechanism with which the Sony A7R II automatically focuses accurately, quietly and quickly (in 0.5 second from infinity to 1.5 meters). That is slower than the Batis 24mm f/2, which, given the shorter focal length and the larger focal depth of a wide-angle lens in comparison with a short telephoto lens, is to be expected. How the AF behaves during video, I did not check. For video, I prefer focus peaking and manual focusing. For video, a Zeiss Loxia lens, due to the stepless aperture, would in theory be even nicer than a Batis. It is also unbelievable how compact the Loxia lenses are. But at the moment, 50mm is the longest focal length of the Loxia line.


{youtube}-oI5Q1DDLe0{/youtube}When you turn the camera on, the word Zeiss briefly appears in a window on the Zeiss Batis 25mm f/2. After that, the focus distance is shown, together with the focal depth. That you can easily read this information is a dream of many photographers who make use of the hyperfocal distance to create the maximum focal depth. You can choose to have this displayed in feet or in meters. You determine whether the Batis only shows the information for manual focusing, or for both manual and automatic focusing. You can also turn off the display, so that no information is shown. Check out the video above on Zeiss’s YouTube channel to see how that works.
The OLED scale of the Batis is much easier to read than the traditional focal depth scale that you can find on lenses with a mechanical focus ring. And then forget about photographing in the dark, where reading a traditional focal depth scale becomes impossible. It is also more accurate than a traditional focal depth scale, for example because the focal depth depends not only on the lens, but also on the size of the pixels on the sensor. Whether you are calculating the focal depth for a 25mm lens on a Sony A7S II (12-megapixel full-frame sensor) or for a Sony A7R II (43-megapixel full-frame sensor) makes a difference. The Zeiss Batis takes this into account: I focused the lens on both cameras to 20 cm. The focal distance indicated in the OLED differed. To summarize in German: Supertoll!


 DSC3182 3The Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 has built-in image stabilization that you turn on and off via the camera menu. On the lens body, there are no buttons. The Sony A7 II, A7S II and A7R II have effective built-in image stabilization. I have not been able to find out how image stabilization is done (only in the body, only in the lens, or a combination), but it is extremely effective. The image excerpt above is from a shot made with a shutter time of half a second. No longer as sharp as a shot taken from a tripod, but certainly still quite usable. For the Imatest measurements, the shots taken with image stabilization at a short shutter time of 1/200 of a second were still clearly sharper than the shots taken without image stabilization. Without a tripod, I prefer—for the highest sharpness—to shoot with a shutter time of 1/500 of a second or shorter. At shutter times of 1/200 of a second or longer, I benefit from the extremely effective image stabilization of the Batis 85mm f/1.8.


Both ZEISS Batis lenses (24mm and 85mm) have a design with ‘floating lens elements’ that compensate for aberrations of the lenses at shorter distance settings. The jpg files directly from the camera and RAW files converted in Photoshop or Lightroom show a remarkably even sharpness from corner to corner. At full aperture, the center sharpness is already high, but at f/4 the highest center sharpness is reached. At f/1.8, the sharpness in the corners is visibly lower than in the center, but with stopping down 2 stops, that difference disappears.

If you move the mouse over the graph above, you see the difference in sharpness from jpg and RAW files stored simultaneously in the camera. The corners and the edges benefit a bit more from sharpening than the center does, as can be seen if you compare the MTF50 measurements from jpg files with unsharpened (converted outside Photoshop or Lightroom) RAW files. I can well imagine that our MTF50 measurements in the corners—certainly at full aperture—are influenced by vignetting. Many other sites measure the sharpness of converted RAW files, where the vignetting is corrected. We don’t. Because of vignetting, the corners are darker and less rich in contrast. That difference becomes less when you convert a RAW file with Photoshop or Lightroom (where vignetting is automatically corrected) and view the images without sharpening.


jpgVignetThe T* anti-reflection coating of Zeiss works very well, so that under normal conditions you will not have any trouble from flare and ghosts, certainly not if you use the included lens hood. Only if a very intense light source is shining right in the frame can you find ghosts and flare. For night shots in which there is street lighting, flare and ghosts are present, but it is much less disruptive than with other wide-angle lenses on a camera with a full-frame sensor.
For testing, we use all possible in-camera lens corrections, and we simultaneously save a RAW file that we analyze outside Photoshop or Lightroom without applying lens corrections. The color shift (LACA: lateral chromatic aberration) is negligible even in the corners of the uncorrected RAW files when you use the Zeiss Batis 25mm as a 35mm lens on a camera with an APS-C sensor.
Longitudinal chromatic aberration/color bokeh (LOCA), which only occurs with bright lenses, is sometimes recognizable as green edges in the background blur or purpose edges in the foreground blur. Even so, LOCA, actually only visible at f/2, is kept limited. LOCA can be corrected in Photoshop or Lightroom, but not automatically like LACA.
The distortion measured with Imatest in a jpg file was fantastically low (-0.1%). At very short distances (less than 1 meter), it increases a bit. The uncorrected RAW file gave 2% distortion in our Imatest measurement. It is easy to correct, if that is not already done by the software that you use.



Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 & Sony A7R II @ f/2.8, 1/1250 sec (handheld), 100 ISO (crop)

I have a weakness for 85mm modern f/1.8 lenses on cameras with a full-frame sensor, and thus for the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 as well. It is a relatively compact and not-too heavy lens, with an extremely high sharpness and remarkably few lens errors at full aperture. At full aperture, the focal depth is very small. The Zeiss Batis has an aperture with 9 rounded aperture blades that produce a really great bokeh with round bokeh balls starting at full aperture. The combination of an enormously high center sharpness at f/1.8, a very small focal depth thanks to the relatively long focal length, the high brightness and high contrast thanks to the coatings used work together to produce unique images. At smaller apertures, the bokeh balls are more angular due to the shrinking of the aperture, but the focal depth is still nice and small, and you can still isolate a subject from the background nicely. Portrait and wedding photographers will really enjoy this lens.{insertgrid=359}{insertgrid=360}

ConclusiON Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 met Sony A7R II


  • Zeiss lens with AF
  • Extremely high image quality from corner to corner
  • Beautiful build quality
  • Beautiful bokeh for great portraits
  • Terrific manual focusing: fast and accurate
  • Very effective lens stabilization + Sony in-body OSS
  • Unique OLED with focus distance and focal depth


  • Small dot as the attachment marking
  • Smooth focus ring
  • Shortest focus distance not suitable for real close-ups
  • Price matches the optical and build quality

Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8: ultimate build and image quality & innovative features

Zeiss lenses are not cheap, but as far as build and image quality are concerned, they are among the absolute best. The Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 on a Sony A7R II delivers high sharpness from full aperture, so that the limited focal depth and the great bokeh come into their own extra well. Portrait photographers and street photographers will appreciate that. Manual focusing is smooth and, thanks to an innovative drive, can be either fast or slow and extremely accurate. The OLED display on the lens is handy, even in low light, displaying both the focus distance and the focal depth. This lens is an absolute must-have. Sufficiently compact and light to always keep with you: good-looking and a pleasure to work with. Partly thanks to the extremely good image stabilization of the Sony A7R II, you will get razor-sharp pictures with the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 even in low light.


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