The ZEISS Loxia 2.8/21mm is the most wide-angle lens in the Zeiss Loxia series. The Loxias are lenses that only fit on the Sony cameras with an E or FE mount, such as the A7 and A9 and the APS-C models like the A6500. They do not have autofocus, but they do have an aperture ring and some functions that make them very suitable for filming. And the image quality is excellent.
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Sublime SHARPNESS: ZEISS Loxia 2.8/21mm
The Zeiss Loxia 2.8/21mm is a compact wide angle for the mirrorless cameras from Sony. It fits both the full-frame cameras like the A7 and the A9, as the APS-C models. On the latter, the field of view is of course slightly smaller, and this lens then functions like a 35mm wide-angle. The Loxia is made of metal and glass, and you can feel that. The lens is solid in your hand and breathes quality. The lens has no autofocus but offers many advantages in other areas. There are multiple reasons for choosing a Loxia. All lenses in this series have an aperture ring, a nice, smooth and linear manual focus with hard stops and excellent image quality. Furthermore, they are compact and beautifully built. And because the aperture can be made clickless, they are not only ideal for lovers of classical photography, but also for enthusiastic videographers.
The ZEISS Loxia 2.8/21mm is nicely compact. This lens does not follow the bigger-is-better trend that seems inevitable these days. The diameter of the lens is the same as that of the other Loxias. It is slightly longer than, for example, the 35mm Loxia, but it does not make much difference. The included lens hood is also compact and can be placed neatly on the lens in reverse. The lens will then be just slightly thicker and can still be operated well. The grooved focus ring offers a good grip and turns very smoothly. The lens has hard stops at infinity and up close, so you do not unnecessarily turn too far, and you can almost choose a distance by feel. The aperture ring normally clicks every third stop but can also be made clickless. ZEISS supplies a small key for this, which you can insert into a groove on the back. The aperture is classically inscribed and can easily be read from the lens. You also get an indication of the depth of field on the lens. And of course, you also see the aperture value in the viewfinder. Due to a good, sturdy gasket along the back, no moisture or dirt can get into the camera or the lens at the mount. The rest of the lens is also weatherproof, so you can also shoot or film in bad weather.
Actually, the only thing that is not great about the Loxia is that it is difficult to change lenses. That is a small minus, but not unimportant because you will probably change lenses with fixed focal points more often than zoom lenses. It’s a bit tricky because both the aperture ring and the focus ring turn, and there is only a very thin ring in between that does not. That ring also has little grip. In practice, you often have to first turn the aperture ring to one of its extreme points before the lens itself will turn. As a result, the turn required to change a lens is much bigger than necessary. If Zeiss had made the non-rotating part slightly larger, or slightly thicker in diameter, preferably with a good serrated edge on it, then this problem would not exist. But that would of course detract from the minimalist design.
The optical performance of the Loxia 2.8/21mm is excellent. This is the best-performing wide angle in this range that we have tested so far. The sharpness in the center is already high at full aperture. The edges and corners lag a bit behind, but it is not much and the gradient to the corners is small. Stopping down to f/4 creates a small improvement. One more stop, at f/5.6, the center and edges are even better, but the corners are then a fraction less. Stopping down further gradually causes a decline in quality. Aperture 11 is still usable if you really need the depth of field but try to avoid f/16. The microcontrast of the lens is high, the colors are beautifully full, and color errors are very few. The distortion is also very limited. As a result, little has to be calculated for the files in post-processing. And no matter how good the lens corrections are in the software today, if you do not have to use them, the image will look just a little better. And if you use the 21mm for video, it is of course great that the lens is so free of lens errors. The only thing you will see is vignetting. That is a characteristic of the Zeiss lenses. It is 2.5 stops in RAW at full aperture. At f/4, it is still visible with 1.5 stops. Only at f/5.6 is it so little that it will no longer be noticed. Vignetting ensures that the center of the picture is lighter, which also draws more attention. You can use that as a visual stylistic tool. If you want to get rid of it, you have to stop down a bit or eliminate it in post-processing.
The Zeiss Loxia 21mm is not especially bright with a largest aperture of f/2.8. Still, the bokeh of the Loxia is pretty nice. Bokeh does not only have to do with the aperture. A good optical design can provide a more beautiful and quieter rendering of the blurred areas, and you can see that with the Loxia 2.8/21mm. Of course, you cannot dissolve the background entirely with a 21mm at f/2.8, but you can create a gradient from sharp to blurry, thus creating a sense of depth. And that blur looks great. Blurry light points become beautiful blurred balls. There is a bit of an edge on those bokeh balls, but all in all it is reasonably soft and there are no onion rings.
Ideal For filmING
All Loxia lenses have a number of things in common. The diameter of all lenses is the same, the aperture can be made clickless (by turning a screw in the mount), and the focus is manual. Because the lenses do not have autofocus, the focus is completely linear, with hard stops at infinity and up close. This is ideal for the controlled shifting of the focus in a video recording, and it also ensures that the lenses are easy to use in rigs. When you switch between Loxia lenses, you do not have to adjust anything, for example, on your focus puller. The Loxia lenses are therefore not only optically excellent lenses for photography but are also suitable for video work. You can use them well as a kind of mini-cinema prime lenses.
ConclusiON: REVIEW Zeiss Loxia 2.8/21mm op Sony A7R III
- Outstanding image quality
- Solidly built
- Clickless aperture as an option
- Smooth focus
- No autofocus
- Aperture not adjustable on the camera
- No image stabilization (on the lens)
This is the best-performing wide angle in this range that we have tested so far.
The Zeiss Loxia 2.8/21mm should be high on the list for anyone looking for a wide angle with great picture quality. Actually, we have only tested one other lens that can compete with this one, and that is the Zeiss Batis 28/18mm. That lens is bigger but also offers a bit more wide angle, and it has AF. The Loxia is more compact, more classically designed and better suited for video than the Batis.
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Working with an aperture ring and manual focus requires a slightly different approach than with a modern EF lens. It works best when you plan in advance with the Loxias which aperture you need, depending on the amount of light and the required depth of field. For photographers who grew up with manually controlled cameras, that may be second nature; for photographers who like to use the P-mode, it takes some getting used to. It is a way of working that requires that you, as a photographer, to think about the shot and gives you full control over the camera. That way, you get the maximum out of the Loxia 2.8/21mm. And that maximum is quite a lot.