The Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 goes up against the twice-the-price Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8
Usually, lenses of a similar focal length and aperture cost a similar price. Except, perhaps, when they have Zeiss written on them. The Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 costs $1,199, while the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 costs a mere $598. Even at $598, the soon to be released Sony lens is a little more expensive than the Nikon and Canon equivalents. But is the Zeiss really worth the extra?
That’s what Chris Niccolls and the other folks at The Camera Store wanted to find out. So, they tested them both side-by-side during a recent trip to Sony’s factory in Thailand. Chris tests with both the Sony A7R II and the Sony A6500.
While both the Sony and Zeiss 85mm lenses are of similar size and weight, using the same size filters, there are some handling differences. The Zeiss contains an LCD which lets you quickly see the focus distance and depth of field range. The Sony has an AF/MF switch, which makes switching between the two a breeze, as well as an AF lock button.
Chris says that overall, there’s not much difference between the two in the real world, though, in terms of handling. They feel about the same, and the autofocus speed is pretty comparable between the two lenses in the same lighting situations, at least on the A7R II. The A6500 is a smaller sensor camera, offering a little more reach, but it has a faster autofocus system than the A7R II. But there doesn’t seem to be much difference in AF speed between the two lenses.
When it comes to sharpness, again it doesn’t seem like there’s really anything between the two at all. Just from looking at the images, you might be hard pushed to figure out which is which without checking the EXIF data.
The bokeh between the two is also very similar.
At 100% they’re both very sharp wide open.
Even in the corners.
Ultimately, it seems like the biggest differences between the two are the built in image stabilisation, depth of field scale, and weather sealing. If you don’t have a camera that has in body image stabilisation (IBIS), or just want the advantage of hybrid AF, then the Zeiss might be worth paying the extra. The same goes if you’re regularly shooting in hostile environments.
For Sony shooters that do have IBIS, though, the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 appears to easily offer the same quality, for half the price.
John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.