Zeiss created the new Loxia line specifically for Sony, adding high-quality manual focus primes to the growing list of native lenses for the Sony FE mount. With the Zeiss Loxia 35mm f/2 targeted for everyday use, the Loxia 50mm f/2 is a bit more specialized for such needs as portraiture, street, travel and landscape photography. Although Sony already had the excellent Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 from the beginning, the Loxia 50mm f/2 nicely fills the 50mm gap. And just like its 35mm f/2 counterpart, the Loxia 50mm f/2 is superb in its quality and build, designed to be similar to other traditional Zeiss lenses, with manual aperture control and a very compact size. This review is based on my 3 month shooting experience with both Loxia lenses on a variety of different Sony A7-series cameras.
The Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 is based on the 1896 Planar design by Dr. Paul Rudolph of Zeiss, one of the most successful and most plagiarized (according to Zeiss) lens designs in history. With a total of 6 lenses in 4 groups, the symmetric lens design of the lens is simpler than that of the Loxia 35mm f/2, which has 9 elements in 6 groups. Thanks to the relatively short flange distance of the Sony FE mount, the lens was made to be quite compact, measuring only 66.2mm in height, making it an ideal choice for Sony mirrorless cameras like the Sony A7 II. In this detailed review of the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 lens, I will provide a thorough analysis of the lens, along with image samples and sharpness comparisons to the Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8.
1) Lens Specifications
- DeClick feature: For video applications, it is possible to ‘declick’ the aperture’s locking mechanism.
- Precise manual focus: Large rotation angle enables precise and smooth focusing.
- Virtually distortion-free optics: Elaborate optical design nearly eliminates distortion.
- High-grade full-metal casing: A precision-engineered full-metal casing, focus and aperture rings made of metal, and a tough front bayonet and filter screw make the lens incredibly durable.
- Full frame compatible: Optimized for film and sensors up to full 35 mm format (24 x 36 mm).
- Mount Type: Sony FE
- Focal Length (35mm format equivalent): 50mm
- Lens construction (elements/groups): 6/4
- Angle of view: 46.78°
- Number of diaphragm blades: 10
- Maximum aperture: f/2
- Minimum aperture: f/22
- Focus range: 0.45 m – ∞
- Weight (approx): 320g
- Dia. x length (approx): 66.2 x 62.1mm
- Filter size: 52mm
2) Lens Handling and Build
Zeiss has always proudly made lenses with superb build, and the Loxia 50mm f/2 is not an exception. With a full metal casing, metal aperture and focus rings, metal filter thread and mount, the lens feels like there is nothing but metal and glass inside. And indeed, it is certainly the case – nothing about the Loxia 50mm f/2 feels cheap and the lens is engineered to last for years. It feels like a solid chunk of high quality glass. Similar to modern Nikkor lenses, the Loxia 50mm f/2 also features a rubber gasket on the lens mount to prevent dust from getting into the camera chamber.
The focusing ring with an engraved distance scale is huge, making up most of the lens. It is very smooth to operate – when going from close focus distance of 0.45m to infinity, the front part of the lens extends a little bit, by approximately 5mm (focusing also moves the rear element of the lens). The focus ring has a hard stop at both close focus and infinity. Sadly, the infinity mark is not representative of true infinity focus – it is about 3mm away.
The aperture ring is also very smooth to operate and clicks in between 1/3 aperture stops. If one desires to have click-less operation of the aperture ring for videography needs, it is possible to use the provided wrench to remove this aperture locking by rotating a small screw on the rear mount of the lens (Zeiss refers to this as a “DeClick” feature). Right between the aperture ring and the blue rubber gasket, there is a thin ring that displays “Loxia 2/50 Ser. Num. Made in Japan”. Similar to other modern Zeiss lenses, the Loxia 50mm f/2 is made by Cosina in Japan.
Weighing 320 grams, the Zeiss 50mm f/2 is slightly lighter than the Loxia 35mm f/2, but about 40 grams heavier than the Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8. And it should be, because it is a solid metal lens, while the Sonnar 55mm f/1.8 is partly metal and partly plastic, and does not have the same quality feel to it. Hence, the Loxia 50mm f/2 is designed to be small and lightweight for a compact mirrorless system. When mounted on Sony A7 cameras, it balances very nicely in hands. Just like the body of the lens, the hood is also made of metal. The inner part of the hood is covered with a thin layer of black cloth to reduce potential reflections into the lens and to absorb dust and other debris. The hood attaches and detaches easily and securely on the front part of the lens.
3) Manual Focus Operation
As I have stated a number of times before, Sony’s implementation of manual focus in its A7-series cameras is one of the best on the market. When you mount the Loxia 50mm f/2 and start turning the focus ring, the cameras immediately detect focus changes and automatically zoom in. This not only makes manual focus operation a breeze to use, but it also pretty much eliminates the potential for badly focused images. Unless your subject moves fast at a close distance and you are shooting wide open, you will always have perfectly focused images with this system. In comparison, the green dot indicator within a viewfinder of a DSLR (which uses phase detection focus operation) is prone to focus issues, since there is always too much “play”. You could slightly turn the focus point and get your subject blurry, while your camera still thinks that focus is good. This happens all the time, especially with fast prime lenses. With the instant zoom feature on mirrorless, you can see the subject very closely and you can really nail that focus every time, so whether you shoot wide open at f/2 or stopped down, you do not have to worry about focus precision issues.