Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 (Sony) - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Sony Alpha (Full Format)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published December 2017

Introduction

Sony mirrorless camera users are quite blessed with a variety of medium tele prime choices. There are no less than 4 different Sony/Zeiss 85mm lenses plus the Sony 90mm f/2.8 macro and, of course, the Sony 100mm f/2.8 STF (and a bunch of exotics). Among the 85mm gang, there's the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 which we'll discuss in the scope of this review. It is a so-called "Sonnar" design which relates to fast Zeiss lenses. That being said, the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM is faster still but therefore also bigger and quite a bit more expensive ... although the Zeiss isn't exactly cheap at around 1100USD/1200EUR.

The quality of the construction is generally superb except for some well-known Zeiss oddities. The lens body is made of metal and it maintains a constant physical length throughout the focus range. Professional and outdoor photographers will also appreciate the weather-sealing. The broad rubberized focus ring operates smoothly. However, the body coating is very prone to fingerprints and scratches and the rubberized focus ring is exceedingly prone to dust. It remains a mystery how Zeiss came to the conclusion of using these surfaces but it seems as if they aren't willing to fix this. Zeiss is also continuing with its long tradition of providing the worst lens caps of the industry. A deep barrel-shaped lens hood is part of the package.

The Batis lens uses a linear autofocus motor which is reasonably fast and silent. Typical for most mirrorless lenses, manual focusing works "by wire" thus you are driving the internal motor by turning the focus ring. Normally that would also translate to omitting a focus scale (because the focus ring is free floating). However, Zeiss implemented a digital OLED display that provides both distance and depth-of-field guidance in manual focus mode. The display is back-illuminated thus unlike a conventional distance-scale you can also read the numbers in the dark. Technically it is an interesting solution but we suspect that for most users it's probably not really more than a gimmick. The manual focus action itself is Okay but not great. It is noteworthy that the Batis 85mm f/1.8 uses a floating system which adjusts the focus group for better close focus correction.

An interesting albeit also somewhat hidden feature is the image stabilizer. Unlike all the other manufacturers, Zeiss doesn't even bother to mention it in the lens name. They also make a secret regarding its efficiency - at least we haven't found any documented figures and whether the system works in conjunction with the in-camera IS system or not. There's also no IS selector on the lens thus you have to use the camera menu to disable it when needed. In real life, we'd rate the IS system around 3-ish f-stops.

Specifications
Optical construction11 elements in 8 groups inc. 2x ED elements
Number of aperture blades9 (circular)
min. focus distance0.8m (1:7.9)
Dimensions81x92.0mm
Weight475g
Filter size67mm
Hoodsupplied, barrel-style, bayonet mount
Other featuresdust- and moisture-resistant, image stabilizer, floating system