A “Must Have” Lens – The Zeiss 55mm f1.8

THE SIREN’S CALL

The Sony A7 with Zeiss 55mm is a temptress – a Siren calling out “one camera… one lens… one… one… The one…”

It’s not the first to do so. Many have called-out in the past. The Minolta Hi-Matic and 40mm f1.7.  The Panasonic GF-1 and 20mm f1.7. The D700 and 50mm f1.4. The tiny V1 and 32mm f1.2.

No, not the first… but perhaps, the loudest.

A7 & 55mm f1.8 1/60th ISO2500
A7 & 55mm f1.8 1/60th ISO2500

THE EARLY DAYS OF CONTRAST DETECT IN LOW LIGHT

I don’t feel I’m ready to commit to such a bold undertaking quite yet.

My sense is that a ‘one-camera-one-lens project’ works best when shooting a limited, or perhaps even a single, style or genre (case in point – Brian Stanton’s excellent work on ‘Humans Of New York‘)

And I’m simply having too much fun exploring a wide variety of subject matter as my nano-second attention-span focuses and re-focuses randomly, like the early days of contrast-detect focus in low light.

Zeiss 55mm f1.8 1/60th ISO1000
Zeiss 55mm f1.8 1/60th ISO1000

THE THREE SISTERS

And I still use the 35mm for many shots.

A good 24mm, 35mm, and 55mm and I’d be set for about 90% of what I shoot.  But no, not a ‘one lens’ only.  Not yet….  Not yet.

35MM F2.8 1/60th ISO250
35MM F2.8 1/60th ISO250

NOT FOR LACK OF A LENS

But my lack of undertaking (and perhaps lack of ambition) is certainly not for lack of a most-awesome lens.  If I were to do a one-camera-one-lens project, the Zeiss 55mm f1.8 would almost certainly be that lens.

MOST VALUABLE ASSET

55mm f1.8 1/60th ISO640
55mm f1.8 1/60th ISO640

What is the most valuable asset of the 55mm?

It’s tough to say.

The wonderful colour renditions of the A7 and 55mm which together produce beautifully film-esque images?

The absolutely masterful bokeh it produces?

Or maybe its unbelievable sharpness (how is such sharpness even possible??!)

It’s really a combination of the three I think.

THE DOWNSIDE

So what’s the downside – no lens is perfect, right?

Well… some would say the cost.  To me, it’s worth every penny.

What about the speed – it’s an f1.8, not a 1.4?   True, but the difference in light collection is minimal. What makes many f1.4 lenses superior to their f1.8 counterpart (at least in some cases) is more the design and optics and coatings to be found on the more expensive f1.4.  The Zeiss 1.8 has all those high-end characteristics… in spades.

There’s no OSS in the lens. I guess that’s bad for some hand-held shots and video. But in the past Zeiss has claimed that OSS can compromise the optics of a lens. I have no reason to doubt them, and yet I trust no one – particularly someone trying to sell me something. But I simply can’t argue with results – and the resulting IQ of this lens is phenomenal.  So I like it just the way it is.

Light fall-off and vignette?  Yes, there’s is a small amount. It’s part of the character and charm. I’m not sure I’d want it to not have it. 

MY FINAL THOUGHTS

So what would I say to sum up the Zeiss 55mm? We could talk lens construction and formulas, DX0 ratings, and MTF charts… but that seems a poor attempt to quantify something that can’t truly, fully be quantified. There are some things in life that simply must be seen and experienced to be fully appreciated.

For me, the 55mm f1.8 is a ‘must have’ lens.  It’s a lens that won’t sit on the shelf collecting dust because it ‘calls to me’,  a call that can only be resisted so long before compelling me, compelling us, onward to adventure! Regardless of the type of system you shoot, everyone deserve a lens like that!

55mm f1.8 1/60th ISO125
55mm f1.8 1/60th ISO125
55mm f1.8 1/100th, ISO100
55mm f1.8 1/100th, ISO100
Not having this lens would be a cat-astrophe!
Not having this lens would be a cat-astrophe!

5 thoughts on “A “Must Have” Lens – The Zeiss 55mm f1.8

  1. Matt

    I’m a 35 guy myself, but when I got my A7 something made me go for the 55 instead. I haven’t regretted it one bit, amazing lens and camera combo. Hope to see you get back to a regular posting schedule.

    1. We’re lucky to have such a great 35/55 combo to choose from! Thanks Matt – definitely going to try to maintain the schedule (once a week – how hard could it be, right??) 🙂

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s