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Lens review

Carl Zeiss Batis 18 mm f/2.8

Carl Zeiss Batis 18 mm f/2.8
31 January 2017
Szymon Starczewski

1. Introduction

Generally the optical construction of a short focal length lens consists of many glass elements and their shapes are more or less symmetric on both ends. The shorter the focal length the closer the position of the rear element to the light sensitive material. Classic reflex cameras had problems when it came to creating lenses with focal lengths shorter than about 35 mm. An idea of a new construction was presented by Pierre Angénieux in France in 1950. It consisted of inverting a telephoto configuration (so changing the order of its elements). Such a construction is called a retrofocus and its operation is quite simple. As a classic telephoto lens puts the main plane (from which you measure the focal length) before the front element in the case of the retrofocus you move that plane behind the rear element and position it closer to the detector. As a result lenses of significant physical dimensions can have focal lengths amounting to several or just more than a dozen millimetres.

Carl Zeiss Batis 18 mm f/2.8 - Introduction


The Zeiss Batis 18/2.8 described in this article is designed for a full frame mirrorless camera. Still if you take into account its register distance (for the Sony FE mount it’s 18 mm) you see that a retrofocus construction must have been applied here or, more precisely, a classic Distagon.

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At the time of the Batis launch there was no other Sony FE system lenses with such a short focal length. What’s more, there are few such lenses among the whole group of full frame constructions. The fact that Zeiss constructed a special Batis line, designed for full frame mirrorless Sony cameras, makes that situation a bit better.

Rival constructions should also be mentioned here: the manual Tokina FíRIN 20 mm f/2.0 FE and the Venus Optics LAOWA 15 mm f/2 F. These are not exactly equivalents of the tested Batis and that fact also emphasized the scant FE mount offer. Actually if you look for a lens with autofocus the Zeiss Batis 2.8/18 remains your only option.

Carl Zeiss Batis 18 mm f/2.8 - Introduction


In the following chapters we are going to analyze optical and mechanical properties of that lens.

We would like to thank the Foto-Technika company for lending us the lens for testing purposes.

You are also invited to get acquainted with our test procedure, described in the article "How do we test lenses?" If you feel it’s still not enough, please go to our FAQ section where you can find some further explanation.