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Apr 182012
 

Sony 18-55mm F3.5 OSS at 18mm vs. Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM

Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 18mm vs. Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM

Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 18mm vs. Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM

This review is the first in a series of reviews that I will be doing that compares the standard Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS Kit lens to older legacy M-Mount lenses using a LM-NEX adapter.  For this review we will look at the Sony 18-55mm F3.5 OSS at 18mm and see how it performs against the  Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM lens. Zeiss lenses have the reputation of being the top performers in its class and this lens is no different. This is one of my favorite wide-angle lenses for 35mm rangefinder cameras, I’m curious how it will perform in the digital world.

The Setup

I used the Sony NEX-7 on a tripod and set the Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 18mm and framed the scene. After shooting that lens at F3.5, F4.0, F5.6, F8, F11, F16, F22, I replace the lens with the Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM and shot this lens at F4, F5.6, F8, F11, F16, F22. I used an exposure compensation of +0.7 on all shots at an ISO of 100. I ensured that the framing was identical and the focusing point was the same on both lenses for every shot. I then did a crop in Photoshop of each image and placed them in a single file side by side. I did not alter the image in any way other than the crop. All the colors and jpeg processing all in camera. All pictures were shot at 24 mega pixels jpeg fine. I also did a test using the same method but shooting close up. The subject was an old stump that had just been cut down. Below are the two shots full frame. **Update** I was asked why I didn’t use RAW and then convert back to JPEG via Lightroom or Photoshop. My answer is simple, I wanted the readers to get an idea of the results right out of the box, without post processing. The camera will do all the processing and you get to see the results Like for Like. You could always post process the images for better results but that wasn’t the goal for these tests.

Full Test Image: Sony 18-35mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 18mm vs. Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM

Full Test Image: Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 18mm vs. Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM

Full Test Image Close Up: Sony 18-35mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 18mm vs. Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM

Full Test Image Close Up: Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 18mm vs. Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM

Results

Test Results: Sony 18-35mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 18mm vs. Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM

Test Results: Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 18mm vs. Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM

Test Results Zeiss: Sony 18-35mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 18mm vs. Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM

Test Results Zeiss: Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 18mm vs. Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM

Test Results Sony Close Up: Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 18mm vs. Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM

Test Results Sony Close Up: Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 18mm vs. Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM

Test Results Zeiss Close Up: Sony 18-35mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 18mm vs. Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM

Test Results Zeiss Close Up: Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 18mm vs. Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM

Observations

One of the first things that I notice when doing this test was that the color on the Legacy glass, in this test the Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM, was less saturated right out of the camera compared to the Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS. Also around the edges of the frame you get some color shifts that are magenta, red, blue?? I’ve read up on this issue and its seems that you can use a program called Cornerfix to correct this issue. You can download it free here:

As far as focus goes, I feel that the Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS does fairly well at 18mm. The focus is fast as I’ve stated in other reviews, and the sharpness is usable at 18mm across all apertures. In comparison to the Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM though, it falls way short in sharpness. The Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM is Sharp at F4.0 and dead sharp at F5.6, and only experiences some diffraction at F22, but is still sharper then the Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at the same aperture.

Out of the box color for jpegs on the Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS is much more desirable in my eyes, but with full control in Lightroom and a little bit of time the results from the Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM can be very nice. Also if you made some presets in Lightroom you could cut your post processing time to almost nothing.

Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM with color shift @ F22

Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM with color shift @ F22

Closing Thoughts

If you got the Sony NEX-7 kit with the Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS lens and you were thinking of buying another lens to compliment your outfit, or to fill in some weak spots in the lens range, should you go out and buy the Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM?? In my opinion NO. Although the performance of the Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM is by far better than the Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS, I wouldn’t go and spend  $1400.00. The Value to Cost ratio is just too high. This is under the assumption that you are on a budget. Now if you happened to be the one of the winners of the last mega millions lotto please place your order now. For the normal everyday user the Sony NEX-7 kit with the Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS is going to cover most of your needs. It’s a great camera in a great package and the lens color matches the body! 🙂

Now, if you happened to have one of these lens from back in the day. Maybe you are a Zeiss Ikon or Leica shooter, or any M-Mount camera for that matter, run and get an adapter for your Sony NEX-7 and have a ton of fun. The adapter cost me $14 dollars on Ebay. Seriously, how can you go wrong? That’s the cost of 4 cafe lattes. The image making capabilities of this lens are endless and inspiring. When I was walking around with the Sony NEX-7 combined with the Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM I felt so inspired to make some interesting images. Thinking “what other cool images can I make with this lens”. For you film shooters out there, that are fans of the Holga, remember the first time you held a Holga in your hand, or maybe when you got your first roll of film back? How excited were you to run back out and make some more interesting images? That’s the type of feeling I had when using this Sony NEX-7 and Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM combination.

Cost of Fun! What do you mean? Well, I’m the type of shooter that like to experiment. I “need” to have fun when I make images. When its a job, I’m all business, I go with what works, what is proven. But when it’s just me and a camera and I’m out just “treasure hunting” I “need” to have fun. I “need” to enjoy myself and part of the enjoyment is the unknown and the experimentation.  So, why do I bring this up? Well I bring it up for those of you with “like mind”. I would encourage any owner of a Sony NEX-7 to purchase an inexpensive adapter and “play” with your camera. You don’t need to go and purchase the Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM, but you could go rent it. If you know some friends with some older glass and borrow if from them. These days you can buy adapters for almost any Lens out there and adapt it to the Sony NEX-7. This is the fun part of this camera. Sony has made it easy to adapt older lenses to its cameras but for me the Sony NEX-7 does it the best and is the most fun to use. Sony NEX-7 makes manual focus easy once you get used to it. So go out there get an adapter and make some interesting images. Happy Shooting!!

Second in the Series: Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 35mm vs. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM.

What is your favorite Manual focus lens combination with the Sony NEX-7? Use the comments to share.

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