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Apr 192012

Sony 18-55mm F3.5 OSS at 35mm vs. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM

Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 35mm vs. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM

Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 35mm vs. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM

This review is the Second 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 35mm and see how it performs against the  Zeiss Biogon F2.0 ZM lens. How does it 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 35mm. Lens Shot at F4.5, F5.6, F8, F11, F16, F22. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM and shot this lens at F2, F2.8, F4.0, F5.6, F8, F11, F16, F22. I used an exposure compensation of +0.7 on all shots and ISO of 100. Framing was identical and the focusing point was the same for both lenses on every shot. I cropped all the images in Photoshop placed them in a single file side by side. No alterations were made except for the crop. All the colors and jpeg processing were 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 35mm vs. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM Review

Full Test Image: Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 35mm vs. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM Review

Full Test Image Close Up: Sony 18-35mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 35mm vs. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM Review

Full Test Image Close Up: Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 35mm vs. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM Review


Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 35mm vs. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM

Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 35mm vs. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM

Test Results Zeiss: Sony 18-35mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 35mm vs. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM

Test Results Zeiss: Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 35mm vs. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM

Test Results Sony Close Up: Sony 18-35mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 35mm vs. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM

Test Results Sony Close Up: Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 35mm vs. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM

Test Results Zeiss Close Up: Sony 18-35mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 35mm vs. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM

Test Results Zeiss Close Up: Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at 35mm vs. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM


The Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS lens starts to show its weaknesses at this angle of view. As you can see in the files the Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS is very blurry at F4.5. This phenomenon is common on zoom lenses as you need to balance performance at all the different focal lengths and at various apertures. There are so many combinations that its hard to find a zoom lens that is perfect at all angles of view and aperture combinations. As you will see in part three of this series of test. At 50mm F5.0 the Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS is about as sharp as a filter with Vaseline on it. It was so bad that I went back and tested the lens again to see if I had made a mistake. The second test was identical to the first. I guess Sony sacrificed the far end of the zoom range at wide open apertures for better performance at closer ranges with middle apertures.

The Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS is also curious in the fact that when you shoot close up to mid-range the lenses flaws diminish quite a bit. Just look at the close up lens test of the stump with the Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS at F4.5. It’s not as bad as the Infinity test at 35mm F4.5. I’m just speculating here, but maybe Sony decided to have the Lens perform best under the highest use situations. Duh, right? Lets break it down. If you are going to shoot at 18-55mm for a landscape shot lets say, most of the time you wouldn’t choose a wide open aperture such as F3.5-5.6. You would most likely choose, or have the camera choose, an aperture such as F8 or F11 in open day light. At those apertures and angles the lens is very usable. Consider also if you were to shoot a group of your friends, your child, or family, you most likely would be shooting with in 3-10 feet but if you were indoors or in lower light you would need wider apertures such as F3.5-5.6 and at these angles and distances the Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS is also very usable. For me Sony gets “standing, nodding, congratulatory clap”. Well done! Give us an inexpensive kit lens that targets what we will shoot most. If we’re weird we can buy other specialty lenses to compliment.

Now with the  Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM there’s not much to say except if you are lucky enough to actually own it, Not like me! What a great lens it is. I mean the Bokeh on this lens wide open is smooth and silky. The 35mm equivalent is around 50mm, normal angle of view. At F22 the lens has little if any signs of Diffraction. The short focusing throw of the lens makes manual focus very easy. It also has a depth of field scale for all you old school shooters that is pretty accurate even on digital so you can pre-focus if you are a “Decisive Moment” type shooter. There is one oddity, at F2.0 the color shifts as you can see on the test. I wonder if I was shooting too fast or there is some weird processing issue? If you know please enlighten me. Other than that if you are an old school rangefinder shooter like me, I can’t se much wrong with the lens besides the Value to Cost ratio.

Closing Thoughts

Value to Cost ratio is something that I will use in many of my opinion closings. It’s a system of grading that I have used for the whole of my career and especially when I first started photography. As we all know photography is very expensive, and like most I didn’t grow up with much, so I had to be very selective in the equipment that I purchased. I did my due diligence in researching what equipment I needed and what I didn’t. I’m sure many of you that are reading this review are in the due diligence phase of a purchase. You want to make sure your hard-earned money is going to the right place. So with all my reviews, comments and personality in general, I’m being sensitive to these issues and sticking to my roots. Remember I’m with you 100%.

One of the big secrets that I’ve found over the years is that you don’t “need” most things we think we “need” to make great images. Most of the time when we embrace our limitations, and learn to work within them in all aspects of life, the fruit of our labors will be sweet. That being said I’m also very practical. I wouldn’t ask you to go hand paint a photo for a client when you can just do it in Photoshop and cut the time to 1/10 of what it would normally take. Time = Money, and there are also many other intrinsic qualities that may warrant a purchase and will raise your own “Cost to Value” ratio. Items that will save time or give value in other ways that raise the Value to Cost ratio will always be recommended by me.

What is the Value to Cost ratio for the  Sony NEX-7 kit with the Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS lens? To me “Very High”. This camera and lens combo allows you to “hit the ground running” right out of the box and that’s what most people need. Easily go out and make images! Sony rewards this decision by making a combo that in most situations will perform.

How does the Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM stack up? Well I give it a “medium” “Cost to Value” Rating. The lens is about $1000 new, and it a great all round lens if you were to shoot film. To buy for the Sony NEX-7 specifically, it’s hard to recommend a lens that costs $2/3 of the price of a kit if you don’t have another use for the lens. For that price you may as well go with the Sony Carl Zeiss 24mm F1.8 Lens and you get auto focus with it too.

Now these next thoughts come from the first part of this series Sony 18-55mm F3.5 OSS at 18mm vs. Zeiss Distagon 18mm F4.0 ZM  but is worth repeating:

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!!

Next will Be Part Three of the Series: Sony 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 OSS vs. Leica Summicron-M 50mm F2.0 vs Zeiss 50mm F1.5 ZM vs. Sony 50mm F1.8 OSS lens. This will be a big showdown.

Part ONE of 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.

  5 Responses to “Sony 18-55mm F3.5 OSS vs. Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 ZM”


    As you focus on value per money of the lenses, let me just throw in two remarks:
    1) Would you really combine the NEX-7 with the Sony 18-55? Is the NEX-7 not overkill for this lens? It seems to me that you get basically the same image quality with a NEX-3, because the lens is not good enough to really utilize the NEX-7 sensor to its fullest.
    2) Have you considered factoring in life-expectancy of the lens and its resale value down the road? Consider that the Zeiss has a life-expectancy of at least 10-20 years. It’s full metal, so it will still be in good working condition after that time. Resale value after those years may reasonably be expected to be only slightly less than what you paid new today, in nominal (not real!) prices. Hence, you basically loose out on inflation and implicitly pay maybe 5% per year for the privilege to use that lens. The Sony 18-55 in contrast may live 5-7 years before it breaks? Or Sony invents yet another mount? You pay less upfront, true. But use time will be much shorter and you won’t be able to sell it afterwards at a significant price.
    The long-term price for the “expensive” lens seems like a bargain, considering that good shots with the Zeiss still blow me away every time I happen to make one (this is with the Zeiss 35/2.0 on a NEX-3, by the way).


      JJ, I appreciate your comments very much. To answer your questions. 1) I would combine the Sony NEX-7 with the 18-55mm lens because thats all Sony has for us at the moment. I agree that, from what I’ve seen the NEX-3 would have similar quality to that of the NEX-7 but its a different camera and I prefer the NEX-7 in two major ways. I love the tri navi dials for the NEX-7 it makes the shooting so much more effortless and the OLED viewfinder. These two things make it worth the extra money for me. Another smaller issue is that I have larger hands so the NEX-3 is too small for me. I end up having “Claw” hand after using it for a while. The 18-55 at optimum settings can and will use the 24 MP to is fullest, as I’ve said in my reviews, it seems Sony has made this lens to be used at certain focal lengths with certain apertures. This is the balancing act they needed to do when they build zoom lenses. There are very few if any zoom lenses out there that are perfect at every focal length and aperture combination. For this lens it seems to me Sony chose the most likely focal length and aperture combinations that someone may use. Plus for the price of $150.00 in kit form, its a no brainer.

      answer 2) First, it sounds like you’ve been reading too many of KEN ROCKWELL Reviews. hehehe All kidding aside. When you have a hobby or profession that is so equipment centric it’s hard not to “talk yourself into” buying the latest greatest “cost effective in the long run” piece of equipment out there if you really really want it. Its hard to separate “rational thought” from “irrational thought” because our subconscious knows where our hearts are. Now if you can afford or have a Zeiss lens, that’s awesome! Most People don’t! Most people are like me with families, mortgages, car payments, insurance payments, etc. and what little money we can scratch together must be well placed and have a high “cost to value” ratio. Resale value in the long run may be higher for a Zeiss lens but you paid so much more for it in the beginning, and life expectancy largely depends on how you take care of you equipment not just years on a calendar. This is my angle to the discussion, Most people aren’t going to wait to pay higher price for a lens that may or may not have a better resale value in the long run. Consider this example. Lets say it takes the average person 1 month to save $100 dollars of “spending” money. It will take them 2 1/2 months to save for the 18-55mm lens if they buy it alone or 1 1/2 months if they bought it in the kit. To afford the Zeiss it will take them 11 months. In as short as 1 1/2 months this person could be shooting and making great images and having fun while the person waiting for the Zeiss lens has still to wait 9 1/2 months. Photography is about “action” you can’t make good images displaying your gear or sitting on your butt. You got to go out and make those images. It’s also about repetition and experience, without making images you can’t get better. Without challenging yourself you can’t get better. Expensive gear isn’t going to make you a better photographer. It may impress your friends or your local photo club but it can’t beat going out and shooting, no matter what type of crappy camera you got! So go out there and have some fun and take some pictures!! Sorry got a little “preachy” there. I would love to see your images that “blow you away” that’s the kinda stuff I like. When people are excited about there images. Please share. Contact me!


    I’m still learning from you, as I’m trying to reach my goals. I certainly enjoy reading everything that is written on your website.Keep the posts coming. I loved it!


    Did you mix the pictures up above? The bottom series is terrible, but you say it is the Zeiss 35mm.


      Marty, this post has images from both the Sony 18-55mm f3.5-5.6 and the Zeiss 35mm. The pictures are labeled at the bottom with the lens they are from. don’t know which picture you are looking at, but the Zeiss is slightly soft wide open but gets better stopped down. thanks for your comment.

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