Sony 18-55mm F3.5 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.
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.
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.
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.
What is your favorite Manual focus lens combination with the Sony NEX-7? Use the comments to share.