The Sony a7r and a7s are two pretty incredible cameras in their own right. The a7r touts a 36 megapixel sensor with massive amounts of resolution and an equally ridiculous amount of dynamic range when shooting stills. The a7s provides the best 1080p video I've seen for the price, and of course offers some groundbreaking low-light performance. Two very different but incredibly capable full-frame sensors are housed in each camera.
These cameras do have one major downside to them at the moment, and that is the amount of native lenses currently available for the system. While the e-mount allows you to use almost any full-frame lens ever made through the use of adapters, these adapters have their own pitfalls. Namely, unusable autofocus performance and the general inconvenience of having to carry more gear around than is needed. For narrative film work, the flexibility of the e-mount is actually a really fantastic feature, but for weddings and run n' gun style shooting, quality native lenses are definitely preferred.
The Carl Zeiss Loxia line of lenses are a nice step in the right direction for the FE mount system. The Loxia 50mm f/2 is a classic Zeiss planar design, created specifically for the Sony E-mount. It is manual focus only, with a very smooth and precise focusing ring with hard focus stops and distance markings.
One unique feature is the ability to "de-click" the lens with the use of a tiny flathead screwdriver, a fantastic addition for video shooters. I found that with the lens de-clicked it was a little too easy to accidentally stop the aperture down without noticing, which led to me shooting anywhere from 2.2-2.8 without realizing it. For this reason, I'll usually keep the lens "clicked" when just shooting stills. For video however, de-clicked is definitely the way to go! I hope to see this fantastic feature on more lenses in the future.
The lens itself is quite small and just fits perfectly on the A7 lineup. Side by side to a DSLR equipped with a 50mm, its actually quite drastic! I find that people seem to not be intimidated by the mirrorless system in conjunction with this lens, in the same way they are with a DSLR or C100. People actually seem genuinely curious about it. While this may seem like a negligible detail, having people be comfortable around a camera is truly a huge benefit when shooting.
Shooting with the lens is an overall enjoyable experience. Compared to the Zeiss 50mm 1.4 zf.2, the focus ring is noticeably more free. I do slightly prefer the stiffness of the zf.2 lenses. Even with focus peaking on the A7s and A7r, I find myself rocking back and forth a bit to check focus, in addition to punching in with focus magnification on most shots. This is of course only limiting when I'm photographing things that are moving, generally. For focus pulls while filming, the focus ring seems perfectly weighted.
On to the most important trait of this lens: the image quality! One word that comes to mind when I think of the performance of this lens is "Predictable," and I don't mean that in a bad way. It is such a consistent lens. From near to far focusing distances, in a wide variety of lighting conditions, this lens performs in a very consistent and predictable manner. Sharpness should be a given at this price point and thankfully it delivers, even wide open. With the lens hood flaring has not been an issue and even without it, the flare is quite pleasant. Fringing at F/2 is rarely noticeable, especially on the A7s. The A7r's 36 megapixel sensor can tend to be pretty unforgiving, but this lens performs admirably in this regard. Stopped down to F/4 and lower, the sharpness, contrast, vignetting, and fringing is about as good as it gets. Compared to the 50mm f/1.4 zf.2, the Loxia performs noticeably better in the fringing and sharpness department at f/2. The color this lens produces just seems to be spot on every time as well, I love it!
From here on out, I'm going to let the images speak for themselves. I've included several shots from the A7s and A7r. I'll be posting a video shot entirely with this lens in the coming week. I would not hesitate to recommend this lens for video shooters or portrait shooters who tend to take their time setting up shots. Its a very reliable and consistent performer, capable of beautiful results in a variety of shooting conditions.
- Fantastic Color, sharpness, contrast wide open
- De-clickable Aperture
- Metal Build/Weather Sealing
- Focus ring feels great
- I know its a given, but I would LOVE an AF version of this lens