Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Review

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. 

loxia

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. 

Pros:

  • Fantastic Color, sharpness, contrast wide open
  • De-clickable Aperture
  • Metal Build/Weather Sealing
  • Focus ring feels great

Cons:

  • I know its a given, but I would LOVE an AF version of this lens

Sony A7s @f/2 - Window Light

Sony A7s @f/2 - No fringing in this incredibly high contrast shot! 

Sony A7s @F/2 - Bank Of America Building, Dallas

Sony A7s @F/2 - Canton Civic Center

Sony A7s @F/2

Sony A7s @F/6.3

A7s @f/2, 1250 ISO - Least of These

Sony A7r @f/2 - Cows Revenge

A7s @f/2

A Behind the scenes still from the short film "Mindbleed" by Jay Erwin

A7s @f/2

Sony a7s @F/2

A7s @f/2

A7s @f/2


Gear Review: Western Digital My Passport Pro RAID drive

While gear is an instrumental part of any photographer or videographers setup, it is important to remember that all the gear in the world will not make up for a lack of creative vision. The equipment we use is just a tool to help us achieve this vision. 

That being said, I wanted to write about a new piece of gear I've picked up last month that has helped simplify my life immensely, along with making my entire workflow more efficient and productive. I'm talking about the Western Digital My Passport Pro RAID hard drives. 

Data backup is an incredibly important task in the life of a creative. Not only do we need a secure place for our files to live, but we need to access them quickly and easily. Redunadncy is also crucial, as hard drive failure is inevitable. All hard drives fail at some point, its just a matter of when. Important files need to be backed up in multiple locations. Enter the Western Digital My Passport Pro RAID drives.

What I like most about these drives is that they are actually two drives in one, configured in a RAID setup. RAID stands for Redundant Array of Independent Disks (thats quite a mouthful!), which essentially lets you configure your drives a few different ways. The Passport Pro allows you to configure the drives into a RAID 0 or RAID 1 setup. If that all sounds confusing, here is a basic description of each configuration.

RAID 0: RAID 0 allows you to store smaller parts of your data (photos, videos, music) across 2 or more hard drives. This allows your computer to read and write data faster, resulting in faster performance. The downside to this is that if one of the two or more drives fails, all your data is lost.

RAID 1: RAID 1 allows you to store an exact copy of your data on two or more drives. The obvious benefit of this setup is that if one of your drives fails, your data is safe and sound on your other drives. The downside to RAID 1 is that its not as fast as a RAID 0 setup. Another caveat is that you are only getting half of the drive space as a RAID 0 array, since your data is essentially doubled. 

Each setup has pros and cons which you will need to weigh for yourself depending on your needs. I have purchased two of the 2TB drives, one for photography projects and another for video, with each set up in a RAID 1 configuration. 

The fact that these drives have a true thunderbolt connection means that they are already capable of very nice read/write speeds. I was achieving very respectable speeds using the Blackmagic Disk Speed Test. 

Read/Write speeds using the 2TB My Passport Pro in a RAID 1 array.

If I had chosen to set up the drives in RAID 0, the disk speed would be roughly doubled. SSD drives would be even faster! For my needs of editing 1080p video from the Canon C100 and Raw stills from the 5d mark 3, the speeds I am achieving with a RAID 1 setup are more than sufficient. For those shooting Raw video or 4K, something faster might be necessary. Ultimately, the peace of mind that comes from having my data completely backed up is a huge benefit! 

Another huge plus for these drives is the portability. I have the ability to store my Lightroom Catalogs and Final Cut Pro X Libraries and work on them from my iMac at home, or take them on the road to get some editing done on a Macbook Air. Already these drives have turned what would have been several wasted hours at a coffee shop into several hours of productivity!

I do have one minor complaint with these drives, and that is the built in cable. On one hand, having a completely self contained drive setup without loose cables floating around your camera bag is a nice benefit, but if the cable ever fails, you'll have to get the entire thing replaced. Thankfully, the drives come with a 3-year warranty from Western Digital, so this almost becomes a non-issue! You'll just need to be careful not to be too rough on the cable when wrapping it to prevent wear and tear over time. 

The rear side of the drive, thunderbolt connector detached.

The drive features a self contained non-removable thunderbolt cable. 

All in all, I would highly recommend these hard drives to any photographer, videographer, or musician who need both excellent performance and reliability at a reasonable price. 

Pros: 

  • All in one RAID array with multiple configuration possibilities
  • Highly portable; Bus Powered
  • Thunderbolt connection/speeds
  • Reliable, 3-year warranty

Cons:

  • Non-removable cable

Where to buy:

B&H Photo video: Western Digital 2TB My Passport Pro RAID (4TB version also available)

More Info: Western Digital Product Page

A quick word on ethics: I have neither been paid or sponsored to write this review. The views expressed in this review are entirely my opinion and have been formed through extensive use of the product reviewed.