The Extreme Batis: MTF Tests of the Zeiss Batis 18mm and 135mm f/2.8 Lenses

I’ve been slow to test the Batis lenses for several reasons. We can never get enough copies when they’re first released and by the time we do have enough copies I’ve got six other things to do. That said, I did give an overview of the Batis 25mm and 85mm a while back and even did a teardown of the 25mm of.

But I haven’t gotten around to testing either of the Batis at the extreme focal lengths: the Batis 18mm f/2.8 and the Batis 135mm f/2.8. That’s a shame really because the Batis are generally excellent lenses, reasonably small to carry around, and, by FE mount standards not ridiculously high in price. So I finally got around to testing both of them and thought I’d just combine things into a single post.

MTF Curves

Batis 18mm f/2.8

We’ll start with the 18mm, which I was quite interested in testing. It gets a ton of positive comments, and Zeiss generally does a spectacular job with their wide-angle lenses. The MTF curves confirm just that. It has excellent resolution, not just in the center, but well out toward the edges. There’s little separation between the tangential and sagittal curves, indicating low astigmatism and lateral color.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2017

The 10-copy variation curves are also very good for a wide angle lens. This is a nice, tight pattern.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2017

Of course, it helps to show some comparisons to other lenses. Let’s start with comparing it to the Zeiss 18mm f/3.5 Distagon T*. The Distagon has an advantage in being tested at f/3.5 compared to the Batis at f/2.8. But the Batis still smokes it.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2017

Let’s make things a little tougher. The Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon has been THE wide angle lens for comparison since way before I’ve been testing. While they’re even in the center, the 21mm Distagon is a little better off-axis.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2017

Batis 135mm f/2.8

The 135mm focal length now has a huge number of excellent lenses, which makes me happy. I love that focal length. The Batis 135mm f/2.8 is certainly one of them.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2017


The variance is also good, although we expect that with a 135mm lens.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2017


We’ll start comparisons by staying in-brand, with the Zeiss 135mm T2.1 CP.2 lens. They’re virtually identical. Well, as far as optical testing. They’re pretty easy to tell apart if you have them in your hands.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2017


The next comparison is with my ex-favorite lens, the Canon 135mm f/2. Remember, the Canon is being tested at f/2, so it is expected not to be quite as sharp as the f/2.8 lens. But OK, the Batis is certainly at least stop worth of better. This is pretty impressive.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2017

The Full Batis Line

I doubt anyone is choosing which Batis lens they are going to purchase on the basis of MTF charts. I’m using our comparison graphs to put all 4 of them together without taking up a lot of space, though, so that they’re in one place. Remember the two middle-range lenses are tested at a wider aperture than the 18mm and 135mm.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2017

Olaf Optical Testing, 2017


Roger Cicala

September, 2017

What is best in life, Roger? 

To crush the marketing departments. See them driven before you. And to hear the lamentations of their sales reps. 


Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in Equipment
  • Roger Cicala

    I think the Batis is excellent, smaller, and cheaper. The Sony is amazing, but i can’t quantitate for you if it’s worth the size and price. I know a lot of very content Batis 135 shooters, though, and can recommend it.

  • davidmedinaphotography

    I would be lying if I could say I understand the charts. I do not what I al looking at. But I am trying to decide between the Sony 135mm f1.8 and the batis 135mm f2.8. I have used the Sony and I liked it but one of the main reasons I switched to Sony was the Zeiss partnership with Sony. I do have the batis 85mm and love it. I haven’t felt the need to get the GM 85mm. But I am torn between the Sony 135mm and the Batiz 135mm. I just don’t want to regret getting the Batis. I wold love to hear your thoughts between this two lenses. (I have the same divided heart with the GM 24mm and the Batis 25mm).

  • PaloAltoMark

    Fair enough regarding the imprecision of “lens pop”. But thanks for confirming the connection between micro contrast and MTF scores at 40 lpm.

  • PaloAlto and j. a. the problem is trying to define nonscientific terms (Zeiss pop, micro-contrast) scientifically. Actually, micro contrast has a scientific definition put out by Zeiss many years ago and it is, indeed, lens performance at high frequencies; 40 and 50 lp/mm. However, that is NOT how it’s used (abused perhaps) on the forums and discussion boards where it generally means ‘something I can see that’s not measurable’.

    As used today, those terms mean whatever the user wants them to mean, and whatever the other user wants them to mean, which are often not the same thing at all.

  • PaloAltoMark

    Hi Roger. Is a lens’ ability to render things dimensionally (the so called “Zeiss pop”) measurable using MTF charts? Would performance at +40 line pairs per millimeter be the way to do the evaluation? Thanks in advance for your perspective.

  • j.a.

    Impressive results undoubtedly. Zeiss lenses are well know for their micro contrast. Is this something that can be measured?

  • VPR

    Thank you, Roger Cicala and Lens Rentals.

    I recently bought the Batis 135mm f/2.8 (“on sale”), in part because of what your MTF analysis revealed about what this beast can do.

    More generally, this particular review showed, once again, why your blog carries weight with so many. Your commitment to transparency and rigour, not to mention the lively style that you and your colleagues bring to your blog, make this a “must read” site.

    Thank you. Live long and prosper!

  • vasile

    thanks for the batis18. now i’m more confuse regarding what to buy 🙂
    OTOH, “To crush the marketing departments…” – tell that to apple…

  • DrJon

    Okay, impossible-ish question given your time constraints – you say ” The Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Distagon has been THE wide angle lens for comparison” but I’m thinking maybe the Sigma 20mm f1.4 will be better by the time you hit f2.8, and have AF. (I tested one of the Sigmas once and the lack of purple fringing wide-open was insane.) Would you like to prove your assertion (and co-incidentally select my purchase…)???

  • Athanasius Kirchner

    They’re too convoluted for my taste – the translation is somehow “off”, and in the end I get distracted by the curious use of English made in the articles. They’re not terrible or anything, but obviously translated by a Japanese native who understands English, rather than the other way around (I consume unhealthy amounts of Japanese media translated for Western audiences, which is how I ‘know’ this).

  • obican

    Yeah I remember that but still, that’s pretty impressive. Still, sleeping on that information for a night and considering the price difference, I’d still be absolutely happy with the 135L on a Sony body.

  • At the wide end, yes, it’s one of the best wide-zooms around at 16mm. It isn’t nearly as nice at the longer end. On the other hand, the Batis doesn’t zoom at all.

  • Depends on what you were shooting, what print size and resolution, etc. Would they? I have no idea. Could they? Sure.

  • Remember, the Canon is spotting a full stop of aperture. It would be much closer if it was at f/2.8.

  • obican

    Roger Cicala (from Lensrentals) did compare Zeiss Batis for So… OMG LOOK AT WHAT THAT BATIS 2/135 DID TO THAT POOR CANON!?!?!

    Seriously, that Canon 135L is already an excellent lens and I was expecting the Batis to be quite a good lens too but I wasn’t exactly ready for this.

    Wait, I’ll scroll up and have another look.

    Oh god…

  • Someone

    Nikon exposes a little bit of that in their “Nikkor Thousand One Nights” series of articles.

  • SpecialMan

    Hmmmm… so.
    If I shot using best technique, would a client be able to see that the acutance and resolution from these lenses is superior to their Canon or Nikon cousins?
    Or are we talking swings and roundabouts as usual?

  • Thank you, Ilya. Fixed that.

  • yaley

    So you’re telling me the GM zoom is as good as the Zeiss prime?

  • Pentax users have been ahead of you by years on this one! Their forums are packed with discussions about who designed which optic.

  • Ilya Zakharevich

    Duplication at end of 1st paragraph: “did a teardown of the 25mm of the 25mm”.

  • Exactly. And if you’re shooting a 2-D test chart that tilt ends up making readings lower than they should be in some areas.

  • Claudia Muster

    🙂 In the meantime, I’ve found your enlightening article from 2010 about aberrations. I’m looking forward to your next article.

  • Claudia Muster

    In the meantime, I’ve found your very enlightening article from 2010 about aberrations. It kind of answers my question. (Although I don’t doubt that theres still much more about it.)

Follow on Feedly