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 Lensrentals.com. 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
  • Samuel H

    Great to hear. My guess is that they always cause some tilt, which you could see on the field curvature graphs.
    Still hoping Sigma will bring out FE lenses before Sony brings out the a7x I’ve been waiting for… (I’m shooting video, none of their options is good enough to justify the upgrade from an a6500).

  • Messier77

    Thanks! The 16-35mm GM is extremely impressive by comparison, especially considering that’s at 2mm wider.

  • Mike

    Sigma made the 28-70 for Leica, possibly others, Minolta made several for Leica. Tamron made some excellent optics, I have a lot of their 80’s zooms and a 180.

  • No methodology changes for stuff out in 2017, but that’s a good point.

  • It’s not that short :-). Oh, wait, you’re talking about the next article.

  • I said adapters were a bad idea for testing. At the time, several reviewers were doing Imatest on one camera using adapters for different lenses and claiming that made the tests equal. Adapters will detectably alter Imatest numbers. But that doesn’t mean they’re a problem for photography most of the time; they aren’t.

  • Athanasius Kirchner

    Thanks, that’s a good tip.

  • Adrian

    Not if you compare it with the Sigma 135 at 2.8 :


    Of course, that was only one copy (an average one as Roger says), and there is more to a lens than MTF (for me bokeh fringing is also very important)

  • Not really. Those two are optically identical to their photo counterparts. Just grabbed them probably because they showed up first in the drop down menus.

  • Lee

    Any particular reason you used the 135 CP.2 and 135 CN-E instead of the vanilla versions? Seems random since the Batis isn’t really a cine

  • Jonathan

    Roger, the graph name for the Canon lens is wrong. 🙂

  • Brandon Dube

    there’s something kind of sort of like that in the works

  • Samuel H

    I’m hoping Sigma will start making FE lenses soon, and they will be new designs tanking tha advantage of the shorter focal flange distance. But, in the meantime…

    Your old imatest results said adapters were a bad idea, but lots of users were perfectly happy with them. Maybe because their standards are not THAT high, even with all the pixel peeping everybody seems to love nowadays, or maybe because the test was somehow unfair to adapters, which I doubt, but well, it may have happened, after all you’ve changed your methodology a lot since those days, and that means it wasn’t perfect. Did you ever revisit this issue with the new methodology?

    I’m asking because this Batis 135mm looks great but the Sigma 135mm is almost as good… at f/1.8 instead of f/2.8! And yes, it’s huge and twice as heavy, but it’s actually cheaper than the Batis.

  • Messier77

    Just easier to see them side to side. That’s all.

  • Claudia Muster

    It would be interesting if you could sometime elaborate in a short article what lens astigmatism means for real photography.

  • Les, I think that’s exactly it and in these days there are so many patents and subassemblies that I think there are few “100% brands”. Leica (as in real Leica, not Leica-xxx), Sigma, and Canon probably are. But when we disassemble things we often see that electronics, AF assemblies, and some other things all seem to be made in the same place, they’re extremely similar no matter the badge on the outside.

    Whether a lens is designed in house and then outsourced for parts, or the AF assembly and optomechanicals contracted from one of the half-dozen huge optical foundries whose names no one has heard of, or the design bought from another company and made in house, it’s all much grayer than people want to think.

  • Les

    People confuse production design and optical design. If it’s made in a Tamron factory, then Tamron had a hand in the production design. They may also have designed the optics, but that’s not a given.

    Another issue is that lenses are built to a cost. Back in the 1990s, Sigma was telling journalists that they could build lenses that are just as good as Zeiss/Leica (and they may have built some R zooms for Leica), but then they would need to charge just as much money for them. The market wasn’t ready for that back then, but it is now.

    In other words, Tamron could sell a lens like this under their own brand, but it wouldn’t be significantly cheaper.

  • I’m giving a lot of emphasis, in a wide angle, to the lower sag-tan separation of the 21mm when I say better. You’re correct about absolute numbers, but lower astigmatism is a big deal to me. YMMV of course, we all are looking for different aspects. But I think we have to call both ‘amazingly good’ and I probably split hairs a bit too much with that comment.

  • Photoshop away!! Well done.

  • TinusVerdino
  • Samuel H

    I came here to say exactly that.
    And also that I see a Batis 18mm in my future…

  • Samuel H

    I went to the 16-35 and 12-24 articles, unless Roger says otherwise (I know methodology has changed at times, but I don’t keep track of when and how), I think you can just compare the graphs.

  • Brandon Dube

    The history of great lens designers at various companies is pretty well known – -buy “A History of the Photographic Lens,” it covers things up to at least the 1960s-1970s pretty well in terms of whos-whos.

    Their fingerprints are most visible when you look at field curvature/astigmatism — designers tend to have fairly clear tastes w.r.t. that.

  • Athanasius Kirchner

    You raise an excellent point – most lens designers, despite their enormous contributions to the field of photography, are almost anonymous. Yet they’re responsible for many compromises and specific ‘looks’ – I’d certainly love to know more about the humans behind optics.

  • SpecialMan

    Thanks. Fascinating—I foresee a future when we become brand-agnostic and start buying lenses because we’re fans of the designer. For instance, the Batis 25 was supposedly designed by Takahiko Saka—maybe he’s the Helen Turley of optics????

  • I don’t know first-hand (if I did I couldn’t comment at all because of nondisclosures) but the rumors I hear are that Tamron is doing a lot of lens design and some manufacturing for lenses wearing other badges and not just Zeiss. We did take apart a Batis 25mm (I linked in the article) but optical design wouldn’t show in the teardown. Optomechanical design might.

  • Max Manzan

    “While they’re even in the center, the 21mm Distagon is a little better off-axis.”

    hm, that’s not really what I see in the comparative diagram. I see a slightly better performance off-axis over most of the field for the Batis 18mm, except in the extreme corners, where the difference is tiny.

  • Messier77

    Roger, thanks for doing this test. Any chance you could put up comparisons to the Sony 16-35 f/2.6 GM and 12-24 f/4 (I know you wont have them at the same focal lengths, but it’s at least worth a look)?

  • SpecialMan

    Some of the other Batis lenses were designed by Tamron, according to internet lore; have we taken one of these Batisi apart to look for family resemblances? And, if this is true that they have such humble origins, what does it mean from a global perspective? Should we cut out the middleman and buy Tamrons?

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