ZEISS 12mm f/2.8 Touit Distagon T* Fuji X-A1
An autofocus ZEISS for a mirrorless camera? Was that a pig I just saw flying? No, just a Touit.
The new ZEISS Touit line are specifically designed for APS-C mirrorless cameras, and currently consists of a 12mm f/2.8, 32mm f/1.8, and shortly a 50mm f/2.8 Macro. The name Touit rhymes with “do it” and is named after a parrotlet bird. Being named after a small parrot isn’t so bad, I guess they are for the smaller sensors and sharp bird like lenses? Only ZEISS knows, and I have grown accustomed to the name.
What is a Distagon lens? In short it is an image space telecentric lens. A weak point in short flange sensors with digital is with a traditional wide angle lens, the light rays hit the sensor at a steep angle and reflect off instead of illuminating the sensor. To compensate for this the lens can be placed further from the sensor or it can be made image space telecentric, meaning the light hits the sensor closer to perpendicular. The trade off to telecentric lenses is they tend to be a little larger than a classic wide angle. The Distagon designation on this implies that it is a partly telecentric design. This lens was meant to perform well on a mirrorless camera all the way to the extreme corner, does this hold true in practice? More on that in a minute, lets look at the build quality first.
This lens is a quality feeling piece of equipment, especially for an autofocus lens. Picking it up and it has a nice weight to it, with quality rubber grips on the focus ring and aperture ring with metal barrel and large impressive hood. The trouble begins when I try to remove the hood, it sticks and the aperture ring turns when you try to hold the lens to get the hood off, so then the rear lens cap pops off. Once the aperture ring reaches the other end and stops and the rear cap has fallen off, I was able to snap the hood off.
The aperture ring turns loosely, but has high quality feeling detents at each 1/3 point. There is a raised finger index point so you can mount the lens by feel. The focus ring is well weighted, but focus by wire. A focus indicator shows on my screen of my X-A1, but I found infinity focus wasn’t actually at infinity, unfortunately.
The lens has 11 elements in 8 groups with 2 aspherical and 3 low dispersion elements to reduce CA. It is heavy for the class (mirrorless UWA) at 270 g (9.5 oz), and has a typical to good for the class minimum focus distance of 18 cm (7.1 inches). I think it has a 9 bladed diaphragm, but it is hard to see so I will go with what I am told. This ZEISS is made in Japan.
So, does this Touit do it?
Wait, what is new with my charts you ask? I set the MTF 20 chart to go to only the vertical resolution of the sensor. Anything above that is meaningless. The MTF 50 chart I set based on a ratio of where f/16 appeared for several lenses and the vertical resolution. You should note that 4k video is 2160 LW/PH and HD video is 1080 LW/PH, for MTF 50 this could be allowed to be somewhat less than that. So consider minimum for HD the red/yellow boundary and the minimum for 4k the Yellow/Green boundary. The green/blue boundary or above is where a good photographic lens will lie, but decent is anything yellow/green border and up. If you can’t see the colored borders, for MTF 20 Red: ~1200 LW/PH, Yellow: 2160, Blue: 2700. MTF50 values are 800, 1500, and 1900 LW/PH.
Comments on the Results
What is not to like? Sharpness and resolution are excellent. The lens is very good from f/2.8 to f/11 across the entire frame. There is some improvement from f/2.8 to f/4, but after that it really doesn’t matter where you shoot, just select based on depth of field and available light. On a 16 MP APS-C you will start to notice notable drop in resolution above f/8.
There is significant astigmatism towards the corners, but shouldn’t be an impact in most real world photography. Night star fields you will see some coma and out of focus stars will appear smeared radially. My star fields were out of focus at f/2.8 since the electronic scale wasn’t accurate.
Distortion is negligible from RAW in Lightroom with my X-A1. If you use a different converter you could see a minor 2% barrel distortion and even sharper corners. The lens is so sharp in the corners that the drop from the small correction is hardly noticeable (for reference Fuji 16-50mm at 16mm is at 8% distortion, and still looks good in the corners). Lightroom automatically corrects the RAW with no option to disable.
Lateral CA is there at the extreme corners, but nothing that isn’t easily corrected.
Flare resistance: This might be the lens’s weak point. You MUST use the hood if shooting night time street photography. Any side angle light flares across the entire image (say a street light above the camera). With the hood it drastically reduces flare, lights in the field of view aren’t as problematic and pretty typical for the class. Veiling glare is not a problem, even shooting into the sun contrast remains good.
Measured Focal length is 14mm at 1:53 magnification (this is same as 12mm voigtlander, and pretty typical for this class of lens).
Autofocus: The focus is smooth and positive, but not fast. It hunts the range and locks even in low light (still need contrast). The Fuji 14mm is definitely faster focus if it is important to you, but the ZEISS was never problematic like say the Canon EOS-M with EF-M 22mm.
Pros and Cons
- Sharpness/Resolution at all settings
- Overall Image Quality
- Build Quality
- Flare from lights just off edge of frame
- Hood (so-so plastic and hard to remove)
- Aperture Ring, too easy to bump
The most asked question is, why would I buy the ZEISS 12mm f/2.8 when the Fuji 14mm f/2.8 is available for less money? If you really need the manual distance scale for zone focus street shooting, your decision is easy: the Fuji (still is focus by wire, but doesn’t feel it). I would buy the 12mm f/2.8 because it is noticeably wider (Fuji measured at 16mm for my method vs 14 for ZEISS) and I get by with AF most of the time. I will have a review of the Fuji coming soon and a side by side comparison as well.
I highly recommend this lens.
Buy on BH to help support the site: Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 Lens (Fujifilm X-Mount)
Or Amazon is always a good choice: Zeiss 12mm f/2.8 Touit Series for Fujifilm X Series Cameras
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Also, buy for Sony NEX: Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 Lens (Sony E-Mount)