Zeiss T* 85 F4 Tessar ZM
Sometimes, just sometimes you purchase a new piece of equipment and you just fall in love with it. This is the experience I had after purchasing the Zeiss Tessar 85 f4 lens. It's just a wonderful piece of engineering. It's actually quite compact at 95mm with a diameter of 54mm but I class it as being quite hefty weighing in at 310g. As a matter of fact I wanted to know what a whole package would weigh (i.e. Camera and lens). Having used this on different systems I weighed the lens on them and I got the following results:
⦁ Panasonic GX8 + Tessar 85 f4 = 849g
⦁ Sony A7R + Tessar 85 f4 = 739g
⦁ Fuji X-T1 + Tessar 85 f4 = 802g
Now, if you put the Zeiss Planar T* 50 f2 ZM on the A7R it actually weighs more at 821g. That surprised me actually but the Planar is also a nicely built lens. More on that one in another post.
Take those figures above and think on it for a minute. M4/3 cameras are supposed to be lighter right? Well this just shows that the GX8 is quite a solid camera. I also like the fact that it takes 43mm filters; granted I don't use a lot of them these days but a pol and ND filters are still part of the game and do get used very often. Looking at prices for new large filters has me wondering if they don't make them of gold these days. Very expensive.
I wouldn't call the lens cheap, coming in at a price point of around €800 new but worth every penny. And that's for a manual focus lens. You won't hear any complaints from me though. I own a couple of Leica lenses (the Elmarit 90 f2.8 for instance), because I really like this focal length. That lens, used, will cost you some €900 in good condition of a well known auction site. It's been discontinued and I just can't afford these new Leica lenses. However, I prefer the Zeiss rendition to that of the Leica. Maybe it's just my lens however but I'm not prepared to test with a second Elmarit. Too rich for my blood. Focusing with the Zeiss is easier and the whole experience and handling is a pleasure. If you have to make a choice between these two, I personally would go for the Zeiss.
Just click on the thumbnails for a larger image.
Having used this lens on Sony FE, Fuji X mount and M4/3 cameras, it hasn't made a difference in the pleasure it gives despite in lens characteristics each system gives you. I prefer the longer lenses anyway. The Sony gives you an 85mm obviously, the Fuji 128mm (approximately) and M4/3 170mm.
An image from each system:
I've mentioned before that I'm a telephoto lens photographer rather than a wide angle kind of guy. I think that's the reason I have so many lenses with a focal length between 85mm and 135mm. Of course, the angle of view changes depending on what system I use them on, but that doesn't seem to matter. I can adjust easily with these focal lengths. Stick a wide angle lens on my camera for me and I'm a little lost. I can't seem to take good image. A few would say I can't take a good shot anyway :-)
I digress so back we go to the 85mm f4 Tessar. Being an f4 lens, you can guess I don't do much low light photography; well not hand held anyway. However I haven't tried this lens on the A7s whose output is something dreams are made of in low light surroundings. One day I'll get around to it. Because the lens is a little hefty at 310g (not heavy but enough weight to make a difference) you have the feeling of having something in your hand when you have the camera up to your eye. I find a lot of present day lenses too light, being made up mostly of plastic parts. Doesn't make them less durable however, just a lot lighter. I like to rest the camera in the palm of my hand and when doing that a little weight goes a long way. Gives me more stability (and more confidence) to get the shot.
The lens aperture goes from f4 down to f22 and focuses down to 90cms, which agreed, is not ideal but with this focal length my shots are mostly long anyway. The focus throw is very short, about 3/4 of a turn which for my taste is ideal. That's how I want all my lenses to be but unfortunately they're not. Some of my older 135mm lenses leaves me wondering if there's an end because the throw is very long. A real turn-off for me personally but these lenses have been around a lot longer than the Tessar.
Focusing really is a dream with this lens, really accurate and smooth. There are no sticky points as I've had with some other lenses and you just have confidence on the lens. There's not a lot of difference between f4 and f11. It fits nicely on the Sony Alpha series cameras with nice balance and couple that with the focus peaking function available on all Sony cameras, it sounds like a match made in heaven...and it very nearly is. There's always points that could be improved upon, but when using the Tessar on any of the cameras I've just mentioned I really am in heaven.
If you haven't guessed by now I'm a real fan of Zeiss lenses. They're very well built, delivers sharp images and the colours really do pop. It's an 85mm lens that will stay with me for ever because these are made to last. Cameras come and go but these lenses stay. Don't think twice about acquiring this lens if you're after a great portrait lens. The only drawback for a lot of people will be that the maximum aperture is f4.