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Just before the end of 2016 the unexpected happened... I bought another lens. This time the ZEISS 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar. It was a total surprise, as I hadn’t really thought about adding this lens at the time. I was later on, but not right after purchasing the ZEISS 55mm.
My community knows that I’m a huge fan of ZEISS lenses, especially the Sonnar lenses for their great contrast and sharpness. Like the ZEISS 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar this lens is just as amazing, in a much more compact body.
ZEISS 35mm Specs & Images
Sony E-Mount (FE - Full Frame lens)
SONNAR Optical Lens Design
Aperture Range: f/2.8-f/22
ZEISS T* Anti-Reflective Coating
49mm Diameter Filter Thread
Metal Construction with Dust & Weather Seals
62 degrees - Angle of View
13.78′ inches (35cm) Minimum Focus Distance
0.26lb (120g) - Weight
I’m planning to do more Fashion images again and I wanted a couple of lenses that were perfect for those. I went looking at the ZEISS collection of lenses and the 55mm was a definite but I wasn’t sure on my second companion.
I was between this lens as well as the ZEISS 35mm f/1.4 Distagon (which is a total BEAST of a lens). The reason I ultimately chose the f/2.8 version is because it was far more compact and easier to travel with for me. I do see myself adding the f/1.4 lens at some point. UPDATE: I’ve now purchased the ZEISS FE 1.4/35mm Distagon and replaced the f/2.8 version.
I began photographing with this lens on my friend David’s camera, the Sony a7r II and did so for about a month and a half. An awesome camera like the R II and the ZEISS lens quality is the most incredible experience you can ever have.
So far I’ve photographed a variety of different things, which will really give you a broad idea on just what you’ll be able to accomplish in capturing with a lens of this range and quality.
Something to note is that this lens is a Full Frame (FE) lens for Sony’s Mirrorless E-Mount cameras, but it can be used on the cropped APS-C cameras, which will give you a 35mm equivalent focal length of 52.5mm.
What I think about the 35mm
When you first open the box you think this lens can’t be much, based on the size of it and how light it is. Can it really be a “ZEISS” lens you may ask? Yes! An incredible build quality that’s metal, weather and dust resistant with the ZEISS Sonnar quality is what you obtain with this lens.
It’s incredibly sharp even wide open. Photographing with a prime lens I’m going for as many wide open images as possible, therefore quality wide open is a must have.
It may not be the f/1.4 version but you still obtain a lot more light with this lens, vs the f/4 zoom lenses for better low light capability. Many examples here are hand-held, due to having that faster aperture available.
One cool thing about this lens that you’ll notice right away is the lens hood. It’s not the typical petal style lens hood you may be use to. The lens hood is flush to the body and is kind of like a hat! No really, it is! To use the lens cap you must have the lens hood on. Because it’s so compact I’m certain you’ll never take the lens hood off anyways, so it won’t be a big deal.
Compared to the f/1.4 version, you’ll be able to photograph with this lens and never feel it’s wearing you down. It’s only 130 grams, compared to 630 grams of the f/1.4, although the 1.4 does offer up even greater optical quality.
What makes the 35mm great?
Image Quality - Great contrast, rich colors and excellent sharpness is what this lens is all about. Even wide open with the aperture you’ll still have a clean crisp and vibrant image, which are things I absolutely love about the Sonnar lenses.
Build - You're getting an all metal design lens that’s weather sealed, making this a great lens to have out in the elements.
Aperture - This is an f/2.8 lens, which is great for low light situations and allowing you to capture images hand-held. You also obtain some beautiful bokeh (blurry background) with this lens at f/2.8. It’s not over powering in the image to take away from your subject and adds a nice feel to any portrait images! In the event you may want an f/1.4 option, check out the Carl ZEISS FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon.
Size/Weight - This lens is undeniably light and compact and a great lens for any Sony user. Even with it’s lens hood you’re not adding much weight onto the lens, so you’ll be delighted to keep this lens attached to your camera for a full day of shooting.
Focus - So far I’ve found focusing to do really well. It does a bit better than the ZEISS 55mm, in that it’s a bit easier to lock on the focus. It works well on both the Sony a7r II and my Sony a7.
Color - You’re always certain to obtain great colored images with any ZEISS lens and this is no exception to that. Many say ZEISS lenses have a 3D looking effect to them and you do feel that way with this lens and the poppy colors it offers.
T* Coating - ZEISS lenses are popular for this coating, which reduces lens flare drastically and enhances overall performance of the lens. Whether it’s a filter or lens with this coating you’ll notice the difference from having it vs a lens or filter that doesn’t.
What makes the 35mm not so great?
Optical Steady Shot - There isn’t any stabilization with this lens, but if you have any of the newer Sony Mirrorless cameras then you’ll gain stabilization from the camera bodies themselves. At such a wide focal length you can get away without needing it, but it does increase the usability of this lens in low light situations that may result in a low shutter speed.
Why did I switch from the ZEISS 2.8/35mm to the ZEISS 1.4/35mm?
Recently I added the ZEISS FE 1.4/35mm Distagon lens and many have wondered, why did you buy that when you already own a 35mm lens? Simple, for the wider aperture!
Photographing with the 2.8/35mm was great, but once photographing people came into play more I was wanting to have greater depth of field. Over time I was using this lens less than what I had hoped and for the times I needed 35mm I would tend to keep my ZEISS FE 4/16-35mm Vario-TESSAR on instead of switching to the 2.8/35mm lens.
The 1.4 is a much longer, heavier and wider lens but the 1.4 aperture is what you fall in love with this lens for. I think the 2.8 is a phenomenal lens, but I’m really in love with the 1.4.
Conclusion: Who is/isn’t this for?
Anyone who’s wanting a quality prime lens that’s not overly expensive and great for low light shooting then you’ll be happy with this lens. It offers a focal length that’s not too far away but not too tight either to where you may feel a bit cramped, like the ZEISS 55mm may be for you.
It’s an excellent compact lens that’s useful for a wide variety of genre’s of photography, which you can see from my example images here. For $700 USD you can’t go wrong.
If size and weight, or more importantly money aren’t a major factor for you and you want even greater low light capability or depth of field then you’d prefer the wider aperture ZEISS 35mm f/1.4 Distagon. That lens is more impressive and one that makes for an even greater portrait lens, for it’s wider aperture and the added bokeh.