Check the price of the Carl ZEISS FE 40mm f/2 Distagon on Amazon | B&H Photo
Over the past 6 months I’ve flown across the country, trying a brand new lens I bought from ZEISS and their 5th lens in the Batis line, the 2/40mm Close Focus lens. This is my 7th FE lens for Sony E-mount mirrorless and my 7th ZEISS lens as well (yes, all of my full frame lenses are ZEISS).
It’s taken me a long while to really find where this focal length fits in with my style of photography and what I’m capturing on a regular basis and although at first it was a bit challenging at first I feel I’ve slowed gotten more of an idea on just how great this lens is to have.
40mm may seem like an unusual focal length, but it’s the perfect balance between the ZEISS Batis 2/25mm and the Sony/ZEISS 1.8/55mm lenses that I own and being exactly 15mm between the two and being a better suited option for my needs over a 35mm focal length prime lens.
ZEISS 40mm Lens Specifications & Images
Sony E-Mount (FE - Full Frame lens)
DISTAGON Optical Lens Design
Aperture Range: f/2-f/22
ZEISS T* Anti-Reflective Coating
67mm Diameter Filter Thread
OLED Display for Focus Distance/DoF
Metal Construction with Dust & Weather Seals
56 degrees - Angle of View
24cm Minimum Focus Distance
0.79lb (361g) - Weight
The ZEISS Batis 40mm offers the same sleek metal body design that’s the staple of the Batis line of lenses. It features a rubber zoom ring, an OLED display for the focus distance and depth of field read out and a switch for manually setting the focus distance that the lens travels. With the plastic lens hood attached the body design of the lens meets perfectly with the lens hood to create an almost seamless attachment, another unique characteristic of these Batis lenses.
The focus of this lens is a fly by wire focusing system, but one thing ZEISS does very well is still giving such precision in control with the focusing of their lenses. Regardless of this there are some who still don’t like this system, which is understandable and more would prefer the focusing of say the traditional line of ZEISS lenses, such as the Loxia, which are manual focusing lenses designed for Sony E-Mount as well.
Like all ZEISS E-Mount lenses this lens is dust and weather sealed, offering a robust build for the most demanding photographers that may be among the elements on a regular basis.
I spent quite a long while photographing with this lens, as I wanted my initial review of this lens to include a wide variety of photographic scenarios, so people can have a great outlook on the kinds of images you can capture with this lens, to see if it’s a lens that fits their needs. From my typical street photography images to worship, portraits, landscapes, etc... you’ll find a good starting point of what this lens is capable of.
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 60mm.
What I think about the 40mm
This is the PERFECT lens I was in need of, which I wasn’t able to obtain in the Sony/ZEISS 35mm lenses! I loved both the Sony/ZEISS 2.8/35mm and 1.4/35mm lenses, but I didn’t like that one was slower than what I prefer in prime lenses and the other being so huge that it was a bit much for me to take every where that I was going and left at home more times than I would have liked.
This lens is compact, offers me a good aperture compromise between those lenses at f/2 and gives me a focal length that sits perfectly between my 25mm and 55mm lenses. This lens has since gone every where that I’ve traveled to since purchasing this lens and now allowed me to take an all Batis lineup of lenses as my primary kit (The Batis 25mm, 40mm and 85mm lenses).
What stands out about the 40mm?
The highlight of this lens is the close focus capability. This lens doesn’t have the magnification reproduction of a dedicated macro lens, but it does give you that close up capability on this lens. It actually does very well and for some of the images I’ve taken and taken advantage of the close focusing it’s been great, without the need of having an extra lens for macro if I didn’t really need it.
Something to note when utilizing this lens under this condition the actual light going to the sensor is stopped down. ZEISS’ reason for this is “to ensure exceptional image quality at close range”. The lens will automatically stop down at preset values between f/2 and f/2.5 at close range and at a focus distance of between 24 and 65 centimeters – in extreme cases (close focusing distance) to max. f/2.8. With a preset aperture value of f/2.8 and above however, the aperture will remain unchanged across the entire focus range.
I knew of this taking place, but it’s not something I’ve found to be a drawback on this lens for me, but others may see it as one. The few images I have here in this review I didn’t find it as a hindrance.
My initial use of this lens was on the Sony α7R III and I found the focusing to do very well with it. It was just as I’d expect out of a Batis lens. Upon moving to the Sony α9 my experience became even more enjoyable. That camera coupled with this lens just nails focus so perfectly! As many know these cameras have recently been updated with a new focusing features (Real-Time Eye AF and Real-Time Tracking) and it makes focusing effortless! You basically can’t take a poorly focused image with these cameras and the new updates and the Batis lenses simply take full advantage of these Sony cameras to provide that amazing accurate focusing! I’d be the one to say that the accuracy is 100%, just from my own personal experience with this lens and these cameras. It’s something you have to try vs reading about it in a review.
With any lens from ZEISS you’re certain of obtaining incredible quality. Even wide open at f/2 the images are still very sharp with great color. The bokeh is beautifully captured and not over powering what-so-ever.
I have no complaints at all about this lens and the images it can produce. They’re absolutely beautiful, colorful and sharp images on a consistent basis as you’d expect from ZEISS lenses.
Bokeh is nicely done on this lens. It doesn’t feel over the top for most situations wide open, unlike what you might experience at a lens that’s an f/1.4 for instance. For what I’m photographing, even down to portraits the bokeh is enough to where I’m able to have that nice background blur when I need or want it.
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. It’s always very effective and really brings more contrast to your images.
ZEISS Batis 40mm vs Sony/ZEISS 35mm (1.4 & 2.8)?
I’m quite certain I’m going to get asked about these three lenses together and thought I should add this part in as well.
The immediate significant difference between these three lenses are their apertures. Along with that are their drastically differing sizes as well. The 1.4/35mm is the heaviest and largest, the 2/40mm sits in between these it terms of size, weight and aperture. The 2.8/35mm is the smallest, lightest and most compact of them all, but the slowest of the three.
I’ve owned all three and the order I purchased this was starting with the 2.8/35mm. I bought this as I wanted this range for a variety of things, such as portraits, nature and landscape images. I wanted such a lens for doing my product videos on YouTube as well. This was the best suited at the time for it’s convenience in size, but the aperture was always something I wish was a bit wider than f/2.8. f/2.8 in a prime I typically stray away from, as I’m able to obtain that from zoom lenses where wider apertures of primes are something zooms on the market don’t possess. It was a beautiful lens, but that along with the bokeh not being as strong as I would like in a prime I ended up finally giving it and selling this version and obtaining the 1.4/35mm version.
That lens was a lot bigger than what I ultimately wanted, but my goodness it was a night and day difference in images! The f/1.4 certainly was a beautiful thing to have for both photos and videos. It’s a Cinematographers dream to use this lens, as it’s one of the best lenses Sony produces for the E-Mount. It also added a manual aperture ring, which I love about many of the Sony lenses. I use manual quite a bit and I used this heavily as opposed to keeping the lens in auto aperture. I enjoyed this lens, but the size of this lens made it not see much time in my camera bag and was kept home more times than I would have liked, especially for a lens that’s quite an expensive one.
Upon the announcement of the Batis 2/40mm I quickly made my pre-order of that lens and once it arrived I put my 1.4/35mm lens on the market to be sold. It’s the best compromise of those two great lenses, which also give you 5 extra millimeters that makes it the perfect in between lens of the Sony 1.4/24mm G Master or ZEISS Batis 2/25mm and the Sony/ZEISS 1.8/55mm lens.
Whether the use is for photos or videos it’s a great choice for it’s balance of such lenses, but I do feel more Cinema oriented people will still favor the 1.4/35mm lens, as it does offer the manual adjusting aperture ring, which is quite beneficial for that application.
This lens isn’t a cheap lens, nor is it astronomically expensive either at $1,299 USD and is a great option for those who are looking for a 35mm-ish range lens that is a great balance lens, that also adds the close focusing capability.
All images featured in this review were photographed with the Sony α7R III and Sony α9. All images have also been post processed from their RAW files, using Adobe Lightroom.