Zeiss 21mm F2.8 Loxia E-mount lens review by wetapunga

reviewer#45567 date: Aug-18-2020
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 5
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Minolta 20/2.8
Minolta 17-35mm G
Tamron 11-16mm
CZ 16-80mm DT
Sigma 20mm f1.8
price paid:$NZ1349 (used)
positive:The handling and the image quality.
negative:For what it is designed for, nothing.
You can't stop at one Loxia. They're addictive.
comment:All Loxia lenses have some common attributes. They’re sharp across the whole frame, but corners will be softer than the centre at wide-open apertures. Softer by Zeiss standards isn’t bad and closing the aperture a couple of F-stops sees a noticeable improvement in the corners. Optimal sharpness is around f8-f11.

It’s a wonderful, tactile and precise lens to use. Loxia lenses are manufactured to very high standards.These are all metal and glass lenses. Even the focusing ring is ribbed metal, not rubber. The lens hoods are also metal. The lenses have a good throw, ideal for manual focus. Attaching or removing the lens is easier if you turn the aperture ring right to the end of its range and adds to the resistance of removing it. Otherwise the small size is a little awkward to manage.

Wide-open the lens will also show some vignette. The 21mm shows some barrel distortion but this is minor.

Screw in, or square filters can be used without noticeable vignetting.

Microcontrast and sharpness is superb. Really outstanding. Flare resistance is superb. Sun-stars are clear and attractive. The lenses lack APO elements so can produce purple or green fringing in backlit, high contrast area wide-open. This again, is relatively minor- I have to really look for it. I’ve had some older lenses exhibit far worse.

The point is these are outstanding optical formulas, but not perfect. They don’t need aggressive lens correction profiles in LR or C1 (which are available). I don’t know anything that is perfect, but these lenses are definitely top tier stuff. Hence, their unfortunate high price.

The lenses are clearly designed for certain users in mind. First, those people attracted to the E-mount for the potential to have a smaller kit. All Loxia lenses have gone for narrower apertures (f2-f2.8) rather than say f1.4 to keep the size down. It works. It’s easy to pack four of them into a smallish camera bag.

They’re also aimed at people who don’t mind, or prefer, to manual focus. Because they are manual focus only. So say, landscape photographers or videographers will find these lenses appealing (especially with the declick option). I got a set of 4 for landscapes.

And that leads to their next clever design feature. They all have a 52mm lens diameter. You can use the same filters on all. And an 52mm ND filter takes up very little space in a camera bag. Filters do not appear to generate any vignetting as well.
Manual focusing on a 3rd Generation a7riii is pretty accurate. You can take advantage of the focus magnification and focus peaking features to get the subject in focus. And you can still use the in-camera stabilization. While the lens is manual focus, it maintains electrical contacts with the camera. This feeds the camera EXIF data as well as focus-distance data for the IBIS. You are restricted to using A or M mode on the camera. Obviously though you don’t use the camera dial to change the aperture but the lens aperture ring.

The lenses won’t be for everyone. But once you handle one of them and see the images pop out on your screen, it is hard to stop and just having one of them. Especially if your photography requirements are orientated to portability, extraordinary optical properties and manual focusing.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 5
  • sharpness: 5.00
  • color: 5.00
  • build: 5.00
  • distortion: 4.60
  • flare control: 5.00
  • overall: 4.92
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