Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar Hands-on Review

This Zeiss is nice. This Loxia 50mm f/2 Planar and the 35mm f/2 Biogon were a lovely pair of lenses – German design, made in Japan. Wonderfully multicultural, but even more wonderfully-built. Sleek metal barrel with rings that are milled with enough grip to make focusing a dream. The ring slides around that barrel with enough resistance to make it feel like one of knobs on those beautiful hi-fi separates that are becoming less common these days, just like how this kind of focusing feel is. Mind you, the focus should feel this good if the lens is manual focus only.

@ f/4.5, 1/4000s

@ f/3.2, 1/125s

I like the Planar design. Well, most of them. The 50mm f/1.4 Planars that were available for Canon, Nikon and Pentax DSLRs were mediocre at larger apertures – chromatic aberration by the bucketload, bad bokeh by the truckload – which was a shame, because they felt like nicely-made lenses too. This is more like the ZM-mount 50mm Planar in the way it produces super sharp images, with minimal distortion and lovely bokeh.

Creamy cheesy bokeh

@ f/2, 1/250s

The autofocising Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 Sonnar is hard to beat, and in some ways this Loxia doesn’t exactly beat it. At f/4, the centre sharpness of hte Loxia is noticeably better, but the corners are softer than with the Sony lens. The Sonnar has the ability to go to f/1.8 also, and the centre sharpness is better at f/1.8 than the Loxia at f/2. Field curvature is detrimental to the Planar’s corner performance, although let me emphasise that it doesn’t make this lens soft per se, it’s just not as good as the more modern one.

@ f/2, 1/3200s

Good centre sharpness

It seems like the Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 is the lens that I ought to recommend but I can’t pull myself away from this Loxia. Perhaps I got a bit too fixated on the way it feels, how nicely it is made and how smooth the ring is but when I look at the RAW files, it’s hard not to like this lens. It produces with nice colour and contrast. But in some ways this lens is more for videographers, what with its de-clickable aperture and manual focus, than photographers. For stills images the 55mm f/1.8 seems to make sense, but sometimes things aren’t meant to make sense – you just use what you enjoy. If you like the feel of an old classic lens with modern image quality, then you might fancy this lens.