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Zeiss Dream Lens Kit

Gah! I’m tired of carrying large and heavy lenses that shoot for the stars (f/1.4 or f/2) or wide zoom ranges, but always compromise in multiple ways: sharpness, distortion, field curvature, and most of all: size and weight.

Yes, f/1.4 is nice to have and much loved by me at times, but not when 2/3/4 such lenses go in a bag to be carried all day, or for travel. And zooms rarely if ever deliver to the standard I’m looking for (Canon 11-24mm f/4L is a possible exception).

For me, a “Super Loxia” or “Super Batis” line makes a lot of sense. Utilizing f/2.8 designs for the ultimate quality (f/4 as appropriate)—as good or better than Otus at a still expensive but lower price than Otus (since 2 stops slower). Halo lenses that set the reference standard.

So here is my “Zeiss Dream Lens Kit” for Sony mirrorless. Applies similarly to DSLRs and any other mirrorless system. I’d make them all “slow” as follows, so I could carry most or all of them on a hike or for travel and in a relatively small space:

  • 11-15/4 zoom
  • 16-24/4 zoom
  • 23/2.8* APO
  • 28/2.8 APO
  • 35/2.8 APO
  • 50/2.8 APO
  • 75/2.8 APO
  • 135/3.5 and 200/4 APO

But the market today seems to demand either “cheap and slow and pretty good” or “fast and very good and heavy”. Does it? Or do lens manufacturers just assume that slow reference-grade lenses won’t sell? I had thought the Zeiss Loxia 21/2.8 a particularly strong argument for the above, but it’s Achille’s heel is manual focus (only). If so, the Batis 18/2.8 comes to mind.

* Yes, I mean a 23mm; it spaces better against 28mm and 18mm.

Reader comments

Salim M writes:

Having just returned from a extensive camping trip in Patagonia and carrying up a set of lenses (including the Sigma 50/1.4 art) up on a track that seemed like climbing a wall. I was constantly thinking about my dream lens.

My dream set would be: 21/2.8 loxia , 28/2.8, 50/2.8, 90 or 100 2.8-4, 200/4, 400/5.6 or even f/8. I do a lot of pano work for landscape. So I can easily cover the range in between by stitching the pano.

Knut K writes:

‎11-15/4 zoom and 16-24/4 zoom

I wonder if f5,6 wouldn't be better for these extreme wide angles. f4 already requires a considerable diameters of the front element to reduce vignetting. Concerning vignetting: there used to be a time when wide angles had built in filters for BW. Why not include a ‎built in graded density filter to get even illumination on these wide angles?

DIGLLOYD: lenses this wide will probably already need to be larger than I’d like, in part for telecentricity reasons (ray angle to the sensor). I would accept f/4.5, but f/5.6 is getting way too dark for focusing in dim light such as dusk, which would be problematic. Canon’s 11-24mm f/4L is acceptable in size, and it spans a wider range. So an 11-15/4 or 11-25/4.5 would be fine I think.

Eric W writes:

I've been using the Contax G 45 and Contax G 90 along with the Loxia 21mm. They make a great set for covering people, and pack up quite well.

DIGLLOYD: an example of how photographers cope with the dearth of compact lenses, though not necessarily spot-on here; I’m looking for something superior to Contax. Leica M lenses excited Sony users for a while on the size/weight thing, but the ray angle issues make them marginal choices.

Jim Kasson writes with a link to his blog entry on this subject.


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