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Reader Question: Zeiss Otus vs Voigtlander APO Lenses for Sony 16-Shot High-Res mode

See my Sony wishlist at B&H Photo.

Stefan I writes:

I’m a long term subscriber and I absolutely appreciate your work. You’ve saved me save money, several times, as your recommendations have been spot-on. The last time I almost bought a Leica 24-90mm SL zoom, planning a transition to the Panasonic S1R, but your well executed review made me reconsider, at the last minute.

I’ve been waiting for the multishot capability to be added to the Sony ecosystem ever since the Sony A7R III came out. For my large gallery prints (2m to 3m wide) there are never enough pixels. Currently I’m doing all sorts of stitching (flat, nodal, mixed) combined with focus stacking or lens tilts / swings. But it’s very time consuming, and I would rather spend my time on composition and light than technicalities.

I have a question: Based on your experience with Panasonic’s multishot implementation, and with all sorts of lenses, will there be a meaningful difference at 200+ true-color megapixels, at f 5.6 / f8, between a Voigtlander FE 65mm f/2 APO and Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon (or even a Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art for that matter) ? Same thing about the Voigtlander 21mm f/1.4 vs Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon.

I appreciate the 21mm FOV a lot more than 28mm, but hanging on to my Otus, and lugging it around just for the sake of absolute IQ and resolution. Again, we are talking about optimal shooting conditions: f 5.6 to f8 for all lenses, solid tripod and head, remote etc.

I’m tired of lugging around adapted DSLR bricks, I would really like to trade in my Otuses for Voigtlanders - the 110 APO has already made an excellent impression, but then, again, I haven’t tested any of my lenses on 200MP shots. Your thoughts on this topic would be greatly appreciated. Best regards,

DIGLLOYD: I am more than a little concerned that the Sony 16-shot high-res mode implementation will not be field usable as is the Panasonic Multi-Shot High-Res mode. There are numerous drawbacks in its implementation also.

the Leica 24-90mm f/2.8-4 Vario-Elmarit-SL ASPH OIS was at best a mediocre performer on the Panasonic S1R in multi-shot high-res mode coupled with seriously damaging focus shift—just not a reliable instrument for the purpose. I didn’t publish many results with it, so disappointing was it, which is not to say it’s bad, just that it is way below the results I could get with the primes, or the Leica 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 Super-Vario-Elmar-SL ASPH.

But to the point: Zeiss Otus lenses did not behave as I expected on the Panasonic S1R. While I was able to achieve high-grade results, field curvature in the outer zones and unexpected focus shift that does not exist on the Nikon D850 caused me some grief. It suggests an interaction with sensor cover glass—high performance lenses can be quite sensitive to relatively small differences in cover glass thickness. Along with the size and weight, this also makes me ponder whether other choices are better.

Accordingly, when I explore the Sony 16-shot high-res mode implementation, I will be paying close attention to how Zeiss Otus lenses behave, and I also intend to test the Voigtlander FE NOKTON 21mm f/1.4 Aspheric, Voigtlander FE MACRO APO-LANTHAR 65mm f/2 APO and Voigtlander FE MACRO APO-LANTHAR 110mm f/2.5. Since they are native-mount and designed fresh for Sony cameras, I expect very high performance. Which is not a statement that color, flare control and other aspects are up to Zeiss Otus levels—just a comment on resolution.

In my view, Zeiss is not taking the mirrorless market seriously: the failure to produce reasonable size/weight lenses for mirrorless with better than Otus-grade performance (quite possible with an f/2 or f/2.8 lens speed) is a strategic mistake IMO, at least if there is any desire to remain relevant. Something half the size of an Otus with Otus+ performance and a stop or even two less speed would be VERY appealing. While the Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis lenses are strong offerings, they can no longer claim to be the best—witness at the least the stellar Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 GM and the Voigtlander FE NOKTON 21mm f/1.4 Aspheric.

CLICK TO VIEW: Sony A7R IV and Highly Recommended Lenses (partial list)

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