I will attempt to summarize what I’ve found over the last few posts, starting here. This is a complicated subject. I’ll tell you what my conclusions are, but you may have different priories, and I welcome your comments.
- Zeiss 85mm f/4 ZM (Leica M mount) Tele-Tessar.
- Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Otus.
- Leica 90mm f/2 Apo Summicron-M ASPH.
- AF-S Nikkor 85mm f/1.4 G.
- Tamron SP AF Di 90mm f/2.8 Macro.
The first — and depressing — news is that you get pretty much what you pay for. The two most expensive lenses, the Otus and the Summicron, affixed themselves securely at the top of the pack, and the low-buck Tamron was at the bottom.
The Otus and the Summicron were very close except at f/2, where the Leica lens stumbled.
For me, the big winner as a good lens for the a7II was the Zeiss Tele-Tessar. If you’re not pixel peeping as we were, at the apertures that it and the two expensive lenses have in common, it is their virtual equal. It is small, and feels really right on the a7II. It is a quarter the price of the two most costly lenses.
The Tamron and the Nikkor delivered relatively unimpressive results, but that doesn’t mean they are bad lenses at all. There wasn’t a bad lens in this test. Both of these lenses can deliver excellent images. And remember, we were testing the Tamron, a macro lens, at infinity, which probably put it at a disadvantage.
As in many things — such as wine, hi-fi, and motorcars — the relationship between price and performance is highly non-linear at the top, with your last few hundred dollars buying you much less than your first few hundred.
Thanks a lot for this review. Always interesting even if I do not have (yet) the money to by these lenses.
It would be nice if you could add the Minolta MD 85 f/2 to the pack. It seems to be an incredible lens.
Sorry, I don’t have access to that lens.
Ok thanks, no problem. I was just asking.
Jerry Fusselman says
Wonderful test. Thanks so much! The Zeiss 85mm f/4 ZM Tele-Tessar is intriguing to me for hikes with landscape-photography desires.
Did you try it or perhaps compare it to any other lens at approximately f/8, even informally? Since it is not on your website, it seems likely you have no specific, formal test to share, but can you share your educated speculation?
The reason I ask is that for landscapes, I often shoot the Zony 55mm f/1.8 and the Zeiss 135mm f/2 APO at infinity focus in the range of f/6.3–f/11. (Sometimes I leave the 135 behind to save weight, but sometimes I also carry the Canon 200-400, which shockingly stands up well enough to the 55 and 135—I remain on the lookout for a much lighter but-still-stellar solution for hiking at 200mm, for the 200-400 is a beast that can’t travel far.)
Here’s my main question: Can the Zeiss 85mm f/4 at infinity focus in the f/6.3–f/11 range stand up to such high quality that I have now at 55mm and 135mm? Or am I likelier to want to carry the Batis 85mm f/1.8 for this application, while accepting the greater weight?
If it helps, the camera I’m thinking of is the A7rII, and I am thinking of really large prints.
f/8 results are here:
Jerry Fusselman says
Thanks, Jim! Don’t know how I missed it. The results for the Tele-Tessar at f/8 by comparison are pleasing indeed.
The Tele-Tessar is a sweetheart of a lens on the a7x.