Sony Zeiss 24mm e-mount f/1.4 lens - assessment

One of the things I like about digital photography is the constant upgrading and improving of gear. Sure, it can be frustrating and expensive, but there is a much quicker upward curve in respect of quality than I ever remember with film. As sensors constantly improve, lenses sometimes struggle to keep up. Sony's NEX-7 with its 24MP sensor is obviously a challenge in terms of getting the best out of it. A lens (or lenses) that enable the full glory of all those pixels to be realised was obviously required. The Zeiss 24mm f/1.4 is that lens.

Sony NEX-5n Zeiss 24mm f/1.8
All images - Sony NEX-5n Zeiss 24mm f/1.8

Make no mistake about it, this is a glorious piece of metal, glass, plastic and whatever else they put in it. Easily the best lens designed for digital I've ever used, and probably the best of any type.  Its really sharp. REALLY sharp!! Beautiful colour rendition as well plus some excellent contrast, which is sometimes missing from "digital lenses". Sony have come up with a classic here. I'm only (only!) using it on a NEX-5n at the moment, and my impatience for my NEX-7 to arrive is growing almost unbearable, but the files on the screen this thing produces are a joy to behold. 

Any lingering doubts I had about the wisdom of selling my Leica M9 are disappearing as I use this lens more.

At f/1.8 its already sharper than lots of other lenses at their peak. There is some CA and fringing, but even without correction its very minor.

Sony NEX-5n Zeiss 24mm f/1.8

Sony NEX-5n Zeiss 24mm f/1.8

Sony NEX-5n Zeiss 24mm f/1.8

The bokeh's not the best I've ever seen, but it still looks good to me. From f/1.8 onwards it just gets sharper and sharper. The great thing about fast lenses, is not only that they make working in low light much easier, but they reach their prime apertures much quicker. I haven't measured it but from what I've seen from f/5.6 > f/8 are the real sweet spots for this lens. If I had to pick one f/7.1 seems to be the best. Its sharp across the frame, no soft corners or edges here and all in all it turns in a terrific performance.

The crazy thing is I almost didn't buy it. I saw some samples and they just weren't that impressive. The problem with pre-production lenses and pre-production cameras, is that the reviewers are stuck with jpgs. or the camera manufacturers (usually) dismal software. There's no doubt that this lens gives its best results from raw and with decent software,  i.e. Photoshop, Lightroom, Capture One or Aperture. To be honest, if you are planning to buy it and shoot jpgs. or use the supplied Sony software (which will attempt under all circumstances to make the images look just like the jpgs.) then you are wasting your money. Process the images in good software and you will be stunned, use the jpgs. and you will probably wonder what all the fuss is about.

Sony NEX-5n Zeiss 24mm f/1.8

Sony NEX-5n Zeiss 24mm f/1.8

Sony NEX-5n Zeiss 24mm f/1.8

Sony NEX-5n Zeiss 24mm f/1.8

Sony NEX-5n Zeiss 24mm f/1.8

Sony NEX-5n Zeiss 24mm f/1.8

Sony NEX-5n Zeiss 24mm f/1.8

Sony NEX-5n Zeiss 24mm f/1.8

So yet another "rave" review. But then I can't really help it if they keep bringing out this stuff! Its a lens I'm going to love using and creating pictures with. Apart from its amazing quality, its also so well made and is an absolute pleasure to work with. Its not cheap, but then quality isn't and in terms of photographic equipment there are few exceptions to "You get what you pay for". If you want to see just what Sony NEX cameras are capable of then I would recommend you try this lens. You don't have to buy it, but I suspect once you see the results, you may not be able to resist!!