Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 compared to Fuji 56mm f/1.2

Two extremely well regarded lenses. The Sony 55mm is of course a 35mm / 'full-frame' lens, but on the APS-C sensor of the Sony a6000 it is virtually identical to the Fuji in terms of focal length. As you can see I used the Fuji 56mm on my X-E2. I also shot these images hand-held and also set the shutter speed and aperture manually. 

First lets get this exposure difference out of the way. This is how the two cameras rendered the same OOC jpg. Default Standard setting on each.

And yes the Fuji file is darker. Though not as much as the results I was getting previously. The difference is for these shots, following a suggestion I got from a reader that I was considering myself, I turned off the Dynamic Range Optimising settings (there are two) Maybe it made the difference, maybe not. I would however point out that by adjusting the levels on the Fuji file to be the same as on the Sony, the Fuji file still had less luminance noise than the Sony. Which of course begs the question, does this really matter? To which the answer is, it matters if we think it matters. For myself, it's not something that unduly bothers me. If fact sometimes the slightly darker Fuji file is more what I want, sometimes it's not. And if users of other systems want to use it as a stick to beat us Fuji fanboys over the head with then so be it. Life's too short for me to worry about that. Incidentally the different angle for the two shots is because of the Fuji's left sided viewfinder. 

So here's a comparison shot at 100% from those jpgs.

For this I've left the different image sizes as they are because of the larger sensor size of the Sony. I've also left the exposure as it came out of the camera. Both files are OOC jpgs. It is important to emphasise that there are more MP's available for Sony a6000 users.

However for the following shot I upsized the Fuji file to the same dimensions as the Sony, plus processed from the raw files and adjusted the levels so that the exposure was similar.

Yes there are differences. The Sony is slightly sharper. But then with Fuji's lens 'corrections' which involves adding noise reduction to camera and raw files in Photoshop ACR which is where the raws were processed, I'd be surprised if it wasn't.

For the shot below however I've done a bit of 'tweaking' on the Fuji file - sharpening, colour correction and levels and as you can see they are pretty much identical.

So not bad for the Fuji considering the Sony 55mm f/1.8 is apparently the best AF lens DxO have ever tested. 

Incidentally I thought it would be interesting to see how the mighty DxO have rated these lenses.

Well we can't see that since DxO haven't tested the Fuji lens. If fact they don't seem to test Fuji at all. (Apart from the non X-trans sensor X100) I wonder why? Can they only test Bayer sensor gear? However, never fear you've got me instead!!

So both lenses are pretty (very) good at standard working apertures like f/2.8 and 5.6. Bearing in mind all the usual provisos about different sensors, in-camera corrections, processing etc. etc. 

However the Fuji has that whizz-bang, bokeh creating, depth of field of a gnats eyelash, we all want it because it turns us into 'real' photographers, f/1.2 aperture. 

So here's the bokeh. Both shots from raw, processed identically, Fuji file upsized.

Here's the sharpness. Both shots from raw, processed identically, Fuji file upsized.

Now this really is hair splitting time. These are ridiculously close. And considering that the Fuji file is upsized and has gone through the 'softening' process of Photoshop ACR, I think for me the Fuji is just about / marginally / only ever so slightly 'better.' This is however counterbalanced by the fact that because the Fuji needs more exposure to get the same result as the Sony, that 1 and 1/6 stop advantage in terms of light gathering may not in reality be as much as you think.

So all this comparison work to find out that the lenses are more similar in terms of performance than different. And that is my conclusion. If I had to choose one to keep I'd be struggling. Despite the exposure inconsistencies I'd probably still go for the Fuji in a low light situation and for my usual outdoor work the extra MP's on the Sony camera would be a bonus, plus I can of course use it on my A7 and A7r. But if you own, or are planning to own either I can't see that you would be disappointed, I'm certainly not. This is 2014 state of the art lens making and though the Sony is primarily a lens for the FE system, it's damn good for APS-C as well. 

The common dogma is that these are 'portrait' lenses on APS-C (Yawn!) but they are both much more useful than that. I like this focal length for landscape a lot and use it all the time. Plus you are actually not obliged to use these lenses wide open. You are allowed to use the other apertures. And that's where you will find that these lenses turn out their best performances. Two great lenses, impossible for me to choose between, good job I don't have too. 

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