Yesterday I introduced myself, but I know you want to hear about the lens, so let's take a short look of it. Here is the Batis 2/40 CF in my hand. If you are already familiar with the contemporary look of the Batis lens family, there’s not much difference with the Batis 2/40 CF – or with other ZEISS lenses either, as the black and smooth visual design (metal) applies to other ZEISS lens families as well. Personally, I like the contemporary look of the Batis lenses as they feel very carefully thought out and finished, not to mention future orientated. I know some prefer more traditional approach with aperture rings etc., but for mirrorless cameras, which are a lot about technical innovations, the future oriented look fits well. For me, Otus and Batis lens families are currently the best looking lenses on the market. Milvus are great as well, but I find some of them to have a little too extreme curvature (like Milvus 2.8/15 for example).
However, there’s one new element in Batis 2/40 CF, which is the focus limiter on the lens barrel. This is of course related to Close Focus ability of the lens, in other words, the lens can focus very close to its subject offering better magnification ratio than many other lenses within similar focal length. The minimum focus distance is 24 cm (0.78 ft) with the magnification ratio of 1:3.3. With the focus limiter one can choose different focus distances for faster focus-strokes. Close Focus abilities are definitely something which I’ll be exploring later on during the next days.
The front part of the lens is interesting. When you look at the official product pictures it looks like the lens elements are a bit recessed behind 'a glass window' or something. However, in real life one immediately notices that what seems like 'a glass window' is actually a slightly concave front element. This is unusual lens design and I can only come up with one lens that has similar front element: the Sony FE 55/1.8. It is of course an anecdote at the best and one cannot draw any conclusions about the concave front element or visual similarities with other lenses, I just think the concave front element makes the Batis 2/40 CF look pretty interesting.
If there is one weakness in its external appearance, it is the fact that I find the lens is a tad large in volume (though the field of view of the Loxia 35 exaggerates a bit here). With the length of 93 mm (3.7′′) and a 67mm filter thread it is almost as big as the Batis 1.8/85. Personally for me the Batis 1.8/85 is about as big as I'm willing to use with the Sony A7. You see, I came from the Nex-5N and being one of the 'first generation Sony Alpha users' I find the compact size important to me. I know way too many enthusiasts who have bought big DSLR's because they wanted good quality pictures, but often end up leaving it at home because it's just too much to carry in everyday life (or they have another camera for casual shootings). When working at about standard focal length I would prefer it to be a little smaller as I think the general use of camera would be more agile in everyday use. Big lenses are a bit awkward to use when working at relatively close distances from the subject. For example, Sony FE 35/1.4 is a nice lens (if you get a good one without QA-issues), but I found it sometimes felt like big tele-lens or a standard 24-70 zoom which felt odd as it was just 35mm lens. Luckily the Batis 2/40 CF is smaller and I guess I'm willing to accept its size as I already have the Batis 1.8/85 anyway – but I do hope size also warrants superior optical performance.
However, one thing that that has really surprised me so far is that Batis 2/40 is a very light weight lens. Definitely lighter than Batis 1.8/85 and weighting only 361 grams (0.80 lbs) it's almost as light as the Batis 2/25. In real life it actually feels lighter than the Batis 2/25 and I was surprised to find out that it actually is 26 grams heavier, not that it matters much. Needless to say the Batis 2/40 feels very well balanced with my Sony A7 and I’ve had other photographers commenting about it as well.
Having used the Batis 2/25 and Batis 1.8/85 for couple of years I’ve come to appreciate how nice and consistent line up ZEISS has managed to create with the Batis lens family – and now with the lens in standard focal length it feels pretty complete. The lenses have consistent contemporary look and even if they are not the smallest lenses they are still light, well balanced and appropriate to use with Sony A7 & A9 bodies. Unfortunately same cannot always be said about Sony which has some serious ‘cross-drag’ with the whole A7-concept: compact bodies with big lenses. While the GM lenses, for example, offer great performance on all accounts, personally I find them most often just too big to fit into A7-concept naturally. This is of course because Sony is competing with Canon and Nikon professional DSLRs and their new mirrorless bodies. ZEISS doesn’t have that same pressure and I feel that with the Batis and Loxia lenses they have managed to create lens families that are best fit for the original Sony A7-concept. And in the end, that is also how the Batis 2/40 CF feels in my hand: a light weight lens that fits pretty nicely with the Sony A7.