With the couple of previous posts I've already explored the sharpness through the aperture range and objectively speaking it looks very good indeed. What I haven't done yet is talk about how I feel about the optical performance and what I would like to emphasize myself. It's understandable because at first everyone wants to see 'the empirical data' such as MTF-diagrams and test shots, to see if they measure up with the high expectations. But when I personally started to shoot with this lens I didn't have any clue about its optical performance (remember I got a bit beforehand). It was a kind of 'a blind test' where you can use the lens but you don't have any measurements, reviews or peer opinions which could affect your impression – you are flying on your own. The relevant question here is of course: do you see a difference? Having done the test shots I know the difference now, but I didn't knew it then (and the Oberkochen was no help either since they never mentioned a word about the achieved performance).
Well, I could write a book about my impressions and pixel peeping, but the one of the things that really caught me was the superb contrast and definition when stopped down. Here's one picture to illustrate it (note that this is post processed with my taste for high contrast and colors, out of the box Batis is of course more neutral). Our six year old daughter Aura is quite a climber and I let her get up there in the trees, playground roofs, poles and even basket ball stands, because I believe it builds up a healthy robustness, and it kind of belongs to childhood. She was looking something at trees nearby when I snapped this picture in autumn light. Shot at f/8 means that pretty much everything is in focus. Having used Loxia 2/35 quite a lot before I've developed a certain kind of taste for throughoutly sharp pictures (group f/64, anyone?). The Loxia 2/35 is particularly good at this when stopped down to f/8 or even f/11, it's a kind of benchmark lens for me in these kind of pictures because I really love how Loxia looks in these situations. When I saw this picture of Aura sitting up there (and pixel peeped it for details from my monitor) I got pretty convinced that the Batis 2/40 CF would beat the Loxia. The Batis has this biting resolution which gives is definition for very small scale details throughout the frame. I guess you could describe it as very high 'micro contrast' if you speak 'the ZEISS-sprache', and even though the Loxia 2/35 also has a nice amount 'micro contrast', I feel the Batis 2/40 CF has even more. Let's take a look some 100% crops again to see what I mean:
(Edit: seems, that Squarespace has resized this image a bit and it has lost the best sharpness. to see it better, right click above the image and choose to look image in the new browser tab.) You can see great amount of detail there almost at the center of the frame (a), which is to be expected based on earlier MTF-diagrams (I should also mention the lack of chromatic aberrations). If we then look at the edge of the frame (b), the branches of that conifer are very nicely rendered as you can even see some textures there at the sticks. Now, what happens if we look at the very edge of the picture? The left corner (c) is about as far as one can get from the center but you can still easily spot single pine cones and spikes of the conifer. This is an outstanding performance, even with the low end first generation A7 which has an anti-alias filter (expect more with newer bodies). In fact, with this kind of resolution it's fun to let you eye travel around the picture and find all kind of details you wouldn't normally notice, like the children's blue ball that has stuck on the roof (d). I should also mention that the Batis 2/40 CF has near zero distortion. Here for example, I've done no corrections to the picture and I don't see any kind of practical distortion there (even though there might a fraction of it when measured).
I feel that the Batis 2/40 CF is superb lens for these kind of sharp-across-the-frame pictures. Don't get me wrong, the Loxia 2/35 is very nice too, but having a totally new optical design the Batis just has to be better here. I've witnessed this behavior with many shots and it is definitely one of the rendering characteristics I would attribute to this lens (see one full size example here at my Dropbox account). In fact, it initially caught my eye that the ZEISS's press release mentioned the concept of 'micro contrast' in the first place: 'Thanks to its high micro contrast and initial aperture of f/2, the lens can perfectly capture individual objects'. As far as I recall they haven't used that particular wording before and they are often very strict with these (like I said, you need to learn to read between the lines their press releases). To me, this means that this lens will be perfect for these kind of shots that I love to do and print pretty big in family album etc. It's a intriguing to look all the details from a book and see little things you didn't notice before – and to think that they all were there in that particular time and in those particular positions, like a stop motion picture of life.
Ps. If you are interested to read about ‘micro contrast’, Lloyd Chambers has written perhaps the best description of it far in his Lenspire-article: Micro contrast and the Zeiss Pop. Check it out!