So, this is it folks! I've finally reached the Day #40 and in the end my micro-blog '30 Days of Batis 2/40 CF' turned out to be a forty day's journey. Kind of fitting for the project that deals with the 40mm Batis lens. During the previous months I've used the Batis 2/40 CF pretty extensively in my own photography and I even got to be the one of the first ones in the world to try it out. This has definitely been an exciting journey and I hope I've worked hard enough to justify this exceptional position – in other words, I hope my ramblings and images has served you well enough, and you have got at least some insight into Batis 2/40 CF. Personally for me this project has also worked as a catalyst and it has intensified my photography. But all good things have to come to an end and this is the final blog post for this project (no, this time I won't be putting it into carbonite, instead I'll just unplug it couple of weeks after this blog post).
Well, this project has been all about the Batis 2/40 CF, and I've had to think it through many times from different angles and sometimes even backwards around. So, some closing words are in order and after using the lens for months (and writing 39 blog posts about it) I should be able squeeze one more post which will end to project nicely (I have to admit that after 39 days this is getting harder and harder). So, here it goes:
The ZEISS Batis 2/40 CF is surely an interesting lens on a many levels. What differentiates it from other lenses available at the market, as a whole, is that it is based on thoughtful compromises. While everyone else is offering lenses with the largest possible aperture, the Batis lens family emphasizes lightweight build, superb image quality and a certain compactness that, I think, supports very well the original A7-concept. From the start the Batis lens family has been built on these carefully chosen compromises, and while it has divided the user base a bit, many of us have learned to appreciate this approach later on. For example, many users were very critical for the moderate f/2.8 aperture of the Batis 2.8/135, but today it is considered to be one of the best lenses for Sony E-mount.
The way I see it is that with the Batis lens family ZEISS doesn’t seek for the market hype that often goes with the 'record breaking products'. Instead, I would say that Oberkochen designs independently lenses that they believe will serve best for real photographic needs. For example, the Batis lenses doesn't seek the largest possible aperture because ZEISS thinks the usability and relatively compact size/weight matters more. Of course it is easy to say that that, for example, the quite new Sigma 40/1.4 Art offers larger aperture and better light transmission, but it is more interesting to compare these two products, which share the same focal length, as a whole. The Sigma Art is build without compromises, but – de facto – it is (for me) an example of a bad compromise. With the one stop more light the lens weights over three times more than the Batis 2/40 CF and resembles more of tele-lens than a lens with a normal focal length. I'm sure it draws beautifully, but it is a crippling to use on a daily basis. Now, I'm not here to bash the Sigma 40/1.4 Art, and ZEISS and Sigma are probably not even competing the same kind of users, but comparing it to Batis 2/40 CF highlights the design philosophy ZEISS has taken with the Batis-family. Because it has 'only' a moderately fast aperture and it is built lightweight materials the Batis 2/40 CF is a very practical lens which still offers superb image quality and even a bit specialized Close Focus ability. In my eyes compromises are chosen wisely and they serve, above all, real and practical photographic needs, not just marketing hype (and the Sigma 40/1.4 Art is a kind of opposite of this).
What is really interesting here is that with the Batis lens family ZEISS is kind of going ‘against the grain’ when it comes to market trends. While other manufacturers are racing to bring their record-breaking halo-products to the markets, ZEISS is bold enough to bring a pretty ordinary sounding and only a moderately fast lens to a same table. For ZEISS, it's probably easy to swim upstream because they are the one who originally develop the idea of uncompromised lenses with their Otus lens family. There are now many similar products entering into markets which are, in effect, copies of this product concept (sometimes it even shows in their outlook and naming style). But ZEISS is doing something different here and they are going back to practical questions. Maybe it's 'a quiet signal of the changing tides', because at some point many users will get tired of lugging around with their optically perfect but unbelievably bulky lenses in casual shooting scenarios. The truth is that the optical perfection doesn’t guarantee authentic memories, artistic vision or successful pictures – instead it might even do harm because the strive for optical perfection might turn out to be just another extension of gear obsession.
I personally feel that we need to rethink the practical side of photography and this finally leads to my point: I really appreciate that ZEISS has decided to design a practical lens for everyday use. Of course they could have join the race of uber-lenses and making 'the next record breaking product' would probably have been pretty easy for them (after all ZEISS is the global leading company of all kind of optics from consumer products to industry applications). But instead they decided to 'keep it real' and designed a lens that probably is more useful for most of us. Marketing and hype wise it is probably not the best choice, but it's more meaningful for real photography that captures something else than test charts, brick walls and DXO-ratings. For me, this decision to anchor the design concept to real needs even if it is not the best choice from the marketing perspective, is the point that I appreciate the most with the Batis 2/40 CF and ZEISS.
So, fortunately the Batis 2/40 CF exists and presents a counterweight for the current trend of those uber-lenses. Regarding the focal length the 40mm Batis 2/40 CF combines the 35mm and 50mm lenses into one single lens and it also offers a bit specialized Close Focus function. As expected, the optical performance is superb and the lens offers true Zeiss-look with great contrast and colors. Add in quick and reliable autofocus, weather sealing and contemporary look, and there is very little to criticize. But of course there is some. First of all, for some users the automatic closing of aperture at close range might be a question of principle and for them I would recommend to check out true macro lenses which also offer greater magnification ratios – though the new firmwire-update changes the Close Focus behavior quite a bit and the compromises are rather small at this point. For casual shooters Batis's magnification ratio of 1:33 is certainly good enough to enter into different kind of 'near-macro' imagery. Secondly, I will have to say that the lens has a quite large volume which kind of goes against the versatility aspect. Using it with the Sony A7 it is definitely very light and balances well (especially with the third generation bodies with larger grip), but the large volume makes transporting it a bit more bulky than what I would ideally want to (and the lens shade is too big). The large size perhaps happens because ZEISS wants the whole family to share the same 67cm filter thread, so this is a design choice one just have accept if he wants to use the Batis lenses. Personally I don't mind too much about it since the other aspects of the lens family make up for it. All in all, and in my eyes, the Batis 2/40 CF is an example of such a practical and thoughtful lens design that other manufacturers should learn from it. It offers great versatility with a superb image and build quality. As a whole it is, to me, the best lens in the Batis family so far.
So, I'm finally coming to the end my project (at the middle of the night as I very much expected). I would like to send my thanks to all of those who have shared kind words for my work or commented in some other ways. Because of you the project has been very nice to work with and it's always a bit sad to see it coming to an end. Thank you for your support! What am I doing next, you might ask? Well, for me the best is yet to come: I can't wait for summer to come to Finland so that I can put the Batis 2/40 CF in real work for family photo documentary and other stuff. There will be a good times ahead, so let's keep up the inspiration and shoot as much as we can.
Thank you for your participation, and I wish you all a good light!
--- end of transmission ---