So, let's talk a bit about the new firmware update. Without the doubt the most dreadful problem with the old firmware (version 01) has been the Eye-AF issue. Just like everyone else I was also waiting for the update and there's no denying that previous months have sometimes felt pretty long. In case you are wondering, I didn't have any 'insider knowledge', but what little I heard of it, it seemed a pretty difficult problem to solve - much more than just correcting a typing error in code or something similar. But knowing ZEISS's dedication I had no doubt that they would do everything they could to fix the problem.
But to be honest, I did had a doubt regarding if they could actually fix it, even if would put everything into it. Maybe the lens internal structure (with the Close Focus ability) was so different from other lenses that the Eye-AF would be impossible to fix, who knows. For me, all this waiting for several months turned into a philosophical question: could ZEISS, the world leading optical company, build a product so complex that it could not solve it anymore by itself? Or to put it in more familiar way, can God create a stone so heavy that he cannot lift it up himself? If you have attended to your college philosophy 101 this the basic omnipotent paradox (the so-called paradox of the stone). Difficult problem, but eventually (with the existence of previous Batis lenses, all which work very well indeed) I was inclined to think that 'they will solve it in one way or the other'.
But even ZEISS is not omnipotent and behind that blue badge they are just a group of regular people - of course very ambitious and knowledgeable people, but still just regular people. Can regular people make mistakes? Of course they can and like everyone else they actually do make them, most of the time we just don't see the mistakes because of quality control processes and such. So, in my view it's okay to mess up, if it doesn't cause too much harm and can be fixed. But of course like everyone else I expect premium quality because that is what the blue badge promises, and therefore it would have been unacceptable for Eye-AF not to work. But to put the good news shortly: the Eye-AF works with the Batis 2/40 CF firmware version 02! It works just as good as with the Batis 1.8/85, for example, and having used the lens for some of days already I have no doubt that it works just as well as with any Sony lens.
Okay, so here's a little demonstration. Here's our older (and here a bit cranky) daughter Aura. I couldn't persuade any adult into this test, so I needed to use 'the power vested in me as a father' and choose her as a lab rat (remember she's the other of the two hooligans who did break my Batis 2/40 CF in the first place). I took a series of images, like twenty or so, with the Eye-AF (and AF-C) always with different distances and the results speak themselves: Eye-AF seems very accurate and I did not get a single front focus issue here. With the different series there were few that were focused on her hair while the wind moved them in front of her eyes sometimes, but all the meaningful images showed a very good precision. (By the way, I have to add that the Batis 2/40 CF shows here a quite nice subject separation and rendering. Loving it when it does this!)
As you can see in a part of this sequence the camera focuses on the eye quite nicely. But of course this hasn't been the only test that I've done. In fact, I've been using the Eye-AF on a daily basis since I got the lens with new firmwire and I can say it works very well indeed. Well, the Sony Eye-AF isn't 100% omnipotent and sometimes it cannot find the eye at all, for example with the hats that come pretty close to the eyes, but when the eye is detected and the green square follows it, the result is almost always accurate. To me this seems to be as good as with any other Batis or Sony lens. And this is exactly how it should be. Phew, what a relief there!
PS. By now you've probably noticed that I've upgraded my old A7 to a shiny new A7III. This has been my long term goal and a reliable Eye-AF was one of the most important aspect for this upgrade. So, believe me, I felt your pain when I was waiting for the firmware update. Really really happy to see it turned out good (I'll cover my thoughts about the camera upgrade a little later).
PPS. Related to today's image you might wonder if the Eye-AF works also with the canned eyeballs and such. Unfortunately the answer is 'not yet', but I'm sure Sony engineers in Japan are working on it! :-)