Step forward, the beast of all prime lenses. The Zeiss Batis 18mm f/2.8 for Sony mirrorless cameras - a match made in heaven for landscape photography.
After using the ultra wide-angle Zeiss Batis 18mm F/2.8 for the full-frame Sony E-mount cameras for nearly two years now, I thought I'd post a review talking about my experiences with this well respected lens from a landscape photographers perspective.
This was my first serious lens purchase back in 2017 and it's safe to say, adding the Batis 18mm to my collection was one of the best decisions I have ever made. It's survived the harsh elements down on the Jurassic Coast in Dorset, performed incredibly well in the famous "Beast from the East" that saw temperates plummet to -10 degrees, and is my go-to lens for landscape photography.
The Batis 18mm F/2.8 was the third lens in the Batis line to be released (after the hugely popular Batis 25mm F/2 and Batis 85mm F/1.8) and carries with it the premium autofocus system, weather sealed body and Distagon optics - giving it 11 lens elements in 10 groups.
Diameter: 100mm (Lens Hood Attached)
Filter Diameter: 77mm
Field of View: 99 degrees
Aperture Blades: 9 (Rounded)
Close Focusing Distance: 0.25mm
Real World Performance
There's not much more to say other than this lens is built like a tank. The housing is made from metal (although the lens hood is made from plastic but I've never used it for landscape photography) and add to that the dust and weatherproofing properties, it's a pretty robust lens when paired with the Sony A7ii - even more so if you were to pair it with a Sony A7rii or its predecessor. It's a big lens, I mean it kind of dwarfs the small, mirrorless body but let me tell you, it's seriously light (330g) which considering how well it's made, is pretty remarkable - big thumbs up to Zeiss!
Auto-focussing is a pleasure with this lens, it's fast, accurate and due to the extremely wide field of view, it's easy to get everything into focus. Even stepping all the way down to F/2.8 the focus is spot on and performs well in high-contrast situations. Although, I very rarely use this in auto and 99% of the time have it set to manual focus for when I'm doing landscape photography. The digital distance scale is great for when you are in a rush (I'm pretty sure we have all made that mad last minute dash for sunset) and is especially useful when doing astrophotography. I have reliably found that focusing to the first point of infinity can pretty much guarantee everything in frame will be in focus - although I'm a bit of a pixel peeper so will always zoom in to ensure I've nailed that focus.
The Batis 18mm is sharp, like, seriously sharp. There is superb sharpness across the entire frame, even from the maximum aperture of F/2.8 although, pushing it past F/16 and you can start to see the diffraction taking a toll - therefore, I'd always recommend shooting between F/8 and F/11 for maximum sharpness across frame (if you are of course shooting landscapes that is).
In some situations, where you are low down and focusing on a subject very close in the foreground, it's near impossible to get everything in focus and pin-sharp. In those situations, I'll always focus stack. Just focus on your foreground, and snap, focus in the middle of the frame, and snap, then focus to infinity, and snap. Then open all the files as layers in photoshop and mask out the areas I want sharp - this is the only way to ensure everything in frame is completely in focus.
All the images below have been taken with my Sony A7ii and Zeiss Batis 18mm - all purchased with my own money, no bias opinion here just an honest review for what I believe, is one of the best lenses for landscape photography on market today.
You may have already guessed that I'm a big fan of the Zeiss Batis 18mm. I can honestly say that in my eyes, this is the best ultra wide-angle lens for the Sony E-Mount system. Using it on my old Sony A7ii body is great but in all honestly, it deserves to be paired with the monster sensor on the Sony A7rii or A7rii to capture all of that detail. Although some landscape photographers prefer to have the holy trinity of zoom lenses, with their wide angle being the 16-35mm, going for a prime lens is so much more rewarding. You have to think ahead, move your feet, work your composition and although this takes time, you are rewarded with an incredibly sharp image that pops with life and colour.
Now, to finish things off, here's a quick overview of my personal pro's and con's to the Zeiss Batis 18mm F/2.8:
Zeiss Batis 18mm F/2.8 - The Good:
Incredible sharpness and contrast across the frame
Easy to manual focus
Zeiss Batis 18mm F/2.8 - The Not So Good:
Fairly expensive (£1169 at time of review)
Strong vignetting at wide aperture - easily fixed with Lightroom
That's it, seriously, the only downside I can think of for this lens is the price, and that's just because I'm not used to spending so much on camera gear. For anyone serious about there photography and especially for those looking to shoot landscapes, architecture or astrophotography, it's a serious investment that is well worth the price tag - massive thumbs up to the team at Zeiss for creating such a great lens.