11 August, 2015

Batis 85mm and the Tyranny of Physics

Zeiss 50mm Loxia - Cut Sunflowers [Click image to enlarge.]

I've mentioned before that I didn't move down (in camera size) to Sony mirrorless from DSLRs. Instead, I moved up from Micro Four-Thirds (and smaller); first to APS-C, and then to full frame.

Mirrorless is attractive to me because of the small body sizes. But until Sony and Fujifilm got into the miniaturisation act, both APS-C and full-frame seemed unattainable in small camera bodies. Sure, Leica had always demonstrated that full-frame could be done with relatively small bodies and lenses; but I couldn't afford Leica. There were some attractive fixed-lens cameras, but I wanted interchangeable.

First came the NEX-7 and then the A7 series. Eureka. But while camera bodies were smaller, lenses were still problematic. Sony and Zeiss tactically addressed the problem of lens size with slightly slower offerings. Where f/1.4 was common, they offered f/1.8 or f/2.0. And, f/2.8 became f/4.0.

The Sony/Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 is brilliant and small because it's f/2.8 and unstabilized. The Zeiss 50mm Loxia is brilliant and small because it's f/2.0, manual aperture, manual focus and unstabilized. Voigtlander's 15mm (even version III) is brilliant and small because it's f/4.0, manual focus, manual aperture and unstabilised. Sony's 70-200mm f/4 is relatively small for this range because it's f/4.0.

But 85mm is another matter. 

85mm is a classic portrait focal length. A reasonably fast portrait lens is not just a convenience, it's the point. You have to be able to control the background. Yes, Zeiss makes it work at f/1.8, but it couldn't be slower than that. So the Batis 85 is pretty big. Not huge, but it's the husky sibling in the family. But I don't mind. If portraits are the order of the day, where my Batis 85mm goes, so goes the 70-200mm.

So I have my (mostly) small kit. It all fits nicely in a Domke F-3X "Super Compact" bag. But physics is still out there, lurking — I can hear it breathing.

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