Zeiss Touit 50mm macro lens first impressions
This is an early first impressions review of the new Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M macro lens along with a series of images I have taken in the first couple of days.
The build quality of this lens is fantastic. It comes presented in a beautiful box and although it’s only something minor that will be kept in the cupboard, it is all part of the experience when you are buying a lens at this price and makes you feel like you have purchased something special. It actually reminded me that Fujifilm used to present the early X-Series products in really nicely thought out quality boxes, something that sadly appears to have been dropped in recent models of cameras and lenses.
The smooth barrel and rubber rings are quite a departure from the design of other Zeiss lenses, well any lens really! I knew I would like it as I have previously hired the 12mm Touit and really liked the feel of that lens. The aperture ring is nice and tight and unlike the 12mm lens it doesn’t get knocked as easily and stays solidly in position. Aperture values are notched nicely at 1/3rd stops.
The focussing ring is wide and well placed. The fly-by-wire focussing takes a bit of getting used to if you have previously had the fully manual Zeiss lenses but is fine once you get used to it.
The only downside to the rubber rings is that they pick up every bit of dust in your camera bag. The upside, unlike the groves of other lenses, is that you can literally wipe if off to a clean like new finish with a cloth and not have to go in-between each grove!
The hood is a nice quality round piece. Although it is plastic rather than metal, it feels like a good quality plastic and protects the front element from damage. The hood is quite long and if you are doing close macro work you will have to remove it as it will obscure the light from your subject.
Why buy the Zeiss Touit 50mm when I can get the Fuji XF 56mm that is f/1.2 and incredible?!
A very good question! So why did I choose the Touit over the Fujifilm lens that covers approximately the same focal length? Well, I’m not primarily a portrait photographer, which the XF lens is squarely aimed at. Although I love the idea of an f/1.2 lens, and I might like it, I just don’t need it. The Zeiss lens is (at the time of writing) £120 cheaper, it is smaller and lighter, has closer focussing, 1:1 macro (the only native Fuji X-mount lens to do so), and in my opinion is nicer looking. I felt that I would use the macro facility far more often than I would use a lens at f/1.2. I am by no means saying that one is better than the other, but personally those small advantages of the Zeiss made it worth me getting over the Fuji XF lens.
Is it sharper / better than the XF 56mm?
I have no idea! The XF56mm is a fantastic lens, no doubt. I’ve played with one, but I don’t have one so I have no way of doing a side-by-side. What I can say is that the Touit is sharp from wide open at f/2.8 and more than sharp enough for anything I’ll use it for. At f/22 is does seem to drop off a fraction from what you get at f/16 when viewed at 100% but still very acceptable (see the gallery below with the coins shot at various apertures). In the ‘normal’ range I have absolutely zero complaints about images coming from this lens. I’m sure people who enjoy charts and looking at images at 400% will probably find something to complain about, but I look at the results as you would normally view them and can tell you that it really is excellent.
The 50mm lens is not just for macro work and makes a very good lens for many situations. I have no doubt that it will prove to be an excellent portrait lens too, although I haven’t yet had chance to shoot any portraits with it as I’ve had it for a limited time.
The colour signature is excellent and it gives deep rich colours with good contrast. In fact I’d almost go so far as to say that I prefer the colours out of this lens to any of the Fuji XF lenses I have.
When shooting macro you need to work high into the f-stop ranges having f/22 is useful – in fact it could do with more than that, but that would compromise the lens and we can use focus stacking techniques to achieve a large depth of field if necessary.
Under certain circumstances the bokeh can get a little fussy, but in those particular circumstances many other lenses struggle too.
Given the right background and enough separation and you get a lovely creamy out of focus area.
The auto-focus of any macro lens is going to be slow simply because of the huge range that it has to work through. One of the nice things about the Zeiss is that it respects the Macro setting on the camera body, so if you don’t have Macro set on the camera it will pretty much operate like a normal 50mm lens and AF, although cannot be described as rapid, is quick enough for normal use. Turn macro on though and focus on something close and it slows down quite significantly as you would expect. I initially put the lens on the X-E2 and found it did struggle sometimes, particularly close up and would often give false focus locks. I attribute this to the X-E2 body rather than the lens as I later switched it to the X-T1 and it was transformed. Overall focus speed was much improved and focus seemed to lock on much more rapidly, especially when focussing close up.
Focussing is internal, which perhaps accounts for it’s length, but that does mean you don’t have the huge extending barrel of many macro lenses.
The only AF problem I’ve found is that at the extreme close up range the auto-focus never seems to lock on, even though you can see it getting into focus as it goes through the range. Switch to manual focus and wind the AF dial around and you appear to be able to focus closer to things than the normal AF allows. I’m not quite sure why this is. Having said that, for macro work I’d always use manual focus anyway. The fly-by-wire focussing isn’t quite as good as on their other lenses and could almost be accused of being a little too quick when doing macro work, so you have to be very gently with the focussing ring. It is a learning process and once you spend a little time getting used to it, it turns out to be perfectly useable. With the focus peaking of the later X-Series you can really nail the focus quickly and use the magnification to get it absolutely spot on if you’re looking at critical focus.
Overall this is an excellent quality lens as you would expect from Zeiss. I’ve only had it two days, but I am very impressed so far and certainly do not regret picking this over the Fuji XF 56mm lens as I definitely see myself using the closer focussing more often than I would the f/1.2 of the 56mm.
The Zeiss Touit 2.8/50M isn’t widely available in the UK yet, but a few suppliers have it in stock at around £779.
More information on the Touit 50mm lens can be found here on the Zeiss website
Buy the Touit 50M from Amazon and if you enjoyed it, please help me keep writing for this blog.
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Gallery of images