Zeiss 135mm 1.8 ZA : bokelicous freeze

Zeiss 135mm 1.8 ZA : bokelicous freeze

135mm_str_021115_9718 copy_12deg

The wonderful Zeiss Sonnar 135mm 1.8, a lens I mostly use for beauty and life style shoots, however, once in a while it can be fun to break up the routine of street shooting with shorter lenses, isolating subjects from the crowd instead.
I use it on any of my A7 bodies with the Sony LA EA4 adapter,

set up in AF-C mode with tracking enabled at f1.8. AF speed and accuracy is surprisingly good, yielding about 70% of properly focused shots. (for video, I prefer a cheap mechanical adapter).

A7s with LA EA4, Zeiss Sonnar 135mm 1.8 and my new favorite Peak Design Pro strap, snapped with the A7 and the Zeiss 55mm wide open.

Now when compared to the Zeiss 85mm 1.4 ZA, which I mostly use for out door portraits wide open,

85mm_a7s_a99_a77ii_021115_0063 copy85mm_on_a7s

shot with the A7s and the Zeiss 85mm wide open at 1.4.

I find the 135mm a bit more versatile,I prefer the longer working distance for shots like the one above. Af speed is a little snappier as well and as a bonus, the barrel doesn’t extend and it focuses down to 0.72cm (about 2 feet)!



The 135mm and 85mm, side by side, lens barrel extended on the 85mm in the second shot.

Overshadowed by current Otus and Sigma ART releases, both lenses are optically superb already wide open, offer af and the T* coatings ensure similar color reproduction across the lens line up, which might not be important for everyone but can be a huge headache on bigger shoots, when at the end of the day, looking at thousands of images you realize some have a greenish hue and look like shot on a different day or with the wrong white balance.

I ended up replacing the Sony FE 70 200mm f4 OSS with the Zeiss 135mm 1.8, no regrets since shallow depth of field is more important to me then the ability to zoom and if I need to shoot at 200mm, I use the A7r in crop mode.

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6 thoughts on “Zeiss 135mm 1.8 ZA : bokelicous freeze

  1. richard Hadley

    Hey – that’s some nice fat glass you got there … me again and still looking at getting Sony a7(R/S/II – ?)
    I have a question, can you help: One of my ‘must’ on the list is a complete silent mode, i know the a7s has it BUT does the a7II?

    Many thanks – great work as always!

  2. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Hunter, I have both orig hoods but find them too bulky and too heavy. Replaced with generic tele metal hoods found on eBay for 5 bucks each. No negative side effects. However, for critical work I do remove the UV filters.

  3. O. Hunter

    Hi, Mike.

    I own both the 85mm and 135mm, and I’m wondering if you could ID the hoods you’re using on them. Are you noticing any effect in your photos from using a hood on the 135mm which is both shorter and narrower than the original?


  4. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Götz! Well, since there will be a delay delivering the lenses from the current road map, it might take a while before we see the fe 85mm. If bokeh is your thing, get one of these. The new lens will most likely be sharper but won’t be able to match bokeh characteristics. Bokeh also depends on subject size, the closer you are, the smoother the bokeh. I find getting nice bokeh on 3/4 and full figure shots the most challenging. Tight close ups, the difference will be negligible. The fe 85mm will most likely be a sonnar and not a planar and at that focal length, just like the 55mm, it will deliver great sharpness and contrast at the cost of little harsher bokeh.

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