#149. Touit! Touit! Touit!

What is a Touit? No, it is not a tweet. It is also not a twit. It is “just” a new line of Zeiss lenses, designed for APS-C cameras, and specifically for Sony NEX and Fuji X. 2 lenses have been released, a 12mm f:2.8 (equivalent to 18mm on FF), and a 32mm f:1.8 (equivalent to 48mm). A 50mm Makro will be released later this year, with more to come in 2014.

Early on, the announcement gave me mixed feelings. The name (not the best, if you ask me), and the look smacked more of mass market than of Zeiss goodness. The intended price range, around 1000€, more or less matched that of the ZM range. But, because Touit have autofocus, it seemed likely that they would be quite a bit larger, possibly heavier, and, because they wouldn’t cost more, maybe, just maybe, less good!

Still, being a NEX owner gave me no joy at all in wide angle lenses until the Sony 10-18mm zoom appeared, because that was restricted territory for either the kit zooms (18-55mm, then 18-50mm) or the 16mm f:2.8 pancake, a lens it would be easy to disparage until you took into account its modest cost and weight, and not only its promising specification.

I tried the Sony zoom, and found it to be a good, maybe a very good lens, but did not buy it. For its price (950€), I found it disappointing that it suffered from colour shift at its wide end on my NEX 7, and I thought the colours were not quite what I would have liked for a lens which was priced more like Zeiss than like Sony NEX (other Sony lenses for NEX are very affordable, and, mostly, very good value).

Thus I ordered the 12mm sight unseen, and just hoped that it would be at least as good as the Sony zoom. Obviously, if it wasn’t, it would never sell well for NEX, for who would buy a prime with IQ no better than a zoom? And Fuji offer a 14mm, so the Touit would need to face a competing prime. No doubt, Zeiss had that in mind when desinging their Touit._DSC7292-1_DSC7493-1

Well, now I have it, and, though I have yet to master a lens that wide, a first for me, what is the verdict?

As you can see from the two pictures above, it is definitely very wide, and offering a lot of depth-of field. Actually, in broad daylight, the autofocus might as well be turned off. Just set it to f:5.6, focus on infinity less just a smidgeon, and everything will be in focus and plenty sharp._DSC7472-1

Now ultra-wide-angle lenses are not supposed to be very sharp, just because of their angle of view. Because they are so wide, they span a huge amount of detail, which is to the detriment of each one being super-duper-whiz-bang sharp. Or at least should be, because I suppose someone forgot to tell the good people at Zeiss about this, and the Touit 12 is definitely very sharp indeed. The picture above is a less-than-100% crop of the centre of a flower, taken at close to the minimum focusing distance, without any post processing at all, meaning no sharpening of the RAW file, something that understates sharpness significantly. Yet, for a 12mm lens, which is hardly a flower sort of lens, straight out of the camera, this is nothing short of amazing._DSC7479-1

The next issue one may have with an ultra-wide lens is how well it handles contrast and whether it flares. Because the lens is so wide, it will often run into challenges, such as the sun in the field of view, or very high contrast between parts of the picture. To test that, I chose a greenhouse on a sunny day. Maximum contrast even for a sensor like the Sony inside the NEX which has very wide dynamic range, and also a very good test of chromatic aberration (CA), which is likely to rear its ugly face in the form of magenta fringes on the side of the metal structure of the glass dome.

The result? No CA in sight. Excellent handling of contrast. No flare. Again, the Zeiss engineers probably never knew it was suposed to be a difficult test for lenses._DSC7433-1 _DSC7435-1

Colours? That, for me, is a super important factor. More so than sharpness, because even with a lens that is not super sharp, not all the picture will be affected, and not all pictures will suffer from it. But less-than-perfect colours will hurt each pixel of each picture. But Touit colours are a delight, with one caveat. The lens seems to fool the metering system more often that I’d like, and the camera indicates that the picture will be brighter than it turns to be, so you can be lead to underexpose. Hopefully a future firmware upgrade can fix that.

Overall, and while I have yet to master that lens and do it justice, it seems that it is very good indeed. Pictures have a “you-are-there” quality, with detail and sharpness, great colours, no colour shift at all even on the NEX 7, that makes this lens a unique and highly recommended addition to the NEX lineup. In the interim, lots of pics have appeared on the Web demonstrating that the Touit 32 is also an equally appealing offering.

Don’t I wish I had had it in the Lofoten! To do typical wide angle stuff, like this. Which are the last pictures before I sign off. I shall add a sequel to this post once I have more material at my disposal. I already know of a few places where I would like to put this lens through its paces. And my guess is it will sail though the test, and delight me._DSC7555-1



  1. Avatar
    Christopher Mark Perez July 14, 2013

    It looks like Zeiss has put to market some rather fine optics. Hmmm… if only the price wasn’t so steep… OTOH, maybe these will turn the NEX series into serious image making machines for serious artists? By avoiding the flaws of so many of Sony’s own NEX optics, that is. 🙂

  2. Avatar
    philberphoto July 24, 2013

    You are right, Christopher, the NEX and a Touit is a very serious imagemaker indeed, as you can see in the second instalment of this article. In my opinion, you are just a bit too dismissive of the Sony lenses for NEX. With one exception, they are (relatively speaking) quite inexpensive, and, for the money, offer good value. The exception is the pricey 10-18mm zoom, and that is a serious lens for a serious price.
    What was frustrating early on, and which led to this reputation for NEX was that Sony was very tardy in bringing out lenses, and one was left with either the kit zoom, or the pancake 16mm. That dearth is now over, and NEX is IMHO the best choice for mirrorless systems.
    All the more so if you are determined to get the most out of it, and then you can fit it with some of the world’s best glass, like just about every rangefinder and DSLR lens in existence. A NEX 7 with a Leica or Zeiss ZM gives me fantastic results in a light, stealhty, compact package at the cost of manual focus! And now with the Touit, I can get AF and ultra-wide angle too!

  3. Avatar
    tigerclaws August 05, 2013

    Quite honestly, why don’t people get the Contax G lenses? Those beat these “twits” any day!

    • Avatar
      philberphoto August 05, 2013

      Tigerclaws, there a solid reasons why people should get Zeiss Touit lenses rather than Contax G. First, there is no Contax G wider than 21mm, so the Touit 12mm has no G equivalent. Then there will be a short tele Touit which will do macro, which again no G can do, so again, no competition. The only possible competition is between the Touit 32 and the Contax G 28. The G is a very good lens indeed, but it is manual focus, and not the best one at that due to focusing on the adapter, whereas the Touit has autofocus, and it suffers from colour shift on the NEX 7, which the Touit does not. If you want AF, get the Touit. The Touit also has a much shorter minimum focusing distance, so that is another plus.
      That said, does that mean that nobody should get Contax G? Absolutely not, and this blog has sung the praises of the Gs. The line is still up to world standards for truly great glass, and the 28, 45, 90 are tremendous value at their normal market prices (roughly 1/4 the cost of a Touit). Just, as more lenses appear for E-mount, there is more competition. Whereas a year ago, the Gs were the no-brainer choice for great lenses on NEX, now you have the Sigma and Touit twins which give all of us more choice. Which is all to the good.

      • Avatar
        tigerclaws August 05, 2013

        Thanks for getting back to me! Yes I agree that the lenses don’t have the same focal lengths and its not fair to compete or compare.

        However, I feel that the nex line or even the π4/3 line wasn’t meant to have the same focal lengths as the ff 35mm does, but that’s just my opinion.

        What I mean to say is, I was really excited when the touits were introduced but I find them to have failed the “hype” they carried! Perhaps, I was expecting too much, I don’t know.

        The Contax G lenses do have autofocus by the way! 😉


      • Avatar
        tigerclaws August 05, 2013

        Thanks for getting back to me! Yes I agree that the lenses don’t have the same focal lengths and its not fair to compete or compare.

        However, I feel that the NEX line or even the π4/3 line of cameras weren’t meant to have the same focal lengths as the ff 35mm does, but that’s just my opinion.

        What I mean to say is, I was really excited when the touits were introduced but I find them to have failed the “hype” they carried! Perhaps, I was expecting too much, I don’t know.

        I am really waiting to see the ART lenses from Sigma though… how they compare with the Tuoits.

        The Contax G lenses do have autofocus by the way! 😉


        P.S. Do you think there is going to be a FF Nex coming soon? That’s the only thing holding me back from buying the Nex 7.

        • Avatar
          philberphoto August 06, 2013

          There are a lot of questions in your comment.
          1. I don’t know what more you could expect from the Touit 12mm. It is markedly better, and hardly more expensive than the Sony 10-18mm zoom. This establishes it as the reference UWA for NEX.
          2.I haven’t yet used a Touit 32, but a number of people whom I trust have posted pictures, all of which look appealing, with this “extra chromosome of clarity” which the 12mm shows. As the MFT chart is also very impressive, I trust that it is indeed a very superior lens. What makes you say that “it hasn’t lived up to the hype”?
          3. Again, I haven’t used the Sigma twins, but have every reason to believe that the 30mm is absolutely excellent. The 19mm a bit less so. How the Sigma would compare to the Zeiss I don’t know. Except that, is it is value for money you are looking for, the Sigma is a no-brainer.
          4. AF on Contax G. As you could see in previous articles, I announced that it would be coming. However the early first reports are less than confidence-inspiring. The adapter doesn’t work with all lenses. In some cases, it is the lens type, in others a given copy. When it works, it doesn’t work all the time, and is rather slow and noisy.
          5. NEX FF. All I have to go by is the rumour form SonyAlphaRumour. Considering the RX-1, my guess is that a FF NEX is indeed doable, but very probably working well only with lenses designed for it, courtesy of MM. Zeiss, at least for wide angles. So the idea of using one’s Leica 24mm Elmar with it are a pipe dream IMHO. But, considering how good Sony’s sensors are and Zeiss’ lenses, as and when it happens, it should be a formidable alternative to FF DSLRs, in all but price.

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