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.
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.
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.
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.
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.