#367. A Brief Visit to ForumProImages – Zeiss & Leica Excitement

By pascaljappy | News

Jun 25

What is the sound of Q happening ?

Oh, the uncertainty of my photo microcosm! Convinced and satisfied by the recent A7rII launch, I sold almost all my lenses to pre-order the new Sony body, and buy back my former Zeiss Distagon 1.4/3 ZM and Zeiss OTUS 1.4/85 review samples. All doubt had vanished. Zenitude once again permeated my inner universe.

And 1 hour and 20 minutes of small-scale but high-quality pro photo exhibition, in a wonderful location in Paris (ForumProImages), provided that heart-warming pat on the back reassurance.

Then someone spoke the L word … Now, “Hard to tell, the future is”. Let me rewind.


BATIS sightings

At long last, I have been able to hold a Zeiss BATIS – no, make that two – in my hands and make a few photographs with them.

A very interesting pair of lenses. Similar to the OTUS range in design, they are more like the Touit when it comes to build quality. Very lightweight yet solid feeling, they will no doubt appeal to a broad range of photographers. Very fast AF in poor light levels, even on an A7r, superb image quality with only colours and 3D lacking very slightly compared to range-topping OTUS behemoths.

I’m really surprised no 35-50mm lens has been offered (yet). For many, that would be the ultimate easy-going, high-performance and future-proof lens for the Sony A7x range.

BATIS 85/1.8 (c) Philippe

BATIS 85/1.8 (c) Philippe


1.3.5 efftoo

The Apo-Sonnar 135/2. Now here’s another stunner from Zeiss … Like the OTUS, a range to which it would belong had it been extant when the lens was designed, it will do no good to your scoliosis. Unlike its younger brothers, though, it will not hurt your bank balance quite so severely.

Philippe was all over it for some time (and he actually thinks as highly of it as either OTUS) but I managed to steal it from him long enough to grab a few shots of nearby flowers and props.

DSC09692What can I say that hasn’t been written a hundred times, in just 5 minutes with the lens ? To me, it renders more like the 55/1.4 OTUS than the 85/1.4. In spite of a very narrow depth of field, the progression from sharp to OOF is more progressive than with the 85. DSC09689Optically, it looks like one of those lenses for which technical reviewing has no point. If you like the rendering, can afford it and can lift it up, don’t think twice. DSC09687It’s much closer to the ZE/ZF.2 standards of build than to the OTUS school of thought. Which is probably my only criticism. It feels strong enough to be weaponized but doesn’t have that unparalleled smoothness of focusing that the newer design affords.


Audrey is back !

I took the opportunity to collect my beloved Distagon 1.4/35 ZM (DS code name Audrey), the lens I consider to be the best wide-angle I have ever used. I reviewed it 4 months ago then returned it to Zeiss. The high-impact OTUS 85/1.4 filled the void in my heart for a time, but only for a time.

I headed straight for the Zeiss booth, handed back my surprisingly addictive C-Sonnar 1.5/50 ZM (reviewed here) and got my old review sample back. Here’s one of my first photographs with it since having it back. Compared to the C-Sonnar, the ZM 35/1.4 is a little less expressive, less bold and more subtle. Ideally, I’d have both …

 Zeiss Distagon 1.4/35 ZM

No going back – Zeiss Distagon 1.4/35 ZM


Great talks with the Zeiss team

It sounds like the blast furnaces are working overtime at Oberkochen.


Back to The future

Visiting the Zeiss stand gave me the opportunity to put faces on famous names, have very interesting chats with these remarkable guys and hear news of the future. It seems that the frenzy of activity we have recently seen in the form of Loxia, OTUS, ZM and BATIS is only the tip of the iceberg. New mouth-watering products are just over the near horizon and although I’m not at liberty to disclose anything (nor do I know the details), code names have already been assigned by the ever-imaginative DS editorial team. There will be some smiling in the autumn …


Q is for Qompelling !


Join the Q (c) Leica

Join the Q (c) Leica

When Sony released the A7rII on the same day that Leica released their Q model I wrote this James Bond reference, which I now must retract: « I feel a little pain for Leica, who just announced a very interesting Q camera. But it does appear the real Q department is out there, at Sony HQ. ».

To me, there are bad products, there are good products, and there are products you simply fall in love with irrationally. The Leica Q falls in the latter category, big time. Forget technical qualities, forget potential flaws. Just hold one in your hands, shut your left-brain down and allow yourself to feel.

Although a Mamiya 7 was the photo love of my life, M bodies don’t usually stir me much. The price is too much for my psyche and wallet. The shape is too slippery. The rangefinder is no longer my cup of tea in the day in age of focus peaking. But the build quality, obviously obsessive thought given to ergonomic detail, and fabulous lens range are such tantalizing arguments …

Imagine all the qualities without the drawbacks and you basically get the Leica Q. The Q doesn’t feel like an M on the cheap but like an M modernized and rejuvenated. It costs 4 grand but bundles an innovative camera with a super-lens (in theory, at least). Hold it in hand and you feel all your troubles wash away as if its designers had supercharged it with Reiki energy. Close your eyes. Grab an imaginary camera. Where do your fingers fall? That’s where the buttons are.

Add the focusing tab, the usefulness of the macro range, the really lovely EVF and rear screen, the perfect thumb-rest, the stabilized quasi-Summilux 28 and you end up with a camera so desirable it’s making me rethink my options and creating vast ripples in my newfound ocean of photographic serenity.

Then, there are all the great sample photographs from previewers, that truly hint at an excellent (Panasonic?) sensor and tremendous lens.

Leica have in the past made claims about “shooting purity” that made me want to rip the hair right off my skull. But someone in Wetzlar has obviously thrown a terrible tantrum and bet his life on what “purity” really means in a digital world. For that brave man’s sake, get off your seat and go try one. Run now while stocks last.

A Triumph

It’s a Triumph

After a worryingly long while, the dream bubble burst, the Leicaphine levels dropped in my blood and reality set in. It may be an absolute dog to use. It may be slow. It may exhibit any number of love-wrenching niggles that a 10 minute inspection can’t reveal. But one thing is sure, I’ll do my best to test drive one asap. It really is that Qompelling. And I’m betting that if Leica released a Q with a bayonet, they couldn’t keep up with demand! Way to go, guys, literally!


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  • Till says:

    Ahhh, there is the write up on the 135 apo. I’ve actually been debating buying one, as I love the 135mm range for landscapes and portraits. But seeing as it will most definitely be completely unbalanced on my a7 and I already own too many lenses I decided against it. Also most likely my 90mm summicron would get jealous.

    • pascaljappy says:

      I hope there will be a much longer writeup on the 135 apo soon, but it was nice to try it for a few minutes. We made outdoor shots in rough conditions that came out very impressively. But yes, it is heavy and it would probably hurt the Summicron’s feelings. If you want even longer and smaller, there’s always the 180/3.4 in the Leica-R stable. Apparently very sharp. Cheers.

    • PaulB says:


      In a newer design you may want to try the Leica 135 f3.4 APO-Telyt. It is not quite in the same ballpark as the Zeiss. Though the size is a good match for the A7 series, and images at f4 are nice.

      If older designs are of interest to you, consider the Olympus 135mm lenses for the Olympus OM camera system. You may be surprised.


      • pascaljappy says:

        Oh, don’t say that, I just sold my Apo-Telyt-M 135/3.4 to help buy new lenses 😉 I’ve heard great things of these Olympus lenses. Co-author Philippe had a few and the 28 and 50 were very nice indeed. I might try the 135 one day !

      • Till says:

        Yeah, I actually had looked at pascal’s apo-telyt quite a few times in the past wondering if I should buy it, but then refrained and the money will go towards a trip to Spain in August. So here’s to hoping I get nice pictures to compensate missing out on my GAS. Maybe I’ll be looking at the OM ones. Although I kinda sold all my real legacy lenses except for my darling canon 50mm 1.4 ltm. I find their rendering often a bit too boring, too uninspired.

  • PaulB says:


    I knew you would be retrieving those lenses sooner, rather than later. Though, you may have held out a little longer than I expected. 😉

    I received my 35mm f1.4 ZM Distagon a few weeks ago, and I agree with you. It is stellar. I have no regrets trading my Leica Summicron.

    Now we just need Zeiss to introduce a 21mm f1.4 ZM of the same quality.


    PS. When do we get to see follow up images from the Sonnar and Otis.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Ha ha. I held back as long as I had to. That is until my most expensive lenses sold. THey just did, so it’s shopping time. Glad you like the 1.4/35 ZM. I know people are raving about the FE 35/1.4, a really very good lens in its own right, but this seems so much more subtle, less ready made. I’ll write to Zeiss about your 21/1.4 suggestions. But not as a ZM lens. That would likely not work on an A7. An OTUS would weigh 3Kg and cost something scary. Which leaves BATIS, or ZF. Hmmm

      • Anastasios says:

        Loxia maybe for the 21mm? Also what about the zm 35 1.4 come in loxia line? That is my dream . Do you think that Zeiss are possibly thinking about it?

        Dear pascal I want to thank you for your reviews and personal perspective that you share with us. I find it most helpful. I asked you about the zm 35 1.4 cause through the reviews about this lens I found it very interesting for me. Like a lens I could fall for and keep for good. The only thing is that I would really love to have it as a native lens for the a7xx. So I am in between to buying it or waiting it to appear as a loxia. And the question is if you know anything about the Zeiss team intentions over the matter. I really do not mind waiting. And I could not buy this lens twice(zm and loxia later on). It is a very expensive lens for my ability. Thanks in advance

        • pascaljappy says:

          Hi Anastasios. Thank you very much for the very kind comment. A 21mm Loxia would be entirely possible, though I have no official information about that. There are always interesting products coming out before the end of each year so my recommendation would be to wait and see for a few weeks.

          As for the Loxia 1.4/35, I honestly can’t see that coming. Again, no info from anyone at Zeiss, so I may be wrong. But it is now a very crowded field. There’s the ZM version, the Sony version, the ZF.2 version and a host of Leicas in that design. I haven’t seen many people comment on the Leica performance on Sony cameras, which is probably not a good sign (shame, all generations of the Lux 35 are really interesting) but I can tell you the ZM 35 performs very well on the A7rII. It’s still not perfect in the corners at wide apertures, but all the rest is brilliant. As you say, it’s a tough and expensive choice. I hear only good things from the Loxia 35 if you don’t mind losing one stop.

          The way I see it, from my limited experience, is that the ZM 35/1.4 has the best transparency, greatest subtley of the lot. The Sony 35/1.4 is excellent and has a very beautiful image, with a slightly more “ready backed” look. The Loxia 35 is bolder and maybe not always as subtle but a technically excellent lens and full of life. I hope that helps.

          I’ll publish more information as it comes along.

  • Philberphoto says:

    Till, what I can say is this: while I thought the Otus 55 would be extremely unbalanced on the A7, I have gotten used to it, and it hasn’t cost me any shots, or even felt so heavy that I am reluctant to take it with me/use it/mount it on my camera. The 135 is less heavy (and less expensive too), so i view it without fear. The issue, rather, is that it is not an OTUS in terms of physical package, and doesn’t have its very long focus throw. Boris, who has one, has warned me against focusing difficulties, and my early attempts made me request a loaner to decide if I can hadle it with a decent keeper rate. For, performance-wise, it is very definitely up there. Rendering of colours, materials and structures is so good that, if I were told that it is indeed a smidgeon better than the 2 OTI, I wouldn’t be overly surprised. More soon.
    Regarding the Q, I understand the Qompelling argument. However, there is also a Qrappy side. At 28mm, it can hardly be “one’s only Qamera”, and for 4200€, as a backup with a single focal ength, it is pretty steeply priced. Similarly, if Leica came out with a -say- 75mm Q, one could envision going out with just 2 bodies, and never change lenses. Yes, indeed, but it would cost 8400€. Not so cheap, nor so light.
    And one has to appreciate the old Leica mantra, that Leica bodies retain value over a very long period, does not transition well from film, when it was true, to digital, when performance rapidly loses its edge over more recent developments. After all, give it a year for the A7R II to shed some of its price, and one will be able to get an A7R II and Zeiss ZM 35 f:1.4 for the cost of a Q. I know what my choice is going to be.

  • Scott Edwards says:

    My Zeiss Distagon 35 1.4 is stellar… I so enjoy it, get so much out of it – razor sharp lines cutting into buttery bokeh. Now… what the heck is going on with the Batis 85 1.8 that seems impossible to get? Does anyone here know? I backordered and continue waiting…waiting…waiting… Has the Milvus line bumped Batis out (gee, just another $800 and I could live in that Zeiss dream world)? Or… is there some production issue? I am anxious and almost but not yet regretting deciding on the Batis versus Sony’s 90 2.8 (super, super sharp but I felt in a quick store test that the Zeiss pop/bokeh would satisfy me more). Help me somebody!

    • pascaljappy says:

      Hi Scott, great to know you enjoy the Distagon 1.4/35 and really sorry about the Batis 85. There seems to be tremendous demand for Zeiss lenses that Zeiss themselves didn’t evaluate properly. Apparently, they had built stocks of the Milvus lenses to avoid the Batis situation but those sold out in a few weeks. The real problem is that lenses aren’t produced one by one. In order to build a Batis 85, they have to wait for the factory to be available, configure it for the lens, build a big batch, then the production is restructured for a batch of another lens … So it’s a long wait.

      • Scott Edwards says:

        Ah – this would explain it! I have been worried there was some QA/QC issue going on. I incorrectly envisioned a Willy Wonka factory running around the clock mass-producing Zeiss lens… but then, that would make little sense. Many thanks, Pascal. Appreciate the response and this site, which I’m new to.

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