Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8 review in progress
The Carl Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8 is a wide-angle prime lens designed for mirror-less system cameras. It's available in two versions for either the Sony NEX or Fujifilm X-mounts, and when fitted to either system, the lens delivers an 18mm equivalent field of view, making it the widest prime lens available for either format.
Touit, pronounced 'do-it', represents a new family of lenses from Zeiss, and the name comes from a type of parrot, known for its small size and agility. Both are qualities Zeiss have applied to the Touit lenses, making them as small and light as possible without sacrificing build or optical quality. As such the lens bodies are made from metal but the lens hoods are plastic to save weight; none are weather-sealed, but manufacturing is carried out in Japan and Touit are 100% Zeiss productions. In a first for 'pure' Zeiss lenses, Touit are autofocus models with motor-assisted manual focusing, although none are optically stabilized.
The Touit series was previewed at Photokina in 2012 and officially launched in May 2013 with two models, the 12mm f2.8 and 32mm f1.8, while a 50mm macro is expected by the end of 2013. Zeiss believes the 'largest and most powerful' sensors in the compact system camera market are those in Sony NEX and Fujifilm X models, so those are the mounts supported at launch. Sadly there aren't plans for Micro Four Thirds or other mounts at the time of writing, but they've not been ruled-out.
During a preview I was able to test both the 12mm f2.8 and 32mm 1.8 lenses in the X-mount flavor on a Fujifilm X-Pro 1. I intend to conduct in-depth reviews on both lenses in the near future, but right now I'm able to share my initial thoughts along with a bunch of sample images and an optical quality report. Scroll down for my hands-on comments or head straight to my Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8 quality or Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8 sample images; or if you're interested in the standard lens, head over to my Zeiss Touit 32mm f1.8 review in progress!
Zeiss Touit 12mm f.28 and 32mm f1.8 Hands-on preview
I was lucky enough to get my hands on both Touit lenses and shoot with them for several hours. I tested the X-mount versions on a Fujifilm X-Pro1. The 12mm f2.8 has a 65mm diameter body, widening to a maximum of 88mm with the lens hood attached. The E-mount version measures 81mm long, while the X-mount version measures 86mm, and they weigh 260g and 270g respectively. The 32mm f1.8 has a 65mm diameter body, widening to 75mm with the supplied lens hood. The E-mount version measures 72mm long while the X-mount measures 76mm in length. They weigh 200g and 210g respectively.
The reason the Fuji X-mount versions are longer and weigh a little more is because they feature a manual aperture ring which is absent on the Sony E-mount versions because they have to be controlled electronically. In use the aperture ring on the Fuji versions has a very satisfying click-operation and it's a shame it can't be implemented on the NEX version.
In your hands, both lenses feel reassuringly dense and well-built, yet surprisingly small and light. They're definitely a step-up from most mirror-less lenses in build quality. I feel Zeiss have really nailed this aspect: embracing the size and weight ethos of mirror-less formats without compromising their own high-end credentials.
Both are autofocus lenses, a first for a pure Zeiss lens. Zeiss has worked with Sony and Fujifilm to deliver an autofocus system, but this doesn't mean you can expect AF versions of their DSLR lenses anytime in the future as they don't have the right license from Canon and Nikon to do so. Since both Fuji X-mount and Sony E-mount employ motor-assisted focusing-by-wire, that's what's used on the Touit lenses. Mounted on an X-Pro1, both lenses generally locked-onto their subject in less than a second. Hardly super-fast, but not too leisurely either; I look forward to seeing if the NEX versions are any quicker.
Rather than employ a conventional textured or knurled manual focusing ring though, Zeiss has decided to equip the Touit range with completely smooth, rubber rings for focusing, and in the case of the Fuji versions, aperture control. I have to admit at first glance these looked a little cheap, but any concerns are dispelled as soon as you turn them. The manual focusing rings feel incredibly smooth and perfectly damped in operation, and enjoy a long throw for precise adjustments - these are lenses where manual focusing is not an oversight.
The overall build quality is also to a very high standard. Neither of the Touit lenses feature weather-sealing, but thanks to precision metal construction and very deep lens hoods, they should stand tougher conditions. Indeed they shrugged-off the persistent drizzle on the day I tested them, but I'd shy away from full-on splashes or very dusty environments.
Overall both lenses were extremely satisfying to use. They looked serious and felt great - indeed I could rarely put them down for long without wanting to try them again. The 12mm f2.8 in particular is an exciting proposition as the widest prime available for Sony E or Fuji X mounts. The 32mm f1.8 has a tougher job on its hands though, especially for the Fuji X system which already has a highly regarded 35mm f1.4. Zeiss wouldn't be drawn on quality comparisons, but it's something I'll happily do when I have both lenses at the same time.
They're also priced competitively for high-end lenses: around $1250 USD or 900 GBP for the 12mm f2.8 and around $900 USD or 700 GBP for the 32mm f1.8, and rather than tease us, I'm pleased to announce Zeiss should be selling them in a matter of weeks or even days.
As noted above, I intend to conduct in-depth reviews on both Touit lenses, but rather than keep you waiting, I'm pleased to share some results and samples right now!
So please check out my Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8 quality or Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8 sample images, or head over to my Zeiss 32mm f1.8 review in progress for more details, samples and results for that model.