Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 Distagon T*
A worthy alternative to the Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R?
Thanks to Leo’s Camera Supply in Vancouver for making the Zeiss 12mm f/2.8 available to me for my lens reviews. I was able to try it out over a long weekend in July. Fellow photographer and a friend of mine, Matt Lucas, was in town while I did this review. Matt is a pro in Kelowna, BC. and among many topics, he favours music and architectural photography, so we headed for downtown Vancouver.
Zeiss 12mm f/2.8 Release Date in 2012
The Zeiss 12mm f/2.8 was released around the same time as the Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 back in 2012 as part of a two-lens Touit line up. The other lens is a 32mm f/1.8. A Touit is a bird in the parrot family and has little to do with lenses but there you have it. A Touit it is. There were speculations at the time if Zeiss would continue to build this lens lineup but we have only seen one other addition to the Touit line up since; a 50mm f/2.8 macro lens.
On the Zeiss web site you can read the following; The 12mm will soon become a firm favourite for landscape and architectural photography with breathtaking image quality from edge to edge and corner to corner of the entire image field.
In the following, I will be making comparisons to the Fuji XF 14mm f/2.8 R
Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8 vs. Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R
Focal Length Comparison
You wouldn’t think a difference of 2mm would make a huge difference but for a wide-angle lens, it is significant. In the example below another building comes into view on the bottom right at 12mm. My usual ultra-wide-angle is the Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 and I was surprised it took me a while to get the hang of shooting at a wider focal length. I used to shoot a Canon EF 16-35mm but it has been a while since I have been shooting anything wider than a 21mm full-frame equivalent. The Zeiss would be an 18mm full-frame equivalent.
Handling the Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8
I tested the Zeiss 12mm on my Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Fujifilm X-H1. On the X-H1 it has a comfortable weight/size ratio to the camera body. The design is slick and a good fit with the X-H1. On the X-Pro2 it is somewhat of a design clash as the X-Pro2 is a retro design and the Zeiss looks very modern. Not a big deal and the size of the lens is still manageable on the X-Pro2 with no issues. The lens has a very comfortable grip with the rubberized focus ring. The large petal-shaped lens hood covers and protects the lens well but has a very slight wobble. This is not uncommon and gaffers tape would fix this in a few seconds. I have one gripe and it has to do with the aperture ring. It is too easy to bump out of position and I constantly had to move it back when putting the camera up to my eye.
Design, comparing Zeiss 12mm f/2.8 to the Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8
The weight difference between the Zeiss 12mm and Fuji 14mm is insignificant with the Zeiss at 270g and the Fuji at 230g. The Zeiss lens, however, is larger at 88 x 68 mm with Fuji at 65 x 58.4 mm. Filter size is also larger at 67mm for Zeiss and 58mm for the Fuji. Add this up and the Zeiss looks and feels noticeably larger without being much heavier. In a blind test my wife thought the Fuji was heavier and I think it is because it has a heftier metal construction. The Fuji XF 14mm feels solid in the hand with a better aperture ring which stays in position. It also has the clutch mechanism manual focusing ring which is very useful when trying to obtain infinity focus.
Zeiss Lenses, Old vs. New
I used to own Zeiss lenses for my Contax film cameras back in the twentieth century. These lenses felt rock solid and were great performers. I wonder why Zeiss decided to stray from this concept. For those of you who know these lenses, it feels almost as if Fuji has taken over where Zeiss left things. I guess the Touit line may cater to a new audience and perhaps I should applaud Zeiss for this. We have seen a similar design in the Milvus and Batis lens lines from Zeiss. I did own a Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 for a while. While this lens shares the design aspects of the Touit and Batis lines the built quailty and feel of the Milvus lenses are certainly better.
Sharpness test Zeiss 12mm f/2.8 vs. Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8
I only did a few shots comparing lenses and mainly just shot the 12mm for the entire weekend. However, in the two shots above of the Vancouver sky scrapers, when zoomed in to 100%, the Fuji 14mm looked a tad sharper. In the two shots below my X-H1 is mounted at a tripod shooting at f/8, 1/60 of a second. To my eye the Fuji looks sharper again. Of course this is important but I would have to say in my normal editing and posting rather large jpegs online, I did not notice a huge difference. If you are an avid landscape shooter and do larger prints this added sharpness of the Fuji 14mm is a bonus.
Conclusion on the Zeiss Touit 12mm f/2.8
So much has happened since 2012 and the choice for wide-angle lenses for the X-series has grown significantly. We now have an XF 10-24mm f/4 or XF 8-16mm f2.8 if you are into zooms. Samyang has a 12mm f/2 manual focus options which get lots of praise. I have only tried it very briefly. Laowa has a 9mm and I am sure there are lenses I am not mentioning. I have tried the XF 8-16mm and Laowa briefly and both impressed me in their own way. I literally just took them around a city block so won't have sample images to share. Especially the Fujifilm XF 8-16mm f/2.8 R LM WR was a wonderful fit on my X-H1. 8mm really is crazy wide and so it the price, crazy that is. At CAD $2599.99 it isn’t for the faint of heart. I applaud Fuji for making the lens but it is not for me. It is a niche lens, and I think I would rather spend that kind of money towards a GFX system. The Laowa 9mm f/2.8 impressed me by being lightweight and very portable. A true travelers lens and within reach for most photographers at $779.99.
At the time this article is written the Zeiss 12mm lists at CAD $1299 and the Fuji XF 14mm at CAD $1179. Watch out for Fujifilm’s lens sales, which happen frequently and the Fuji 14mm will be significantly less.
I have been a bit harsh on the Zeiss 12mm in this review but in actual fact, I have enjoyed using it and find the files very pleasing. The colours are wonderful and there is a certain element of 3D effect with these shots which can be hard to explain so perhaps Zeiss is right in the above marketing statement. Personally, I will not be switching my Fuji 14mm out for a Zeiss 12mm. The 14mm fits better into my system as it is right now. This doesn’t mean that it won’t be a good fit in your lineup of lenses. I can only imagine that with more time with this lens it would produce lots of keepers in the right hands.
Please see below, 10 sample photos taken in Vancouver over the weekend.
A full review of my XF 14mm is here: Fujifilm XF 14mm f/2.8 R Lens Review