On Tuesday, May 14, 2013, Zeiss held a press event at the Standard Hotel in New York City to launch it's new line of Touit lenses for compact system cameras (CSC). The event was well-attended by writers from various media.
There was a video presentation on a big screen, followed by a talk by Richard Schleuning, Zeiss's National Sales Manager in Zeiss's Camera Lens Division. Everyone was then invited to try out the new lenses. A model was provided for the event, and attendees could walk and photograph along the High Line, an elevated linear park created from a former railroad line which runs along the lower west side of Manhattan. The High Line runs right under the Standard Hotel.
Zeiss Touit lenses are a new line of autofocus lenses for Fuji X and Sony NEX cameras. Two lenses were available at the launch: the 12mm f/2.8 and the 32mm f/1.8. Both lenses should be in stores in early June of this year. A third lens, a 50mm f/2.8 macro, is expected in the late Fall of this year. Zeiss expects to add more lenses to the Touit family in the next few years.
The Touit name comes from a genus of small neotropical parrots. The name is intended to evoke compactness and agility. The lenses also bear the names of classic Zeiss designs: Distagon for the 12mm wide angle, and Planar for the 32m standard lenses.
Some key facts about the new lenses:
- They are compact and lightweight, in keeping with the size and weight of cameras they're made for.
- They have a metal exterior with rubber grips for the focus and aperture rings. Interior mechanical parts are metal and plastic; Zeiss didn't want the lenses to be too heavy.
- The lenses have the Zeiss T-star anti-reflective coating, along with advanced stray light reduction.
- They have an almost circular 9-bladed aperture for rounded out-of-focus highlights.
- Color characteristics will be similar throughout the Touit lens family.
- The manual focus ring is electronically coupled (there is no hard stop or distance scale).
- The aperture ring has clicks at 1/3 stops. (Touit lenses for the Fuji mount have aperture rings, unlike Touit lenses for the Sony mount.)
- The lenses are sold with a 2-year warranty. An extra year is added if the buyer registers on the Zeiss web site, thus extending the warranty to a total of 3 years.
- The next version of Lightroom and Adobe Camera Raw will have profiles for Touit lenses.
- The Touit 12mm is an aspherical design with floating elements. It is currently the widest lens for the Fuji X mount.
- The optimal aperture on the 32mm lens is f/4. The optimal aperture on the 12mm lens is f/5.6. MTF charts are available (or will be soon).
- Zeiss chose the autofocus motor for robustness and reliability, not for ultimate quietness.
- A lens hood is included with each lens.
- Touit lenses are not weather-sealed, and are not planned for Micro Four Thirds cameras.
Zeiss emphasizes the lenses' high image quality, durability and precision, along with full compatibility with Fuji X and Sony NEX cameras, including reliable autofocus. Zeiss also emphasizes the modern, minimalistic design.
The talk included some discussion of the target market for Touit lenses. Zeiss sees the CSC market as growing, while DSLR sales are expected to slightly decline. Zeiss is targeting Touit lenses at the higher end of the CSC market. Potential buyers include:
- People who already own Zeiss products, including DSLR lenses, rangefinder lenses, binoculars and spotting scopes.
- People who own DSLRs and seek smaller companion cameras, or want to replace their DSLR system with a lighter, less costly system.
- People who own point & shoot cameras and are upgrading to a CSC.
- Rangefinder users who don't want to spend $8,000 or more for a Leica digital M plus lens(es).
- Anyone with a Fuji X or Sony NEX camera.
- People who travel.
Here are my impressions after a few hours of use (of course, extended use is needed for more definitive impressions):
- The lenses have a nice looks and feel. They definitely give the impression of quality. Their size and weight is well-matched to the Fuji X series (I tried them on the X-Pro1).
- The smooth exterior gives them an elegant look. This is partly due to the rubber focus and aperture rings being flush with the body of each lens. However, I would have preferred a slightly raised texture as I think it would have been easier to grip.
- The X-Pro1 automatically turned on the appropriate frame lines for each lens. The view through the 12mm lens is too wide for the optical finder, so it is best to use it with the X-Pro1's electronic viewfinder. The 32mm lens without its hood doesn't block any part of the 32mm frame lines, except when focusing very close, and then only a tiny bit of the corner. With the hood, a significant part of the frame is blocked (perhaps 1/8th), but it is still very usable.
- Autofocus speed seems to be inline with what we expect from the autofocus system of the X-Pro1; i.e., good but not as fast as that of a DSLR. Autofocus accuracy seems to be excellent.
- Flare resistance seems to be excellent. Even with the sun in the frame, there is less flare than I've ever seen in similar situations.
- My impression is that the quality of the bokeh of the 32mm lens is OK at f/1.8 but improves to very nice at f/2.8 and f/4. Of course, this depends on the specific background and distance.
- Chromatic aberration was hard to find with either lens. I only took a few shots in which I expected to see it, but it wasn't there or was trivial.
- For such a wide angle lens, the 12mm has remarkably little vignetting at f/2.8.
- The lens hoods snap into place. With the 12mm, be especially sure to turn the lens hood until it snaps into place; otherwise, one of the hood's petals will likely be in the corner of each photo.
Some photos I made with the new Touit lenses are in the Gallery at this link:
I processed these from Raw files using Lightroom and/or Photoshop.