If you can get over the “slow” f/2.8 aperture, Zeiss’ Batis 135mm is perhaps the highest performing portrait-length prime for full-frame Sony E-mount cameras. I know the most vocal critics will be quick to criticize the decision to go with an f/2.8, especially with the Milvus 135mm f/2, Canon 135mm f/2L, and Sony 135mm f/1.8 lenses available, but Zeiss made a great decision to create a smaller lens that balances near perfectly on the α7 series bodies. And, it is most certainly one of the sharpest and cleanest lenses I have been fortunate enough to use.
The 135mm is having a renaissance of sorts, with what I’m assuming is related to photographers who want a different look from the more conventional 85mm and 105mm lenses and who crave exceptional bokeh combined with extremely shallow depth of field. Personally, bokeh isn’t too important, but with this focal length it really is nice to see such great fall off combined with what is truly remarkable sharpness. The Batis also separates itself from many of its competitors by using an Apochromatic Sonnar optical design which results in images that are practically free of chromatic aberration.
Showing their commitment to the E-mount system, Zeiss has managed to pack in a few features that are extremely rare for them. This includes a linear autofocus motor (same as the other Batis options) which is fast, responsive, and accurate and a built-in optical stabilization system. Both of these features worked as expected and the stabilizer was very welcome at this focal length. And, we cannot forget about the OLED display for checking focus distance and depth of field.
Looking at the lens you will see the modern Zeiss look with clean smooth lines and a large rubber focusing ring. The size is perfect for the α7 series, making it comfortable to hold and keep in a bag for a long day of shooting. Manual focusing feels good, if only it wasn’t focus-by-wire, which makes it terrible since there’s so ability to just feel it as you work or repeat movements.
If it weren’t for manual focusing performance, I would say this is a damn near perfect lens. You will have to pay for that perfection though, as the price is very steep at $1999. A huge premium for what used to be a commonplace focal length and aperture combination.