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Any experience with the Zeiss 50mm Makro on Sony E?


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Hi all,

It's time for me to upgrade to a proper macro lens for my Sony a6400. Unfortunately there's a bit of a dearth of native E-mount macro lenses, and especially for APS-C, and doubly especially ones that are suitable for going behind a port in a housing (i.e. are internally focusing). The list of internal focusing, native E-mount macro lenses is the following:

  • Sigma 105mm F/2.8 DG DN Macro | A
  • Sony FE 90mm F/2.8 Macro G 
  • Zeiss Touit Makro Planar T* 50mm F/2.8
  • Sony E 30mm F/3.5 Macro

 

My two primary concerns with choosing a lens are 1) autofocus performance, and 2) working distance/FoV. 

 

While I see lots of very positive reviews of the Sony 90mm Macro, I am hesitant to grab it for underwater use, mostly based on focal length. 90mm is pretty long on an APS-C system, and I won't be bringing my FF camera underwater any time soon (unless some housing manufacturer wants to start sponsoring all my gear…), so there's not really a benefit to me getting this for "future-proofing" (and I'm not a macro photographer topside). Same goes for the Sigma. That leaves the Zeiss 50mm and the Sony 30mm. 

 

I've read somewhere (maybe on WetPixel?) that @Phil Rudin's go to for a while was the Zeiss Touit 50mm Makro. I'd be interested to hear his and anyone else's experience using this lens on a Sony crop sensor camera. Was the autofocus quick or did it hunt a lot? Did you find the 50mm focal length fit for purpose? Am I overblowing concerns on how a 90mm lens on a crop sensor will be? I'm entirely fine with subjective opinions on how you felt this lens worked for your situation. Thanks all!

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13 minutes ago, Craine said:

Hi all,

It's time for me to upgrade to a proper macro lens for my Sony a6400. Unfortunately there's a bit of a dearth of native E-mount macro lenses, and especially for APS-C, and doubly especially ones that are suitable for going behind a port in a housing (i.e. are internally focusing). The list of internal focusing, native E-mount macro lenses is the following:

  • Sigma 105mm F/2.8 DG DN Macro | A
  • Sony FE 90mm F/2.8 Macro G 
  • Zeiss Touit Makro Planar T* 50mm F/2.8
  • Sony E 30mm F/3.5 Macro

 

My two primary concerns with choosing a lens are 1) autofocus performance, and 2) working distance/FoV. 

 

While I see lots of very positive reviews of the Sony 90mm Macro, I am hesitant to grab it for underwater use, mostly based on focal length. 90mm is pretty long on an APS-C system, and I won't be bringing my FF camera underwater any time soon (unless some housing manufacturer wants to start sponsoring all my gear…), so there's not really a benefit to me getting this for "future-proofing" (and I'm not a macro photographer topside). Same goes for the Sigma. That leaves the Zeiss 50mm and the Sony 30mm. 

 

I've read somewhere (maybe on WetPixel?) that @Phil Rudin's go to for a while was the Zeiss Touit 50mm Makro. I'd be interested to hear his and anyone else's experience using this lens on a Sony crop sensor camera. Was the autofocus quick or did it hunt a lot? Did you find the 50mm focal length fit for purpose? Am I overblowing concerns on how a 90mm lens on a crop sensor will be? I'm entirely fine with subjective opinions on how you felt this lens worked for your situation. Thanks all!

The Zeiss and the 30mm are APSC lenses

 

There is a Sony FE 50mm 2.8 if you want a short focal

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2 hours ago, Interceptor121 said:

The Zeiss and the 30mm are APSC lenses

 

There is a Sony FE 50mm 2.8 if you want a short focal

Right... as I said in my OP, I am interested in APS-C macro lenses because I don't shoot macro on my FF topside. That is why I was asking about the Zeiss, since it's short(er) focal length, internal focusing, and is an APS-C lens. 

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26 minutes ago, Chris Ross said:

Thanks @Chris Ross. I've seen that article before, and it's honestly one of the reasons I asked the question here. If the 50mm Sony struggles on the A1, I have concerns about how well it would perform with my older, much less advanced a6400. But  admittedly I don't know this for sure, so I'm hoping for first-hand knowledge from users of the older Sony APS-C bodies. 

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1 minute ago, Craine said:

Thanks @Chris Ross. I've seen that article before, and it's honestly one of the reasons I asked the question here. If the 50mm Sony struggles on the A1, I have concerns about how well it would perform with my older, much less advanced a6400. But  admittedly I don't know this for sure, so I'm hoping for first-hand knowledge from users of the older Sony APS-C bodies. 

Quite likely it will - the Sony 90mm had a reputation for slow focus until cameras like the A1 came out, it seems that the body makes all the difference for the 90mm.  Though I don't know that struggles is the right word, the article seems to imply the 50mm was slow but accurate.   Here is a thread from WP a while back on the subject:

https://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?/topic/70686-nauticam-a6400-macro-options/&tab=comments#comment-448035

 

Note that a macro wet lens is not really an option for the 50mm as min focus is so close to the port with just the lens.  This I think is the Phil Rudin post you mentioned:

 

https://wetpixel.com/forums/index.php?/topic/67134-sony-a6400-for-macro-and-super-macro/&tab=comments#comment-424189

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I own and use the Sony 30, Zeiss 50 and Sony 90, currently with my A6400.

 

I shop tested the Sony 50 when I first bought into Sony APS C (after many many years with Nikon) with an A6500. I found it too slow in the shop and don't like the fact that it extends.

 

My assessment of the others:

Sony 30 is fine as general purpose lens, but working distance is a bit short for the smaller cryptic fish which I like to shoot. Depends on the species of course, and your skill as a photographer. I started off using it a lot as a 'go to' lens when you don't know what you will see on a dive, but rarely use it now. My goto lens these days is the Sony / Zeiss 24 with 36125 dome. I never 'bonded' with this lens, but still can't explain why not!

 

Sony 90 works quite well with A6400 but narrow FOV makes following small moving targets quite difficult. Again, depends on your skill and persistence. Also much better in clear water given the longer working distance. Can get very satisfying close ups of larger fish in clear water. If you are into land macro photography, 90 is a great choice with A6400 and an appropriate flash.

 

Zeiss Touit 50. By far my favourite lens. With A6500 was slow to focus, but when it did, results were excellent. I moved to A6400 which has much faster and stickier AF than A6500. The A6400 gave this lens' focusing ability a serious 'kick in the bum', making it very usable for most subjects you would chase with a 50mm lens.

Working distance is fine for subjects down to say 30-40mm, bearing in mind you will want some background to give context to a photo. The (expensive) move of camera and housing was worth it for me. The Zeiss 50 focuses significantly faster that the Sony 90, and the focus is stickier.

 

A couple of points to note for best results: 1) I assume you will mostly use AFC, Tracking and (say) Medium spot for underwater. If not, I suggest you read up on the topic.

2) I also assume that you will buy the Zeiss 50 used, as new price is prohibitive for most. In this case, you need to check that the lens has the latest firmware installed, or be prepared to send it to Zeiss for the free upgrade. With the original firmware, the lens prevents the camera flash from firing for a couple of seconds when you press the shutter, rendering it unusable underwater! Google the topic / go to the Zeiss website. Be prepared to be without the lens for a few weeks while they upgrade it, if you need to get this job done.

 

Recent update: I have ordered a Sony A7CR which is FF, after agonising between that and an A6700. However, I intend to use it as a 'hybrid' camera with some of my APS-C lenses, and in particular the Zeiss 50 (because I like it so much, and frankly, there is no alternative (for E mount) in FF (or APS-C for that matter). And I will be able to enjoy the opportunities that FF lenses offer... such as they are! (Not much if anything for underwater macro).

 

Second, when evaluating an A7CII in the shop (no A7CR available at the time) with my Sony 90, I found that I could not detect a difference in AF performance with the 90 on my A6400 vs the A7CII.

 

Could be my test (which comprised seeing how sticky the AF rectangle was in dim parts of the shop) but I reckon the lens motors are the limiting factor on the better Sony bodies, at least with macro lenses.

 

 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Chris Ross said:

Yep, that's one of them, thank you.

 

And after re-reading through it, and looking at used prices for the Canon 60mm and a metabones adapter, I might go that route instead of the Zeiss. If my math is right (which is questionable at times), the Canon plus Metabones adapter gives 86mm of working distance at MFD. [70mm lens length + 44mm flange distance == 114mm total length. 200mm MFD leaves 86mm working distance.] Take away some distance for the port, and it still leaves a decent amount of working distance for lighting and/or wet diopters. 

 

Now I'll just have to figure out if that combo will fit behind my existing port, or if I'd need to buy a new one (prior to me buying a whole new housing, but that's another story altogether). 

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9 hours ago, Craine said:

 

Right... as I said in my OP, I am interested in APS-C macro lenses because I don't shoot macro on my FF topside. That is why I was asking about the Zeiss, since it's short(er) focal length, internal focusing, and is an APS-C lens. 

Sorry I did not read it properly

The canon 60mm wants a 41mm N120 port and a metabones N85 to N120 adapter that is not going to be very cheap

You can try to fit it inside an N85 port removing the support part

Just make sure you are happy with the performance of all of this before you go down that route as it will be easily more expensive than getting a native lens especially if you already have an N85 flat port 

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14 hours ago, Craine said:

Yep, that's one of them, thank you.

 

And after re-reading through it, and looking at used prices for the Canon 60mm and a metabones adapter, I might go that route instead of the Zeiss. If my math is right (which is questionable at times), the Canon plus Metabones adapter gives 86mm of working distance at MFD. [70mm lens length + 44mm flange distance == 114mm total length. 200mm MFD leaves 86mm working distance.] Take away some distance for the port, and it still leaves a decent amount of working distance for lighting and/or wet diopters. 

 

Now I'll just have to figure out if that combo will fit behind my existing port, or if I'd need to buy a new one (prior to me buying a whole new housing, but that's another story altogether). 

Hi Craine,

 

I originally owned the Zeiss 50mm M and 12mm F/2.8 Touit lenses back when my first Sony camera was the NEX-5 and then a move to NEX-7. At the time they for me were the best choices available for Sony APS-C. I have also used these lenses plus the Sony E 10-18, Sony E 24m and Sony FE 90mm macro most recently with A6400. For me the two Zeiss lenses are still the best choices for overall image quality along with the Sony FE 90mm macro. None of these lenses are going to approach the focus speed on A6400 that they do on the more modern focusing systems used in cameras like Sony A1, A7R V and A9 III.

 

Adapted lenses like the Canon/Nikon 60mm macro present challenges and you will gain NO increase in AF speed over the Zeiss 50 macro. Several manual focuses choices with excellent image quality are available but those require custom focus gears and port length issues may arise.

 

Regarding the 90mm macro on APS-C I use it all the time on the A-1 and A7R V when I want to extend focal lengths with respectable file sizes in APS-C from both cameras. I also use the Sony FE 50mm F/2.8 macro but sparingly and mostly for dinner plate size fish portraits.

 

It appears that 2024 is going to be a stellar year for quality after market lenses like the Venous Optics AF FE 10mm F/2.8 Dreamer and many more. Perhaps we will see some quality macro lenses in new focal lengths and please give use an AF Fisheye Zoom for ANY mirrorless camera. I have been using an adapted Canon 8-15mm Fisheye zoom on Sony FE for over eight years now and it is a mystery to me that every manufacture of mirrorless full frame cameras has simply ignored customers requests for a fisheye. U/W shooters are not the only ones that use these lenses. Just about every sports shooter I know from Olympics to snow-boarding/skate-boarding and many many more have always had a fisheye in their DSLR bag, why not for mirrorless? Sorry for the off topic rant.

  

 

Edited by Phil Rudin
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I think this is the lens Phil is referring to: 

https://fstoppers.com/gear/venus-optics-debuts-their-first-full-frame-autofocus-lens-10mm-f28-zero-654283

 

SonyAddict had a couple articles on it stating the official announcement date was Dec 29, 2023, but I don't see it listed on their shop yet, nor can I find an actual press release. That being said, the specs look impressive. Autofocus, 130 degree FoV, and an MFD of .12m. Physical dimensions have it at 70.8mm long, but it's using a 77mm filter so probably not going to fit within an N85 or a DLM port. I'll be really curious to see what domes it ends up fitting behind for each housing manufacturer. 

 

I've seen very good reviews of recent lenses from the "newer" lens manufacturers like Laowa, Viltrox, etc. Laowa in particular is known for their extensive lineup of macro lenses. Like Phil said, maybe we'll get lucky and they'll turn or more of them into an AF lens. 

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The F-stoppers announcement is in fact the lens I was referencing and the video is all I have seen so far from Venus Optics. The lens will be small and it will come in auto focus versions for full frame Sony FE and Nikon Z. Minimum focus is 12cm, close for a 130 degree rectilinear so I suspect you may be able to get away with using this lens in a 180mm port although larger will have better corners. Should be interesting to see how it will work for CFWA. Also how apparent DOF will look V. a wet wide lens at the same AOV. Also if the S&S 77mm correction lens will add value in a 230mm or 180mm port. 

 

 image.jpeg.ff6b902882d318fe0570f79e50592d8b.jpeg

005umqJoly1hl9zpb7vdaj32p81stnpd.jpg

005umqJoly1hl9zpb74l3j32p81stkjl.jpg

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Certainly an interesting lens, though I think a 180mm dome might be a bit optimistic for such a wide field of view.  Calculations show that the 180mm dome which is not a full hemisphere has a maximum field of about 108° the same as a 16mm rectilinear lens IIRC, I think Massimo did the measurements and calculations.  That means to avoid vignetting the lens needs to sit well forward of the optimum point for the centre of curvature.   This would require placing the entrance pupil 60 below the base of the dome, however to have a field of 130° the entrance pupil would need to sit roughly 40mm below the base of the dome.

 

That is getting ahead of ourselves though, first you would need to see how the lens performs on land as things generally don't improve when you put a lens behind a dome.

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  • 2 months later...

FWIW, one of topics linked was my own topic on wet pixels. 

 

I just pulled the trigger on a used 50mm zeiss touit lens per @dentrock's recommendation. Spent hours researching the 50 vs the 90 vs the canon. The 90 is just too tight for me, and the price of the Nauticam port for the canon is really what threw me off, as well as having to carry another port all together. 

 

The 50mm lets me use my kit lens 45mm port with a few extensions. Once the lens gets here, I will order a pair of n85 17mm extension rings and see if 1mm less port will still fit the lens (compared to the port charts). Else I will switch for a 17mm and 20mm extension ring combo, leaving me with 2mm more than the port chart.

 

I will likely even try the lens in my zen dp100 dome I use for my tokina, just to see how it does.

 

Debating if I should even keep my 16-50 kit lens and diopter, or just switch fully to either macro or fisheye (tokina). Not sure how much use it'll get anymore.

 

 

Edited by Lewis88
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A 30mm extension is required with the kit lens 45 flat port, for the Zeiss 50, as per Nauticam port chart. It is a tight fit.

 

Don't forget to check the lens' firmware version when you receive it. If it's the original, you absolutely will need to upgrade (free through Zeiss agent; not a DIY job).

 

The 50 works fine in a couple of dome combos I've tried: 140 dome with 34.7 N85-N120 adapter puts it within +6mm alignment of EP and dome optical centre, which is a good result. Using the 50mm adapter, the alignment is -7mm; still very good. The lens also works fine with the old Nauticam 6" acrylic WA port plus 50mm adapter plus 50mm extension ring, giving an alignment of +3mm. But that's a bulky solution.

 

I am currently using my 50mm with FF A7CR, using 45 N85 port plus 20mm N100-N85 adapter. The difference in length arises from the fact that the Nauticam A7CR housing port face is 15mm further from the lens flange mount compared to the A6400 housing; a total of 28mm (cf 13mm) as also mentioned by Interceptor in his blog.

 

If I want to use a dome with it, the 25mm N100-N120 adapter plus my 'do everything' 140 dome gives an alignment of +1mm. It doesn't get any better than that!

 

If you want to try your Zen 100mm dome, assuming it's an N85 mount fisheye dome with no in-built extension, try with the same 30mm extension for the flat port. Should be OK but 40 is probably optimal. Doubt if you will see the difference though.

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5 minutes ago, dentrock said:

140 dome with 34.7 N85-N120 adapter puts it within +6mm alignment of EP and dome optical centre, which is a good result. Using the 50mm adapter, the alignment is -7mm; still very good.

-7mm should read -9mm (meaning the combo is that much too long wrt perfect alignment of EP with dome optical centre).

(For Interceptor...!)

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I mistyped, I actually have the 40mm port for the 1650, So I will use that with 2 17mm extension rings to get me 74mm compared to the 75mm on the port chart. If that doesn't fit, I'll go to a 20mm and 17mm extension, giving me 77mm. One of these should work.

 

First thing I'll do today when it arrives is check the firmware in case I need to send it off before we head to The Philippines in May. 

 

The zen DP100 uses the 50mm N85 to N120 adapter. I likely will never choose to use the dome if I have the right port/extensions.

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Lens arrived today, and was already firmware updated!

 

Also based on some crude measurements and holding the inside port glass of my 40mm port to the lens front, I need 31+ mm of extension. So looks like the 2x 17mm rings will work just fine. They arrive later this week. 

 

Also threw the dome on without any extensions and it fits and would focus in air. Not sure how much being off the optical center is affecting it though.

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Hello Phil,

 

Are you going to try this lens out?  i am interested ... maybe a new thread is need if you are getting your hands on one.

 

On 1/6/2024 at 3:50 AM, Phil Rudin said:

The F-stoppers announcement is in fact the lens I was referencing and the video is all I have seen so far from Venus Optics. The lens will be small and it will come in auto focus versions for full frame Sony FE and Nikon Z. Minimum focus is 12cm, close for a 130 degree rectilinear so I suspect you may be able to get away with using this lens in a 180mm port although larger will have better corners. Should be interesting to see how it will work for CFWA. Also how apparent DOF will look V. a wet wide lens at the same AOV. Also if the S&S 77mm correction lens will add value in a 230mm or 180mm port. 

 

 image.jpeg.ff6b902882d318fe0570f79e50592d8b.jpeg

005umqJoly1hl9zpb7vdaj32p81stnpd.jpg

005umqJoly1hl9zpb74l3j32p81stkjl.jpg

 

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On 3/12/2024 at 10:24 AM, Lewis88 said:

Lens arrived today, and was already firmware updated!

 

Also based on some crude measurements and holding the inside port glass of my 40mm port to the lens front, I need 31+ mm of extension. So looks like the 2x 17mm rings will work just fine. They arrive later this week. 

 

Also threw the dome on without any extensions and it fits and would focus in air. Not sure how much being off the optical center is affecting it though.

Glad the firmware is sorted. All three Zeiss lenses I've owned have had problems with their V1 firmwares and required updates.

34 + 40 is 1mm < 45 +30... it's very tight but hopefully will work for you.

Sadly focus in air is no help. Suggest try a large bucket of water or the bath!

I don't know which dome you have but it sounds like there is some built-in extension, if the lens fits atm in a 100mm fisheye dome.

Either way, I'd try it with and without an extra 17mm. You may not notice the difference as narrow FOV lenses are pretty forgiving re dome position, although if it's a long way mis-aligned, you may not get the increased FOV provided by the dome, cf a flat port.

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7 hours ago, dentrock said:

Glad the firmware is sorted. All three Zeiss lenses I've owned have had problems with their V1 firmwares and required updates.

34 + 40 is 1mm < 45 +30... it's very tight but hopefully will work for you.

Sadly focus in air is no help. Suggest try a large bucket of water or the bath!

I don't know which dome you have but it sounds like there is some built-in extension, if the lens fits atm in a 100mm fisheye dome.

Either way, I'd try it with and without an extra 17mm. You may not notice the difference as narrow FOV lenses are pretty forgiving re dome position, although if it's a long way mis-aligned, you may not get the increased FOV provided by the dome, cf a flat port.

 

Just one less thing to worry about before our next trip. And I can get all my gear sorted without having a lens out for service. 

 

Extension rings arrive tomorrow so we will see. If not I will return one of the 17's for a 20mm. 

 

Correct, The N85 to N120 is already a 50mm extension, so I likely won't need more. I'll probably wait to experiment with that in a pool this summer. Not wasting precious tropical dive time. Not sure how much I'll dive macro behind a dome anyways, since the goal for me is maximum magnification when macro.

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8 hours ago, Lewis88 said:

 

Just one less thing to worry about before our next trip. And I can get all my gear sorted without having a lens out for service. 

 

Extension rings arrive tomorrow so we will see. If not I will return one of the 17's for a 20mm. 

 

Correct, The N85 to N120 is already a 50mm extension, so I likely won't need more. I'll probably wait to experiment with that in a pool this summer. Not wasting precious tropical dive time. Not sure how much I'll dive macro behind a dome anyways, since the goal for me is maximum magnification when macro.

I didn't realise you were using the 50mm N85 N120 adapter. Your dome may be similar to my 140 fisheye. Using the 50 macro and 50 adapter, the mis-alignment with the 140 is -9mm, meaning the dome is forward of the exact alignment by 9mm. That should work OK, but I also had a 34.7 adapter, which I used more often. Performance was excellent with that combo. The benefit is for travel - you might get away with one port for macro and WA.

You might want to measure your dome sometime. With my 140, the optical centre is 6mm behind the port face, so I allow for that in any calculations.

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