I took this shot already some days ago when it got very cold here in Finland (-25°C / -13°F). For those who might find it an odd scene, it's an ice hole where people go to swim from the sauna. It sure looks terribly cold in the picture with the icicles and all, but it's really a relaxing experience that many here do, sometimes on a daily basis. Though, I do have to admit that stepping down in to cold water does exceed a bit my own personal threshold of comfort, but it has always been a very positive experience when I've actually done it – this time I got to stay behind the camera.
As you have probably noticed, I've used the ZEISS Batis 1.8/85 a lot during the couple of weeks. Why is that you may wonder and I've been wondering this same question. One reason behind this preference is most probably the fact I used to shoot a lot with Nex-5N & SEL 50/1.8 OSS (equivalence of 75mm on a full frame) and my way of looking things is kind of 'hardwired' to this focal length. A bit of tele-compression but not too much. Lots of potential for bokeh and not too skewed lines even if position of the camera differs from the parallax-axel. It's a very nice focal length which offers loads of possibilities, though I find the difference between 75mm and 85mm to be more than I thought – it takes a bit to get used to take few more steps back.
Another reason favoring the Batis 1.8/85 comes from the lens itself. The first thing many have noticed when shooting with this lens is the sharpness it delivers already from wide open at f/1.8. Now, before I continue I have to add that I find the existing 'sharpness-race' to be a little bit constrained since many modern lenses are already sharp enough and much of the absolute sharpness never materializes in those mediums that people use for their photographs (screens and relatively small photographic papers). Sure, it provides a crude way to separate lenses from each other in product competition, but we never seem to stop and think what is enough. However, having said all this I have to admit that I am indeed pretty impressed with the sharpness that Batis 1.8/85 brings wide open. While it's beautiful performance from the technological point of view, I like even more a certain confidence that it brings to my photography. To understand where I'm coming from with this, you have remember that I spent years shooting with the Nex-5N & SEL 50/1.8 OSS. While the SEL 50/1.8 is still a great lens on its own right, I always had to careful to use it wide open at f/1.8 since it lost much of the sharpness & contrast at that aperture (stop it down to f/2.2 and it gets a lot better). With the Batis 1.8/85 I simply don't need to think about the technological limits of the lens at all, which means more freedom and confidence to me. I believe this is, together with the optical image stabilization, one thing that makes me like this lens a lot. As paradoxical it sounds the optical performance of the Batis 1.8/85 is great because I don't have to think about it all when using it.
If you have read any reviews regarding the Batis 1.8/85 this is probably no surprise to you as many others have already reported similar findings regarding the sharpness. To me this confidence of the optical performance definitely describes one trait of this lens and getting to know other aspects as well is the key to understanding its characteristics in total. And the Batis 1.8/85 definitely has other traits as well, most probably one of them being bokeh, but I'm unlocking this lens slowly and taking my time with it – as I do have almost one full year to go. It seems that the Batis 1.8/85 is my first favorite of the setup I'm using, but I'm in no hurry and I want to enjoy the ride to the fullest.