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I've been looking to plug a focal length gap in my NEX-5N kit. The 53mm (equivalent) Zeiss Biogon is superb but I also need something a little wider to capture more of the context; something that allows me to get a little closer to my subject in crowded places. But it don't want it to be so wide that it distorts people at the edges of the frame. For that, a good old 35mm (equivalent) lens is ideal.
After witnessing the excellent performance of my Zeiss Biogon 35mm F2.0 (53mm on an APS-C sensor), the first lens I considered was the Zeiss Biogon 25mm F2.8 (38mm equivalent). I was a little hesitant though because of the relatively slow maximum aperture. I also prefer having lenses with different capabilities so that they complement each other. I started searching for lenses around 24mm that would give me an equivalent focal length of 35mm. I didn't want it to be slower than F2.0 nor weigh or cost more than the Biogon 25/2.8. My search didn't turn up much: only the native NEX mount Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E24mm F1.8 ZA met these criteria.
I had a look at the advantages (+) and disadvantages (-) of Carl Zeiss Sonnar 24mm F1.8 compared to Carl Zeiss Biogon 25mm F2.8 before deciding to get the Sonnar a few days ago.
+ close focus (16cm vs 50cm)
+ maximum aperture (1.33 stops brighter: F1.8 vs F2.8)
+ weight (225g vs 260g + 60g adapter = 320g)
+ compatibility with next generation Sony sensors (24MP)
+ supports AF, face detection and EXIF
- not compatible with mirrorless cameras from other manufacturers
- size (wider and longer lens barrel)
- focus by wire MF without distance scale
- build quality very good instead of excellent
+/- image quality: t.b.d.
Originally I hadn't wanted to invest too much in the NEX system which I'm in the process of taking for an extended “test drive” to see how it meets my needs. But after a few weeks of use, I'm enjoying shooting with the NEX-5N so much that I don't mind committing to one high end, dedicated prime like the Zeiss Sonnar. It'll see a lot of use before a final decision is made as to which system I'll continue with. So for now my NEX kit consists of two main lenses with different capabilities: a 24mm autofocus prime that can focus extremely closely and a 35mm prime optimized for manual focus. So far I'm pleased because, the two primes seem complement each other very well. But the real test will be on our holiday in Southern Italy next week.
These photos were all shot hand held at near maximum aperture and very slow shutter speeds. It seems I can hold the NEX-5N at slower shutter speeds than I could my Micro Four Thirds cameras. I suspect that has something to do with Sony's vibration free electronic first shutter curtain.