Thursday, July 17, 2014

Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 macro lens - hands on review

I do a lot of close up and macro photography and have quite a number of macro lenses, mostly Nikon, but also Canon, Sigma and Tamron. I think I can sum up this entire review right here in one sentence by saying that this Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8 lens is as good as, if not better than, any macro lens I have ever used on any camera. 

Not only is its performance top notch, it is beautifully designed and may be the best looking piece of glass you'll put on a Fuji X-camera -- well-balanced, light weight, quick to focus, and with an easy-to-find and responsive aperture ring. Its results are what you would expect from a macro lens from Zeiss. It is sharp everywhere, even in the corners, and even wide open at f/2.8. The field is flat and distortion free, just as you would want from a true macro. 

The Zeiss Touit 50mm macro is designed for use on APS-C mirrorless cameras, such as the Fuji X-series and Sony Nex.  At 50mm it delivers a full frame equivalent focal length of 75mm, which works nicely as an all purpose macro that can also stretch to use as a shorter portrait lens with the macro capability allowing you to come in tight on a face.

Because it is a macro you can get in really tight on portrait shots even though the lens is only equivalent to 75mm. This one was taken at f/2.8. 

The lens has a wide maximum aperture of f/2.8, which is fairly typical for standard macros, but delivers a nice selective focus due to its longer 75mm equvalent focal length, and particularly because it is meant to be used working in close on a subject.

Auto-focus is always a problematic issue with any macro lens. By their very nature, macros have a long distance to travel from infinity to close-up. On some lenses you can set a focus limiter switch to narrow down the focusing range. This is quite helpful. The Zeiss Touit 50mm macro does not have a limiting switch, however. I find that the focus hunting inherent to macro lenses is increased when using mirrorless cameras as opposed to pro-DSLR's.  It is often more difficult to place a pinpoint focus spot on a fine area of contrast with mirrorless cameras, like the Fuji X-series. As a result, I do not expect macros made for APS-C mirrorless cameras to perform as well as they would on a DSLR.

A difficult focusing situation for any macro lens, the focus point was the clear stem of the wine glass. In the distance were very distracting window blinds. The camera did have to hunt a bit on this one, which is something I would expect, but ultimately it did auto-focus itself. A pleasant bokeh comes into play with the wide open aperture of f/2.8

For most of the macro work I do, I tend to rely on manually focusing the lenses. That way I can put the focus point exactly where I want it, and when you tend to work with very wide open lens apertures, as I do, selecting the exact focus point is extremely important. Being off even slightly can ruin the shot. Manually focusing lenses is where mirrorless systems with their focus peaking ability is very helpful.

When I first picked up the Zeiss Touit 50mm and mounted on my X-T1 I was extremely impressed by its ability to focus, both quickly and accurately, in preliminary tests. As time went on, I did find the typical focus hunting of most macros to also apply to the Zeiss, but it was much less and more easily controlled than on most other lenses. Since I was testing the lens out, I did try to keep it set to auto-focus even in situations where I would normally have used manual focus. Bottom line is that this lens focuses quite rapidly with far fewer of the problems I expect from the breed of macro lenses. In a short time, as I became accustomed to the lens, I began to realize that it would easily become one of my favorite macros to use.

Pleasant, round bokeh works well at full aperture when in close like this. This is a situation where I tried the lens on manual focus. I have to say focus peaking with the Fuji X-cameras makes this a very desirable way to work in macro. 

The sleek design of the lens features an all black, metal lens barrel with rubberized control rings typical of the Touit series. The lens is not weather resistant. Its nine-blade, nearly circular aperture delivers soft bokeh with pleasant out-of-focus highlights.

Differences between the Zeiss Touit 50mm and Fuji 60mm Macros:

Aside from the obvious difference in focal lengths, 50mm vs. 60mm, the two lenses differ in the way they focus. The Zeiss 50mm is a fixed length lens with internal focusing, while the Fuji varies its length.  In terms of how well the two focus, the results are heavily in favor of the Zeiss Touit. Fuji's 60mm is one of its worst focusing lenses in its optical arsenal -- slow and constantly hunting for focus.

The two lenses show with the Fuji at infinity and at close-up focus show that they are roughly the same size at macro extension. 
In terms of sharpness, both lenses are quite good, but in the end, it is a rare day when any lens can beat a  Zeiss in optical performance, and with this 50mm macro that is definitely the case.

The Zeiss Touit 50mm is a true macro in that it can capture a 1:1 ratio, whereas the Fuji 60mm can only manage a half-size reproduction. 

This lens gets in nice and tight and I found the medium focal length to be really nice for composing shots. It's not to long or too shot -- just right for many of the macro shots I do. I also like using it wide open at f/2.8. Of course working distance is a matter of preference and also has to do with the subject being photographed. I would think that photographers who concentrate on photographing close-up on insects would want something longer that the 75mm equivalency.

For this flower shot I stopped down to f.5.6  to gain a little more focus on the flower.

This is a relative easy situation -- with sharp edges and a close-up, non-interfering background -- for a lens to perform in auto focus mode, and the Zeiss Touit had no difficulty with it either.

This is one of those circumstances where a lens would have a difficult time seeking focus because the distant background is right behind a subject, the narrow passage point of the hour glass. Normally, I would need to switch to manual focus in a situation like this, but the Zeiss Touit 50mm was able to pull off an relatively easy auto-focus with not much hunting to find the focus point. 

As I moved in tighter on portrait shots like this, the lens did have trouble seeking a point to focus. I don't really fault the lens for this. I have had the same problem with other macros including the Nikon 105mm. It just seems to be something that goes with the territory.


Zeiss' reputation for quality optics once again comes into play with this excellent lens. It's very versatile focal length equivalent of 75mm makes it ideal for both close in work and use as a portrait lens.

In terms of sharpness, this is a professional grade lens, sharp everywhere, even in the corners with wide open aperture -- exactly what I would expect from Zeiss. For anyone seeking an exceptional macro lens for a Fuji X-series or Sony Nex system camera, this is it.

If you are thinking of adding this lens to your system, I suggest you put yourself on a pre-order wait list soon. Once photographers discover the quality of this lens, it is going to sell out quickly.

I have already ordered mine.

If you are planning on purchasing this lens, you can help support this site at no extra cost to you by purchasing from one of our affiliate sellers listed below -- and thanks for your support.

The Zeiss Touit 50mm f/2.8M Lens can be ordered from:  BH-Photo   Amazon

Thanks to Jeff Hirsch at FotoCare for arranging for me to test this lens from Zeiss.

If you are visiting New York and want to order this lens from a real pro shop in the photo district, stop by FotoCare at 41 West 22nd Street. Ask for Jeff. He'll be able to help with anything and answer any questions. Tell him I  sent you.


  1. Nice review, nevertheless I still hesitate to buy it due to the small working distance. For still subjects this is no problem at all, but for things like butterflies or small critters you need to be very close.

  2. I have the Fuji 60mm f2.4 and the Micro Nikkor 105mm 2.8, which I can mount on the X-T1 via an adaptor. I find it difficult to justify the price of the Zeiss over the Fuji. At the same price it would be no contest, of course.

  3. Macro photography is all about getting up close and personal to your subject, be it an insect, flower or any such abstract item. In order to get that sharp close-up shot, the one lens you would want in your kit bag is the Nikon Micro 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED. It has some very special features that make it stand out from others.

    1. The Zeiss Touit is not available for Nikon anyway...
      Btw, for my Nikon D810, I sold my Nikkor 105 VR in favor of the Sigma Apo 180 f2.8 Macro and the Zeiss Makro Planar 100 f2 ZF.2. Esp. the latter is just in a different league than the Nikkor is. As for 105 AF-Makros, I even prefer the Sigma 105 f2.8 OS over the Nikkor (same resolution but slightly better Bokeh, esp. spotlights).
      But, none of these lenses make much sense on a Fuji-X as they foil the versatility of this much more compact system (and they need an adapter, i.e., no AF, no auto-aperture and no communication any more).
      With my X-T1, I use the Touit (had the XF60 before). Visibly sharper below f8, esp. in low contrast situations, faster AF and 1:1. Yes, working distance of the Touit is useless when it comes to animals.