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How was the new family of lenses for compact system cameras (CSC) created and which steps did the lenses have to go through until they were ripe for the market?

Four years ago, a new market segment emerged in photography: compact system cameras (CSC), which are equipped with interchangeable lenses. Ever since then, compact system cameras have been the camera segment with the highest growth rates. After initially observing how the market was developing, ZEISS determined that high-performance lenses would also be interesting for customers in this market. In order to stay true to the high quality standards of the ZEISS brand, it was decided to focus on cameras with an APS-C sensor, the largest sensor that has been available so far for this type of camera. The new lenses from ZEISS should be developed for cameras from Sony and Fujifilm. The autofocus was planned from the start. Everyday photography was the class of usage defined during the early design phase, and also driven by the market, so the autofocus function was almost a must — it is a step toward  higher volume market, but at the usual high ZEISS quality.

Touit 2.8/12

The development process began with a preliminary study by the optical designers. Experience, ‘gut feeling’ and observations from the market were fed into the first rough specifications. These were evaluated for feasibility and cost, and then had to be adapted to the production requirements. From this point on, the optical designers worked closely with the mechanical engineers. “Our goal was to translate the theoretical quality requirements into the actual construction as much as possible,” explains Program Manager Dr. Michael Pollmann, who led the development process at ZEISS. In addition to ensuring quality, an intuitive operation of the lens by the user also had to be guaranteed.

Touit 1.8/32 and Touit 2.8/12 X-Mount

New for the mechanical engineers were the electronic functions, which resulted from the autofocus function. The motor, which takes over the role of setting the focus position, adds additional weight to the camera system. Especially with CSC cameras, compactness and light weight are decisive for the purchasing decision. The developers therefore investigated which internal parts had to be made of metal for functional reasons and where they could switch to lighter-weight materials. They finally decided to design the inner lens mechanics as a metal-plastic combination. The outer barrel is mainly of metal for reasons of durability, mechanical stability and in order to be impervious to environmental influences.

Another difference to current lenses is the electronic support of the camera’s corrective functions which corrects errors on the image afterwards. In order to be able to do that, the lens must be equipped with the function to communicate characteristics about the image to the camera.

After the optical and mechanical design was defined and the realizable quality level of the lenses determined, the next step was to convert them into prototypes. “We created various cycles of demonstration samples in order to test the concept and reach the desired performance level step by step,” continues Dr. Pollmann. A first rough sample was examined for obvious errors: Does the lens move as it should? Is there shadowing or stray light? The engineers also controlled whether the electronics were the right size and whether all their functions worked properly. These were then optimized in the subsequent process steps.

In the second prototype cycle, the image quality was controlled. To do this, the designers created various samples, sized them, and improved the mechanics step by step: “From generation to generation, we became more critical,” says Dr. Pollmann. “With the first prototype, we examined for example whether the manual focus function even worked – with later prototypes we focused on how it felt to set it. Is it rattling or does it run smoothly? What sort of noises does it make?

The approval of the prototypes is simultaneously the go-ahead sign for the pre-production. Whereas the prototypes were still being produced according to laboratory measurements, now the moment had come to verify whether the lenses, which would be manufactured according to serial production, indeed met the desired quality standards. Several weeks ago, the go-ahead for the pre-production run for the Touit lenses was also given. The Touit lenses were therefore ready for full-scale production.

The first two members of the new family of lenses are the Touit 2.8/12 and 1.8/32, both of which come with the famed ZEISS T* coating to reduce reflections and stray light.

Program Manager Dr. Michael Pollmann led the development process.

Program Manager Dr. Michael Pollmann led the development process

Touit 2.8/12 – A sophisticated, extreme wide angle lens with the Distagon optics concept. Due to the Distagon design it was possible to build such a compact, extreme wideangle lens by meeting the requirements for optimum ray angles on the camera sensors. Eleven lens elements are arranged in eight groups. Two aspheric lens elements have been implemented to ensure a compact lens, despite the short focal length, of high image quality over the whole image field. Three lens elements are made of materials with anomalous partial dispersion to reduce color aberration for high contrast images with vivid color reproduction. Focusing is done by a floating elements design – all 6 lenses behind the aperture are moved.

Eleven lens elements are arranged in eight groups (Touit 2.8/12)

Eleven lens elements are arranged in eight groups (Touit 2.8/12)

Legende Lens cut Touit 2.8/12

Floating elements design (Touit 2.8/12)

Floating elements design (Touit 2.8/12)

One of the first images shot with the Touit 2.8/12

One of the first images shot with the Touit 2.8/12

One of the first images shot with the Touit 2.8/12

One of the first images shot with the Touit 2.8/12

Touit 1.8/32 – A robust and compact standard lens that relies on the tried-and-tested Planar optics concept, but which has been adjusted to the requirements of today’s digital cameras through the addition of lens elements. The additional lenses have been needed especially to meet today’s requirements for better correction of chromatic aberrations. The result is eight lens elements in five groups. Focusing happens through an overall adjustment whereby the entire length of the lens remains unchanged.

Eight lens elements in five groups (Touit 1.8/32)

Eight lens elements in five groups (Touit 1.8/32)

Cross section of the Touit 1.8/32

Cross section of the Touit 1.8/32

One of the first images shot with the Touit 1.8/32

One of the first images shot with the Touit 1.8/32

One of the first images shot with the Touit 1.8/32

One of the first images shot with the Touit 1.8/32

“With these lenses we have achieved our goal to address the CSC market at the high end of the market,” summarizes Dr. Pollmann. “We look forward to completing what was a long development process, and we are curious to see the pictures our customers create with the lenses.”

The Touit lenses will be available at dealers in June. A third focal length, the Touit 2.8/50 Macro, is currently in development and expected to be on the market at the end of this year. Other focal lengths are also planned.

For more information about, and specifications of, the new lenses, visit our website: http://lenses.zeiss.com/camera-lenses/carl-zeiss-camera-lenses/camera_lenses/touit/touit2812.html.

24 Comments

  1. Vladislav

    Could you please explain your decision not to include DOF scale, thus creating prime lenses not suitable for zone focusing? Thank you.

    Reply
    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Hi Vladislav,

      Like most typcial AF lenses for CSC camera systems, the focusing ring of the Touit lenses is a “focus by wire” system – it is not mechanically coupled with the moveable lens groups inside. The focusing ring has no hard stops at MOD or infinity, so it is impossible to read a certain distance from its position. Therefore, a distance scale or DOF markings cannot be added.
      For accurate manual focusing, the Fujifilm X-mount cameras offer a distance scale on their display/EVF, and the Sony NEX camera models offer a comfortable focus peaking function.

      Best regards
      Carl Zeiss Lenses Team

      Reply
  2. sam

    Going without both DISTANCE and DOF scale reminds me of all other cheap 100-200$ lenses (with excellent shaprness). You have engraved Touit but not photographic elements… this is not Zeiss :-(

    Reply
    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Hi sam,

      Like most typcial AF lenses for CSC camera systems, the focusing ring of the Touit lenses is a “focus by wire” system – it is not mechanically coupled with the moveable lens groups inside. The focusing ring has no hard stops at MOD or infinity, so it is impossible to read a certain distance from its position. Therefore, a distance scale or DOF markings cannot be added.
      For accurate manual focusing, the Fujifilm X-mount cameras offer a distance scale on their display/EVF, and the Sony NEX camera models offer a comfortable focus peaking function.

      Best regards
      Carl Zeiss Lenses Team

      Reply
  3. Damian ONeill

    I am also interested in the reasoning behind the depth of field scale decision outlined above.

    Thanks.

    Reply
    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Hi Damian,

      Like most typcial AF lenses for CSC camera systems, the focusing ring of the Touit lenses is a “focus by wire” system – it is not mechanically coupled with the moveable lens groups inside. The focusing ring has no hard stops at MOD or infinity, so it is impossible to read a certain distance from its position. Therefore, a distance scale or DOF markings cannot be added.
      For accurate manual focusing, the Fujifilm X-mount cameras offer a distance scale on their display/EVF, and the Sony NEX camera models offer a comfortable focus peaking function.

      Best regards
      Carl Zeiss Lenses Team

      Reply
  4. nebopida

    So they aren’t going to support MFT (51% of the mirrorless market) because it’s sensor is 40% smaller than the largest available APSC.

    So when a FF mirrorless comes out, it will be ~150% larger than APSC. By that rationale will they ditch APSC at that point?

    I smell marketing bullshit!

    Reply
  5. Colin

    Thank you for posting this. It’s very interesting from an end-user perspective to read this “inside information”.

    I look forward to the expansion of this family of lenses.

    Reply
  6. GCG

    In the Fuji camera the focusing distance is shown in the electronic viewfinder.

    I guess a dof engraving on wideangle lenses in the aps-c format wouldn’t be very useful, because it’s not precise enough (the engravings would be to close together). Even on full format lenses the scale is nothing you should rely on.

    Reply
  7. Is Fuji cooperating on the firmware upgrade to match the lenses with the camera bodies? Will the optical viewfinder show the outline of the viewing area of the lens?

    Reply
  8. I left a version of this comment on another blog, but it’s also relevant here; someone posted this, from your blog:

    We want to offer lenses of very high quality. The image quality of the system also hinges on sensor size. Therefore, we intend to concentrate initially on the biggest sensor size in this segment which is APS-C. It would be possible for us to make lenses for Micro 4/3-bajonet as well but we have not made a decision on that yet.
    If current APS-C lenses were also used for the Micro 4/3-bajonet, we wouldn’t be able to achieve the best tradeoff between lens size (weight), and image quality.

    And I replied with this:

    Zeiss’s explanation for why they’re not interested in a micro four-thirds mount doesn’t make much sense: “lenses of very high quality” can, on their own, be produced in any size, as long as they’re large enough to cover the sensor. Then Zeiss’s explanation shifts from the quality of the lenses to “the image quality of the system,” but the quality of the image produced can be independent of the quality of the lens.

    The shifting ideas in the first three sentences make me wonder if their post was translated from another language, because right now it reads like an LSAT question regarding flawed reasoning, which depends on conflating the quality of the lens itself with the size of the sensor.

    It’s true that their lenses would be larger than they need to be in micro four-thirds—but so what? If they’re great lenses, people will use them. More importantly, from what I understand the highest cost in lens development is in the glass itself, not in producing different editions for different mounts.

    So: is the cost primarily in the glass, or in the mount and software? Because right now, this: “In order to stay true to the high quality standards of the ZEISS brand, it was decided to focus on cameras with an APS-C sensor” sentence still doesn’t make much sense.

    Reply
  9. Reinhard Becker

    I can not understand the arguments against MFT. The end quality of any picture is based on all components and the sensor size is of course one big point. But if you compare the quality especially between the NEX and the MFT cameras, there is no real or visible difference. So a good lens would be a great choice for both systems.
    The MFT is the biggest system on the market today and the balance between size, weight and quality is in my eyes nearly perfect. So the time to carry big dinosaur bags is over! That´s the reason for me to change from FF to M43. I would love to use great Zeiss glass in my MFT, but other companies also have good lenses so I don´t need to change my system just to use Zeiss lenses. Sorry!

    Reply
  10. Frank

    Is it really so hard to understand ?
    There are lenses for full frame, lenses for aps-c and lenses for u4/3.
    These lenses are made for aps-c so for now there are no lenses for u4/3 available. If you find a way to convert it for your camera then do with it whatever you want.

    Next time maybe there will be a u4/3 lens from Zeiss and all the aps-c users will be here to complain why there is no xmount version available.

    Reply
  11. Dennishh

    Congratulations on your new Touit lenses. I had the opportunity to test them yesterday and found they are spectacular! I have a question/concern about the 32mm F1.8 on my NEX7, the lens seem to be hunting for focus most of the time and I was not sure it actually ever focus locked at all. When I used autofocus in combination with DMF the images were incredibly sharp. I’m pre-ordering the lens should be in a couple of weeks. Will you be able to fix the focus hunting problem by then?

    Reply
    1. Dennishh

      It turns out the hunting is not the Zeiss but the NEX camera, the 32 Touit just makes this problem more obvious because of it’s superb focus motor.
      I was told about a solution for a NEX focus hunting solution to what I was talking about. You can set the NEX to use the rear af button to focus! Go to http://diglloyd.com/ and scroll down to “NEX Autofocus Insanity”. This works great and makes the NEX just like my set up on the Nikon D800e.

      Reply
  12. Mount_K2

    I guess, when you have LIVE preview, you do not need the DOF scale anymore!! What you See is What you GET :D

    Reply
  13. Dietmar Brantl

    So these are AF lenses. Great! I have never understood, why you guys don’t do AF lenses. I assumed you don’t consider it important enough compared to the risk of software issues with 3rd parties, but apparently this is not the case. So, while off topic here, could you please explain? Thx!

    Reply
    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Hi Dietmar,

      The development of autofocus lenses requires close collaboration with the camera manufacturer in order to ensure full compatibility with the pertinent camera system.
      In its collaboration with Canon and Nikon, ZEISS currently is not licensed to use the autofocus interface on the camera. Therefore, we are concentrating on offering the best manual focus lenses for these systems.
      In its collaboration with Sony, ZEISS is developing autofocus lenses for the Alpha and NEX systems. The new ZEISS Touit lenses are also available for the Fujifilm X system. ZEISS and camera manufacturer Fujifilm worked together on this project.

      Best regards
      Carl Zeiss Lenses Team

      Reply
  14. Vladislav

    Re the DOF scale: you have repeated the same INCORRECT answer three times. Yes, it is possible to do: just two focus by wire lenses with the DOF scale: Fujifilm XF 14mm F2.8 R, Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm (there are more). It is bizarre to hear “impossible” from Carl Zeiss, when other people do it!

    Could you please explain your decision not to include DOF scale? Thank you.

    Reply
    1. ZEISS Camera Lenses

      Dear Vladislav,

      Unfortunately, our previous statement that it is not possible to add a distance scale and and DOF scale to the Touit lenses is correct.
      But you´re right – the two lenses you mentioned (Fuji XF 14mm F2.8R with X-mount, Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm with MFT mount) offer a switchable manual focus ring that allows to use a distance scale and a DOF scale on the focusing ring. But those lenses are completely different regarding their mechanical, optical and electronical design. The design of the Touit lenses does not allow to implement this additional function, as long as the size and weight of the lenses should be kept within moderate limitations.

      Best regards
      Carl Zeiss Lenses Team

      Reply
  15. Olga Celle

    For the life of me! Can anybody tell me when are these lens going to hit the USA market!?

    Reply
  16. Andrew

    Just pre-ordered the 32/1.8. Before I order the 12/2.8 I need to know if it has been tested on the NEX7, specifically with regards to the magenta shift problem that the NEX7 often has with wide-angle lenses.

    I will buy this lens immediately if there is no magenta shift.

    Reply
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