I don’t own any autofocus lenses, but I do own one modern lens in Sony FE mount: the manual focus Zeiss Loxia 21/2.8. This is very well regarded landscape lens, and it should be, as it retails for around £1,000 now, and was priced even higher at launch.

Sunlit Ripples
Sharp and plenty of contrast from wide open, this lens stopped down is wonderful. | Zeiss Loxia 21 @ f8.

I bought one on eBay a couple of years ago now in mint condition and have looked after it very carefully and have only used it every now and then when out specifically to shoot landscapes. It is a brilliant lens, everything you read about it online is true. It is compact, sharp, very flare resistant and it produces really nice sunstars that can – in my opinion – enhance landscape photos. It is, technically, a much better lens than anything else I own currently, and probably light years ahead of most of my vintage lens collection.

Newport Sunset
The famous Loxia sunstars make this lens fun to use. | Zeiss Loxia 21 @ f8, Sony A6000.

However, and this is hardly a spoiler given the blog title, I’ve barely used it for the past 18 months because the focus is locked at infinity. From a quick Google it seems to be a fairly common fault with this Zeiss lens. Possibly a screw is coming loose in the lens and locking the focus at infinity. One person reports having a very bad experience sending the lens back to Zeiss in Germany to repair, so I’m really not sure what to do – especially after the insanity of Brexit makes it harder to post items to the EU for servicing.

Evening Footpath
Perfect timing, completely unplanned. | Zeiss Loxia 21 @ f8.

I’ve owned well over 100 vintage lenses since I started using mirrorless cameras, the oldest of which is a Tamron Adapt-a-matic 28mm f2.8, manufactured between 1969 and 1972. It works flawlessly, as have 99% of the random lenses I have bought on eBay. Some lenses I have used a lot more than I have used the Loxia and they still feel like they will go on forever.

Evening Sunset
The kind of flare resistance most vintage lenses can only dream about. | Zeiss Loxia @ f11.

I am more than a little annoyed that a lens that cost as much as my Sony A7rii should fail, despite the lens being treated so carefully and being physically in mint condition. If it were just mine I could consider myself unlucky, but to see that this is clearly happening to a lot of copies of this lens points to some inherent weakness in the design that just isn’t acceptable in a lens this expensive – or any lens really. It doesn’t even have any autofocus mechanisms to worry about either.

I’ve contacted Zeiss in Germany and am awaiting a response, I’ve contacted other lens repairers, but so far none of them will touch this lens. I’m loathed to send it to Germany and pay 60-75% of the lens’ value to repair it, so I am tempted to sell it on eBay with the fault and cut my losses with it.

If anyone knows someone UK based who would fix the lens, let me know, as I’m struggling to find anyone at the moment. If anyone is considering buying the Zeiss Loxia 21/2.8, be warned, it seems they are prone to failure (and what is worse is all of the reviewers talking about how it feels beautifully built, yes it does feel that way, but seemingly, it is not).

Beddgelert, Snowdonia
Happier times with the Zeiss Loxia 21.