My all-rounder and go-to travel lens, the venerable Zeiss Touit 32mm F1.8 Planar

This is a story of how it all started, my photography journey with my lovely, one of a kind, Zeiss Touit Planar 32mm F1.8 lens. First, let me introduce myself. I’m a Malaysian family man in Cambridge, MA and was on leave from my work since 2020 as my wife pursued her postgraduate study at MIT. I love to play badminton in my spare time, I’m also a self-proclaimed dishwashing expert now and a passionate amateur photographer.

Other than that, I also love to travel, play acoustic guitar, listen to instrumental music, play chess and read photography books to improve my technique in capturing great photos. For me, travelling is the best way to open my eyes to the beauty of the world, immerse myself into other cultures and most importantly it thought me to appreciate life from different lenses. Travelling to me is a very humbling process that we got to experience things no money can buy.

It all started with a Travel, Life and National Geographic magazines that I read in the library. Love all the photos featured in those magazines. The landscape or portrait photos, even the cigarettes ads photos look stunning. Then I developed the love of taking photos with my smartphone a few years ago.

Due to the limitation of smartphone cameras, especially on artificial bokeh and low image quality on zoom, I bought my first Fujifilm camera, the X-E1 last year in April 2021, along with the XC16-50mm and the XC50-230mm. I love the SOOC photos from my X-E1, and it saved me a lot of time from having to edit the images. The image quality from the jpeg is great, and the raw format has so much potential to push more on post-processing.

In the meantime, I joined some online photography classes by professional photographers from Malaysia, attended photography webinars and some other interactive classes from Udemy. I also frequented some YouTube channels, especially by Nigel Danson and Mad Peter Iversen, specializing in landscape photography. As stated by Chase Jarvis, the best camera is the one that’s with you.

I forced myself to carry and use my trusty X-E1 to take photos whenever I’m going out with my family, either to picnic, to the parks, to the museum or even in my free time at home. Close-up, landscape, cityscape, and minimalist were among my favourite genres. In each genre, I will include the human-interest aspect as I like to emphasize the relationship of man with his surroundings, their interactions and not forget to include the element of scale and depth in each of my photos.

By using Lightroom as my main editing tool, I’m able to see the differences in the image quality between photos taken using a smartphone and photos taken using a camera. Suffice to say that I am very satisfied with the final image from my camera, either in SOOC or processed (to convey emotions and show more depth in the photo).

Additionally, the opportunity to live in Cambridge is really a blessing that has boosted my passion for photography. The landscape is just so fascinating that I am always stunned in awe seeing the classic red bricks on the old buildings and cobblestone paved streets in Boston. The city looks elegant regardless of the seasons.

Each season brings its own unique characteristics and beauty, so whenever possible I’d try to capture those essences. The intrinsic colour of the season, the distinct palette of sunrise and sunset, the angle and direction of the light produced an image with emotions and mood. Given the gorgeous landscape of New England, abundant supply of national parks and beaches, I was fortunate to be able to experiment with various technics in exploiting the impact of light and shadows on the subject.

Before each photoshoot, I usually research about the location and surrounding environment using a few apps such as Photopills, Google Map, Stellarium, Instagram, AccuWeather and Google Search to gather information. I then sketch and plan the relevant technics and angles on small doodle books or save a note on my smartphone.

The greatest satisfaction is when I’m able to transpire the mental sketch into a real image. And then, the image will be post-processed in Lightroom Mobile. Photography to me is a passionate way to document, share and tell the moments and stories of everything that happens around me.

Over the course of two years, I bought a few lenses such as Zeiss Touit Distagon 12mm F2.8, Zeiss Touit Planar 32mm F1.8, Fujifilm XF18mm F2, Fujifilm XF35mm F1.4 and some vintage lenses such as the Carl Zeiss Jena Pancolar 50mm F1.8, Super Takumar 50mm F1.4, Carl Zeiss Jena Biotar 58mm F2 and a Leitz Summicron 50mm F2. I noticed some distinct characteristics of the Zeiss lenses.

The colour is a bit warm and more vibrant than the Fujifilm native lens, and it’s a tad sharper when shot wide open. I love the built quality, and the luxury feel when I’m holding it. It’s, however, bulkier and heavier than the Fujinon XF35mm F1.4. The rubbery construction of the focus and the aperture helps in providing a substantial amount of grip when holding the lens.

The T* coatings on the glass also reduce the amount of lens flare and ghosting when shooting in the presence of a direct light source. And I do love the sunburst produced by the Touit compared to the Fujinon lens, it’s more pronounced and sharper. As I travelled with my family a lot, I always incorporated the sunburst effect to enhance the image, yeah making full use of the available resources.

The autofocus is way better and faster than the XF35mm F1.4, and the thing I like the most compared to XF35mm F1.4 is the slightly wider angle of view (48 deg vs 44 deg). Not too wide and not too tight, just nice. For me, it’s the perfect focal length for travel, landscape, cityscape, and portraiture. The bokeh or background blur is less pronounced than its Fujinon counterpart. However, it depends on one preference.

For me, it’s sufficient in providing an image separation between the subject and the foreground/background. As for the lens hood, it’s pretty well designed and served its purpose and I do love the looks of the lens with the hood on my X-T2. However, I wish the aperture ring would have a bit of resistance when changing the aperture.

Sometimes I accidentally change the aperture, especially when using a bulkier winter glove, as the space between the handgrip and the lens is a bit narrow. It would be a perfect lens for me if it was weather sealed. Other than that, it’s a great lens, and I can say it’s one of my go-to lenses during travel and outing, other than my lightweight zoom lens, the Fujinon XC50-230mm.

I’ll say it’s my favourite lens to date. Great for travel, cityscape and portrait as well. It has its flaws, but the images it produces are beautiful. I never travel without it. And yeah, it’s my favourite lens, the Zeiss Touit Planar 32mm F1.8.

Here are some of the details of Zeiss Touit Planar 32mm F1.8:
● Mount: Fujifilm X
● Focal Length: 32mm (48mm in 35mm format).
● Lens Elements / Group: 8 / 5
● Angle of view: 48 deg
● Number of Diaphragm Blades: 9
● Max Aperture: f/22
● Min Focus distance: 30cm
● Weight: 210g
● Filter Thread Size: 52mm

"I’m a Malaysian family man in Cambridge, MA and was on leave from my work since 2020 as my wife pursued her postgraduate study at MIT. I love to play badminton in my spare time, I’m also a self-proclaimed dishwashing expert now and a passionate amateur photographer. Other than that, I also love to travel, play acoustic guitar, listen to instrumental music, play chess and read photography books to improve my technique in capturing great photos. For me, travelling is the best way to open my eyes to the beauty of the world, immerse myself into other cultures and most importantly it thought me to appreciate life from different lenses. Travelling to me is a very humbling process that we got to experience things no money can buy."

14 Comments

  1. What a wonderful write up and beautiful photography. Very inspirational! I’m a huge fan of the native 35/1.4 but man oh man you make a strong case for the zeiss. Thanks for taking time and best to your family during your time in Boston.

  2. Great article and wonderful photography. Very inspiring, makes me want to go to Boston! I’m a big fan of the native fuji 35/1.4 but you make a strong case for the Zeiss. Best to you and your family while you’re in the US. Maybe y’all will decide to stay!

    1. Thank you for the kind & encouraging words.US is such a beautiful country with lots of scenic views, interesting culture & also very unique in its own way. We definitely would love to come back 🙂👌🏼. Have a good day!

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