Photography News issue 24


Photography News Issue 24


Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 £3299




Format Full-frame Mount Canon EF (ZE), Nikon F (ZF-2) Construction 11 elements in 9 groups Special lens elements Six anomalous partial dispersion elements, one aspheric Coatings T* anti-reflective coating Filter size 86mm Aperture range F/1.4-16 Diaphragm 9 blades Internal focus Yes Manual focus Yes, manual only Minimum focus 80cm Focus limiter No Maximummagnification 1:7.7 Distance scale Yes Depth-of-field scale Yes Image stabiliser No Tripod collar No Lens hood Supplied Weather-sealed No Dimensions (lxd) ZE 141x101mm, ZF-2 138x101mm Weight ZE 1200g, ZF-2 1140g Contact

Every manufacturer hypes up their products. Anyone who says its xxx product is really average and not worth the money won’t be in business for long. So when Zeiss says its Otus 85mm f/1.4 lens is ‘the best short tele lens in theworld’ you can’t but wonder if there’s any truth in the claim. There are two lenses for Canon and Nikon users in the Otus range. This one and the 55mm f/1.4, and both are aimed at Canon and Nikon users who’s first priority is top-class optical performance. The Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 is a sizeable lens, dwarfing the Nikon 85mm f/1.4 and even Canon’s 85mm f/1.2. It’s beefy too – it weighs around the same as a Nikon D4S body – thanks to its 11 element design and very solid construction. It is also a very tactile lens and the 3cmwide rubber-finished focusing barrel is silky smooth. This lens is manual focus only so this is important and on the Canon fit model the focus barrel is the only control – the Nikon fit lens has an aperture ring. Focusing distance in imperial and metric units plus a depth-of-field scale are provided. There are no bells and whistles here so no image stabilisation, macro mode or even a tripod mount which would add weight as well as spoil the lens’s design aesthetics. You do get a bayonet fit metal lens hood. Should you want to use filters – and with this lens you’re surely going to fit a protection filter – the thread is 86mm and needless to say, buy the best you can afford and not something you picked up at a boot sale. I had a ZE fit lens so tried it on the CanonEOS5DMark II andMark III as well as the EOS 760D APS-C camera. On these bodies, the combination is most definitely front heavy, but not uncomfortably so and the lens’s size means that your whole left hand can offer support. You wouldn’t want to hold the camera/lens up to your eye

for too long though because youmight start getting the shakes. With no IS and the lens’s heft, you need to be wary about hand-holding at relatively slow shutter speeds. Personally, I found my hand-holding limit to be 1/60sec and I wouldn’t drop down any further. The smooth focusing has already been mentioned but bears repeating. We’ve all gotten used to AF lenses where manual focus is almost a secondary function and often the barrel is loose or geared. Manually focusing many modern lenses is not always a treat for the senses. Of course there’s nothing wrong in that, but the Zeiss shows how it can be and it is incredibly smooth and perhaps the only, very minor downside is that from infinity to minimum focusing distance is about three-quarters rotation of the barrel. The bright viewing image means achieving pinpoint focus is simple enough (and the camera’s in-focus confirmation aid helps) and with such limited depth-of-field at maximum aperture, that is a crucial point. Get the focus spot on and your hand-holding technique right and you will be rewarded with awesomely sharp pictures. It is critically sharp wide open and that impressively high standard is maintained throughout the aperture range. Fine details within scenes are beautifully rendered with plenty of crispness and contrast. Stopping down does little to improve the very high image quality except perhaps in the extreme corners where detail is sharpened up, so aperture choice is really a matter of deciding much depth-of-field you want. The lens is an apochromatic so no issues with chromatic aberration and flare is well controlled, too. I did shots without the lens hood with the sun just out of shot and suffered no ghosting or contrast loss. WC

The images We shot many pictures for our lens tests, like this set below. This set was shot with the Zeiss 85mm using a Canon EOS 5DMark III mounted on a tripod. The Raws were processed in Lightroomwith default sharpening applied. For shots taken at each aperture we then made an enlargement to help




How it rates

Verdict A truly remarkable lens that sells at a remarkable price. Clearly, it is not a lens with mass appeal, but if quality truly counts and you can see yourself spending £3299 on a manual focus prime lens, then Zeiss is right and this is the best short tele lens in the world.



Features A lot of lens, no frills though


Performance Optically brilliant


Handling Wonderfully smooth focusing but heavy




Value for money A top lens at a top price


Overall It’s a no compromise lens but its no compromise pricemeans fewwill get to enjoy it Pros Outstanding image quality Cons Big price, big lens 84/100

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