Photography News Issue 27 absolutephoto.com Camera test 50 Zeiss Milvus Family The Milvus range comprises six prime manual-focus lenses for Canon and Nikon owners wanting leading edge optical quality from their high-resolution cameras
Review by Will Cheung
Zeiss’s world-renowned reputation for high-quality optics has been earnt over many years. Its collection of lenses for Canon and Nikon users grew significantly with the announcement of the Milvus range comprising six high-spec, manual- focus primes, covering popular focal lengths from 21mm to 100mm. Zeiss now has three manual- focus options for Canikon owners and a range for Sony A users. There are also lenses for Sony E, Micro Four Thirds and Fujifilm-X systems. Sitting above the Milvus range is the Otus family. It comprises three primes that deliver the ultimate in image quality and the lenses have prices to match – the Otus 85mm f/1.4 sells for £3299 compared with £1379 for the Milvus option. There is also the more established Classic range that comprises nine focal lengths from 15mm up to 135mm. There is some duplication with the Milvus range so it is likely some of the older models may be phased out. The Milvus family has been designed with the latest very high- pixel count DSLRs on the market in mind while keeping prices at more accessible levels compared with the Otus optics. Zeiss does say that it uses the very best materials for the Otus lenses hence their high prices, so you have to wonder at what compromises have been struck with the Milvus lenses and what impact they have on handling and performance. Format 35mm and APS-C Mount ZE (Canon EOS) and ZF.2 (Nikon F) Construction 16 elements in 13 groups Special lens elements Five anomalous partial dispersion elements Coatings Zeiss T* anti-reflective coating Filter size 82mm Aperture range f/2.8-22, ZF.2 (Nikon) lenses can be de-clicked Diaphragm 9 blades Internal focus No Manual focus Yes, no AF Specs
– ‘hot knife through butter’ like – and the barrel stays put the instant you stop. With most Milvus lenses having a long travel from infinity to minimum focus – a couple travel almost a full rotation – this aids critical focusing. The design of the Milvus family is very impressive too. Take the supplied lens hoods for example. The hood for the 21mm screws on andbecomes as onewith the lens. It’s perhaps a small thing but it makes the lens look simply gorgeous. They Zeiss 21mmf/2.8 Milvus £1299 There is significant vignetting at f/2.8 which lessens at f/4 and is almost gone by f/5.6. The effect can be cured in editing and actually the pictorial effect is interesting and handy with the right scene. It is obviously a pain if you want even illumination though; post-processing or stopping down will sort the issue. Optically, the 21mm delivers its best showing as it is stopped down with sharpness, at f/8 it’s impressive and even more so at f/11 with excellent quality across the whole frame. As wide lenses are often favoured for landscapes for extensive depth-of-field, this is very much a big plus point. Quality is still high by f/16 and tails off at f/22. Of the wider apertures f/4 is usable and is critically sharp at the image centre, but edge sharpness is not so good.
also are weather and dust-resistant too and that includes a seal on the mount itself to keep nasties at bay. A depth-of-field is also provided. This review is not an Otus/ Milvus comparison, but from this assessment, it doesn’t appear that Zeiss has skimped much, if at all, from a mechanical perspective and the Milvus lenses look and feel the business. The difference, therefore, must be down to the glass inside, so let’s see how the Milvus lenses perform optically.
Mechanically and physically, it is impossible not to be struck by the impressive build and silky-smooth operation of the Milvus lenses. The focus ring, for example, glides round with a feel that is unmatched by any current Canikon lens. Of course, there is a big point of difference here with Canikon lenses being autofocus, with a manual focusing an option. Zeiss lenses are manual only so it is critical that the focusing action is good – and it is. In fact, it is exceptionally good
The focusing ring glides round with a feel that is unmatched by any current Canikon lens
Minimumfocus 22cm Focus limiter No Maximummagnification 1:56 Distance scale Yes, feet and metres Depth-of-field scale Yes Image stabiliser No Tripod collar No Lens hood Yes, supplied Weather-sealed Yes Dimensions (lxd) ZF.2 92.5x95.3mm, ZE 95x95.5mm Weight ZF.2 735g, ZE 851g
How it rates
Features A quality fast-aperture ultra-wide Performance Vignetting wide open, very good sharpness when stopped down Handling Smooth in every respect Value formoney Fast-aperture wide lenses are rarely cheap Overall Worth a look for ultra-wide fans Pros : High image quality at f/11 Cons : Vignetting, wide aperture performance
See the verdict on page 52
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