Lens review: The Zeiss ZF.2 1.4/85 Otus APO-Planar

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One year after the 1.4/55 Otus APO-Distagon, Zeiss is back as promised with the second installment in the new line of super-lenses: the 1.4/85 Otus APO-Planar. Announced unofficially on facebook several months back, the lens makes its official debut at Photokina. I’ve had the opportunity to shoot with a final-pre-production prototype for the last two months; in fact, through pure coincidence, I got the email from my contact at Zeiss saying they had a surprise for me on my birthday…

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Gratuitous lens p***.

A huge thank you to the team at Zeiss for the opportunity. I should note in the interests of editorial independence that this review has not been restricted or censored in any way, and there were no usage limitations placed on the lens: in fact, if anything, I was encouraged to push it to the limits. And I did. Test images were made on a Nikon D800E and D810. I’ll be uploading more images to this set on flickr as time goes on. If you recognise some of the sample images in this review from the Zeiss website or stand at Photokina, that’s probably because I shot them…

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This is NOT a lens for the weak-armed.

I’m going to call it the 85 Otus from here on, because the full name is a mouthful, and we need to differentiate it from the earlier 1.4/85 Planar that was made in ZF (non-electronic), ZF.2 (electronic), ZE (Canon) and ZK (Pentax) mounts. It’s a derivative of a venerable old design that dates back to the Contax/Yashica days. On the D700 and D3, that lens was one of my favorites because of its extremely cinematic rendering style and flare resistance; it just begged to be shot against the light at every possible opportunity. On the relatively forgiving 12MP sensors, the 1.4/85 Planar was critically sharp in the center even wide open, and not too bad at the edges. Unfortunately, come D800E – we were in for a bit of a rude shock. I actually tried half a dozen samples of this lens before coming to the conclusion that it was simply not usable wide open on the 36MP cameras – softness, lateral CA, longitudinal CA, coma, mild astigmatism – you name it, it didn’t go away til f4. And that very much defeats the point of a fast f1.4 lens. The shooting envelope became very small indeed – and we haven’t even talked about focusing it accurately, yet.

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Queenstown at midnight.

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Enough resolution for you? This a 100% crop of the above image – remember, its a distant subject with some mild fog, minimal sharpening, and an f2.0 long exposure. Pixel level quality of this combination is not just superb by 35mm/ FF standards, it’s superb by ANY standards – the best of medium format included. It’s quite possibly the best I’ve ever seen, consistently.

I was sad, until the Otus line was announced. And then mildly horrified at the size of the 55 – if that was the normal lens, how big would the short fast ‘portrait’ telephoto be? Turns out the answer is quite enormous. The lens weighs in at well over a kilo, takes 86mm filters, and has a hood that’s about 110mm in diameter. It’s a good 20cm long with hood in place, and honestly, the closest thing in size (but not weight) is the Nikon 200/2 VR without it’s companion hood. This lens is a monster.

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Rush hour, Kowloon.

Design and construction are much the same as the Otus 55 (and to a lesser extent, the Touit family) – this is clearly the new design direction for Zeiss. It’s smooth, solid, and for an odd comparison, seriously intimidating in an ergonomic way, much the same as an injection-molded composite firearm such as the FN P90. Everything that appears to be metal is metal. Focusing and aperture rings are made of grippy rubber; my 55 Otus has become not so grippy after six months of heavy use; Zeiss is looking into the issue. There is no plastic on this lens, other than the lens cap.

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View from Coronet Peak, Queenstown, New Zealand

Unfortunately, the lens cap design is poor: the springs are too lose, and the plastic is too thin for its size. The two sprung tabs have a habit of coming loose on my lens, and sticking open – upon which the cap just doesn’t stay on. It could use a few more teeth, too. Given the amount of attention paid to every other part of the design, this is a little disappointing (more so, since it’s not exactly easy to find a replacement 86mm cap!). I’ve got one other gripe with the Otus design –it’s that the hole for the focusing scale can collect moisture, which if you’re shooting under adverse weather and very cold conditions can freeze and cause the focusing ring to bind. The water came out again, and I didn’t see any evidence of moisture inside the lens. In all fairness, Zeiss does not claim either Otus to be weather proof – a shame, in my opinion since the strongest images are usually to be made under the most foul conditions. Interestingly, after using the 85 Otus, the 55 feels positively svelte…

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Mount Alta before the storm, from lake Wanaka, New Zealand

Peer down the end and you wonder why some of the lens is empty; like the 55 Otus, the coatings on the elements are so good that there’s very little to no reflection, which renders the first few elements pretty much invisible so long as the front is clean. To an aficionado of optics, this is an incredibly sexy lens. Pretty impressive, considering the lens is a 11/9 design – that’s a lot of elements, but to be expected because of the extreme degree of optical correction. This of course means several things: firstly, you can shoot it into the sun without fear of flare (the edges of the elements are coated in the same way as the 55 Otus, too) or loss of contrast*; the T stop is extremely close to the numerical f stop, and color transmission across the entire spectrum is superb. As with the 55 Otus, I’d say the color siguature is moderately saturated but mostly accurate with a very slight cool bias.

*I actually don’t use the hood on this lens because it’s just too fat to pack easily into most of my bags. It’s a good thing it doesn’t need it other than for impact protection, as far as I can tell. I suspect the concave front element has something to do with the lens’ flare resistance, too.

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Shotover Gorge, Queenstown, New Zealand

Next up is the easy part: I have tried, but really cannot find any major issue with the optics. There were some instances of what appeared to be magenta/purple edges on very high contrast and overexposed detail, but I don’t know if this is a sensor or lens issue. It isn’t present with proper exposure. Other than that – there’s no visible chromatic aberration, longitudinal or lateral. Contrast is amazing at every aperture, as is microcontrast and ability to resolve high frequency and low contrast detail structures. Resolving power does not appear to improve with with stopping down; it might do, but even at f1.4 it appears to outresolve the D810.

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Can anybody identify this galaxy? I searched online for some time and drew a blank. 6 seconds at f1.4 – there’s no CA or coma to be seen anywhere in the frame, even the extreme corners.

I see a slight improvement in microcontrast to peak arounf f2-2.8, but even at f1.4 it’s delivering far more than my Nikon 70-200/4 VR or 85/1.8G does at any aperture. There is some vignetting wide open that disappears by f2.8 or thereabouts, but it’s easily fixable. I did not see any major distortion. All in all: this is seriously impressive performance, and just as good or very slightly better than the 55 Otus. The lens also appears to be fairly flat-field: you must compensate by back focusing slightly if you center focus and recompose for an edge subject.

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Between water and rock

On the subject of focusing, I think this is going to be the biggest hurdle for most users: even with my custom focusing screens, calibrated mirror and finder magnifier, it’s extremely challenging to consistently hit critical focus wide open. The viewfinder system is simply inadequate. The only optical finder-based method I’ve found that can nail focus involves racking it slowly while shooting a burst – disastrous for critical timing, but just fine for static subjects. Live view and a tripod is of course highly advisable.

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Just before sunset, Arrowtown, New Zealand

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100% crop of above.

Most of the time, I used it either on a tripod with live view or stopped down; this is partially because I just don’t shoot wide open that much, and partially because when I do, it’s because I want to use the lens’ ability to separate out distant subjects from the background without any penalty in resolving power. I find this very slight isolation helps immensely with creating a perception of depth in the image. It’s also worth noting that as for the 55 Otus, you won’t have to recompose after focusing: the 85 Otus does not appear to suffer from any visible focus breathing, which will also be of interest to cinematographers.

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Tree and mountain – shot wide open at f1.4, the stars are slightly blurred because the plane of focus is the tree. Fortunately a very still night; still enough that the tree blow in the wind at all, and individual leaves are clearly defined.

If the old 1.4/85 was a cinematic lens, the new one is, too: out of focus areas are rendered very smoothly and non-distractingly by the 9-bladed diaphragm, even with high-frequency complex subjects at distances relatively near to the subject. There’s a trace of spherochromatism and bright highlight edges under some very specific situations, but for the most part, it’s invisible. More tellingly, out of focus foreground areas are rendered in a delicate, veiling way: they’re clearly there, and contribute to the feel of the scene, but they never distract. There’s only one small fly in the ointment: for out of focus very distant point sources only, you see concentric ring texture in the big round highlights – this is an artefact of the polishing/grinding process of hybrid aspherical elements (moulded + bonded asphericals). It is only visible under those circumstances, and also present on the Otus 55 – though we seldom notice this because most out of focus sources we photograph aren’t sufficiently point-like. I was told that you either need to have spherical elements that do  not require this polishing process, or an extremely costly polishing process (as used on the Master Primes) to eliminate it entirely. Bottom line: not noticeable in 99.999% of normal use situations, but remember, we’re looking for perfection here…

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Even horses feel cold sometimes

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100% crop of above. Shot wide open at f1.4, very minimal sharpening applied. As usual, if you see haloes…it’s flickr’s downsizing engine.

I’m not necessarily sure the new lens is more atmospheric than the old one, though; I always felt the old lens had a bit of character of its own, but the new one is a very transparent lens – much the same as the 55 Otus. Use them interchangeably at any aperture for a consistent look. Its signature is that it imposes no visual signature of its own (visual signature is usually a result of ‘endearing’ optical aberrations, such as swirly bokeh). This is not a lens whose look you can rely on to add personality to an image: it transmits what is there, nothing more, nothing less. Color transmission and accuracy of rendition is utterly brilliant – slightly better even than the 55 Otus. I was utterly blown away when examining the files from New Zealand on my calibrated monitor. Lloyd Chambers and I are in agreement that this is possibly the most highly corrected lens ever for a DSLR; his detailed evaluation of the 85 is here. There is something in the way the 85 Otus renders that goes beyond even the 55; it is the very definition of ‘clarity’. Subtle nuances are perfectly rendered and you get the feeling of being there. In my mind, this puts it in the very highest class of lenses – the kind that cede full creative control to the photographer, and serve solely to execute their vision. It is an optical achievement of the highest order.

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Tree and river

Through this review, you’ll note there are no direct comparisons. I simply don’t see the point. The 85 Otus does things in the corners that no other Nikon lens can do at any aperture; there is no comparison. Even with the Pentax 645Z’s 90/2.8 SR – one of the best medium format lenses I’ve used – there is no comparison. Curiously, the math due to the increased sensor size and extra pixels on the Pentax works out such that the 645Z/90SR and D810/85 Otus combination deliver almost the same pixel dimensions for a subject at a given fixed distance. This means we can almost compare the lens-sensor combination like to like. There’s no question the Pentax/Sony sensor is superior to the Nikon even at the pixel level, especially in dynamic range; however, the 85 Otus leaves the 90 SR trailing. It must be stopped down to f4-5.6 to match the Otus’ resolving power at f1.4 in the centre, and f11 in the corners; and microcontrast/transmission never quite catches up. It’s possible sample variation has something to do with it – I’ve only tested one 90SR, though – they’re rather rare birds here. Still, I think that’s extremely impressive.

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Evening.

However, note that it’s not a lens for everybody: dedication to technique and vision are required to extract the most from it. Then there’s the cost and size/weight issue: I’m sure many keystrokes will be wasted to explaining why alternative X at $1000 is better. If you have to even ask why, this is not the lens for you. It may well be comparable if you get a good sample and stop down a bit, or don’t print and only view online; but a big part of the reason why the Otuses (Otii?) are so expensive is because of Zeiss’ QC procedures. I have used half a dozen Otus 55s and two Otus 85s for various reasons and from various batches/ owners – they are all, as far as I can tell, identical in delivering the same extremely high performance. This is not a trivial achievement: any of you who can shoot to the level of maximising everything out of your equipment and have tested more than one sample of a lens will know that consistency is almost impossible to achieve. I have never personally seen any other brand with this level of consistency. If you cannot see the difference (and no web image is going to do it justice; full resolution on a high grade monitor as a minimum, a print ideally), then don’t bother – buy a cheaper AF alternative and not have to deal with manual focus. Extremely shallow depth of field wide open plus that beautifully crisp transition between in and out of focus areas makes achieving critical focus both necessary (missed focus is obvious) and challenging; beyond that, if you don’t have a camera that can make full use of the resolving power and color rendition of the lens, or the skill to deploy all of that potential, it’s somewhat wasted. I honestly feel that the lens still has more to give – but we don’t have the sensors for it yet. I suppose that’s future-proofing. My accountant is already making unhappy noises, but personally, I can’t wait for the next Otus…MT

Coda: I’ve solved the focusing issue with a Zacuto pro finder and live view – stability, magnification, real DOF – just makes the whole thing a bit bulkier, unfortunately.

The Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus APO-Planar is available here to pre order from B&H in Nikon and Canon mounts.

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Comments

  1. Sir Ming, I recall you stating at one point that the next Otus lenses Zeiss plans to make are a wide angle and a macro. Have your contact(s) at Zeiss indicated what focal lengths will be involved?

    On the wide angle side, an Otus version of the apparently already excellent 21/2.8 Distagon T would be fantastic. Although I am aware you are not enamored of the 35mm focal length and have not published any reviews of the following lens, an Otus version of the 35/1.4 Distagon may be interesting as well.

    On the macro front, I would LOVE to see an Otus version of the 100/2.0 MP and to see how it compares to the Otus 85!!!

    I imagine if they look to extend two existing lens designs into Otus designs, they will probably use moderate wide angle (35/1.4 Distagon?) and a moderate tele (100/2.0 MP?) since they should be more popular sales.

    • It wasn’t a statement but a wish! Only Zeiss knows what’s next, though I suspect it’ll be soon as that fits their release timetable.

      • Okay—my mistake. Still, many thanks for pointing my interest towards Zeiss optics. Although I was well aware of their status as a top lens manufacturer, I was previously so much of an Olympus Zuiko user that I have not look closely at many manufacturers—and not at Zeiss-ware at all. Now I am greatly intrigued by the Otuses, the 21/2.8DT, the 35/1.4D, the 100/2MP, and the 135/2.

        • Beware your wallet 🙂

          • Yes, I know! It gets even worst because I love a number of photographic genre’s that are best done with fast lenses (Action/sports, candid/street, photojournalism, stage/theater, low light/night). Furthermore, although I initially wanted the Ricoh GR as my take-everywhere camera, the Leica Q, with that extra stop and a half and near no-compromise design, looks like a clearly better solution.

            Ideally, I would be looking to purchase my desired equipment in a business mode, allowing tax write-offs for equipment expense. After nearly 30 years of shooting as a serious amateur, I want to branch out into real estate photography—hence, my interest in the Canon EOS system and those fabulous tilt & shift lenses, the 24/3.5 and 17/4.0. However, for all other lenses, I prefer the Zeiss versions of the Canon EF equivalents. With an Olympus µ4:3 body and an EF adaptor you get to double your pleasure by just switching mounts.

  2. ringingear says:

    Thanks for the elaborate and honest review on this lens.
    Finally bite the bullet and get myself this lens to pair it with D810. I was previously shooting with Zeiss 100 MP so this is a step up from that for my portraiture shoot. At f/1.4 certainly its much tougher to nail the focus, most of the time I rely on the green dot but it seems that under dim lighting condition I cant really rely on that, lots of missed focus. I am a handheld shooter so that makes it even tougher. Anyway, I have only 1-2 hours experience on the lens thus far so I hope with practice and patient I can improve my focusing success rate. Love the lens though, color, clarity and sharpness seems a notch up compared to 100MP and with barely visible CA. I have previously bought Zeiss 100MP after reading your review, and now Zeiss 85 Otus 🙂 and I know i will not be dissapointed. Thank you again for your great effort! Let me know if you happens to drop by Singapore, will buy you a meal!

  3. Bruce in Toronto says:

    I think the galaxy you shot is the Large Magellanic Cloud. It’s at -70° declination, so it’s really only visible to Southern Hemisphere observers. Estimates vary but the galaxy is about 160000 light years away. The pink area in the middle is the Tarantula Nebula (NGC 2070) and is a major star forming region. The nebula contained a star that became the brightest supernova of modern times – 1987A.

    Astrophotography has to be the most severe test of lens sharpness, astigmatism and image flatness. It seems the 85 Otus does very well indeed.

  4. always enjoying your review, Ming.

    my interest is in architecture pano and am looking for a prime lens which can take advantage of my 36mp sensor. the Otus 55mm does look good on paper. can you share some light.

    how would you compare Otus range with the Carl Zeiss Makro-Planar T*.

    • I reviewed the 55 extensively already. Please check the archives. All of the Otuses are better than the makro planars – they still suffer from longitudinal and lateral CA.

  5. Hi Ming! I think there’s a typo in one o the paragraphs:
    “In my mind, this puts it in the very highest class of lenses – the kind that ceed full creative control to the photographer, and serve solely to execute their vision”

    I believe ‘ceed’ should be ‘cede’. (sorry if I’m a grammar Nazi :<)

    p.s. I was admiring the horse picture, thinking how much it reminded me of The Sound of Music, then I scrolled down and I literally spat my coffee out when I saw the 100% crop of the horse.

  6. Amazing samples! Many thanks.
    Any clues about a wide-angle Otus?
    I would love to see a 1.4/35

  7. Eric Lemoine says:

    Wonderful pictures to illustrate that review. At a thousand words a picture you certainly have a the longest review of the Otus out there 😉
    What are your thought on the availability of the Otus on Canon with no camera body with more than 24MP while the only other 24×36 out there with 36MP the Sony A7r is not supported. Is there a technical difficulty to make Sony FE native mount for the Otus or should we speculate about some business intricacy ?

    My preferred shot is tree and mountain I could not find it in your store, is it available on demand?

  8. I’m a professional photographer who currently shoots with the D810 (among several bodies, as well as the Fuji system). Currently, I have several Nikon/Sigma/Zeiss lenses, including the 135MM F/2 and not least, the 55 Otus. I recently also ordered the Pentax 645Z with three lenses, but am now having second thoughts. My intention was to keep the D810; there are certain lenses such as my three PC-Es that are not currently duplicatable in the Pentax lens lineup. Having come from large format (Sinar 4×5) and Hassy medium format (6×6 film and digital backs for the the 503CW), I have always missed the “look” of larger format systems. Part of this is better selective focus with studio strobes, but I also believe that because of the geometry of MF, there is a sharp-to-soft gradient that is completely unique to MF, and different from even the best FF systems. As you may imagine, it is the addition of the 85MM to the Otus lineup that is causing the angst and indecision. Thoughs? Should I cancel the Pentax and order the Otus 85?

    • I don’t have an answer for that because it depends what you want to use it for. I personally can see a use for both. The 645Z’s shooting envelope is actually larger than the D810/Otus combination because of AF and higher usable ISOs.

      • Unfortunately (for my bank account) I can see a use for both systems in my work as well. I would love it if Zeiss would apply the Otus technology to medium format, and make a series of lenses compatible with the new Pentax (and ostensibly for Phase One and Hassy as well). If they had anything like the performance of my 55 Otus, they could be a stop-or-two slower (probably have to be), and still be SOTA. And if they could find a way (like they have Nikon and Canon) to make them with compatible mounts for all three systems, I think there would be a market for them. I know I’d buy them.

    • After reading the reviews and studying the photographs, I am finding that this lens is very hard to ignore. It is simply at a different level than anything else. Good luck

  9. Great article, Ming. And the Queenstown crop is extraordinary!

    Remarkable series of optics Zeiss has created with the Otus. I’m curious about something: Is the Otus lineup designed and manufactured in Germany … or is it handled by Cosina in Japan?

    I know many photographers who strongly believe that the German built Zeiss glass is superior to what Leitz produces.

    • Thanks. It’s designed in Germany but built by Cosina, as far as I know. Consistency and QC is far better than anything I’ve seen out of Leica.

    • I think the bias for German made lenses is baseless, at least now, even if it may once have had a basis in reality. The Apo Sonnar 135mm/2 ZF.2/ZE lenses are definitely Cosina-built with Zeiss design and QC (if it makes you feel any better I read the Zeiss QC tech at the Cosina factory is a German). The 135mm Zeiss Apo is the finest 135mm lens ever made, and does trounce the Leica 135mm/3.4 Apo Telyt M in terms of resolution, contrast and chromatic aberration correction. Cosina, like Nikon, has their own glass foundry and makes much of the glass used in the Zeiss and Voigtlander lens lines they produce. I haven’t read if some of the exotic glass types used in the Apo lenses are made from Cosina in Japan or imported from Schott glassworks in Germany.

      • I think it’s absolutely baseless – the litmus test is that if you have to look on the bottom of the lens to tell…

      • Special optical glass is also coming from the special glass manufacturer OHARA, and is used also from other lens manufacturers!!

        • Every lens design is a compromise between performance, size and cost.

          The Otus series is compromising size in favour of perfomance, they implemented 100% optical tests at their production partner in Japan for the first time, resulting in much higher costs.

          The question is: would be a more advanced Otus design inhereting technology from their cine-lenses the better choice? It would be more compact and lightweight but it also would be more expensive…

          More advanced technology (special Schott glass, ground complex aspherics, lens mechanics) can only be achieved at Zeiss in Germany – but their production is reserved for cine-lenses and non-photographic products (where Nikon and Canon often gave up to compete).

          The same strategy can be seen at Leica/CW Sonderoptic: the Summicron-C lenses are not smaller, are one stop slower and are unable to achieve the same performance standards as the Summilux-C line-up. Summilux-C lenses involve very complex aspherics, mechanics and tighter tolerances that are achieved in Wetzlar. The Summicron-C line-up uses more conventional designs that can also be handled by a Japanese production partner.

  10. Preedee Kanjanapongkul says:

    Hi. Ming
    I’ve bought Otus 55 earlier this year. After extended usage, I’ve come to the conclusion that this lens have optic abberration corrected to the highest degree, same league as Coastal Optic 60 but 3 stops faster. Now I’m considering a short tele-photo lens for astronomical photography (Apo-Sonnar 135 is currently in my waiting list). From your review, I saw a photo of Carinae nebular and I’ve found that Otus 85 might be also appropiate choice for me. Can I have you opinion on using Otus 85 in astronomical photography?

    • Both are excellent, but as you know, the faster the better to avoid star motion unless you’ve got a tracking mount.

    • Here’s an example I shot with the 135mm/2 Apo Sonnar, D800E on a tripod (no equatorial mount) of Sagittarius and the Lagoon Nebula: https://flic.kr/p/oTrWVh

      I did enhance the colors a lot in post, and applied minor correction of purple corners from vignetting using the LR5 radial filter and 25% vignetting from the lens profile correction. I suppose a mount would have help a lot for the stars, but then I wouldn’t have included foreground trees, which would have blurred oddly.

  11. Thanks for the review, maybe your best ever as it was quite an enjoyable read. OTOH it was an easy one as apparently the Otus 85 is setting a new benchmark has no noteworthy flaws in image quality. Even the websize images show the “medium format” -style rendering when shooting at f1.4 and having a lot of cripsness. I really like the Queenstown picture — technically very demanding, but also shows an artistically interesting result.

    The combination of size and price is a pain though… lighter and it would go everywhere, less expensive and I wouldn’t mind having it sit in the closet part of the time. I’ll have to think about it… would be happy with something more like f2 and high quality. I actually like the look of the Zeiss 85/1.4 ZF a lot in the pictures I’ve seen, but am afraid that corners never really get sharp. Nikkors are ok, but don’t give the “oomph” that would be nice at any aperture.

  12. I’d love to learn more about your experience with the Zacuto pro finder should you ever feel inspired to write more about that product. One of my biggest problems with my DSLRs (and even worse with my Ricoh GR, which I like very much otherwise) is that to a large degree, I can’t really tell what I’ve shot until I see my images at home, on my computer’s screen.

    Also, thank you for this review and for your exceptional blog.

    • I probably will at some point – it’s rapidly becoming a core tool for me not just for focusing the Otuses, but also allowing hand held use of tilt shifts…

  13. Hi Ming…Really enjoyed your review and your site. I’m pretty heavily invested in Canon and I have the Otus 55 which will not mount to my Leica M9. This leads me to my question. You mentioned Leica “is still silly money”. I know you are busy, but could you elaborate on that statement? I’ve been thinking about either upgrading my M9 or selling it off with my lenses, which are all older non ASPH, etc., and look to another system. I would love to be able to use the Otus on my Mark III (which leads me to ask if this lens is overkill on a Mark III?) and a smaller camera also. Also, does it help if I order products from your links?
    THANKS SO MUCH!!!!!….Steve

    • You’re paying $7,000 for a 24MP camera that has a fundamental flaw in the way it focuses and no way of showing better than 80% of the frame if you use the core part of the design, or if not you get a frankencamera. They’re happy to charge $50+ for a lens cap. I don’t think that needs much further explanation.

      • Hi again…. I went back and read your review of the M9 and while you mentioned some things you would like to see changed, you still seemed to really like it a lot. What changed? Are there other systems you would suggest that I look at? I’m not a Leica “fanboy” but I do like my M9 for size and what it will produce when the conditions are right. However, I know there are limitations. Just curious….and keeping an open mind and a watchful eye on what pops at Photokinia.

        THANKS!

  14. I’m curious to see a showdown between the 85mm Otus and the 75mm Leica Summicron M APO f/2…. on an A7R 🙂

    Given that they are in the same price range (around 4k) I would be curious to see which one is the better of the two.

    Granted the Otus is one stop faster and also monstrously bigger, the Leica should be on-par performance wise.

  15. Your View from Coronet Peak is frankly sensational. I think the clarity of this lens suits this subject matter and your style. You’ve already said you don’t shoot portraits, this focal length does appeal to those of us who do. I’m concerned that the rendering of this lens will be utterly brutal in portraiture. As I’m sure you know, in the cine business Zeiss Master Primes are considered clinical, sharp and a bit cool when compared with Cooke lenses which some rave about because of their softer transitions and skin tones. For me, the images invoke precision, definition and extreme clarity as well as gorgeous compositions.

    • Thanks. If you don’t want sharpness but still want the Zeiss drawing, then I’d suggest the regular ZF.2 1.4/85 Planar – I did have one of those and did use it for portraits, and it was very flattering (but not that sharp until stopped down quite a bit on the D800E).

  16. Ming, again another excellent review. But isn’t this len’s mission in life to create portraits with great skin tones and bokeh? The kind of shots of people or weddings or family shots that just leave you sitting by yourself with a big grin on your face with the microcontrast and Zeiss pop???

    • No. The purpose of a lens is to transmit your vision to the recording medium.

      • Chia-Ming Yang says:

        I totally agree. Some people may criticize some recently developed lenses due to “too clinical” or “without personality”. But in my opinion, these new lenses are much more like our eyes.

  17. Otus/645: Llyod Chambers shows the Otus 55 and ZF 135/2 both have image circles large enough for the 645Z (whether the resolution holds out that far …) but the back-focus is probably insufficient.

    The 100% crop of Queenstown at night: Clearly shows diffraction stars which suggests the aperture blades are relatively straight.That’s a little surprising on a lens like this since rounded apertures usually give nicer bokeh. Well rounded aperture blades don’t normally show diffraction stars until stopped further down.

    The price: seems high, but it’s in the same ballpark as used 58mm Noct-Nikkors or super-telephotos, so in that context it seems reasonable. Still too rich for my blood unfortunately.

    Size and weight: would this lens be “better” if it were 85/1.7 instead? Losing half a stop would make it smaller and lighter, with dimensions and filter size similar to the 55 Otus. It would certainly be easier to handle, cheaper, and easier to find filters for it.

    Wider and longer Otus: The best of the ZF/ZE range, such as the 35/1.4 and 135/2 are already of such high quality, I can’t imagine there is a need for an Otus version? Maybe they will skip 35 and do 28/1.4 instead? But that leaves gaps in the Otus line, which raises a question why there is a distinction between the ZF/ZE and Otus lines.

    • The 55 does not cover 44×33; the 135, barely. I disagree with the 35/1.4 being comparable; it simply isn’t. There’s far too much lateral CA for that.

      • Chia-Ming Yang says:

        To me, the significant longitudinal CA of 35/1.4 not only degraded the image quality a lot, but also caused difficult focusing. So I gave it up.

  18. Brilliant review, superb lens. The bar is definitely risen. Bad news is that I have bunch of old Zeiss glass…

  19. Philip Cross says:

    Thanks Ming. Thanks for showing us these transcending photographs and thanks for leaving me with a feeling that i should afford things that i shouldn’t afford. P.s how many dem’ ‘Forest III’s’ still available?

    • No problem. Three Forest IIIs left as of this morning – proving more popular than I exported. Every time a group of people sees it, there’s an order…

      • Philip Cross says:

        Oh.. Well Congrats mate. If i had financial ability at the time i would of purchased one. All the best.

        • Philip Cross says:

          I apologize. I misread your reply (thought they were all gone) and also neglected to thank you for your reply. Wow that’s great news!.. but they are going fast and i still can’t buy one for 4 weeks… I’m not sure if I’ve any hope? I will just have to wait and ask again in said time. Sorry for taking up yours. kind regards.

  20. Ming, as always, your reviews are excellent. But in my mind, I look at your photos and I immediately want to see the same photo using the venerable Zeiss Apochromatic lens in 135mm. As you know, both have the great ability to make the true colors synchronize at the same spot on the sensor, called the Zeiss Magical pop on top of a creamy bokeh. This is usually found on upper body shots with a light muddled background ten or more feet behind with sun peering through. But we have to wait for you to shoot this. Both the Nikon 85mm G and the Zeiss 135mm APO are rated one of the top seven lens ever made in the history of man. This Zeiss 85mm seems ready to join in at the number one position on the DXOMark list. But I don’t see skin tone resolution, bokeh creamery, and your usual street shots. I must be patient! Please do not make use wait too long.

  21. What brilliant set of images presented – for a review! Amazing.

  22. Dirk De Paepe says:

    You’re probably one of the greatest Zeiss enthousiasts on the planet, Ming. And at the same time one of their most fiercely critics! A pretty remarkable combination. Anyway, it only makes your opinion the more interesting to read, the more valuable. BTW impressive pictures! Even better than the 55! I didn’t see that one coming! I totally get that the focusing at f/1.4 must be a real task – I know how it already demands the greatest care with the 55…! Not being a native English speaker, I have to say that I didn’t quite understand your explenation about how you “solve this problem” with The 85. But I guess that I will get it later on. For now I will stick to “only one” Otus anyway… 🙂
    Question 1. In a comment on your 55 Otus article, I mentioned my concern about the rubber grip. You said that you believed Zeiss wouldn’t leave us in the cold, should a problem appear. I have to say I’m a bit surpriced by what you write about your experience. So I hope you will report on any solution Zeiss comes up with…? Counting on you, Ming!
    Question 2. You mentioned a few times the cinematographic qualities of this 85 Otus. Wouldn’t it be a good idea if Zeiss would also apply the declick aperture function to Otus, as they do in the new Loxia line?

    • Focusing is solved by a LCD magnifier/ eyecup and live view. No news on rubber for the lens ring. And I suspect declicked aperture won’t be done because it will affect sales of their cine glass, but somebody will offer it sooner or later.

  23. Thanks for the review!
    I am curious to see a comparison shot between the Otus 85 and 55 showing the extra clarity and color transmission that you say the 85 has over the 55. Since I have the 55, just wondering if it is worth getting the 85 too or just use the 55 and zoom with my feet. 🙂
    The MTFs for the 55 are better than the 85 for infinity. There is no data for 55 at close distance.
    Is the 55 better for distance shooting and the 85 better for close portraits?

    • It’s a meaningless comparison because the angle of view and magnification will be totally different. My 85 appears better at infinity and close distance.

  24. As always a pleasure to see crispy sharp photos. How does this 85 compare to their 135 APO?
    Also, have you tested this lens on product / macro shots? Is the magnification ratio sufficient?

  25. How would you describe the way this lens draws? Sounds like it would make a serious astrophotography lens. Lots of gear lust here. I would love a 35 f1.4 Otus.

  26. A fascinating post, Ming, about a fascinating lens—and your photos are a delight.

    And yet, and yet…at a kilogram and the need for a tripod, it’s not for me. I did have a Canon (sorry!) 5DII, but it and the lenses were just so heavy to lug around.

    You and I clearly have a very different photographical philosophy; you seem to aiming for the ultimate quality in prints and lenses. I’m more in tune with the French Impressionist (and neo-Impressionist) painters; so I have a Leica M240 and a Monochrome, and a selection of (mostly) rather ancient lenses. I’ve never quite understood why, if I have an f:1.4 lens, I would use it at less than full aperture. I don’t have anything faster than f:2.5, and I appreciate the size and weight. Horses for courses, I suppose.

    And even if this Zeiss has perfect colour rendition—and I really am impressed, well, colour is entirely fictive, isn’t it?

  27. Excellent review Ming, I like otus so much.
    But why you never talked about sigma art before, can you tell us what you think about sigma art.

  28. I think the Nebula in your unidentified star picture is the Carinae Nebula, NGC 3372, which surrounds one of the largest brightest stars in our Milky Way Galaxy. See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carina_Nebula Nearby are several star clusters, which is why there is such a high star density. You could probably process the image with a redder color balance and increase the saturation slightly to bring out the nebula better. There is an example on the Wikipedia page with enhanced reds shot by Babak Tafreshi at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carina_Nebula#mediaviewer/File:One_Picture,_Many_Stories.jpg. Your image is oriented about 175˚ (upside down) relative to the one by Tafreshi.

    • Thanks!

      • You are welcome. My friend Ward, a fellow North Carolina School of Science and Math alumnus, is an astronomy enthusiast, and he thinks it’s Eta Carinae Nebula too. He saw it on a stargazing trip to New Zealand. But we can’t see it in the northern parts of the Northern Hemisphere (not that I can see much astronomy in Boston with its light pollution). I have to go to farther up the coast to Maine to get decent stars. The Milky Way was gorgeous in Maine on a few clear nights in August during our holiday there.

    • I was thinking the same…..that or one of the magellanic clouds? Ming what hemisphere are you in?

  29. Now old Pentax A*85 1.4 seams cheep and affordable.

  30. Awesome review, as usual. What an epic lens. I love my Nikon 85 f/1.8, can’t imagine how epic the Otus would be.

    One comment on the “Tree and Mountain” shot: I believe the blur in the stars is motion, not focus. At a 20 second exposure, anything but the very widest lenses will show star trails.

    • Thank you. All other lenses appear to have a thin veil of something (probably flare, or loss in transmission) by contrast.

      The blur is both – focus AND stars in motion. The mountain range is clearly out of focus compared to the tree, as are the stars. As I said – lack of aberrations of any kind combined with the resolving power of the D810 means that the 85 Otus can isolate at much greater distances than you might expect…

      • Not a surprise for those of us using D8xx or A7r bodies. *ALL* lenses require both significantly more accurate focus than we are used to and reduces the apparent depth of field, on a 36mp sensor.

  31. Are you going to print out that picture “Even horses feel cold sometimes”. I am thinking about buying a large print.

    • I’ve already printed that one as a 10×15″ Ultraprint for my own curiosity; individual hairs on the head of the horse are resolved at that size (though you’ll need a loupe to see them in the print). It’s certainly available as a print but not a limited edition. I can offer sizes up to 10×15″ as an Ultraprint – if you would like one, please let me know what size and send me a message with your details here. Thanks!

  32. Wow – how big do you suppose you could ultraprint these landscape photos?

    • We’re still limited by the total number of pixels; we top out at 10×15″ for the D810 (assuming no stitching). Forest III is stitched from 11 D810/Otus 85 images, and is 40×15″ 🙂

      • Cool! Out of curiosity, since you’re stitching anyway, could you take a cheap lens (say $400) and just stitch more images together for added resolution? I mean, does that work, or do you inherently need the best glass and the best sensor to do that? In a manner similar to the Brenizer method?

        • Theoretically yes, but the cheap lens will not have the same degree of microcontrast or colour transmission – which you can’t solve by downsampling. It also may have more distortion and other aberrations which would make stitching both nightmarish and seam lines obvious.

  33. Tom Hudgins says:

    My experience with the 55 Otus has had me lusting for a wide angle…maybe the 21mm revisited? I also enjoy Zeiss birdwatching. Will the Loxia soar as high as the Otus given it’s smaller size? The heft of the 85 Otus! — Can you imagine a raptor-sized equivalent for your Pentax 645Z? Question: You mentioned mirror calibration as one of the critical aspects of focusing. Is this an adjustment you perform yourself or send to Nikon? Thanks as always for your timely and informative review.

    • I’d love a 21mm with shift for architectural work. As for Loxias – they’re ZM designs with new native mounts, so probably not – even though the 2/50 ZM and 2/35 ZM are excellent lenses, they weren’t designed for digital.

      Otus/645 – I’d settle for f2 🙂

      Mirror alignment: I do it myself, Nikon service frankly has no clue. That said, even with perfect alignment and a custom focusing screen, I still cannot accurately hit critical focus below f2-2.8 consistently – so I’m now using a Zacuto cine finder on live view, which is SIGNIFICANTLY better.

  34. Chia-Ming Yang says:

    Although just a little, I’m sure the Otus 55 still has minor focus breathing.

    • It’s difficult to tell precisely because the borders do go out of focus, but in my experience it does not (and I was told it was designed not to).

      • Chia-Ming Yang says:

        It could be better detected if you put a contrasty subject again the background at the frame edge. I just did an experiment and it showed the angle of view of Otus 55 went slightly narrower when you focused nearer. But yes, it is much better than all other lenses I’ve ever used.

  35. I don’t really care about the lens since I’m one of those in whom its potential would be wasted, but I only wanted to say that your pictures in this post are mesmerizing. Some of your best landscape shots, I would say! It encourages me to try this focal length in my next nature outing instead of the usual wide angle!

  36. Ming, I’ve also noticed the same as you with my 55 – the focus grip material seems as if it is loosing it’s tactility. A ribbed grip would have made more sense, especially considering the price.

  37. Big is an understatement for this lens. Very sharp images.

  38. John weeks says:

    Fantastic images….and your summary clearly let’s me know that for the time being at least, and until a time willing to dedicate the system and resources needed, it’s not for me. Thank goodness because my wife would not be pleased…still have my eye on a Zeiss 25 Nikon mount ZF2 that’s laying unclaimed in a shop with a heavy price reduction.

  39. Michiel953 says:

    Very informative (and far out my reach, both financially and physically… 😉 ). This lens (as will the 55) will test the difference between the 800E and the 810; did you notice that difference?

    Many thanks,

    Michiel

    • No, I wouldn’t pick between the 800 and 810 on image quality – they’re much the same, in the end. But AF, LV, shutter mechanism are significantly better on the 810 – and that improves accessibility to that image quality by a bit.

  40. Great review, as usual, thanks Ming! One question: How does it compare to the 2/135 Apo Planar?

    • Better – there’s just an extra degree of clarity that the 2/135 has, but not til 4 or so. That said, we’re really splitting hairs (perhaps on that horse) here.

  41. The nebula is the Eta Carina nebula also known as NGC 3372.

    Nice review as always Ming

    Dave (astrophotographer from Dunedin NZ)

  42. Great review, Ming. Zeiss made the right decision handing it to you (their unofficial spokesperson :P)

  43. Waiting for the Otus Boxed Set – 55, 85 and (I hope) 24…then it’s goodbye kidney! Tree & Mountain and Even Horses are my favourites, but the entire set is phenomenal.

    If only there was a stabilised body with a high res EVF and focus peaking, and a sensor of the 810’s quality, to put it on. Come on Zeiss…give your buddies at Nikon a shove will ya?

  44. Thanks for your review, it is in a class of its own. And thanks for your honest sum up at the end. After using a 55mm Otus lately and reading your review I really must know what I want from photography: Otus-GAS got weaker luckily since I realized that the character of a lens is more attractive to me than perfectness. With the 55 I found to hold a masterpiece of craftsmanship my hands, and the pictures from the Otii are stunning in terms of technical standards, equally the color reproduction and most amazingly the details captured – but not really interesting in terms of art since the Otii deliver pure reality. Although, if the Otii were smaller, maybe f2.0 only and cheaper, I could easily change my mind…

    • Thanks – the colour reproduction and transparency is something few pick up on…

      And f2.8 + light is something I suggested – apparently the demand is not there, though…

  45. Ron Scubadiver says:

    Great review and photos. No Otus series lens is on my must have list due to MF, mass and cost. I will just have to make due with the (sub) $1,000 variety from brand N.

  46. The photos you shot with the 85mm Otus are really impressing. My compliments go to the photographer and to Zeiss. Did you use a tripod or shoot handheld? I’m asking myself,
    if ful advantage can be drawn of it without a tripod. Not because of the lenses weight, but its resolving power.

  47. With Otuses Zeiss may have elicited your metamorphosis to a hardcore landscape photographer. I would welcome this as 90% of contemporary landscape photographers appreciate PP more than nature.

    • I suspect this might be true…partially also because I’m a little tired of urbanscapes.

      As for PP – well, if it ain’t fundamentally there in camera, you can’t put it back afterwards. All you can do is improve the presentation.

  48. That last shot had me hypnotized for some reason.

  49. Woo! Tree and River was done with the 85 Otus! 🙂 Having seen some of the prints done with this lens, there is no way web images can do justice to this kind of image quality, except maybe 100% zooms, but then you’d be missing the forest for the trees, both figuratively and often literally. And having tried my own hand at printing, the fight is only half over when you’ve taken the picture and processed it. Printing that can show off this kind of quality is at least another two whole levels of difficulty.

    So is there any way to progressively build up to the kind of shot discipline and processing finesse necessary to make Ultraprints and exploit this kind of lens, or does one just jump into the deep-end head first? I’m not sure that I’m ready to get a D810 and its companion Otii … That’s really the only system that can output at this level, right?

  50. Crikey. You are quick. Your review must be the first in the world? Thanks for the review. Congrats for being treated as special by Zeiss. I can only drool now. I have the D810 & waiting for the Sigma 50mm Art. Ben.

  51. Strange, I once more get 404 errors when trying to look at your pics on Flickr. Time to move to a different system? Also, I don’t think that the Flickr downsampling algos do your pics any favour…

  52. Ming, I know you have done a side-by-side before – but with different lenses – but if you had your choice today of a D810 + 28/55/85 Otus ZF.2s (imagining your choice of 28 joining the stable), and a Leica S (or let’s imagine the CMOS one due out) with equivalent Summarits… and for some impossible reason prices were roughly equal (of course, they are not!), which would you go for?

    Lets forget pixel peeping for a moment – I imagine the S system would get you to your Ultraprint standard.

    Your praise of the 55 and 85 Otus lenses sets a bit of a benchmark. The main downside seems to be that focusing is difficult because a Nikon body has not yet been made that allows critical manual focus at the level of accuracy required to take advantage of these Otus lenses wide-ish to wide open, while the S ecosystem offers autofocus and weather sealing.

    I appreciate it is an unfair question – the price difference is in factors. But here, in September 2014, if you were going to build one system or the other from scratch, knowing what you know, from the perspective of YOUR photography, how would you view the choice?

    (Just curious).

    On a separate note, your photographs of my home province of Otago made me a little homesick!

    • The D810. Your S system tops out at ISO 400 usable, and they’re about equal in resolution. Not to mention live view.

      But, if the S magically developed the 645Z’s CMOS, and was the same price (yeah right!) then the S…

      As for focusing: I’m using live view and a Zacuto finder now. Problem solved 🙂

      • Not the Pentax 645z over the D810???? I am wondering……really??

        • I’m not sure I understand this comment. The resolving power of lenses matters, a lot. Pentax does not have lenses that can compete.

          • Sorry, yes you got it…..thx!!

            By the way awesome review…not just collected details about weight, size of the lens…..you already notice after the first lines/paragraph and immediately that your review is form a real photographer with his made experiences not just a “gear reviewer” reviewing lens……;)

            So now they can massacre the lens it has no AF, overpriced etc….;) as you mentioned…..

      • Well, Leica is rumoured to be releasing a new CMOS S at Photokina shortly. Let’s see. Putting price back into the equation it is still at least double the cost for a three lens + body kit however, and a $12,000 or so upgrade for each Leica S body v a $3,500 or so upgrade for each Nikon body, so even more expensive over time, depending on your upgrade policy. But given the S lenses seem to be the only competition for Otus right now, it remains a worthy comparison when discussing the bleeding edge (rather than sufficiency).

        Have you stuck the Zacuto onto the D810 (i.e. with adhesive to a body dedicated to this sort of critical focus work), or do you hold it over the rear LCD (presuming you can do such a thing) when you need it?

        (Sigh). Hopefully Nikon will catch up to the fact that the OVF’s focusing screen is now the weak link in the chain.

  53. Very nicely summed up at the end, Ming.

  54. I really like how you approached the NZ landscape. It is an area I have never visited but your photographs put it into a different light that what I am used to from other works. I really like it, fantastic rendering from the lens as well, I can only hope this continues to spur other manufactures to continue to step up with more high quality budget options like the sigma art series. Again wonderful imagery.

  55. Awesome review and photos Ming! Very nice that you have had it for two months.

  56. I’ve seen many, many high quality images for some time now and yet the 100% crop photos in this review literally made my jaw drop. There is no hiding, there is no downsizing to cover imperfections. It seems that it resolves more detail than my own eyes could, almost if I could change the focal length of my eyes or zoom into detail.

    Thank you for reviewing this Ming, bloody amazing.

  57. Thanks for the great and timely review, Ming. Really hope that Zeiss could solve the production issue like the 55 and get the products in our hands sooner. Waited for 4 months last year to get the 55…

  58. now we wait for the 24mm version.

  59. welp….that’s just some straight up gear lust provocation right there. i really need to avoid this stuff….ha!
    keep up the good work Ming.

Trackbacks

  1. […] shot mostly with a Olympus E-M5 II, Zeiss Otus 1.4/85, Zeiss ZM 1.4/35, and Canon […]

  2. […] special rendering, I think. The 85 Milvus uses almost the same optical formula as the incredible 85 Otus but minus one aspherical element and internal focusing. This change lowers chromatic aberration […]

  3. […] shot mostly with a Olympus E-M5 II, Zeiss Otus 1.4/85, Zeiss ZM 1.4/35, and Canon […]

  4. […] clipped in this image, making for a very natural tonal transition in the print) – cue the Otus 85 and […]

  5. […] Otus (B&H Amazon) 1.4/28 APO Distagon, 1.4/55 APO Distagon, 1.4/85 APO Planar. No picks here; you can’t better any of them in that focal length optically. The best of the […]

  6. […] series was shot with a Canon 5DSR and Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus or an Olympus E-M5 II and Zeiss 1.4/35 Distagon […]

  7. […] with a Nikon D810, D800E, 24-120/4 VR, 80-400/4.5-5.6 VR, Zeiss 2.8/21 Distagon, Zeiss 1.4/55 Otus, Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus, and Ricoh GR. Postprocessing was completed using the Monochrome Masterclass […]

  8. […] readers will know that I have reviewed the 1.4/55 and 1.4/85 Otii in the past, and have been impressed to the point they now serve as reference lenses for anything […]

  9. […] a Leica Q, D810/ 24-120VR, 5DSR/ 70-300L and one or two fast primes – perhaps the 40 STM and 85 Otus. With a tripod, is more than enough to a) provide redundancy in either a full Nikon or full Canon […]

  10. […] set was shot with a Nikon D810, Nikon 20/1.8G, 24-120/4 VR, Zeiss 1.4/55 and 1.4/85 Otuses and a Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar. Images were processed with Photoshop Workflow […]

  11. […] series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24 and 45mm PCE lenses, a Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus, a Voigtlander 180/4 APO Lanthar and processed with Photoshop Workflow […]

  12. […] series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24mm and 45mm PCEs, Zeiss Otus 1.4/85, and the Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar. Postprocessing using Photoshop Workflow II, of […]

  13. […] series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24 and 45 PCEs, the Zeiss Otus 85, and the Voigtlander 180 APO-Lanthar and post processed with Photoshop Workflow […]

  14. […] series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24/3.5 and 45/2.8 PCEs, the Zeiss 85 Otus and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar. A tripod is a must, it’s pretty dark in […]

  15. […] shot mostly with a Nikon D810 and the 24-120/4 VR, with additional contributions from the 24 PCE, 85 Otus and Voigtlander 180 APO and a Ricoh GR. I post processed using PS Workflow II and The Monochrome […]

  16. […] series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24/3.5 PCE, 24-120/4 VR, Zeiss Otus 85 and Voigtlander 180/4 APO and postprocessed with Photoshop Workflow […]

  17. […] series was shot with a Nikon D810, 24/3.5 PCE, AI 45/2.8 P, Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar lenses. Some images are stitched, all were processed withs PS […]

  18. […] for the sensor’s age – whilst I might need 1/250 to be comfortably stable^ with the D810 and Otus 85, I can shoot the E-M5II and 1.4/35 at 1/20s or less. I can also focus it consistently – I […]

  19. […] series was shot with a Nikon D810, D750, 24/3.5 PCE, 45/2.8P, Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar and processed with PS Workflow II; you can also travel […]

  20. […] adds depth, complexity and texture to a scene. These were shot in Chicago with a GR, 645Z, D810 and Otus 85 and processed with PS Workflow II. Enjoy! […]

  21. […] series was shot with a Nikon D810, Zeiss 1.4/55 and 1.4/85 Otuses, the 45 PCE, and mostly the AFS 24-120/4 VR. It was processed with PS Workflow […]

  22. […] power. I find myself using it with the PCEs (24, 45, 85) or apochromatics such as the Zeiss 55 or 85 Otuses, 2/135 APO Planar and Voigtlander 180/4 APO-Lanthar. Some of the Nikon zooms aren’t too bad, but […]

  23. […] follows is a distillation, shot with a Nikon D810, 24 and 45mm PCE lenses, 85 Otus, and 645Z with 55/2.8 SDM. Enjoy! […]

  24. […] aren’t carrying anything heavier or longer respectively. The short telephoto choice is either the 85 Otus (my preference, because it’s possibly the best lens I’ve ever used across the board) or the 90 […]

  25. […] series was shot with a Nikon D810, Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus APO-Planar, Pentax 645Z, 25, 55, 90 and 200mm […]

  26. […] with a Pentax 645Z, 55 and 150mm lenses, Nikon D810, 24 PCE, Zeiss Otus 1.4/85 and Ricoh […]

  27. […] was stitched from 59 Nikon D810/ Otus 85 images with approximately 1,500 manual control points, and represents a significant technical […]

  28. […] also a monochrome series that concentrates on texture and form. Both were shot with a Nikon D810, Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus, 24/3.5 PCE and Pentax 645Z with 55/2.8 and 150/3.5 lenses. The monochrome images were processed […]

  29. […] series was shot with a Ricoh GR, Pentax 645Z, and Nikon D810 with Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus APO-Planar. Files were processed with the techniques covered in Outstanding Images 5: processing for style and […]

  30. […] This series shot with a Ricoh GR, Pentax 645Z, 55/2.8 SDM and 200/4 FA lenses, Nikon D810 and Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus APO-Planar. […]

  31. […] series was shot with a D810, Zeiss 1.4/85 Otus APO-Planar, Pentax 645Z and 55/2.8 […]

  32. […] Granger, Ming Thein and Jorge Torralba has posted their reviews for the high-quality Otus 85mm f/1.4 lens for […]

  33. […] The big news is of course the Otus 1.4/85, which I’ve reviewed already here. Together with the 55, the Otus line really sets a new benchmark for lenses; both in image quality, […]

  34. […] a review, the quality look amazingly […]

  35. […] of image samples including RAW files can be downloaded on his page: mattgranger.com/otus85mm. Ming Thein alss posted his Zeiss review and indirectly explains also why this lens is best used on the Sony A7 […]

  36. […] Re: Otus 85mm, everything is wrong Ming Thein sums it up very nicely: "However, note that it’s not a lens for everybody: dedication to technique and vision are required to extract the most from it. Then there’s the cost and size/weight issue: I’m sure many keystrokes will be wasted to explaining why alternative X at $1000 is better. It may well be comparable if you get a good sample and stop down a bit, or don’t print and only view online; but a big part of the reason why the Otuses (Otii?) are so expensive is because of Zeiss’ QC procedures. I have used half a dozen Otus 55s and two Otus 85s for various reasons and from various batches/ owners – they are all, as far as I can tell, identical in delivering the same extremely high performance. This is not a trivial achievement: any of you who can shoot to the level of maximising everything out of your equipment and have tested more than one sample of a lens will know that consistency is almost impossible to achieve. I have never personally seen any other brand with this level of consistency. If you cannot see the difference (and no web image is going to do it justice; full resolution on a high grade monitor as a minimum, a print ideally), then don’t bother – buy a cheaper AF alternative and not have to deal with manual focus. Extremely shallow depth of field wide open plus that beautifully crisp transition between in and out of focus areas makes achieving critical focus both necessary (missed focus is obvious) and challenging; beyond that, if you don’t have a camera that can make full use of the resolving power and color rendition of the lens, or the skill to deploy all of that potential, it’s somewhat wasted. I honestly feel that the lens still has more to give – but we don’t have the sensors for it yet. I suppose that’s future-proofing. My accountant is already making unhappy noises, but personally, I can’t wait for the next Otus…MT" Here's his review: Lens review: The Zeiss ZF.2 1.4/85 Otus APO-Planar […]

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