Review: Zeiss Milvus 35mm f2 (Canon EF)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens product images (1 of 4)ISO 4001-180 sec at f - 2.8

When it comes to lenses, one of the most legendary lens manufacturers is Zeiss. Most recently, the company announced its brand new Milvus lineup of lenses that are designed for DSLR cameras. The Milvus line falls between the standard DSLR lens lineup and the creme de la creme: Otus lenses. As a result, these lenses are weather sealed, well constructed and exhibit the best of what I’d always expect from Zeiss.

So when the Zeiss Milvus 35mm f2 first came to me, I was a bit confused. Why f2? Why couldn’t they go all the way to f1.4? It made no real sense to me, though I decided to just roll with it.

And as I found during the testing period, it’s quite the beautiful lens despite its very high price tag.

Pros and Cons

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens review photos (6 of 16)ISO 1001-320 sec at f - 4.5

Pros

  • Great image quality
  • The Zeiss color rendition that I really love
  • Pretty much technically perfect
  • Weather sealing
  • Not too large of a lens
  • Smooth focusing

Cons

  • Too high of a price tag
  • Some may obviously complain about autofocusing. But this lens isn’t really designed for quick action. However, a photographer that is a master of zone focusing won’t have a problem doing it here. It’s not a lens designed for an amateur.

Gear Used

We used the Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens with the Canon 6D.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the B&H Photo listing of the lens.

Performance
Focal Length 35mm
Aperture Maximum: f/2
Minimum: f/22
Camera Mount Type Canon EF
Format Compatibility 35mm Film / Full-Frame Digital Sensor
Angle of View 62°
Minimum Focus Distance 11.81″ (30 cm)
Maximum Reproduction Ratio 1:5.3
Elements/Groups 9/7
Features
Autofocus No
Physical
Filter Thread Front: 58 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 3.03 x 3.27″ (77 x 83 mm)
Weight 1.54 lb (702 g)

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens product images (3 of 4)ISO 4001-180 sec at f - 2.8

The Zeiss Milvus 35mm f2 is a lens that looks a lot like an Otus lens, but isn’t. Zeiss’s rubber ring formula that was originally introduced with the Touit lenses have come here. The exterior is metal and so is the lens hood that you’ll use.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens product images (4 of 4)ISO 4001-180 sec at f - 2.8

This lens has no switches of any sort and the only control that you’re going to worry about is the focusing ring. Since this is a manual focusing lens, Zeiss also put a depth of field scale and a distance scale.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens product images (2 of 4)ISO 4001-180 sec at f - 2.8

The front of the lens has a 58mm filter thread just in case you want to mount something there.

Build Quality

Considering that this lens is weather sealed internally and around the base where the bayonet meets the camera, you can be very well assured that the Zeiss Milvus 35mm f2 is a solid lens. The exterior is metal and the rubber ring for focusing feels a bit more grippy than before. However, we’d prefer if there were grooves to make focusing even easier.

Ease of Use

This isn’t a lens for the amateur.

You’ll mount it onto the camera and manually focus the way photographers used to do years ago. If you’re all set with the zone focusing method, then you’ll have no problems. Otherwise, good luck. If you’re one of those photographers that hates on Zeiss because there is no autofocus, then get over it unless you genuinely need autofocus. But if you’re a photographer who doesn’t absolutely need it for your work, this may be a great option.

Focusing

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens review photos (16 of 16)ISO 4001-40 sec at f - 2.0

Focusing this lens is done manually. For Canon, you’ll need to focus back and forth while holding down the AF button until a point blinks red. For Nikon, you’ve got the Nikon rangefinder system. I prefer the latter personally, but also consider Live view.

Image Quality

When you work with Zeiss lenses, you come to expect certain things. First off is manual focusing in many cases, and in most cases it’s all about the great build quality. But you’ll also love the image quality. For years, there are photographers who loved Zeiss glass more than Canon and Nikon’s own offerings and this new lineup of Milvus lenses is making that a reality once again.

The Zeiss Milvus 35mm f2 is incredibly sharp, has almost Sigma like contrast and saturation, great bokeh and very little issues otherwise. However, if you’re a stickler for it, you’ll find purple fringing but it surely is easily removed in post-production.

Sharpness

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens review photos (8 of 16)ISO 1001-125 sec at f - 4.5

The 35mm f2 is very sharp wide open, but once stopped down to f5.6 or f8 you’ll really fall in love with the sharpness. This lens exhibits almost as much sharpness as the Sigma 35mm f1.4 and the Sony 35mm f1.4, but with images right out of the camera it still isn’t totally there.

If you’re a Zeiss user, you’ll realize something is missing here: micro-contrast. Yes, something that we knew very well from the company isn’t here at all in this lens. It’s quite sad.

Bokeh

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens review photos (2 of 16)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.2

What you’ll really want this lens for is the bokeh. In my personal opinion, the bokeh is nicer than that of the Sigma 35mm f1.4, Tamron 35mm f1.8, and the Sony 35mm f1.4 at equivalent stops. It’s very creamy. Of course, all of those lenses can open up much wider–so at those points they clearly have the advantage.

Color Rendition

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens review photos (3 of 16)ISO 4001-80 sec at f - 2.2

What I often miss every time I get a Zeiss lens in for review is the color. I felt this way about the Batis lenses and then needed to send them back. They’re just so much better than everyone else and again, the only companies coming close are Sigma, Fujifilm, Sony, and Tamron.

Color Fringing

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens review photos (7 of 16)ISO 1001-125 sec at f - 4.5

See that top left corner? Yup, it’s there. It’s easily removed in Lightroom, but it’s still there.

Extra Image Samples

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens review photos (1 of 16)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 2.2

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens review photos (5 of 16)ISO 1001-320 sec at f - 2.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens review photos (9 of 16)ISO 1001-640 sec at f - 2.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens review photos (10 of 16)ISO 1001-640 sec at f - 2.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens review photos (11 of 16)ISO 1001-640 sec at f - 2.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens review photos (12 of 16)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens review photos (13 of 16)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens review photos (15 of 16)ISO 1001-800 sec at f - 2.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens review photos (14 of 16)ISO 1001-400 sec at f - 2.0

Conclusions

Likes

  • Great colors
  • Sharp performance
  • Weather sealing

Dislikes

  • I’d personally love f1.4 instead of f2
  • Nowhere as much Micro Contrast as other Zeiss lenses

The Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens is really nice, but it’s also very expensive. You’ll get excellent image quality, weather sealing, Zeiss colors, Zeiss sharpness and only a bit of fringing that can be eliminated. It also controls distortion well. However, with autofocus on the Tamron 35mm f1.8 along with weather sealing, better sharpness and image quality overall on the Sigma 35mm f1.4, and with both lenses having a more affordable price, it’s a very tough sell.

three-Phoblographer-Star-rating

 

We award the Zeiss 35mm f2 Milvus lens three out of five stars. You’ll get great image quality, but the price just turns us off. If you’re interested in one, check the B&H Photo listing for more.

Recommended Cameras

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Nikon D810 first impressions product images (6 of 8)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 3.2

Nikon D810: Combining great image quality potential with resolution and high ISO results, this camera’s rangefinder system will ensure that you have the most accurate focusing.