First Impressions: Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus Distagon T* Lens (Nikon ZF.2)

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This year at Photo Plus 2013 Zeiss had the 55mm f/1.4 Otus Distagon T* Lens for Nikon available for testing. This is no ordinary lens mind you. The Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 is meant for full frame cameras like the Nikon D800 and takes full advantage of its uncanny pixel count–and from what we’re seeing so far it seems to be out-resolving the sensor. In essence this lens is a beautiful beast. Last year we got out hands on a pre production model and we could not take any photos with it. It was incredible then. This year we got our hands on a working model and well, it was amazing.

Lets see why.

Tech Specs

From B&H

  • For Nikon F Mount DSLR Cameras
  • Optimized for Full-Frame Camera Sensors
  • f/1.4 – f/16 Aperture Range
  • Zeiss T* Anti-Reflective Lens Coating
  • Floating Elements Design
  • All-Metal Lens Housing
  • Manual Focus, 20″ Close Focus Distance
  • 77mm Filter Thread
  • Highly Visible Yellow Scale Markings

Ergonomics

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The Front Element is larger than your average at 50 or 55mm lens. The Lens thread is 77mm . There is a lens hood available which actually makes the lens look more refined. It was not out at the time.

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The focus ring is now rubberized like the Touit lenses. It feels much better than the average manual focus ring. It has a comfortable grip and not cold to the touch.

Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus  DSC_0076

The ZF.2 has an Aperture ring so it can be used on film cameras as well. The lens also has an easily read distance scale.

Build Quality

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D90 Sample, Straight off camera no editing

The build quality of the Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus Distagon is marvelous. The engineering is well thought out. Zeiss have improved the ergonomics of their lenses with one of the biggest improvements being the rubber grip on the focus. Making the lens a lot less miserable in the cold to focus. The Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus Distagon is not the lightest of lenses. In true Zeiss form this lens is mostly made of metal and glass. There is an aperture ring on this version of the lens.The ZE version does not have and aperture ring. This lens overall is extremely well constructed.

Focus

D90 Sample, Straight off camera no editing

D90 Sample, Straight off camera no editing

The Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus Distagon is a manual focus lens. The movement smooth and precise. To get anything in focus, you’ll need to use focus confirmation.

Ease of Use

D90 Sample, Straight off camera no editing

D90 Sample, Straight off camera no editing

The Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus Distagon is extremely easy to use. The lens does not get in the way of itself. It outwardly simple and clean.

Image Quality

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I first tested this lens on a Nikon D90. This lens is overkill for this camera nevertheless the test had to be done. The thing is the D90’s sensor can not take full advantage of the lens. However the image quality is wonderful. The bokeh is smooth, the colors are crisp and the focus point is sharp

Straight off Camera, no editing

D800Sample Straight off Camera, no editing

When the Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus Distagon is place on a D800 , a towel mad be needed. The quality of the image just goes through to the moon. The colors pop, the bokeh goes from just being smooth to ultra refined and creamy. Everything just comes together so nicely. We could only work with the lens on the show floor , however that was enough to get a good feel for the lens.

Another D800 Sample

Another D800 Sample

First Impressions

Another D800 Sample

Another D800 Sample

Another D800 Sample

Another D800 Sample

This lens is expensive, Very expensive. When you compare the image created with the Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus Distagon on a Nikon 800 the price can be justified. If your compare this set up along side a medium format camera. It is FAR cheaper. The image quality is comparable. It is nice to know a quality lens like this can be made. When talking to the Zeiss Rep, it was explained that, in the development of this lens they decided to throw caution to the wind, combine much the knowledge found in their company , and create this product. While it is definitely not for everyone it does bring people closer to creating medium format quality images. At its cost this lens, the Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus Distagon will not make you a better photographer. But a seasoned photographer will be able to produce amazing things with it.

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Gevon Servo

Gevon Servo aka @GServo is an eclectic, NJ/NY Photographer. He’s a Nikon shooter, by choice nevertheless, will always test any piece of photography equipment. He believes that like ‘Photography’, ‘Coffee’,’Beer’ and ‘Comics Books’ and other things ‘Geek’ “You must try everything once to discover what you want to try again.