Review: Zeiss 25mm f1.4 Milvus (Canon EF)

The Zeiss 25mm f1.4 Milvus Lens is a great lens for sure, but do you need one?

When Zeiss announced their Zeiss 25mm f1.4 Milvus lens, I was surely excited. But at the same time, a part of me considers this a focal length I’m not too sure about. It’s not a 24mm, it’s not a 28mm, and it isn’t their fantastic 35mm f1.4. In some ways I wish it were a 28mm, or that Zeiss went wide to a 21mm. Instead, it’s somewhere in the awkward middle. That doesn’t make the 25mm f1.4 Milvus lens a bad lens. In fact, I think it’s better than most 24mm or 25mm lenses on the market. But then you need to consider the price point–which is really high. However, you’re getting a solid lens with a metal body, weather sealing, some of the absolute best optics currently on the market, good color, versatility for both video and stills, and a guaranteed lifespan of more than what’s currently on the market.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Class leading image quality
  • Great colors and skin tones
  • Bokeh is gorgeous
  • So, incredibly sharp.
  • Weather sealing
  • Metal body

Cons

  • Comparatively not that expensive, but still pricey.

Gear Used

We tested the Zeiss 25mm f1.4 Milvus lens with the Canon 6D and Canon 6D Mk II.

Tech Specs

Specs for the Zeiss 25mm f1.4 Milvus lens taken from Zeiss website

Performance Focal length 25 mm
Aperture range f/1.4 – f/16
Camera mount Canon EF-Mount* (ZE) | Nikon F-Mount* (ZF.2)
Format compatibility Full Frame
Focusing range 0,25 m (9.93″) – ∞
Free working distance 0,09 m (3.66″) – ∞
Angular field** (diag. | horiz. | vert.) 81° / 71° / 50°
Diameter of image field 43 mm (1.69″)
Coverage at close range (MOD)** 171 x 112 mm (6.72 x 4.41″)
Image ratio at minimum object distance 1 : 4.6
Lens elements | groups 15 / 13
Flange focal distance ZE: 44 mm (1.73″) | ZF.2: 46 mm (1.83″)
Entrance pupil position (front of image plane) 127 mm (5.00″)
Features Autofocus
Image Stabilization
Physical Filter thread M82 x 0.75
Rotation angle of focusing ring 172°
Diameter max. ZE: 95 mm (3.75″) | ZF.2: 95 mm (3.75″)
Diameter of focusing ring ZE: 83 mm (3.25″) | ZF.2: 83 mm (3.25″)
Length (with lens caps) ZE: 140 mm (5.52″) | ZF.2: 138 mm (5.43″)
Length (without lens caps) ZE: 123 mm (4.82″) | ZF.2: 123 mm (4.85″)
Weight ZE: 1225 g (43.20 oz) | ZF.2: 1171 g (41.30 oz)

Ergonomics

The Zeiss 25mm f1.4 Milvus is just like many of the other Zeiss Milvus lenses. It is characterized by a big metal body and a big rubber ring. That’s pretty much about it – no switches – nothing else.

The front of the lens has a massive 82mm filter thread; so keep that in mind. Luckily, the lens hood also comes off.

The only other thing you’ll want to remember is the distance scale and the focusing/depth of field scale. It’s effective and it works. Of course, it needs to because this is a Zeiss lens and a manual focus one at that.

Build Quality

The Zeiss 25mm f1.4 Milvus has a metal build to the body. It’s all metal on the outside and the giant rubber ring still doesn’t have any sort of real grip but it’s still pretty good. Then there’s the weather sealing. On the back of the Zeiss 25mm f1.4 Milvus you can spot this blue rubber ring that completes the sealing with the camera.

Oh yeah, it also survived one hell of a rainstorm here in NYC. Most people wouldn’t do this with their lenses. Of course, I’m the exception.

Ease of Use

Zeiss’ lenses haven’t always been the most simple to work with. This isn’t a manual focus optic and so you’ll need to either carefully focus until you see the confirmation or you’ll need to zone focus. If you can do either of those, then you’re all set. Zone focusing with a lens like this is honestly the way to go.

Focusing

The Zeiss 25mm f1.4 Milvus is a manual focus lens. It is buttery smooth and accurate. Given the focal length, it will most likely be used not only by video shooters but also by photographers who need to create a scene rather than capture one. Pair this lens with the Nikon D850 or the Canon 5DSR and you’ll get a great option for landscapes, architecture, etc. You’ll more or less be zone focusing so that also means you can use it for street photography. But to be fair, I probably wouldn’t spend over $2,000 to shoot with this lens for street photography. On the other hand, f I were a professional travel photographer, I’d know this lens would probably outlive my camera by years.

Image Quality

When it comes to image quality, there really isn’t a whole lot to be said except – it’s fantastic! The bokeh? Class leading. The sharpness? Class leading. The colors? Oh man, they put Canon lenses to shame. And it makes chromatic aberration an absolute thing of the past. There isn’t a single thing to complain about when it comes to the image quality.

Bokeh

When you look at the bokeh from the Zeiss 25mm f1.4 Milvus, you’ll be honestly quite amazed. There aren’t many lenses that have a gorgeous bokeh like this and that can also focus to just under a foot away. In real life applications, you really can’t go wrong. To get the best bokeh, shoot wide open and focus closely. Be sure to get accurate focusing too.

Chromatic Aberration

There is none, move on.

No, really. It’s a thing of the past. Of course there is some distortion but it isn’t anything to really cry about.

Color Rendition

What I really like about the Zeiss 25mm f1.4 Milvus is that, when combined with good white balancing techniques, the colors can be almost film-like. Indeed, it can make the output from an old Canon DSLR sing like it never has. Canon’s own lenses don’t really do that, but Zeiss does. Think medium format film in a 35mm sensor.

Here’s more of that gorgeous color. Seriously? How do you beat that?! Canon and Nikon can’t right out of camera, that’s for sure.

Sharpness

Do we really need to talk about this? The sharpness here is unlike anything else. Nothing comparable can touch it; and perhaps that’s why it’s at the price point it is. I can only imagine how sharp it would be on a higher end sensor.

Extra Image Samples

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Conclusions

Likes

  • Pretty much everything

Dislikes

  • Price

It makes absolute sense that the Zeiss 25mm f1.4 Milvus would win our Editor’s Choice award. It is incredibly sharp, has top of the line build quality, feels great in the hand, and is the absolute best at everything you throw at it. But when you really consider this lens, you have to think about who would buy it, and that’s where I’m not sure. Lots of professional photographers find their 24-70mm lenses to be good enough, but the fact his lens goes to f1.4 gives you a whole lot more light gathering abilities when doing stuff like star trails, landscapes, etc. At the same time, many of those photographers just shoot for the web and don’t have a need to print. If you were printing, this lens would be an absolute no brainer. It’s a high price tag, but this lens absolutely deserves it.

The Zeiss 25mm f1.4 Milvus wins our Editor’s Choice award and five out of five stars.