The Heartbreaking Disaster of Zeiss Lenses and How It Happened

Let’s be very honest here, Zeiss lenses are fantastic. They’re capable in every single way. For years, they also had some of the best image quality you could ever get from a lens. Zeiss lenses were available for Canon EF, Nikon F, Sony E, Leica-M, and Fujifilm X cameras. But they quietly disappeared from the photo industry with more of a focus on cinema. So what happened? Well, I’d like to relay what I’ve seen in my 12 years of journalism and covering the Zeiss company.

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The Zeiss Otus 28mm f1.4 is Their Sharpest Wide Angle Lens

ZEISS Otus 1.4/28 for sophisticated fans of wide-angle lenses.

ZEISS Otus 1.4/28 for sophisticated fans of wide-angle lenses.

Just in time for Photo Plus East 2015, Zeiss is announcing their newest addition to the Otus lineup of lenses. The new 28mm f1.4 is very much like all the rest and shares features such as an all metal body construction, a giant rubber focusing ring, and being available for only Canon and Nikon mount DSLRs.

To deliver that Otus quality, the lens uses 16 elements in 13 groups; but it also seems to have another interesting addition:

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Eight Beautiful 50mm Lenses for Portraits

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Milvus lens review product images (6 of 8)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 4.0

While the 85mm lens is very popular amongst the portrait photography community, some folks prefer to reach for the 50mm focal length. Some do this because they use an APS-C sensor camera while others just genuinely prefer the wider field of view. In general though, we’ve tested this and much prefer the 85mm focal length.

Based on requests and searches on our site, we decided to search our Reviews Index and round up some of our favorite 50mm lenses for portrait photography. Each one has a pull quote from our reviews along with a sample image. For the absolute best results with any lens though, work with the color channels in Lightroom.

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Eight Fantastic 85mm Lenses for Portrait Photographers

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss Rokinon Sigma 85mm f1.4 three way comparison (1 of 3)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 3.5

The 85mm lens–it’s a classic and one of the most popular focal lengths for portrait photographers. This focal length is highly valued for many reasons–but above all else it compresses the view of the portrait subject just enough to render them flattering while allowing the photographer to maintain a close, intimate proximity to the subject. Beyond this, everyone loves bokeh and focal lengths like this offer lots of it.

We’ve scoured our Reviews Index to find and compile some of our favorite 85mm lenses just for you and have also included sample images from each of our reviews.

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A Zeiss Otus 28mm Lens Could Debut Next Month

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus product images review (3 of 7)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.0

Zeiss has already announced their 55mm f1.4 and 85mm f1.4 Otus lenses; and now the word on the internet is that we’re going to see another one around Photo Plus 2015. According to Sony Alpha Rumors, we should be seeing a new 28mm Otus lens–which is a very interesting choice. We expected to see a 35mm, 24mm, or 135mm lens of some sort–but 28mm is also a viable choice. The reason why this makes so much sense is because there aren’t many 28mm lens offerings for DSLR cameras–the most recent would be Nikon’s f1.8 option, though the mirrorless world has the excellent Sony 28mm f2.


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Photographer Compares the RX100 to the 85mm f1.4 Otus

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus product images review (3 of 7)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.0

All images by Mike Randolph of the Travel Photography Blog. Used with permission.

Sometimes we see some incredibly crazy comparisons between products. But the most crazy one that we’ve seen thus far has to be the most recent one by Mike Randolph. He dared to put the aging Sony RX100 against the brand new Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus mounted on the Sony A7r. Seems crazy, right? I mean, the the RX100 vs 85mm f1.4 Otus doesn’t really make sense.

For starters, the RX100 has a fixed zoom lens and a 1 inch sensor while the A7r has a full frame sensor with more megapixels and arguably the best 85mm lens attached to it. And the results? Well, they’d surprise you.

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Which One? Zeiss 85mm f1.4 vs Sigma 85mm f1.4 vs Rokinon 85mm f1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss Rokinon Sigma 85mm f1.4 three way comparison (1 of 3)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 3.5

With Zeiss’s new 85mm f1.4 Otus reviewed, we took it upon ourselves to do an informal comparison of two of its biggest and closest competitors: the Rokinon 85mm f1.4 and the Sigma 85mm f1.4. Now granted, neither of these lenses are said to be targeted at the higher end photographer. But with Sigma’s offering being a couple of years old and Rokinon’s not being so old either, we decided that it would be great to see just how the three perform against one another.

Editor’s Note: Again we are saying that this is an informal comparison to see how the three stack up against one another. We’d like to remind our readers though that each offering is pretty darn solid, but if anything this is more of a measure of how the technology has progressed.

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DxOMark States that the Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus is the Best Portrait Lens Yet

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus product images review (2 of 7)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.0

DxOMark recently finished their evaluation of the Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus lens in the labs. And according to them, it’s the best performing 85mm lens that they’ve tested. Indeed, with a $4,490 price tag we would expect the same thing. According to them, the two Otus lenses perform just as well as the company’s 135mm f2 on Canon DSLRs. But when it comes to Nikon DSLRs, the 55mm Otus slightly edged out the 85mm. Additionally, it outperforms any other 85mm lens out there–which only makes sense given the high end audience that this lens was designed for.

The company’s finding reaffirm ours in our real world test of the Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus. We found the 55mm to be slightly sharper and also found the bokeh on the 135mm f2 to be better. Granted that’s a longer focal length.

Head on over to our full review of the Otus for more.

Review: Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus (Nikon F)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus product images review (1 of 7)ISO 4001-125 sec at f - 2.0

For a couple of weeks now, we’ve been testing the Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus lens on the Nikon D810. We’ve teased some images on our Instagram and got you guys excited about what it might be. Indeed, the mystery lens was the Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus. Recently announced in time for Photokina 2014, the 85mm f1.4 Otus is the company’s entry into the no-compromise on image quality arena. It is the follow up and partner to its 55mm f1.4 Otus–which received our Editor’s Choice award.

The Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus features 11 elements in 9 groups and a massive 86mm filter thread. Indeed, this is a serious piece of glass and of considerable size.

And despite the fact that Zeiss has delivered a spectacular product, just one thing made taking images a bit tough at times.

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Zeiss Announces New 85mm f1.4 Otus Lens

Newest Otus family member from ZEISS continues the success story Zuwachs in der Otus Familie von ZEISS setzt Erfolgsgeschichte fort

It was only a matter of time until Zeiss added a new lens to the Otus family: and today the company is announcing their 85mm f1.4 Otus lens. The company said on Facebook last year that they’d be releasing a new lens and indeed it’s on its way for Photokina 2014. Before we even get into it, the price is $4,490–way too much for many of us mere mortals. But the company has surely done a lot of work to make sure that the performance is the utmost top of the line. Indeed, we’ve been testing the lens for a couple of weeks now and it has been blowing our minds.

As for the features of the lens, it sports an all metal exterior with the exception of the focusing ring–which is made of rubber just like the company’s Touit lenses. The reason for this is due to working in the cold weather with the lenses. It has 11 elements in 9 groups, a minimum aperture of f16, has an 86mm filter thread, comes in Canon EF and Nikon F mounts, and weights 1140g for the Nikon version with the Canon version coming in at 1200g.

The lens is obviously targeted at portrait photographers along with fashion photographers–but given our user experience with the 55mm f1.4 Otus lens we will probably think that manually focusing the optic without a tripod may tend to shake the camera up a bit to get accurate focusing consistently.

At this point though, the photo world is most likely drooling over this lens but looking at Sigma for an autofocus response.

More tech specs and images are after the jump.

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DxOMark: Sigma’s New 50mm f1.4 Art Lens Doesn’t Best Zeiss Otus

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DxOMark is announcing their Sigma 50mm f1.4 Art lens findings today. According to what they did in the lab, the company concludes that the lens is outperformed by the 55mm f1.4 Zeiss Otus lens only in terms of light transmission, distortion control, and vignetting control. Otherwise, they’re basically exactly spot on when it comes to sharpness numbers. The even more fascinating news is that they both wipe the floor with Canon’s f1.2 L offering–and hopefully will dispel the myth that someone should only go for all L glass when building their Canon kit.

The company didn’t test the lens on the Nikon D800E and we figure that this is mostly because the units going around right now are Canon mount.

More findings are after the jump.

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See the First Ever Short Film Shot with the Zeiss 55mm f1.4 Otus Distagon T* lens

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The Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus Distagon T* lens is arguably one of the best lenses in the market today. You can tell from our extensive review that we happen think it’s nothing short of amazing. So when planet5D sent us word that a short film was shot using the lens, we knew we just had to share it with you.

When Los Angeles commercial photographer and cinematographer August Bradley realized that he and his team had early access to it, he just knew he had to shoot a short film with it. So, using his experiences at a tour of the Zeiss lens manufacturing facility in Germany as inspiration, he shot what would become the first-ever short film in history shot on this lens.

“The ideas in this film are based on my experience at Zeiss Cine Lens Day, where invited cinematographers from around the world toured the Zeiss lens manufacturing facility in Jena, Germany. In addition to manufacturing a wide range of lenses (a process that is both highly mechanized, but also involves a significant hands-on human touch), Zeiss makes planetarium projectors and watching the stars in the Zeiss Power Dome had an impact on this short piece as well.”

With the help of artist David Love, who crafted the mechanical lens machines and planetary installations in the film, Bradley’s “Zoetrope Optika” is a fantastical concept short that has a sort of camera utopian/dystopian-feel to it, as if you just walked into a photographer’s version of The Capitol in The Hunger Games. It effectively blends the vintage and the modern and perfectly captures humanity’s fascination with and attraction to machines.

While we have not been lucky enough to tour the Zeiss manufacturing facility like Bradley, seeing his film, we can kind of imagine how it would feel like. And now you can too.

See the short after the jump.

Via planet5D

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Review: Zeiss 55mm f1.4 Otus (Nikon F)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Zeiss 55mm f1.4 Otus product photos (5 of 5)ISO 4001-40 sec at f - 2.8

“Do whatever you need to,” was the response given to me by the other editors of the Phoblographer when asking about budget for the review of the Zeiss 55mm f1.4 Otus lens. When we were calling it for review, it was also decided that I’d handle it–afterall, this is probably the single most important lens that anyone has created this year (with Sigma’s 18-35mm f1.8 being a close contender.) Then you add in the fact that we only had this lens for 10 days (we usually test a lens for an entire month before publishing a review) and you’ve got one of the most challenging reviews that we’ve ever done.

When Zeiss created this lens, they decided that it shouldn’t have a single compromise on the image quality. It was also designed for high megapixel DSLRs. The image quality is reflected in the price tag–which is just under $4,000. Indeed, it isn’t a lens that we believe everyone will go out and buy.

And while our thoughts on the lens are overwhelmingly positive, we encountered a couple of situational problems that made the lens’s functionality somewhat tough at times.

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Sample Images from the Nikon D800 and Zeiss 55mm f1.4 Otus

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Lulu's Shoot Zeiss 55mm f1.4 Otus lens photos (3 of 9)ISO 1001-60 sec at f - 5.0

We’re currently in the middle of testing the Zeiss 55mm f1.4 Otus–which can arguably be considered to be the best lens ever made. the lens is on loan to us for only a little over a week and so for the past couple of days, we’ve been booking shoots, planning coverage, and working a lot. In fact, this is the most expensive review that we’ve ever done–considering studio space, MUAs, rentals, etc.

So far–we don’t have a single complaint about the image quality. In fact, we downright love it. Our problem though is with the focusing. Zeiss has always made manual focusing lenses with the exception of their Touit glass. But in our findings so far with the Nikon D800, the focusing is often quite tough to nail at anywhere up to f5.6. Quite often, we’d place a focusing point over a subject’s eye to get it sharp. With others, we wouldn’t quite get it. In a professional workflow situation, this is quite annoying and it begins to make me wonder why Zeiss didn’t make this an autofocus lens.

However, we’ve always found Zeiss glass to focus better with Canon bodies–but at the moment there is no super high megapixel Canon DSLR. More findings will be posted in our full review. But some sample images are after the jump.

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Zeiss Will Release an 85mm f1.4 Otus Lens Next Year

Zeiss-85mm-f-1.4-OTUS-Comment

Get ready for another super expensive lens to come from Zeiss that you’ll want to drool over. With the company releasing their 55mm f1.4 Otus lens this year (and us getting some playtime already with it), they’re already in the process of creating more. The company announced on Facebook that they’d be creating an 85mm f1.4 Otus next in 2014. With all this in mind, we’re positive that the one after that will either be a 35mm f1.4 or a 24mm f1.4.

If the company is making an 85mm f1.4, then they’re obviously trying to outdo their 135mm f2, which we very much love. Despite the fact that the focal lengths are completely different, the 85mm is bound to be the single portrait lens that every high end portrait photographer may need considering all the research and development that went into the Otus 55mm lens. With all this said though, we can’t imagine photographers buying a whole set of these lenses due to cost. It just isn’t feasible for a studio. Instead, they may invest in just one. Keeping this in mind, we’re interested to see how the marketing is done for these lenses. They’re obviously the ones that everyone is going to be talking about–but no mere mortals will be able to afford.

Additionally, the only version of the lens currently available is just in Nikon mount with Canon’s coming early next year. Could this also mean that Canon may be coming out with a high megapixel body early next year?

This aside: our 55mm f1.4 Otus lens is on its way for review. And we’ve got big plans for our review.

Via the Digital Picture

Quick Samples: Sony A7r and Zeiss 55mm f1.4 Otus

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony A7r and Zeiss Otus 55mm f1.4 lens samples (1 of 1)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 4.0

As we continue our misadventures on the Sony press trip, we were able to test out the new Zeiss 55mm f1.4 Otus lens a bit on the Sony A7r. Even with Sony’s focus peaking, we found this lens to be incredibly tough to focus when shooting with it wide open. The version that we’re using has an EF to E mount Metabones adapter, and so focus confirmation doesn’t exactly work in the same way that it can with a DSLR. However, we believe that Zeiss should make the lens in an E Mount or A Mount version for sure for better focusing performance.

Here are a couple of quick sample images. We’re going to be working on more later on today hopefully with studio lighting and all. Stay tuned.

AS ALWAYS: the EXIF data is in the file name of the image

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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.

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