Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus – The definitive 50mm DSLR lens?

October 11th, 2013 Jump to Comment Section 4
Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus  - The definitive 50mm DSLR lens?

Screen Shot 2013-10-11 at 10.12.25

Back in April at NAB, Zeiss displayed their new 55mm f/1.4 lens. A $4000 manual focus only lens designed for DSLRs.

At the time it seemed a little.. expensive. At this price tag it’s in the same region as Zeiss compact/Canon cine primes, minus the features and ergonomics of a conventional cine lens (T-stopped, 300° focus rotation, geared, conventional cine size etc). It was therefore clear that this lens is not targeted at this market. So where does it sit in the market?

Well, the Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus is now available for pre-order, and with this release has come additional information and initial reviews from the lens. From what we’ve seen so far, this is a very exciting lens.

Its design is not targeted to challenge entry-level cine lenses, but to ultimately alleviate the need to turn to a medium format camera for serious still photographers. Zeiss boast that the performance is so good, that when coupled with a large megapixel camera (Nikon D800/D800E for example), it will provide a credible alternative to medium format photography.

The below video is provides a nice summary of it’s features, and displays some very impressive photos from the 55mm Otus.

The lens is all metal housed, with an ergonomic rubberized focus ring. It has 12 elements in 10 groups, and is a Distagon lens (as per the design of Zeiss’ wide angle lens) to reduce field curvature and chromatic aberration (CA). Aperture range from f/1.4-16. It weighs 2.13 lbs. (970 g) it has a 77mm filter thread.

Zeiss 55mm Otus

B&H present an initial review that gives Zeiss’ claims some substance. This is a lens that is claimed to lose no optical performance as you operate through the f-stop range. It will perform just as well at f/1.4 than it will at f/5.6. Here’s a still from the review shot at f/1.4 on the Nikon D800E. The detail retained in the cat’s eyes is extremely impressive.

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It’s clear this lens is not designed to the pro-consumer/low level professional. To most this lens will appear outrageously overpriced. But it’s said performance brings so much to the table; no CA, no distortion, and no loss through f-stop range. I’m sure it will easily find it’s way to the top of most serious professional’s wish lists.

The lens is available in both Nikon mount, and Canon mount. Pre-order only currently, with stock predicted at the end of October. There’s also news of the Otus range extending next year.

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