Having been crazy busy with travel, workshops and the launch of our first video, I have not been able to fully keep up with all the latest news and announcements. With Photo Plus 2015 around the corner, there is a lot going on in the industry, so I am planning to catch up with all the newly-released gear this week. The first highlight is Zeiss, which has been very active lately, announcing one lens after another for different systems. Being a Sony partner, Zeiss is currently offering three native mount lens lines: Manual Focus Loxia and Touit and the new line of Batis autofocus lenses. Both Loxia and Batis are specifically developed for Sony’s full-frame E mount, while the Touit line was only targeted at Sony’s APS-C E mount cameras. Although the future of Touit lenses is under question, since Zeiss did not do so well there and there have not been any new announcements, the Loxia and Batis lines are coming very strong, thanks to the increasing sales of the new Sony A7-series cameras. The new 21mm f/2.8 looks like another stellar lens in the Loxia line and both Batis 25mm f/2 and 85mm f/1.8 lenses have been crazy popular (which I am also planning to review, hopefully later this year). In addition to the Sony FE mount lenses, Zeiss made a big surprise earlier last month by announcing a total of six lenses for both Nikon F and Canon EF lines under the new Zeiss “Milvus” name. And the most recent announcement today is another “reference” lens for wide angle lenses, a sharpness monster, the Otus 28mm f/1.4. Let’s take a look at all these lenses in more detail.
Zeiss Loxia 21mm f/2.8 for Sony E Mount
The newly-announced Zeiss Loxia lens looks like another winner for those who use the Sony A7-series cameras. I have previously reviewed both the Loxia 35mm f/2 and the 50mm f/2 lenses and found them to be superb and I expect no less from the Loxia 21mm f/2.8.
With its Distagon optical design, which is comprised of 11 elements in 9 groups accompanying both aspherical and low dispersion elements, along with Zeiss coating technologies to combat ghosting and flare, the 21mm f/2.8 looks like a very attractive choice for landscape and architecture photographers. Zeiss is usually pretty consistent with their offerings, so this lens in particular should be excellent optically, while retaining a compact size and a strong metal build. Like the other two Loxia lenses, the Loxia 21mm f/2.8 also comes with a “de-click” feature that allows for smooth changes in aperture, which is something videographers love to see. In addition, it is also weather sealed and features the same 52mm filter thread as the other two Loxia lenses.
Zeiss Milvus 21mm f/2.8 ZF.2 for Nikon F and Canon EF
It is hard not to be a fan when a company releases not one, but six lenses in a single major announcement. And that’s what Zeiss has done with the brand new Milvus line – a total of 6 lenses that cover everything from wide to telephoto. The widest Milvus lens is the 21mm f/2.8 ZF.2 and it is basically replacing the Distagon 21mm f/2.8 ZF.2 that has been available for years. Featuring a similar Distagon design as the predecessor, this lens pushes the resolution limits even further, thanks to its updated optical design. Although the number of optical elements remained the same, Zeiss knows that cameras are only increasing in resolution, so it has updated this lens specifically for resolution-demanding applications.
The new Milvus line of lenses looks very attractive, similar to the highly-praised Zeiss Otus line. Like other high-end Zeiss lenses, the Milvus 21mm f/2.8 ZF.2 also features the latest T* antireflective coating, along with a superb weather-sealed construction. As expected, its front element is massive and you will need to move up to 82mm filters to use in this lens.
Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/2 ZF.2 for Nikon F and Canon EF
Next up, we have the Milvus 35mm f/2, which replaces the Distagon 35mm f/2 ZF.2, another killer lens for those who like working with the 35mm focal length. I have used the 35mm f/2 ZF.2 a few times in the past and found it to be superb, as detailed in my Zeiss 35mm f/2 review. It is a compact lens with a big punch in terms of color, bokeh and sharpness. And now we have a replacement for this lens, promising to be even better! Again, we are still dealing with the same 9 element in 7 group optical design, but with a more optimized design for increased sharpness and obviously, a completely fresh exterior appearance and design. The lens will feature a 58mm filter thread.
This one packs one anamolous partial dispersion element in a floating elements design, along with the same high-end T* anti-reflective coating to reduce both ghosting and flare.
Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2M ZF.2 for Nikon F and Canon EF
The new Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2 ZF.2 is a macro lens, which is replacing the Makro-Planar 50mm f/2 ZF.2 lens. With its 8 element in 6 group design and a respectable 24cm minimum focus distance, this lens is a lot like its predecessor. Again, it has a completely fresh exterior look and design and its optics are supposed better optimized for the new high-resolution sensors from Nikon and Canon. The lens is based on the classic symmetrical Planar optical design and it also features the floating elements system for consistent performance. Similar to other Loxia and Milvus lenses, you can use the provided De-Click Tool to make the aperture ring smooth. The lens will feature a 67mm filter thread.
This should be a superb standard-range macro lens, which is going to be perfectly usable not only for dedicated macro needs, but also for portraiture and other photography needs.
Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 ZF.2 for Nikon F and Canon EF
If you find maximum aperture of f/2 to be too limiting and you want a standard prime, the Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 ZF.2 will be a great candidate. With a much larger maximum aperture of f/1.4, this particular lens is very different from its Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.4 predecessor. I personally never really liked the Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.4 when compared to the Nikkor 50mm f/1.4G, which is not a very sharp lens to begin with. This time, Zeiss decided to take a different route and pursue the Distagon design, similar to what we have seen in the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4. With a new 10 element in 9 group design accompanying both aspherical and anomalous partial dispersion glass elements over a floating elements system and the T* anti-reflective coating, this should be a stellar performer that should deliver superb results when compared to other 50mm lenses. The lens will feature a 67mm filter thread.
It will be interesting to see how the lens will fare against the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art, but I can already tell that it will be pretty close!
Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 ZF.2 for Nikon F and Canon EF
If you love everything “bokehlicious” for those portraits with popping subjects, the Milvus 85mm f/1.4 ZF.2 is going to be another potentially superb candidate for the job. You would think that this one is based on the Zeiss Planar 85mm f/1.4, but that’s not true – while it certainly has the Planar design, its optical formula has been completely revamped with 11 elements in 9 groups, vs 6 elements in 5 groups. It has a total of 7 anomalous partial dispersion elements, which means that it will be optimized for maximum sharpness and minimum amount of chromatic aberration. There is no aspherical element in this lens, so we can expect it to produce very smooth bokeh, without any onion rings in highlights. The Milvus 85mm f/1.4 will also come with all the standard goodies like superb build / weather sealing, T* anti-reflective coating, a floating elements system and the aperture de-click feature. The lens will feature a 77mm filter thread.
The only concern with such a fine lens is difficulty with focusing on DSLRs – without an EVF and inability to instantly zoom to the subject, getting things in focus will be a challenge for sure!
Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M ZF.2 for Nikon F and Canon EF
The last in the Milvus line is the 100mm f/2M ZF.2 lens. Based on the Makro-Planar 100mm f/2 optical design with a total of 9 elements in 8 groups, this is going to be another killer choice for macro photography. The Makro-Panar 100mm f/2 remains the fastest 100mm macro lens available on the market, thanks to its wide maximum aperture of f/2. With its minimum focus distance of 44cm and a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:2, the Milvus 100mm f/2 will be an excellent choice for close-up macro work. Similar to other Milvus lenses, it features a floating elements system, T* anti-reflective coating and the de-click feature for smooth aperture control. Just like its predecessor, the lens will feature a 67mm filter thread.
This completes the Milvus line for now. It looks like Zeiss is planning to replace all of its previous generation lenses with this new fresh look, so I expect more Milvus announcements coming up soon.
Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4
The last announcement is for the king of all wide angle lenses, the Zeiss Otus 28mm f/1.4. Following the footsteps of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 and the Otus 85mm f/1.4, this lens will, without a doubt, stomp on anything else we have seen so far in the similar focal length range. A monster of a lens, the Otus 28mm f/1.4 is based on a Distagon design, featuring a total of 16 elements in 13 groups, two of which are aspherical elements and 8 anomalous partial dispersion elements! That’s just insane, because it all adds up to a lot of weight – this lens will weigh 1.35 kg or 3 pounds! With a huge 95mm front filter, expect to spend a good chunk of money on getting filters for this beast. And don’t even ask us how much this one costs, because it will be up there, probably in the $4-$5K range.
While this heft and pricing may sound unreasonable, this lens will surely be very attractive to astrophotographers. The lens is insanely sharp wide open at f/1.4 from center to corners and has the least amount of spherical aberrations, making it the top choice for photographing the night sky. Imaging shooting with this lens at f/1.4 and getting every star sharp, even in the extreme corners! It is a dream of a lens, but very heavy and cost-prohibitive for most of us, including myself.
Congrats to the Zeiss team for making some of the finest lenses in the industry. I am looking forward to testing the above lenses with both Sony FE and Nikon F systems.