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zeiss otus 85mm f/1.4 Inspiration

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 | Gear Talk 12

By Joseph Cha on December 10th 2014

Lens Perfection Personified

When Zeiss first released their Otus 55mm f/1.4, most photographers couldn’t get past the $4000 price tag. Then the reviews started coming out and Otus became synonymous with perfect image quality. Lens manufacturers fixed their crosshairs on the Otus line, attempting to achieve similar image quality. Now there’s a 2nd lens in the Otus lineup, the 85mm f/1.4, and the 85mm focal length is one of my and Pye’s favorite when it comes to portraits. Check out our thoughts on the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 in the video below!

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 | Gear Talk 12

More Quality for More Megapixels

Nowadays, it’s common for cameras to come out with 36+ megapixels, but if you’re using a low quality lens, then you’re not taking advantage of the full resolution. You’re simply magnifying the lens imperfections. The Zeiss Otus is a lens that can resolve all that detail spectacularly.

zeiss otus 85 100% crop

100% crop at 1/500 sec f/1.4 ISO 100 on Sony a7R

The Build

The majority of Zeiss lenses are manual focus only, and the Otus is no exception. That being said, this is the most pleasant manual focus ring I’ve ever had used. The throw is an astonishing 261 degrees, and it’s nice and smooth. The entire lens is made of metal and glass with the exception of the rubber focus ring, and although it’s heavy, it feels great in your hands. The focus marks on the barrel are written in a bright yellow, which mimics the look of the gorgeous Zeiss Master Primes.

zeiss otus 85mm f/1.4

85mm Head to Head

According to Matt Granger, a good way to test a lens quality is to shoot black and white text. So we took the Sony Zeiss 85mm f/1.4, the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II and the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 and did exactly that. Pay close attention to the green fringing on the top of focused area and the purple fringing on the bottom of the focused areas.

Price of Quality

The Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 is sold at the stomach churning price of $4490. In any industry, if you want to go from great to the best, you’re going to have to pay for it. Take the Ferrari 458 Italia for example. It’s a great car that has a top speed of 202mph and costs $230,000. But if you want the best in terms of top speed, you get the Bugatti Veyron Super Sport which can go 267.8mph and costs a cool $1.5 mil. Apparently, the initiation for having the best is committing your finances.

The Best Lens for Image Quality, But Not the Best Lens for Everybody

The Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 is the best lens when it comes to image quality, but it isn’t the best lens for everybody. Many photographers need a more versatile 85mm prime. They need autofocus, they need it to fit in their budget (and their bag; the Otus is huge), and they need a lens that fits their photography style. All lenses, especially primes, have character that contributes to the photographer’s style. The group of photographers that need and can use this lens is very small, but those who do need/use it will not be disappointed.

Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 Sample Images








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I’m a photographer and cinematographer based in Southern California. When I don’t have a camera in my face I enjoy going to the movies and dissecting the story telling and visual aesthetics.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Jesper Ek

    Great bokeh!

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  2. Rafael Orczy

    great lens!

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  3. Jill Schindel

    Nowhere near practical for me, but good gravy those are some gorgeous sample images!!

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  4. Graham Curran

    It certainly is a good-looking lens, but way out of my price range.

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  5. Basit Zargar

    love it

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  6. aaron febbo

    Awesome lens but the price ??? not so awesome ! But i guess f you got it then spend it. I just cant justify it. If i had the money and the right system though i might jump on it but i would have to already have the a number other lenses first.

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  7. Ralph Hightower

    Okay, I’ve only owned my DSLR for almost a year, but I do love the autofocusing. However, I’ve been using manual focus for 34 years with my Canon A-1 so I don’t quite understand why manual focus is so hard. Okay, I can’t buy a split-screen microprism focusing screen for my Canon 5D III like I can for my A-1 or F-1N. But I have switched my EF 24-105 f4L to MF on occasion.

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  8. Dre Rolle

    You seem to love manual focus lenses, I remember you mentioning the 50mm voidlander 1:1 was you favorite portrait lens. 1)Is this your new favorite? 2) what’s a good way to practice with manual focus? I Try and do it for a few hours a day but I can’t get all my shots tack sharp (most are but I don’t want that “1” shot to be out of focus when it really matters.)

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    • Cha

      It depends on the camera you’re shooting with and what kind of focus aids it has. I know some leica shooters that are lightning quick with their manual focus lenses using the ghost image in their viewfinder.

      If i was shooting with a DSLR it would be very difficult for me to use this lens with only the optical viewfinder. Ideally I would use Liveview with a zacuto viewfinder to make sure my images are in focus before i hit the shutter. Currently I use the a7R which has an electronic viewfinder and I can magnify in the viewfinder to confirm whats in focus.

      One thing that has also helped me with manual focusing is “feeling” the lens. Make sure you know which direction to spin the focus ring when you want to focus closer/farther, and learn how far you have to throw the lens when your subject moves a few feet.

      Hope that helped. Happy focusing!

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    • Dre Rolle

      It definetly helped!!! I like the challenge manual focusing brings so I’ll itreat myself to a New Years upgrade. Merci mon ami.

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