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.

Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II
Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II
Sony Zeiss 85mm f/1.4
Sony Zeiss 85mm f/1.4
Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4
Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4

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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