Zeiss Otus 1.4/85 Review: Sweet Colossus

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A few days ago Carl Zeiss announced the second lens in its Otus series, the 85mm f/1.4 companion to the 2013 1.4/55 Otus. The first Otus got raving reviews, including on this site. The company introduced the Otus line with the aim to build lenses without compromise, in quality, construction, size, weight and cost.

The 85mm follows the same pattern. It’s large (10 cm wide), it’s heavy (1000+ grams), it’s solid and it’s costly ($4,500).

The question is if that combo once again delivers pure goodness.

Here’s the quick summary:

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An Overload of 50/55mm Lenses – from Good to Awesome

It’s an old cliche, with the forest and the trees. But it applies here, cliche or not. I’ve been on a 50mm diet for a while and I’ve used way too many 50mm lenses for my own good.

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The diet wasn’t for fun or meant as a useful exercise to optimize shooting with just one lens. No, it was to compare a bunch of lenses for this site.

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Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 User Experience – A Review, Sort Of

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It’s not often that a humble – ahum – journalist like myself gets to enjoy the top gear. Yet, it’s like I’ve been driving a Ferrari for the past few weeks with the photographic equivalent – the Zeiss Otus 55m f/1.4 in Canon mount – sitting in my camera bag or lying around on my desk. Oh, and mounted on a camera.

The Otus is in an interesting position in the world of gear. It’s not a Leica. It’s not part of a medium format setup, where stratospheric prices and top quality are almost a given. It’s not a specialty lens, such as a 500mm tele at the price of a small – a very small – car. No, it’s a luxury version of a household normal lens for a pretty pedestrian series of cameras. Good cameras, but not rarified in any way. Just the Canon and Nikon workhorses that get sold by the tens of thousands to people like you and me.

It’s also a sign of things to come.

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A Lens Panorama

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Just a quick post. Got the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART yesterday and realized that it’s one big lens. As is the Zeiss Otus, of course. So, I thought, I’d line up some of the 50mm (equivalents) I have in the house and I got this panorama.

Featuring from left to right is the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4, the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART, the Sony FE 55mm f/1.8, the Canon EF 50mm f/1.4, the Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.4 ZE, the Olympus 25mm f/1.8 and the Leica Leitz Elmar 5cm f/3.5 collapsible lens.

They’re all good to excellent lenses. They’re all doing the job.

But look at this:

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That big one is of course much sharper and can focus much closer and delivers much better quality overall.

But a lens like the little one above took this:

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Henri Cartier-Bresson – Behind Gare Saint-Lazare

That’s all I got to say.

That Road Trip, Photographer’s Block and Mixing Camera & Lens Brands

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Lake Erie

So, we’re back home. Drove about 1700 miles in a few days in weather ranging from summery to snow and sleet. Walked over college campuses, dined in small diners and enormous Italian eateries and saw parts of the United States much unlike our suburban New York neighborhood.

Actually, my teenage son and I have been back for a while now.

But I was hit with photographer’s block, if such a thing exists. Strange thing, that. I usually don’t suffer from that more common affliction called writer’s block, although I do write more than I end up posting.

But I do sometimes encounter an inability to open images in Lightroom and start editing them down. Wonder if others have this as well.

With me, it usually goes like this: I find a great place to shoot, take dozens of pictures, I’m excited about the shoot and what I see on the back of my camera, I put the images on my computer, I get less excited as I see flaws when I blow up the images. I end up being disappointed with the contrast between the fun and excitement of the shoot and the end result. I dither… [Read more…]