September 11, 2014

A Review of the Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4: Is It Really the Best Lens in the World?

Zeiss Otus 85mm Test
Any time a company claims that one of its products is "the best in the world," people tend to be skeptical, and rightly so, especially when that claim is being made in a stills lens market that is saturated with high-performance glass.

That's why Zeiss's announcement on Monday of the world's best 85mm lens left many wondering whether the company was, for lack of a better way to put it, full of hot air. A recent independent review from photographer Matt Granger sheds some light on this issue, and the results are impressive, if not jaw-dropping.

Here's a closer look at how the Otus 85mm performs in the rendering of high contrast detail compared to what is widely considered to be one of the highest performing lenses in this focal range, the Nikkor 85mm 1.4G. 

Nikkor 85mm Zeiss Otus 85mm Comparison
Credit: Matt Granger
Nikkor 85mm vs Zeiss Otus 85mm Comparison
Credit: Matt Granger

Although we still have yet to see DxO scores for the Otus 85mm, it's safe to assume that, like the 55mm (which was the single highest performing lens in its category ever tested by DxO), it will significantly outperform every other 85mm stills lens on the market. Even without the DxO scores, it's safe to say that the Otus 1.4/85 is quite literally the perfect portrait lens for discerning photographers. Of course, at $4500, it damn well better be.     

Your Comment

19 Comments

Well the results look incredible. I find it interesting that these are marketed to photographers. At least in the sense that they sent a test model to a photographer. I guess in portrait work you have plenty of time to set focus. I would like to see what video looks like.

September 11, 2014 at 2:39PM

3
Reply
avatar
Alex Smith
Documentary/Cinematographer
1422

If you think about it, Zeiss already has cine lenses. And perhaps not at this glass quality, but waaay better adapted for filming environments. Besides, 85mm is used less than wide lenses in film, so for this price you are looking AAA budget, and when you're looking AAA budget you're looking cine. Maybe they'll adapt the glass into a cine lens with their next iteration? It's a pity their popular cine lenses stop at f2.0 though.

September 11, 2014 at 3:00PM

0
Reply
avatar
Rean Combrinck
Film Maker
206

It might be more of a matter that they already have it in their cine lens and finally adapted it to stills. Dont forget about the Master Prime 75mm T1.3
http://www.abelcine.com/store/Arri-Zeiss-75mm-LDS-Master-Prime-T1.3/
A head to head would be interesting, but like you said the cine lenses are easier to operate in a cine environment.

September 11, 2014 at 4:22PM

5
Reply
avatar
Bill Thomas
DP
232

I really like it's clarity, and its no-abberation. But damn, that price tag puts this out there for the big guns xD.

September 11, 2014 at 2:57PM

0
Reply
avatar
Rean Combrinck
Film Maker
206

It has to be better than my Canon 85 f/1.2 in terms of chromatic aberration.

September 11, 2014 at 3:15PM

0
Reply

You can say that again!

September 12, 2014 at 4:37AM

3
Reply
avatar
James Coote
Director of Photography
176

yeah the CA control is great... but i'd like to see it go up against the canon Glass

September 12, 2014 at 12:02PM

0
Reply
avatar
Wentworth Kelly
Director/DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2371

yeah the CA control is great... but i'd like to see it go up against the canon Glass

September 12, 2014 at 12:02PM

0
Reply
avatar
Wentworth Kelly
Director/DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2371

Time to start saving! it's going to be a great Christmas in 2022!

September 11, 2014 at 3:24PM, Edited September 11, 3:24PM

1
Reply
avatar
David Sharp
Video Editor, Cinematographer, Teacher
374

It'll end up being 2022 anyways eventually. Might as well have this lens when it comes around ;)

September 12, 2014 at 12:06AM

2
Reply
avatar
Braden Storrs
Post Production Manager, Photographer
368

This guy could totally be a Bond super villain.

September 11, 2014 at 3:29PM

0
Reply
avatar
Josh Paul
Most often DP, Direct or Gaff
1157

What's that old saying? If you have to ask the price you probably can't afford it. Of course I love this lens, ( I cant afford it either) I'm sure it's great but we won't know until we see it's character against other lenses in that category. I'm not overly sold on those DxO scores, they may point out the best aspects but as we know the real world is what counts the most. It's a shame it's not an anamorphic lens, then it would be dirt cheap.

September 11, 2014 at 4:38PM

3
Reply
avatar
Anthony F. Marino III
produce shoot edit
211

We are considering on making this purchase in the next few weeks if it's available for an upcoming up job to pair up with out 55mm Otus. If we do go with it i'll email the admin here and hopefully they can share it to the community.

September 11, 2014 at 6:37PM

0
Reply
Kazu Okuda
Filmmaker
1433

Hell, you can email me the 55mm if you want ;)

September 12, 2014 at 4:10AM

0
Reply

For those who can't afford it, rental is always a good option. I'm sure the discerning rental houses around your location will stock them.

September 11, 2014 at 9:20PM

1
Reply
avatar
Kevin Loh
Creative Director / Videographer / Editor
23

It would be great to see these two Otus lenses compared with the Ultra and Master primes, even if they don't come in the exact same focal lengths.
These might start to look cheap. I think Duclos lenses are already offering these with a lens gear conversion.

September 11, 2014 at 11:10PM

0
Reply
Richard Lewis
3D Visualisation Specialist
171

If I'm not mistaken the DxO mark scores have been out since Tuesday. http://www.dxomark.com/Reviews/Zeiss-Otus-85mm-f1.4-Apo-Planar-T-Canon-Z...

September 12, 2014 at 3:53AM

0
Reply

Have Good lenses help a lot with the quality... :D

September 12, 2014 at 4:39AM, Edited September 12, 4:39AM

1
Reply
avatar
Ragüel Cremades
Film producer and director
7533

It's not so much the price that puts me off, than the lack of auto-focus... I mean this is a portrait lens and us portrait togs loves a bitta bokah. I shoot at F2.2 on my canon 85 1.2 because that lens is one old dog when it comes to focusing and any higher I start to want more blur. But when I have to chat with the subject, move around, shoot with one hand, make jokes etc, there's just no time to focus manually. And most potatiture is not with professional models so there's also the issue of them moving all over the place. Come to think of it I don't know what I'd do without auto-focus!

September 12, 2014 at 4:55AM, Edited September 12, 4:55AM

6
Reply
avatar
James Coote
Director of Photography
176