February 15, 2014

A Stunning Concept Film Shot on the World's Best Stills Lens, the Zeiss Otus 1.4/55

Zeiss OtusIn 2012, Zeiss announced that a brand new stills lens was in the works, one that would achieve perfection in optical performance through a no-compromise approach. Fast forward to November of 2013, and the company released the Otus 1.4/55, a prime lens that truly is uncompromising in all aspects of its design. While many of us are familiar with the Zeiss ZE glass for video work (great lenses), we have yet to see how the Otus would fare in a video setting. Luckily, filmmaker August Bradley managed to get his hands on an early pre-release version of the Otus, and he shot a delightful little concept piece called Zoetrope Optika that truly showcases the flawless performance of this marvelous lens.

First and foremost, when Zeiss claims that the Otus 1.4/55 is the world's best stills lens, they aren't indulging in hyperbole. In independent testing done by DxO Labs, the Zeiss Otus, when coupled with a Nikon D800. literally provided the single best set of results ever seen in their testing.

The new Carl Zeiss Otus 1,4/55, mounted on the Nikon D800, is categorically the highest performing standard-type prime in our database. With a DxOMark lens rating of 45 points, and a 29P-Mpix Sharpness score, the Zeiss Otus achieved the best results the labs have ever seen.

The lens itself is definitely no joke. But how does it look, you ask? Well, take a look at this beautifully shot concept piece from August Bradley to find out. This was shot on the Sony F5 with only the Otus 1.4/55:

To my eye, the optical characteristics of the Otus 1.4/55 are absolutely immaculate. It is stunningly sharp (but not to its detriment), and the contrast is nothing short of beautiful. With that said, this lens might not be entirely practical for extended videography or cinematography work for several reasons. First and foremost, the 55mm is the singular focal length in the Otus family of lenses, at least at this point, so having a matched set of these lenses is out of the question. Also, this lens clocks in at a whopping retail price of $3,990, which puts it squarely out of most of our price ranges.

However, in certain settings, such as high-end fashion photography/videography, the Otus 1.4/55 might just provide the perfect aesthetic for that line of work. In that case, it could make for a fantastic piece of kit, or at least a compelling rental option.

For more info on the Otus 1.4/55, head on over to the Zeiss website, and for some more behind the scenes coverage of the Zoetrope Optika shoot, head on over to this awesome post on the Planet5D Blog.

What do you guys think of Zoetrope Optika and the optical performance of the Otus 1.4/55? Does this lens have a place in the filmmaking community? Let's hear your thoughts down in the comments!

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43 Comments

James Miller also shot some footage on the lens https://vimeo.com/84897422

Of course it has a place in filmmaking, why wouldn't it?

February 15, 2014 at 9:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gareth

I liked this video as a better example instead of the posted video.

February 17, 2014 at 12:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Agreed. Beautiful. Extra sharp.

February 20, 2014 at 3:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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At 4000, and with its great manual focus characteristics, it's basically already at the price of most cine lenses and would only need to be lightly modded to work as a great cine lens. The Nikon version even has a aperture ring, which I bet could be declicked as well. The only problem is the mount, probably not as good at having a native PL mount, but the real cine versions of this lens are going to be deadly expensive in comparison I think.

February 15, 2014 at 9:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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IAN

Such a sweet lens. I think it would really shine on the Alexa.

February 15, 2014 at 10:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Roman

looks too video sharp, like a TV soap opera. dislike.

February 15, 2014 at 10:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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James

Nothing a Schneider Hollywood magic filter can't solve.

The lens and Sony f5 combo was stunning in this example.

February 15, 2014 at 10:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Heather

If you told me this was shot on a 5D with a 24-70mm I would have believed you. Not knocking this lens but I wasn't blown away either.

February 15, 2014 at 11:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Tim

The Vimeo streaming compression is limiting what we can see about the lens and camera here. I'll bet you would see a big quality difference in the file before it was uploaded to Vimeo.

Even here, I can see a real cinematic quality from the lens and camera, far beyond DSLRs and lesser lenses. But the real quality difference would be more clear in a file not compressed for streaming.

I also wonder is this is a 720 or 1080 Vimeo stream (which they would tell us, and give us the ability to choose on playback).

February 15, 2014 at 11:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Randall

No, it's not.

February 16, 2014 at 12:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Tim

Randall, I agree. I always get halfway through these concept/example/test videos and think "this looks like every other lens I've used." At which point, I remember that I am watching a streaming compressed video online. Yeah, they all look the same on Vimeo. There are some extreme cases where you can tell a difference in dynamic range on cameras that shoot raw, but it's really hard to judge a lens' sharpness even on a 1080p video online. Hurry up 4k, I want better pixel peeps.

February 16, 2014 at 1:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Ty

Do you have hardware to display 4K ??? You need at least HD7850 on mother board that supports it. Do you have 4K monitor ??? not available yet ...... The only way to view 4K is take computer capable of 4K to the cinema that has 4K projector .... good luck there as well.

February 27, 2014 at 10:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Krstoff

Hey guys.... I made an Vimeo Otus group some days ago... August Bradleys piece is in there as well as my own vacation test Sveggøyra... Have a look and join the group for future updates.

https://vimeo.com/groups/229279

February 16, 2014 at 1:53AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Torben's footage is also sick.

I've been using this lens for a month, testing, and it's next level glass. Virtually zero CA, amazing bokeh wide open, and an Ultra Prime feeling.

February 16, 2014 at 2:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Kholi

Funny. I think Sigma was quoted saying, they're new 50mm 1.2 was going to match this lens in terms of sharpness.

February 16, 2014 at 3:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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VinceGortho

It's a 1.4, and they said the Otus is their target. Whether it will or won't we will have to see. The 35mm is indeed very sharp.

February 16, 2014 at 2:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Mark

Theirs is 1.4 as well.... And they said they were gunning for the Otus. We are yet to determine the actual quality of the Sigma. The Sigma will most likely lack the build quality and cinema like handability which all AF lenses lack.

February 16, 2014 at 5:13AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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FWIW, Sigma Art will be priced considerably lower @ ~ $1,500 in the US. There's also going to be a 40mm f/.85 lens from Ibelux released in the summer of 2014 in several mountings, purportedly for under $2K.
http://photorumors.com/2013/02/02/new-ibelux-40mm-f0-85-lens-for-mirrorl...
.
PS. And let's see more 4K footage.

February 16, 2014 at 5:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

The claim "Worlds best stills lens" lets keep in mind that was tested in a 36mp camera producing an image close to 8K where its edge would have benefitted. At HD resolution or 4K there is no way I would choose this lens.

I have all Nikons most expensive lenses and my sharpest and most beautiful is the $200 50mm 1.8D. Manual, feels too light and plastic and I love it and is my second favourite lens. Favourite being the Samyang T1.5 (f1.4) 35mm. The creamiest bokeh of any lens I've seen and sharp.

My point is lens performance is not linked to price, as much as a few manufacturers would like to to believe it. Zeiss, Arri...

February 16, 2014 at 7:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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I think they mean statistically speaking. I agree with your point but damn - it really is a lovely lens.

February 16, 2014 at 7:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Kraig

It does look nice. But I have the F5 too and the camera produces truly beautiful images and is one of very few true 1080p and 2K resolution cameras that can actually resolve 1080p because its debayering from its 4K sensor every 4K pixel (photosite whatever). So it makes a lens shine. Plus SLOG2 or SR444 produce great skin tones.

Love the way its shot, liked it better the second time I watched it with the music turned off tho. Very well crafted :)

P.s. Sony if your listening please activate internal 4K on the F5.

February 16, 2014 at 8:40AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Anyone know which add-on lens gear ring was used?

February 16, 2014 at 9:21AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Noel

From the article photo it looks like a standard zip tie…. I have one that is more or less the same and the one I have is from Tilta. It's long enough to go around the Otus and a bit more...

February 16, 2014 at 9:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Very nice footage, but very weak editing.

February 16, 2014 at 10:20AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Ggdeluxxe

Not Impressed With the Lens. The footage was not as good as i expected.

February 16, 2014 at 11:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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How does this compare to Nikon's newest flagship 58mm f/1.4G ($1700) that also claims to be uncompromised?

February 16, 2014 at 11:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Dan K

The 58 is actually more aimed at being a 'portrait' normal. It was made for shooting wide open for nice 'bokeh' characteristics, and actually won't have biting sharpness. It's slight length at 58mm helps to deal with face distortion, as much as you can in a normal. I don't think they made it with video applications in mind. It's wonderful when paired with a 35mm 1.4 for still, and in particular wedding photography.

February 16, 2014 at 2:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Mark

It’s a still lens, and the very short barrell movement makes it unusable in a practical sense. CP2 are not awesome cine lenses, but at least they’re usable and at a similar price.

For everything else, there's that great Yorkshire company called Cooke!

However, there's also the new Primo V lenses. Now that’s glass for the 21st century.

February 16, 2014 at 12:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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I mean Leiester...

February 16, 2014 at 12:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Yeah I would love to own a set of Cooke lenses because they have a unique look to them.

The CP.2s might be good in a rental mindset due to their interchangeable mounts, but apart from that, it bugs me that they have varying apertures :S

I wouldn't mind using still lenses like Canon Ls for small run and gun jobs, but when I have time to set up and compose, I'd bring the Otus.

February 16, 2014 at 1:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Thing is, the short barrel is just impractical for anything that's not staged and static in the z axis. To me, that makes still lenses unusable, so unusable I tend to curse, swear and froth at the mouth when I end up with one of them. Not the decorum expected of a DP. :D

The lens is definitely pretty, not saying it's not, and for the right job it might just be a good option... though no AC I know would ever buy me a beer afterwards.

I recently shot a little music promo in Thailand, and our budget was so eaten up by the plane tickets that we ended with two SuperSpeed CP2 and two L-series zooms. We shot like 90% of it on the CPs, so much easier it was to grab shots on the fly. The difference was also very noticeable on the shots themselves. The CP2 still had a much mellower focus falloff than the still lenses. These last were either in focus or not at all whatsoever, plus the fact tha I've still to come a ccross a still lens that focuses at infinity when you focus at infinity! Not a happy bunny they made me.

February 17, 2014 at 4:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Our buddy Luke Neumann has a lens comparison on YouTube between the 25 mm Rokinon T1.5, CZ CP2 T2.9 and Canon T1.5. Rokinon hangs in there on most shots.

February 16, 2014 at 10:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

This lens and a 5d MkIII would be an unreal combo, for stills or narrative use.

February 17, 2014 at 11:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Agent55

https://vimeo.com/groups/229279

Have a look…. I did a test for fun.

And here's a link to still comparisons: https://dl.dropboxusercontent.com/u/18962406/Archive.zip

February 17, 2014 at 1:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Excellent! Beautiful!

Say bud, can you spare $4400.00 for the lens plus tax, $3100.00 for a Nikon D800 body plus tax, and about $2000.00 for high end memory cards and tripod plus tax? Just round it off to $10,000.00.....

February 18, 2014 at 9:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gene (not the 3...

Why would you mention those things…? Obviously this lens isn't targetted first time buyers.

This is build for people who are already in the game and need more than what fx, the Canon Ls can offer.
If you need AF, simply don't look towards this lens, nothing more to say.

Don't see an issue here...

February 19, 2014 at 2:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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I'm wishing I had a D800 and this lens.

February 19, 2014 at 9:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gene (not the 3...

The lens performs beautifully and the technical aspects of this video are to be respected... but porno music really has to go.

February 21, 2014 at 1:08AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Stan agian

Ihave missed something. It's a cinematographic or very high res lense tested on a 4K video camer. Aside from contrast, bookeh, cr aberrations and distortion that you can find in other range brands, I cannot see any advantage in this lense. Moreover when most of post are done in 2K even 3K. Recording on that resolution and APSC format you can use a 30$ Pentacon or a 250$ Nikkor with the same results.

February 21, 2014 at 3:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Zen-Tao

Great lens, beautifull!
Annoying over the top movie, distracts from the quality of the lens

February 21, 2014 at 5:15AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Dim

Big pile of mreh.

February 21, 2014 at 8:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Tom

The first end the last most beautifull in the word

August 14, 2014 at 7:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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olsi

very great video for good knowledge. I think everybody want to see

July 23, 2015 at 12:49PM, Edited July 23, 12:49PM

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nice blog thanks for sharing
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October 9, 2016 at 8:03PM

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