Best In Class



IS THIS THE best prime lens on the planet for D-SLRs with full-35mm size sen­sors?

If looks are any­thing to go by, then Zeiss’s Otus 55mm f1.4 is a win­ner even be­fore you put it on your cam­era. Un­like the more clas­si­cally-styled ZE and ZF.2 mount mod­els, the Otus 55mm is much more con­tem­po­rary, bor­row­ing cos­metic de­sign el­e­ments from the Touit se­ries of lenses for com­pact sys­tem cam­eras. This means a man­ual fo­cus­ing col­lar that’s com­pletely flush with the bar­rel and cov­ered with a plain matte rub­berised grip ma­te­rial to give a very sleek ap­pear­ance.

What hasn’t changed is the heavy­duty metal bar­rel tubes and an all-glass op­ti­cal con­struc­tion which com­prises 12 el­e­ments in ten groups. For the record, this is first time that the Distagon-type de­sign has been used in the op­ti­cal con­struc­tion of a stan­dard lens.

As you’d ex­pect on a Zeiss lens, all the mark­ings are en­graved and painted in rather than screen-printed… in yel­low, how­ever, rather than stan­dard white. The full Zeiss logo (in blue) is in­set into both the bar­rel and the lens cap. The mount­ing in­dex marks are also in Zeiss blue which is a nice lit­tle touch.

The Otus 55mm f1.4 fast prime lens is de­signed to give a very high level of op­ti­cal cor­rec­tion via the use of an aspher­i­cal el­e­ment and six made of spe­cial glass with anoma­lous par­tial dis­per­sion char­ac­ter­ics. Zeiss says this de­sign elim­i­nates “nearly all pos­si­ble flaws” from dis­tor­tion to ax­ial chro­matic aber­ra­tions. With the high­est con­trast per­for­mance over the en­tire im­age field even at the max­i­mum aper­ture of f1.4, the 55mm de­liv­ers a con­vinc­ing “medium for­mat look” when used on the high-end Canon or Nikon D-SLRs with full-35mm sen­sors (at the mo­ment these are the only two mount choices).

No­table per­for­mance char­ac­ter­is­tics in­clude phenom­e­nal lev­els of de­tail­ing, ex­cep­tional uni­for­mity of sharp­ness and bright­ness, and con­sis­tently high con­trast.

The Otus 55mm f1.4 fo­cuses down to 50 cen­time­tres and has a mim­i­mum aper­ture of f16. It is just over 14 cen­time­tres in length and weighs 970 grams (the ZF.2 mount ver­sion for Nikon). It ac­cepts 77 mil­lime­tres di­am­e­ter screwthread fil­ters.

Op­er­a­tionally, the pre­ci­sion en­gi­neer­ing is very ev­i­dent in the smooth­ness of the fo­cus­ing col­lar and the pos­i­tive ac­tion of the aper­ture ring. This lens re­ally is a work of art and it de­liv­ers a su­perla­tive im­age qual­ity in terms of its sharp­ness and con­trast – even when shoot­ing at f1.4 – as well as ex­tremely ef­fec­tive cor­rec­tion for both dis­tor­tion and chro­matic aber­ra­tions.

Zeiss lenses are dis­trib­uted here by C.R. Kennedy & Com­pany. For more in­for­ma­tion:

For the record, this is first time that the distagon- type de­sign has been used in the op­ti­cal con­struc­tion of a stan­dard lens.

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