I wanted one, then tried one and thought better of it, not being entirely convinced of its performance compared to its more affordable brothers.
All comparison images were shot on Canon 6d mounted on Gitzo 5 Series tripod with a Manfrotto 405 head, focused using live view to focus as precisely as possible, the Raw images were processed with the identical base settings in Capture One 7 and were treated identically.
Firstly full frame on the Otus at F1.4
|Zeiss Otus 55mm F1.4@F1.4|
|Canon 50mm F1.4@F1.4|
|Zeiss Otus 55mm F1.4 @ F1.4 100 percent, of note is the bokeh which is very smooth, particularly when you compare it to the Canon.|
|Canon 50mm F1.4 @ F1.4 100 percent|
|Zeiss Otus 55mmF1.4@F1.8
Canon 50mm F1.4@F1.4
Zeiss 55mm Otus F1.4@F1.4, note the excellent control of flare compared to the Canon
|Canon 50mm F1.4@F1.4(note purple fringing on highlights)|
|Zeiss 55mm Otus F1.4@F1.4|
|Just wonderful detail.|
The advantage is most marked from F1.4 to F5.6 and wide open it is remarkable.
I did consider using a lens chart but I decided to leave that to the guys at DXO, who describe it as a ‘peerless prime’
Quite a lot has been written about the Otus in terms of its optical performance, but little has been written about its form factor.
If you are used to manufacturer 50mm prime lenses by the likes of Canon and Nikon you will be struck by its size and weight, which is reminiscent of a medium format prime lens.
Initially this could be seen as a disadvantage but in regular use I have found that the slightly longer barrel length and it's tapered shape brings ergonomic means it fits your hand perfectly, I reckon I can hold a slightly longer prime more steadily too(I wrote about this a couple of years ago)
If you have not used a Zeiss lens before the chances are that you will be struck by its build, fit and finish too, which shades camera manufacturer lenses.
Focusing with any fast prime wide open is problematic, with auto focus or not, and the Zeiss is manual focus only.
I was initially apprehensive about this but the longer throw on the focusing ring does make make manual focusing easier than you might imagine, the situation was further improved when I retro fitted the Canon EG-S focusing screen which is optimised for fast lenses making the images snap into focus much more easily than with the standard screen(I have written about this previously)
Is this a lens for everyone?
Clearly not, but it is a lens for the shooter who does not want to compromise on quality.
If the 50mm focal length is one you use regularly, and you want the very best imaginable quality then I suggest you try one out back to back with your existing lens, you may well be surprised.