Mini Review: Zeiss ZF/ZE 85mm f/1.4 Planar
Related: Canon, Nikon, Nikon Telephoto, Canon Telephoto, Zeiss 85mm, Zeiss
The Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar is considered a portrait lens by many. Yet its high brilliance, ultra-low distortion, delicious color rendition, and slight telephoto compression effect make it an outstanding lens for landscape shooting. The 85mm focal length is one I have found to be eminently useful for landscape use over the years.
The 85/1.4 is not optimized for close-up shooting, having been designed for a soft-focus look at close range for portraiture (uncorrected spherical aberration). This effect should be understood for the misnomer focus shift it can bring when focusing at f/1.4 but exposing at another aperture. Focus shift is explored in more detail in DAP.
At f/1.4, careful focus results in amazingly sharp images, albeit with the “halo” effect typical of all f/1.4 lenses (spherical aberration). Outstanding images result from f/2 onwards, and by f/2.8 contrast is outstanding, with superb veiling flare control.
The 85mm f/1.4 Planar is moderate in size but relatively heavy, yet has very nice balance and ergonomics on medium and large cameras.
Manual focus is not so great for fast-moving children—use an autofocus lens!
Bokeh with the 85/1.4 Planar is beautiful, and wide open through f/2 it offers a unique embossed look that is quite different from other lenses. This can yield a lively feel to an image, giving it a depth and richness lost with lenses that simply flatten and blur the background.
Elegantly constructed of metal and glass, it is a handsome example of beauty with utilitarianism, as are its siblings lenses. Unlike most lenses made of plastic these days, it feels like quality of old.
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Canon and Nikon and Pentax versions are optically identical.
|Aperture scale:||f/1.4 - f/16|
|Focusing range:||1m - infinity|
|Angular field, diag./horiz.||28.6° / 24°|
|Coverage at close range:||24 X 36cm|
|Image ratio at close range:||1:10|
|Number of elements/groups:||6/5|
|Filter thread:||M 72 X 0.75|
|Dimensions (with caps):||77m in diameter, 62mm long|
|List price:||$1283 street price|
Much larger and more numerous examples are found in the full review.
Click to see larger versions.
Background blur (bokeh) is extremely pleasing with the 85/1.4. The next two images are examples of that. Also, wide open, there is an unusual almost embossed look to the images that the 85/1.4 Planar produces; this is more easily seen on artificial subjects for what it is, but on regular subjects it contributes to the overall effect in subtle ways.
The 85/1.4 Planar is a lens of more talents than it might appear. High brilliance and delicious color rendition along with no distortion make it a fantastic landscape lens, in addition to being a classic portrait focal length with a pleasingly soft rendition at very close range.
You can get the 85/1.4 Planar at B&H Photo for Canon or Nikon.
For in-depth coverage to these Zeiss lenses for Nikon and Canon, please subscribe to our Guide to Zeiss ZF/ZE Lenses.
The Guide has numerous examples at much higher resolution, along with actual-pixels crops for each and every lens, in most cases several pages of examples per lens.
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