Dr. Hubert Nasse of Carl Zeiss discusses the development of the new 55mm f/1.4 Distagon in a video over at the Carl Zeiss blog.
- Why is it so big? Because it needs 12 elements to achieve its stunning performance.
- What is really better as compared to a conventional ~50mm lens? The superb high contrast wide open into the corners even in backlighting due in good measure to the great reduction of optical aberrations.
- Are the sample images really at ƒ/4? No, the outstanding image quality occurs wide open at ƒ/1.4 into the corners.
- “The best fast 50mm ever”.
- Development time was relatively short (one year) because of deep experience in building cine lenses.
- Dr. Nasse checked many existing 50mm lenses: “images decorated by a lot of artifacts... contrast is generally low, as opposed to deep blacks wide open with the 55/1.4 with high fidelity reproduction”.
My sense based on the description from Zeiss is that the 55/1.4 Distagon is likely to reach near optimal results by ƒ/2 - ƒ/2.8, which would be a stunning achievement for an ƒ/1.4 DSLR lens. But perhaps most unusual might be the claimed high contrast wide open at ƒ/1.4 which would make it truly unique among ƒ/1.4 DSLR lenses (though the new Sigma 35/1.4 is astonishing at ƒ/1.4)— high contrast at ƒ/1.4 along with pleasing blur is an enticing combination.