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Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon: The Medium Format Look

See also the overview discussion and Ordering the 55/1.4 and Cross-Platform notes and the mini review of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon (free).

Subscribe to Guide to Zeiss.

One of the hallmarks of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon is the “medium format look”. It results from a variety of optical design characteristics, including an exceptional level of correction for all sorts of optical aberrations, which lead to high sharpness and contrast of course. But even more important is the avoidance of distracting effects center to corner and even wide open. It is not hyperbole to say that it is unique in its rendering style and sets a new benchmark.

The medium format look is fully achieved on a full-frame DSLR at equivalent aperture, e.g. f/2 is equivalent to f/2.5 on a 70mm Leica S medium format camera. Yet the 55/1.4 Distagon offers another full stop of creative room and the gap is even wider with other medium format systems.

The examples in the review of the Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon show the effect consistently and with all apertures and under all conditions. When I started shooting the 55/1.4, the images were striking in “jumping off the screen”. No veiling haze, no purple fringes, no uneven sharpness. One gets used to this, and then most other lenses feel disappointing by comparison, though some like the 135/2 APO-Sonnar approach the same level.

Peter Lim writes:

I hope it will have some image features that will shine on the 1Dx. At 18.1Mp I don’t think it will compare well with the higher resolving power of the D800E.

The rewarding thing about the 55/1.4 APO-Distagon is that the visual impact is first and foremost about the transparency and three-dimensionality. The resolving power is a sense a bonus effect for those with high-res camera. Whether the DSLR is 12 or 18 or 22 or 36 megapixels, the 55/1.4 Distagon delights with its image rendition.

Click to view larger. Focus is on the leading trees.

Redwoods, Purissima Creek
Nikon D800E + Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 APO-Distagon @ f/1.4

You really, really, really want this lens more than any lens you ever lusted over.

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Buy Zeiss ZF.2 Otus 55m f/1.4 Distagon for Nikon
Buy Zeiss ZE Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon for Canon


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