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Understanding the new Zeiss Milvus Lineup

    Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 Planar ZF.2

Get Zeiss Milvus at B&H Photo.

Update September 2016: the Milvus lineup now consists of the Milvus 15/2.8, Milvus 18/2.8 (all new design), Milvus 35/2, Milvus 50/2M, Milvus 100/2M, Milvus 135/2. See also the Zeiss Otus and Zeiss Loxia and Zeiss Batis lineups.


Some points of clarification on the new Zeiss Milvus lineup. I have seen and handled the lineup, which is as follows. There are six lenses to be released soon:

  • 21/2.8 Distagon
  • 35/2 Distagon
  • 50/2 Makro-Planar
  • 50/1.4 Distagon (new high performance optical design)
  • 85/1.4 Planar (new high performance optical design)
  • 100/2 Makro-Planar

I’ll be testing the new Milvus lenses, paying special attention to differences like flare control. Details:

  • The lineup all has consistent design, including ergonomics and weather sealing, with multiple internal seals. Lenses like the 50/2 and 100/2 Makro Planars have new engraved markings on the barrel for reproduction ration and similar—nice touches.
  • The entire lineup has the best build quality on the market today, and except for not having cine len bearings for focusing, and some color differences on the engraved lettering, could easily be mistaken for the Otus look and feel.
  • Focus feel is outstanding, but with a bit more resistance than Otus (due to weather sealing for Milvus).
  • The aperture can be declicked for video work.
  • The Milvus 50/1.4 Distagon and Milvus 85/1.4 Planar are all entirely new optical designs offering very high performance. They are hugely improved optical designs over the classical designs of the ZF.2/ZE 50/1.4 Planar and ZF.2/ZE 85/1.4 Planar. At present, they have no competition from other brands in optical performance. I deem them on par (and better in some ways) than Leica M designs including the 75/2 and 90/2 APO designs. The Milvus 50/1.4 compares favorably to the Leica 50/1.4 Summilux, better in several ways, though not quite as high in contrast wide open.
  • The Milvus 85/1.4 Planar is an entirely spherical design (no aspherics) for exceptional bokeh. And yet is is very high performance. Its field is actually flatter (less field curvature) even than the Otus. Some may prefer it over the Otus for its lower micro contrast for applications like portraiture *and* for its extreme corners which do require some stopping down for sharpness (and so are nicely blurred for the first few stop). Ultimately, the corners are exceptional with some stopping down.
  • The focal lengths 21/2.8, 35/2, 50/2 Makro, 100/2 Makro are the same optical design as their existing ZF.2/ZE predecessors. The 21/2.8 and 50/2 have much improved flare control, the 35/2 coatings are already optimal, and the 100/2 has been slightly improved (1 element).
  • The other existing lenses not mentioned in the current have various dispositions, but Zeiss does not wish to comment upon the release date or continuity or not of the existing optical design at this time.
  • CORRECTION: I had thought that the 25/2.8 Distagon had been discontinued (based on what I though I had been told), but I’ve double-checked: it will remain available in its classic ZF.2 form (no ZE mount as has always been the case), Get one for its unique qualities while they last.
Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4 Distagon ZF.2

The optional hard case will become available for purchase “by late November”, according to Zeiss USA.

Milvus case (optional)
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