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Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon: It Has the Magic No Other Normal Lens has

Get Canon 5DS R and Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon at B&H Photo.

To the lab rats who claim that the Sigma 50/1.4 Art is an Otus: enjoy that six pack while shooting the test chart.

An Otus shot at f/1.4 doesn’t make you think “wide open”; it womps you on the head with “that lens looks darn good at f/5.6—I want one—wait! It’s f/1.4—OMG”.

So go get one.

And yet—do not expect perfection, even with perfect technical execution. The nuanced flaws are plain to see, particularly on the Canon 5DS R. It is why I wish for better-than-Otus f/2.8 designs, even if the price were the same.

See my in-depth reviews of all the Otus lenses.

Frosted Peak #1
f1.4 @ 1/500 sec, ISO 100; 2015-11-03 07:34:22
Canon EOS 5DS R + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

[low-res image for bot]
Frosted Peak #2
f2 @ 1/8000 sec, ISO 100; 2015-11-03 09:26:40
Canon EOS 5DS R + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

[low-res image for bot]

If I could shoot only one lens on a DSLR, it would probably be the Otus 55/1.4. Outstanding imaging, and a reasonable size and weight. Nikon mount can be shot on Nikon or Canon or Sony mirrorless.

Fresh Snow on Aspen Sapling, Forlorn Yellow Leaves
f1.4 @ 1/25 sec, ISO 100; 2015-11-02 17:46:15
Canon EOS 5DS R + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

[low-res image for bot]
Clinging Yellow Leaves
f8 @ 1.6 sec, ISO 100; 2015-11-02 17:49:16
Canon EOS 5DS R + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

[low-res image for bot]

Camping in the cold. No Virginia, there is no Santa Claus and the Sigma 50/1.4 Art is an excellent lens but it is not an Otus, even at f/8. But enjoy your lab-test results by the fireside.

Cold Camp
f13 @ 3.2 sec, ISO 100; 2015-11-02 18:00:36
Canon EOS 5DS R + Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 APO-Distagon

[low-res image for bot]

Professional product photographer John G writes:

I fully agree with your post on the Otus today. When you have the Otus in your bag, it’s hard to shoot with anything else. As you know, after a loyal run with Nikon/Zeiss/Nikkor, most recently with the D810 and D4S, I sold that gear to purchase a Pentax 645Z. As you also know, I’m contemplating a move back to Nikon/Zeiss.

I’ve included two shots, one from my studio of Wilson Audio's wall-mount speaker, the Alida. This is interesting because the background is a big softbox with a studio flash blasting right into the front element of the lens. But with the Otus, there is no flare, not weird color artifacts, just the image as I hoped it would be when I shot it. This one was shot at F/5.6. with Nikon D810. [image omitted]

Here is a crop showing the detail right up to the edge where the studio strobe is blasting the front element. [image omitted]

This shot is a landscape shot at F/1.4. With the Otus, I never hesitated or second guessed shooting it wide-open. I had fear of CA, or of softness, or other aberrations other lenses routinely exhibit at their widest apertures—just a calm sense that all would be as I expected it to be. In other words, because Zeiss has created a technical masterpiece in the Otus, it is a tool that truly creates artistic freedom. It’s a tool that helps the photographer realize his vision, without having to think about or compensate for the tool’s flaws or limitations. Here, I was going for selective focus, and the effect was just what I had hoped for. D810/Otus 55 @/f1.4.
[image omitted].

DIGLLOYD: With stopping down, lenses like the Sigma 50/1.4 may approach the Otus, but in my view still lack a certain something. But it is from f/1.4 - f/4 in particular that one pays for Otus.

Jef M writes

A strong 2nd on the Otus 55mm. No other lens* in the world reveals itself to be better and better time and time again as you challenge it against any composition. The lens doesn't get in the way for what I am wanting to capture. It just does what I want it to, what I need it to, every time.

* The 85mm Otus might but it's just too big to carry everyday.

DIGLLOYD: well, except when it cannot be focused fast enough. It will be sickening if Nikon and Canon release their next DSLRs with no EVF support; the rear LCD works but this means that it is awkward except on a tripod. Optical viewfinders (OVF) are worthless for critical focus.

For me, half the utility of Otus (or any manual focus lens) is lost on a DSLR without an EVF. As for mirrorless, that is at least half the appeal of the Sony A7R II. If and when I get a 50+ megapixel Nikon D900 with EVF, much of the allure of the Sony evaporates , particularly if Nikon is smart enough to shrink the camera by eliminating the OVF.

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