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Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M: Fun with Macro

See my Zeiss DSLR lenses wish list and other wish lists at B&H Photo.

I’ll post high-res version of these and the Streamside Macro group soon. These are the best macro shots I’ve ever made, though I’ve done very little of it: macro photography has long irritated me for being tedious and typical (my own conceptual fault). So on my last trip I opted for trying more unconventional shooting: high ISO in full glaring mountain sun, handheld, unusual takes.

The about $1843 Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M is my preferred all-around telephoto. While marketed as a macro lens, it is also superb at distance with “high and flat” MTF free of field curvature plus no focus shift and no distortion and unrivalled bokeh. It delivers richly saturated colors with very high contrast. No other lens in its range can pull all that together. So many shots just have that special quality to them that I don’t see in other lenses in its range.

Color Dreams
f10 @ 1/160 sec handheld, ISO 64; 2016-08-24 09:41:24 [magnification ~1:4]
NIKON D810 + Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M ZF.2

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Flower View to Sparkling Stream
f5.6 @ 1/1000 sec handheld, ISO 64; 2016-08-24 09:13:46 [magnification ~1:4]
NIKON D810 + Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M ZF.2

[low-res image for bot]
Busy Bee
f11 @ 1/1000 sec handheld, ISO 200; 2016-08-24 10:56:39 [magnification ~1:3]
NIKON D810 + Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M ZF.2

[low-res image for bot]
Sunlit Grass
f2 @ 1/5000 sec handheld, ISO 64; 2016-08-29 17:18:01 [magnification ~1:5]
NIKON D810 + Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M ZF.2

[low-res image for bot]

Bruce C writes:

A short note from a Guide to Zeiss subscriber. I completely agree about the specialness uncovered by the Zeiss 100mm macro lens from owning the ZF.2 version. The ZF.2 100/2 is a regular lens in my bag, and while I enjoy using it handheld or on a tripod for insects or flowers, it’s found a unique niche for those teenage daughter moments of “Dad, will you take our picture before the dance?” My daughters say their friends ask how they took such a good picture for [fill in social media of choice]. They’ve learned there is nothing like a Carl Zeiss lens for a great image. How do I know? They’ll explain to friends the patience required for manual focus as a fair trade for great images.

Thank you for posting some outstanding handheld macro shots with the updated Milvus version. It’s more inspiration to get outside and shoot.

I’m eager to read your Milvus 18/2.8 test results. In particular, I’m curious to know if it will complement the D500 as a walkaround travel lens. We spent a few weeks in Europe this summer where the Zeiss 28mm f/2 Distagon was my usual daily lens on a D800. It was a spectacular lens for the occasion. Will the 18/2.8 on a D500 yield similarly outstanding results?

I’ve enjoyed reading the blog for years and appreciate the in-depth Zeiss analyses. Keep up the enjoyable work!

DIGLLOYD: Regarding the new Zeiss Milvus 18mm f /2.8, it is a highly corrected lens that looks to be the best performing 18mm available. And as a Distagon design, I expect its character and performance to be almost identical to the 21/2.8 Distagon, which today still ranks among the best wide angles out there. The Milvus 18/2.8 even looks to be a smidgen better in the center and corners at f/5.6. I expect it will make an incredibly good companion to the D500.

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