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Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8: Full MTF Series from f/2.8 through f/16

Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8

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

Get the new Milvus 18mm f/2.8 at B&H Photo.

See also last year’s Understanding the new Zeiss Milvus Lineup.

The new-new kid on the Milvus block is the Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8, a long overdue all-new optical design that replaces the weakling in the ZF.2 lineup, the Zeiss ZF.2 18mm f/3.5 Distagon. Its size and weight and angle of view are just about perfect for landscape use: not so wide as 15mm, but very wide and thus more applicable more of the time. It is a lovely match to a Nikon D810 in terms of size/weight/balance; it feels right at home on the D810.

Very high performance, the Milvus 18mm f/2.8 promises via its measured (not just theoretically computed) MTF numbers to match or outperform the Leica 18mm f/3.8 Super-Elmar-M ASPH. Now that is a proposition I like, since the Leica 18/3.8 SEM has been one of my favorites on Leica M. See the full MTF series below.

The Milvus 18mm f/2.8 looks to match and maybe even beat (very slightly) its superb Batis 18/2.8 sibling (the MTF is close enough that this is a sketchy proposition, but on the whole the Milvus looks to have a slight edge). But a bonus is that the Milvus 18/2.8 has substantially less distortion than the distortion of the Batis 18/2.8. That matters, because if distortion must be corrected, it drops the MTF (because of pixel stretching).

The Milvus 18/2.8 is a substantial 2/3 of a stop faster (brighter) than its f/3.5 predecessor. Shooting at dusk, f/2.8 is a big improvement over f/3.5, whether using the optical viewfinder or Live View.

The improvements over the ZF.2 18/3.5 are substantial::

MTF

MTF across the aperture range is discussed on the MTF page for the Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8 in Guide to Zeiss.

MTF for Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8
Zeiss Milvus Wides for Nikon and Canon
$2294 SAVE $405 = 15.0% Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Milvus ZE in Lenses: DSLR
$2294 SAVE $405 = 15.0% Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Milvus ZF.2 in Lenses: DSLR
$1954 SAVE $345 = 15.0% Zeiss 18mm f/2.8 Milvus ZE in Lenses: DSLR
$1954 SAVE $345 = 15.0% Zeiss 18mm f/2.8 Milvus ZF.2 in Lenses: DSLR
$1568 SAVE $275 = 14.0% Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Milvus ZE in Lenses: DSLR
$1568 SAVE $275 = 14.0% Zeiss 21mm f/2.8 Milvus ZF.2 in Lenses: DSLR

Distortion

Plain barrel distortion (excellent, easy to correct) and of a relatively minor amount for an 18mm—superb in total.

Distortion for Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8

Vignetting

Vignetting is 2+ stops at f/2.8, and about one stop by f/5.6. This is about what one expects for a DSLR or rangefinder lens.

Vignetting for Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8
Zeiss Milvus 18mm f/2.8 Distagon Specifications
Focal length 18mm (nominal)
Aperture range f/2.8 - ƒ/22
Number of lens elements/groups 14 elements in 12 groups
Aperture blades:  
Entrance pupil position ( in front of image plane): 107.1 mm / 4.22 in
Rotation angle, focusing (inf - MOD): 145.5°
Focusing range: 25 cm / 9.84 in
Image ratio at close range 1:7.4
Free working distance at MOD: 12 cm / 4.73 in
Coverage at MOD: 274 x 180 mm / 10.79 x 7.09 in
Angular field (diag./horiz./vert.) 99.9° / 89.4° / 66.5°
Diameter of image field 43 mm / 1.69 in
Flange focal offset ZF.2: 46.50 mm / 1.83 in
  ZE: 44.00 mm / 1.73 in
Filter thread 77mm
Length without caps ZF.2: 92.0 mm / 3.62 in
  ZE: 93.0 mm / 3.66 in
Length with caps ZF.2: 107.0 mm / 4.21 in
  ZE: 10.,4 mm / 4.31 in
Diameter max ZF.2: 90.0 mm / 3.54 in
  ZE: 90.0 mm / 3.54 in
Weight (nominal), ZF.2: ZF.2: 675 g / 23.8 oz
  ZE: 721 g / 25.4 oz
Street price: about $2299
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