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Reader Comment: Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon vs Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4 Distagon

Dirk K writes:

Stunning photographs with the Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 on the Leica M10 monochrome. Wonderful (despite the sensor bifurcation issue and the black/white spots mentioned earlier).

I use the Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4 on a Nikon D850.

How would you compare both lenses in terms of micro contrast and 3D rendering? It seems more difficult to get this “Zeiss ZM effect“ with the Milvus. Or is it more sensor related?; the Zeiss ZM seems to produce this almost cinematographic effect everytime again. Thanks, best wishes.

DIGLLOYD: see the two examples below, one from each.

IMO, the Zeiss Milvus 35/1.4 is the most beautiful-rendering 35mm lens for DSLR, and it’s Zeiss Otus grade by f/2.8, worth noting because Zeiss never produced an Otus 35mm focal length.

Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Examples at ƒ/1.4 in Eastern Sierra and White Mountains (M240)

The Zeiss ZM 35/1.4 Distagon has an entirely different design, one not constrained by a mirror box flange focal offset, and so of course it renders differently. The Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 has much higher contrast wide open in central areas, far higher than any Leica f/1.4 design—this is obvious when using Live View—it “pops” at f/1.4 like no other Leica M lens.

The Zeiss Milvus 35/1.4 is sharper across the field wide open in total, but with somewhat lower contrast in central areas for an overall high total sharpness but at modest contrast. So you don't get quite the same "pop" wide open as with the ZM 35/1.4. However, most of the rendering effect is probably optical design, not the micro contrast. At f/1.4 and f/2 the ZM 35/1.4 has the advantage, but by f/2.8 the two lenses are very similar except that the ZM has much more mid-zone field curvature even at f/4 vs the Milvus 35/1.4 MTF. The Milvus is better corrected for secondary color including violet fringing—so in total I’d say the Milvus is more of an Otus and the better lens technically.

The Milvus 35/1.4 can be shot on Leica using a lens adapter, so that would allow a direct comparison—this I have not done as it slipped my mind. Maybe sometime, but the M10-R has to go back very soon. The Milvus can also be shot on the Nikon Z7, and so too can the ZM 35/1.4.

The ZM 35/1.4 can be shot on various systems with lens adapters, such as the Panasonic S1R; see Shootout @ 35mm: Downed Aspen in Lee Vining Creek. The ZM 35/1.4 acquits itself admirably against the absurdly expensive Leica SL lenses, though it needs some stopping down to overcome ray angle problems.

Stopped down to f/2.8 and beyond, both are Otus grade. Both are superb, but different, as you've noted. But IMO, both are best of breed with no real competition on their respective platforms.

Photographing the Photographer
f1.4 @ 1/4000 sec, ISO 200; 2014-09-19 10:35:43
LEICA M (Typ 240) + Zeiss ZM 35mm f/1.4 Distagon

[low-res image for bot]
Ore-Train Tracks @ Cerro Gordo
f1.4 @ 1/1600 sec, ISO 100; 2017-05-30 07:24:34
Canon EOS 5DS R + Zeiss Milvus 35mm f/1.4

[low-res image for bot]

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