I recently had the opportunity to test and play with the brand new Zeiss Otus 55mm / 1.4 lens. This lens has been noted as one of the sharpest lens’ ever created. This caught my attention right away! I mean, who doesn’t want to play with one of the sharpest lens on the market?
For the past few years, I’ve been playing with every 50mm lens that Canon has created. The 50 1.2 L series is by far my favorite, so I was curious to to give the Zeiss Otus 55mm a try and compare it to the comfort that I feel from the Canon one. First things first, the Zeiss lens is completely manual focus.
This means that unlike any other AF lenses on the market right now, the lens requires the photographer to focus on its subject completely manually without the help of the Auto-Focus. To be honest, I was excited to give this lens a try, even after years of relying on the auto-focus, I was up for the challenge!
I brought the lens with me on a recent trip to Palm Springs. A friend was throwing a pool party, so I thought it’d be a great opportunity to photograph some details around the pool. I also played around with the Zeiss Otus 55mm lens during a recent studio session. I always enjoy behind-the-scenes shots, so I figured this would be perfect!
Upon first impression, I realized this lens is HEAVY! The Zeiss Otus 55mm lens weighs 2.27 lb. This is the heaviest compact non-telephoto lens I have ever played with on my camera body. The total combined weight with my camera body is a little over a pound.
This might be a portrait lens that is too heavy for you, but to be completely honest, I got used to the weight really quickly. If you’ve ever shot with a Canon 70 – 200mm, this lens is equivalent in weight. If it does feel too heavy and there are ways to counter balance the weight with a tripod, monopod, or a well constructed camera strap.
This lens is built like a tank with a full metal outer barre, metal innards, and a metal lens-shade. There’s absolutely no wonder why this Zeiss Otus 55mm lens is as heavy as it is! It has a smooth focus ring combined with gripped rubber which allows for smooth and effortless focusing. When I was holding and shooting with this lens, it conveyed a feeling of solid high-quality build that exceeds any lens I’ve previously touched or played with. This is definitely what I expect for a lens priced at $4000.00.
I was in Palm Springs when I first started shooting with the lens. Everything I shot was hand held because I’m the type of photographer that is always on-the-go, shooting spontaneously.
I love capturing moments as they happen rather than styling the perfect shot. Looking back, I sort of regret not shooting with a monopod. I’d recommend trying both options to see what feels comfortable for you. I usually stick to hand-held because I simply don’t have time to set up the shots with the tripod, especially while I’m traveling.
Before testing this lens, I was scared of the manual focus. It’s something most photographers should be used to, but to be honest, I spend so much time photographing shoots that are high energy with lots of movement, so I always rely on a lens that has auto- focus. Having the sharpest lens doesn’t necessarily mean anything if your photo is out of focus. It takes time and patience to ensure that your photos are sharp and in focus.
I’d recommend purchasing this lens if you love still life and portrait photography. If you have YEARS of experience handling manual focus, then you will absolutely benefit from shooting with this lens. Regardless of its weight, this will soon become your go-to lens for portraits. Going through all my test shots, I realized that 70-80% of my photographs were in focus and 30% of the photographs were slightly out of focus, which might be because I enjoy chasing my subjects instead of standing still! This lens requires time.
Take an extra few seconds to examine each shot before moving on to the next. I’m sometimes guilty of moving too quickly – I blame it on my extra high energy behind the camera. It was frustrating at times, but I adjusted rather quickly. The sharpness in my images and high quality was more noticeable when I was going through the photos in post.
The difference between my Canon 50 mm and the Zeiss Outus 55 mm is obvious when I’m going through them on my computer, especially when I started zooming into my photos at nearly 100%. Zeiss Otus definitely has a “leg up” from other lenses when it comes to sharpness and quality. I was so impressed with the studio / behind-the-scene photos. They looked crisp & sharp. I would absolutely shoot with this lens again and again!Unfortunately, for the type of photography that I do, I’m always on the move jumping from one job to another with people moving in all different directions. This may not be the right lens for me right now, but perhaps that will change in a few years.
At $4000.00, the quality, sharpness and build certainly makes up for the price. If you’re able to afford it, and have the lifestyle for it, this is a fantastic lens to spend your money on!