DigitalRev TV Goes Hands-On with the Zeiss Milvus Lineup of Lenses

Kai and friends at DigitalRev TV have got their hands on the very new and very exceptional Milvus lenses from Zeiss. Their test includes the 21mm f/2.8, 35mm f/2, 50mm f/1.4, and 85mm f/1.4 models that make up the core of this new lens system. These new lenses were designed from the ground up to keep pace with the insane resolving power that modern digital camera sensors are capable of.

All of these sexy new glass wonders feature a host of industry-leading features such as anti-reflective coating, standardized color characteristics, virtually zero distortion, 9-blade circular apertures, extremely smooth and accurate manual focusing, an all-metal barrel, and full weatherproofing. Additionally, Nikon versions have a de-click function that provides smooth and continuous aperture changes for video.

In addition to the four lenses they tested, there is also a 50mm f/2 and 100mm f/2.

Of course this all comes at a price — actually a pair of prices. They are all only available as manual focus machines, and they start at $1,117 while topping out near $2,000. While still not residing in the rarified air of Leica territory, that's still an awful lot of cash money for manual focus DSLR lenses. For a little more background on these lenses, you can also check out Zeiss' own introductory video here:

The problem with manual focus lenses for DSLRs is that modern DSLR viewfinders are not designed for manual focusing. They prioritize brightness over focus accuracy. Manual focusing on film cameras and rangefinders is a totally different sport, and is ultimately an accurate and satisfying experience. With lenses like these, you are going to be relegated to using live view if you want critical focusing while shooting wide open. I see studio shooters and videographers being the primary buyers for these, because what is the point of buying such expensive and nice lenses if you're just going to stop them down to smaller apertures?

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6 Comments

Oh no! It's manual focus! How did photographers manage back in the "dark ages" when film was used?

While I love the autofocus of my Canon EF 24-105 f4L, I've only been in the auto-everything DSLR world for less than 2 years; so I think could manage it. I have had to switch EF to manual on occasion.

Does Zeiss offer their lenses in a Canon FD mount?

No, I'm not Kai, but I think he and I have the same sense of humor or parody.

Sean Molin's picture

You might have missed my last paragraph: "The problem with manual focus lenses for DSLRs is that modern DSLR viewfinders are not designed for manual focusing. They prioritize brightness over focus accuracy. Manual focusing on film cameras and rangefinders is a totally different sport, and is ultimately an accurate and satisfying experience. With lenses like these, you are going to be relegated to using live view if you want critical focusing while shooting wide open. I see studio shooters and videographers being the primary buyers for these, because what is the point of buying such expensive and nice lenses if you're just going to stop them down to smaller apertures?"

I saw that. However, DigitalRev with Kai and Lok are known for their tongue-in-cheek videos.
My 5D Mk III doesn't have a split-screen/microprism or replaceable focusing screens like my F-1N. I bought spot and partial split-screen/microprism focusing screens when I bought my used F-1N.
I must remember about your sensitivity to your articles.

Sean Molin's picture

Sensitivity to my articles? I'm talking about camera design, not my article. Facts are facts. And what does that have to do with DigitalRev's tone and methodology of testing?

You asked a question "How did photographers manage back in the "dark ages" when film was used?" I answered it in the article, and merely copy/pasted it back in case you missed it. Sorry for trying to help clarify.

Parody doesn't lend itself well to text. It's joke, dude. Lighten up. Don't take yourself so seriously all the time.

Manual focus does NOT require live view on DSLRs, it requires practice, and if your camera supports it, a precision focusing screen.

I own three manual focus Zeiss lenses and use them on the Canon 6D with the "S" precision matte focusing screen. Its slower than auto focus, but even with the 35mm at f/1.4 and the 135mm at f/2 it is very accurate.

I can't wait to get my hands on the new 50 and 85.