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ZEISS Announce Milvus 35mm f/1.4 Lens for Full-Frame Canon and Nikon

ZEISS Announce Milvus 35mm f/1.4 Lens for Full-Frame Canon and Nikon

This morning, Carl Zeiss have announced the tenth lens in the Milvus series for full-frame Canon and ZEISS DSLRs, boasting a new optical design that offers "practically no chromatic aberations". Previous Milvus lenses have been impressive, but often specialized, whereas this new addition is more of an all-rounder.

Let's not beat around the bush with colorful rhetoric and instead offer the spec sheet and the price straight off the bat.

The Milvus 35mm f/1.4 will be available from the ZEISS online store from July 2017 and will have the recommended retail prices of £1,699 (roughly $2,143 at the time of writing this) including VAT. Given the build quality and optical quality of ZEISS lenses, that is a very reasonable price to my mind. Although manual only, as is the case with all of the Milvus range, the lens has a metal barrel that is protected against dust, water spray and according to the ZEISS Product Manager Christophe Casenave, can be used in poor weather conditions. The next question is regarding this new optical design and what worth it had. The press released reads:

With aspherical lens elements, special glass materials and advanced correction, ZEISS has given the lens a completely new optical design. "This means the photos are practically free from chromatic aberrations," says Casenave. Thanks to their excellent edge-to-edge imagery the ZEISS Milvus lenses are designed for high performance digital cameras. "The resolutions of camera sensors are constantly improving, and this also increases the demands made on the lenses. For ZEISS Milvus lenses this is not a problem. They are a solid investment in the future."

Shot with the ZEISS Milvus 35mm f/1.4. Image courtesy of Carl Zeiss.

A little on the vague side, but having tested previous Milvus lenses upon release, I am inclined to agree with the notion of future-proofing. The press release is not aimed entirely as stills photographers either, with the Milvus series being earmarked as all suitable for film productions, citing:

...the manual focus with a large rotation angle can be operated with the aid of a ZEISS Lens Gear with a follow-focus system... Filmmakers can switch between the focal lengths [of the different Milvus lenses] and still have a uniform colour look, "reducing the amount of time spent in post-production" says Casenave."

Without a hands-on test, I can't speak to the veracity of any of the claims made in this press release, but I have tested several ZEISS lenses, both Milvus and Otus, as well as visiting their office in Cambridge, and have always been left with a lasting sense of quality. My one criticism would be that the lenses are heavier than most, but that is part and parcel of increased build quality and durability. 

Image courtesy of Carl Zeiss.

What is your initial reaction? Could this lens have a place in your kit bag?
Robert K Baggs's picture

Robert K Baggs is a professional portrait and commercial photographer, educator, and consultant from England. Robert has a First-Class degree in Philosophy and a Master's by Research. In 2015 Robert's work on plagiarism in photography was published as part of several universities' photography degree syllabuses.

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if only they had autofocus

Blame Canon and Nikon for that. They don't want other companies cutting into their lens sales so they don't share AF specs with other companies. Fuji and Sony do and that's why they have AF lenses from Zeiss.

How come Sigma and Tamron can do AF? Just curious...

They reverse engineer it without help from Canon or Nikon causing some reliability issues. They are also Japanese companies and there are some licensing issues that affect Zeiss differently being based in Germany.

I'm not a super experienced photographer or anything, but I find 35mm 1.4 to be a weird niche. Is it a portrait lens? I wouldn't use it for that in fear of distorting the features too much. It's not really a landscape probably... Architecture? Why would anyone get this lens with the specs in particular? I genuinely would like to know to see what I'm missing. Is the article saying this is aimed at video?

I loved having mine for room-lit candids in a dim wedding hall.
Also for some of the speeches since I didn't want the flash going off constantly and distracting the speakers, they were nervous enough.
I also put it on my 'photobooth' setup, I'd hate for someone to mess with the zoom, though a cheaper 2.0 would work just fine for that.

Low light documentary work would probably be great :)

File under "there's a sucker born every minute" dept....

I had the luck to be one of the participating photographers using a pre production lens for testing and I must admit that this lens rocks. I have the Zeiss 35mm 1.4 Classic which is good starting at f2 but the Milvus beats it.
I have put a few images (some are NSFW) on my page (text is in German but the images speak an universal language).