Zeiss Milvus 100mm f/2M ZF.2 Macro Lens Review

I couldn't find a great deal about this lens online, so I thought I would film a review with a of mixture of test shots and looking at how I have used the lens in my own portfolio. Here are my thoughts.

From a Canon shooters point of view, the Carl Zeiss Milvis f.2m Macros lens is a more expensive offering than the own brand's pro line. It doesn't have as many features due to a lack of true 1:1 marco, autofocus, and image stabilization. So, this lens is certainly not a versatile tool. However, it does offer a lot for a certain type of photographer. 

For me, the lens offers incredible details as well as a beautifully rendered image, especially when wide open. The lens gives the image a look that can't be achieved with the Canon offerings, partially due to the f/2 aperture, but also due to the way that Zeiss constructs their lenses. 

Although the test shots don't show any huge gains over something like a Canon USM or L lens, when put to practical use, the rendering, colors, and build quality are superb. What is really impressive is how sharp the lens is wide open and the way that the lens can control highlights. It wasn't something that I noticed until I shot the same scene with some Canon lenses and realized that it was the lens causing the highlight to blow out in a rather unpleasing way.

In this video, I go over some test shots with Larry the Pineapple at various f-stops under rather poor lighting before going through my portfolio and looking at how it can be used in the real world.

The stand-out features of this lens are the build quality and image rendering, as well as the rather beautiful aesthetic. This lens won't be for everyone, but those who manually focus or who shoot still life from a tripod like myself, this lens is a real game-changer. 

Would you spend the extra money for the lack of features?

Scott Choucino's picture

Food Photographer from the UK. Not at all tech savvy and knows very little about gear news and rumours.

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It seems like it would be a prefect lens for video.

Yeah it could be, but the focus throw could be too much? I don't do enough video to really know though.

That is always an issue with still lens, but people use them anyways. You would want to build our your camera with a follow focus, and only use it for particular shots.

One of my favourite lenses, not watched your video yet but will this evening. The way it handles highlights is where the magic is for me as with all my Zeiss, really enjoy using this lens for woodlands photography. The attached image was shot at f4 and a quick edit in lightroom mobile, will COP it when I've got more time...

yeah the highlight control isn't something that I had realised that lenses were responsible for until I got this bad boy.

Well, if this is too expensive simply get the previous version, the Zeiss Macro Planar 2/100. It shares the same optical design, but lacks weather sealing (I rarely use it when it rains).

I had the old Canon 100mm macro lens, and I went for this when I found one at roughly 60% of the original price (but new, it was the last one they had). Although I also own the Canon 180mm macro lens I do not regret having purchased the Zeiss.

It is a cinema lens optical design. As far as I know it’s the only stills lens design that was originally developed for their cinema series. It was one of the original marketing points for the Z makro planar which became the milvus lens.

I have the previous version, but bought it new. Love the Zeiss...though I've never tried Leica, I love these heavy lenses...the older versions are getting cheap(er) now.

Title S/B ZE not ZF, that's Nikon...

There's not much about the Milvus version online because all that changed from the Classic version was the coatings and housing. Even with the Milvus coatings, this lens sometimes goes crazy with Axial CA in bright light/high contrast situations. In subdued lighting, the lens is sublime.

I have tested this lens (a friends Nikon copy) and it is impressively sharp at f2.8 but so is the Nikon AF-S 105mm f2.8 VR lens and I need autofocus. This lens is sharper than the Nikon at f2.8 of course, but not by a whole lot and the Nikon has AF and VR! The only lens I have that is sharper than both this lens and the Nikon at f2.8 is my Nikon 400mm f2.8 VR, but that's a $11,000 lens so not quite fair. Like everyone is saying this is an amazing lens and it's very sharp at f2.8 or above where it's usually going to be used for macro. If you don't need AF and need ultimate image quality it's worth the money, especially when used or used previous versions are available. You won't be disappointed by this lens and the build quality is truly of a past and dying feel. Not many lenses made today are made this well unless you're talking about $2500-$14,000 range!

One of my biggest regrets is selling the older ZF version (not ZF.2 or Milvus). There is something about the 'look' that is impossible to quantify but it is very satisfying. I think the new weather sealing and coating may be enough for me to bite the bullet and just buy new. And never sell it again!