New “No Compromise” Benchmark Lens — Zeiss Otus 55mm F1.4 APO-Distagon Available for Preorder

Zeiss calls its new groundbreaking Otus 55mm F1.4 APO-Distagon the perfect standard lens. And no better lens to shoot with at night, promises Zeiss. Manually focused, rather big and heavy, the first Otus lens stands for the perfection of Zeiss optical design and engineering. Announced a year ago, the Distagon has finally been baptized, slightly redesigned and is now available for preorder for Canon EF mount (ZE) and Nikon E mount (ZF.2) at $3,999 each. Expect first deliveries in November.

Nearly perfect even wide open, with unmatched sharpness and contrast, vivid colors and natural tones, very minimal vignetting, flare control with no veiling haze, lens “ghosts” or color fringes, this is glass as good as it gets. If you want the very best, you might not want to look any further.

They’ve been developing this lens for three years. “There’s nothing similar in the market yet”, assures Zeiss, a DSLR lens comparable to medium format systems at an affordable price.

The Zeiss Otus 55mm F1.4 Distagon T*
The Zeiss Otus 55mm F1.4 Distagon T*

According to Zeiss it’s named Otus after “a type of owl known for its excellent vision in darkness.” On the technical side, it employs a Distagon design that’s unusually complex for this class of lens, with 12 elements in 10 groups to minimize aberrations even when shooting at maximum aperture.

Lloyd Chambers has a first hands-on peek preview. Enthusiastic excerpt:

The Zeiss Otus 55mm F1.4 APO-Distagon is the first lens in the new ultra high-grade “Otus” line for Nikon and Canon DSLRs. The “bird” naming started with the Touit line and this convention continues with Otus, meaning the genus for owls. Zeiss has dropped hints that the Otus line will consist of extreme performance F1.4 lenses.

The Zeiss Otus 55mm F1.4 APO-Distagon is a true professional grade lens in every respect, thinking not so much in DSLR terms as in traditional medium format terms, with the associated high expectations for optical performance and top-flight build quality. The lens is a daring move in price terms and in being a manual focus lens, and in offering the ultimate in image quality.

The image quality that the 55mm F1.4 delivers even wide open sets a new standard by which other lenses will be compared.

The Zeiss Otus 55mm F1.4 Distagon T* is so strong a performer that it undermines the rationale for a medium format camera. This is already true with the 36MP Nikon D800E, but certainly so when 50+ megapixel DSLRs arrive on scene. And that statement is not just about resolution, but about total performance.

Mechanically, the 55mm F1.4 APO-Distagon is the best Zeiss DSLR lens yet (which is already a high bar): the focusing mechanism uses bearings as with cine lenses, along with a very generous focus “throw,” for a satisfying feeling of precision and velvety smoothness (…)

Photographers looking for the very best in imaging quality need look no further. When everything is considered, the Zeiss Otus 55m F1.4 APO-Distagon is without a doubt the finest lens ever produced for a 35mm SLR or DSLR (or rangefinder). It sets a new benchmark.

The Otus 55mm F1.4 APO Distagon on a high resolution DSLR makes a strong challenge to medium format on total imaging quality (not just resolution). Moreover, in resolution terms, the 55mm F1.4 has ample reserves for a future 60/70/80 megapixel DSLR.

Light sources that are either in front of or behind the area in focus are a particular challenge for every lens. With the Otus 1.4/55 the longitudinal color fringes are so faint that practically no chromatic aberrations are visible (click for full resolution). | Zeiss
Light sources that are either in front of or behind the area in focus are a particular challenge for every lens. With the Otus 1.4/55 the longitudinal color fringes are so faint that practically no chromatic aberrations are visible (click for full resolution). | Zeiss

A tad too long for my taste, not to mention size and weight. A Leica solution looks like midget gear in comparison. But as the probably very best in optics, and as photography is much about mojo, this lens might just be it. As a precaution I try not to get too close.

Any plans for making a ZM version?

For more information visit lenses.zeiss.com.

+++ You can order the Zeiss Otus 55mm F1.4 APO-Distagon from B&H (Canon/Nikon) and Adorama (Canon/Nikon).

  • Bengt Nyman

    The lack of auto focus is hugely limiting on a DSLR.
    On a mirrorless camera with EVF and focus peeking it might be OK even if it slows you down there a bit as well.
    But It sounds like a great lens for narrow landscapes, studio, portraits and other stationary work.