First Impressions: Carl Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 ZE Lens

My new Zeiss lens arrived this morning, just in time for a photo shoot I had scheduled with the lovely Petra Taj. Well, actually, it was a little late, which caused me to me a little late, but it was worth the wait, and no-one else seemed to mind.

When removing the lens from the box, the first thing I noticed was the absolutely superior build quality. Fit and finish is unsurpassed. Of course, I expect great things from a company like Zeiss, but even I was surprised at how well-built this lens is. It is heavy – nothing but metal and glass in this beast.

Click on the images to view them full-size, which is recommended for best quality.

Petra Taj, photographed in San Antonio by Darren Abate, using the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 ZE lens on a Canon EOS-1D Mark II.

Petra Taj, photographed in San Antonio by Darren Abate, using the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 ZE lens on a Canon EOS-1D Mark II.

The lens is manual focus-only, so you lazy photographers (and those who learned in the “digital” age) probably won’t even want to try it out. I, however, still love manual focus lenses. I believe that you really lose an edge when you start relying solely on autofocus. My frustration comes in the inferior quality of the focusing screens in today’s digital bodies. Often times, it is impossible to achieve accurate manual focus with a new DSLR because the focusing screens are not optimized for it.

Petra Taj, photographed in San Antonio by Darren Abate.

Petra Taj, photographed in San Antonio by Darren Abate.

Luckily, the Zeiss ZE lenses are fully compatible with the EOS system, which means that not only do they transmit ETTL data if you’re using a flash, but they also provide focus confirmation. So, when you need some help determining when you are in focus, you have it; your little green dot still works.

It’s right about now that I’m wishing I hadn’t sold my EOS-1V, which was a magnificent body, because I would love to see how the 85/1.4 ZE looks on film. Sadly, the only EF bodies I have now are digital. I can say though that this lens gives me a great excuse to upgrade to the new 5D Mark II when it comes out. This glass definitely needs a FF body.

More to come after I find more things to shoot. Shouldn’t be too difficult.


~ by peakaction on November 18, 2008.

6 Responses to “First Impressions: Carl Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 ZE Lens”

  1. Nice detail and sharpness, do you find this lens to be sharper than a fixed focal Canon lens?

  2. It’s hard to say, since I’ve not yet compared the Zeiss next to the Canon 80/1.2. I can tell you, though, that the build quality of the Zeiss has it hands down over the Canon, which is itself a great lens.

  3. lovely, i enjoyed explaining to my girlfriend how to focus my rangefinder at the weekend, if the shots look good i’ll never hear the end of it. i’ll have to doctor them with a little gaussian blur 😉

  4. Really nice shots. You don´t happend to have some shots wide open that you could publish or e-mail me. I´m very interested in a Zeiss 85 since I think that my 85/1.8 isn´t that sharp wide open.

  5. Jonas,

    I’m e-mailing a link to you now…


  6. This is way late in the game, but I’m also interested in any wide open shots that you might have. I’m considering this lens as my first Zeiss ZE, but I would like the option of using it wide open if it’s sharp enough.

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