November 27, 2014, 03:28:47 AM

Author Topic: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*  (Read 9375 times)

sdsr

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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #30 on: February 26, 2014, 01:31:14 PM »
As you can image, and predictably, the lens is phenomenal and possibly the best 50mm (yes, it’s 55mm) lens ever made for an DSLR.
Here in Germany the "fotomagazin" jounal has made a test and review where they say that the Sony/Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm F1,8 ZA has a better IQ at 1/4 of the price.
I don't get 100% through their test methods to see if they did something wrong but the results are hard to believe as the optics are comming from the same source.

The Sony/Zeiss certainly can make remarkably images when attached to an A7r, as I've been discovering over the past week or so, though unless I rent one I doubt I'll ever be in a position to compare it to the Otus first hand.  Can that review be read on-line?  I tried finding it on their site, but without success - maybe I'm looking in the wrong places, or my German isn't good enough....  People complain that the Sony/Zeiss is overpriced, but given how good it is I'm not so sure (it helps that I was able to get mine through a Sony promotion that resulted in a $200 discount).

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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #30 on: February 26, 2014, 01:31:14 PM »

Radiating

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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #31 on: February 26, 2014, 02:53:25 PM »
As you can image, and predictably, the lens is phenomenal and possibly the best 50mm (yes, it’s 55mm) lens ever made for an DSLR.
Here in Germany the "fotomagazin" jounal has made a test and review where they say that the Sony/Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm F1,8 ZA has a better IQ at 1/4 of the price.
I don't get 100% through their test methods to see if they did something wrong but the results are hard to believe as the optics are comming from the same source.


I think everyone is missing the entire point of this lens and all of the information about it.

50mm lenses have been completely dominated by the the double gauss (planar) design for the last 70+ years, which severely limits image quality at fast apertures. It's a very poor archaic design that results in around 4 times worse performance in every image clarity measurement, with the only upside being a slightly more compact design. There is literally no planar lens that performs even passably well wide open. The Zeiss Otus was the first retrofocal normal lens for full frame cameras and it showed there was a night and day difference compared to the double gauss design. The Sigma 50mm ART will be the second. The 55mm f/1.8 ZA I'll address later.

Planar lenses have extremely poor performance wide open, lets use the lens rentals 50mm comparison as an example ( http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2012...-50mm-shootout ), which tested 23 planar normal lenses. At f/1.4 planar lenses achieved scores in the 300s and 400s in that test for average MTF50 resolution. For comparison the Zeiss Otus delivers average resolution of 800. That's just under 5 times more spacial resolution than the lens it supersedes, the Zeiss 1.4 Planar, @ f/1.4. (remember we have to square linear resolution data to get normal resolution)

If you look at other points of comparison you can see that planar 50mm lenses scored poorly in haziness/glowiness and purple fringing, and often scored poorly in chromatic aberration, usually by a factor of 3-5.

Zeiss decided that it was impossible to make a good standard prime using the double gauss design, after all the design forces a lens to be short and leaves little room to correct aberrations.  So to make more room for corrective lens elements, Zeiss switched to a retrofocal design, which means that the lens is actually longer than it's focal length. They more than doubled the number of elements which allowed them to finally make a good 50mm prime, for SLR. Previously this had been an impossible achievement with the majority of standard primes having camera phone resolution wide open.

The 55mm Otus is a very special lens too because it's Apochromatic, which means it has no purple fringing all other primes in this range have a ton of purple fringing that looks very ugly, and most publications won't allow you to submit photos with any hint of purple fringing.



There is no prime that exists that's f/2 or faster below 150mm besides the Otus that doesn't have ridiculous amounts of purple fringing. As a professional image editor for magazines purple fringing was my mortal enemy so this is a huge deal. This is a feature that isn't found on any lens below the $2000 price point,  (Exception being the Sigma 150mm APO which is slightly less, and when certain lenses go on sale). And this is a feature isn't found on any wide, normal or telephoto lens that has a fast aperture.

So the 55mm Otus is special because it breaks the mould for standard focal length SLR optical design, it's the first and currently only available retrofocal standard fast SLR lens and it's the only non super-telephoto fast APO lens in the world.

The Sony 55mm f/1.8 ZA is not an SLR lens, it's a mirroless lens. Making the Zeiss Otus was an endeavor much like getting a man to walk on the moon. It's an incredibly achievement to overcome the limitations of standard fast SLR lenes. The mirror box is what prevents standard lenses from being good, and it took 70+ years to solve the problem. The Sony 55mm f/1.8 ZA is an endeavor as complex as getting a man to walk on the sidewalk, it's one of the most basic lens you can make, and it's not APO. It's as special as McChicken sandwich.

Hopefully that puts everything into perspective. This is a very special lens, which more than doubles anything in it's class. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART is going to be equally special with 89% the performance, although lacking APO, but also doubling the performance of anything else like it.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2014, 01:55:12 AM by Radiating »

Lee Jay

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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #32 on: February 26, 2014, 03:48:13 PM »
The Zeiss Otus was the first retrofocal normal lens for full frame cameras and it showed there was a night and day difference compared to the double gauss design.

(snip)

There is no prime that exists that's f/2 or faster below 150mm besides the Otus that doesn't have ridiculous amounts of purple fringing.

If the whole way it got so good is that it's retrofocus, shouldn't the 35/1.4 and 24/1.4 also have those same benefits, since they have to be retrofocus?

traveller

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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #33 on: February 26, 2014, 03:54:55 PM »
For me, the elephant in the room with fast primes is focus. It's easy to get you're point of focus wrong with these lenses and that's assuming that the phase detect AF system in your camera is up to the job. If the AF misses, it's difficult to see in the viewfinder, because they're all optimised for slower zoom lenses and don't show the full depth of field below f/2.8. This also makes manual focus tough, especially as even the replacement (courser grained) screens available for some cameras (but not mine :( ) don't often have micro-prism or split image focus aids (unless you go for a third party design and accept your meter being disrupted).

To be honest, most people can't achieve as accurate focus as AF systems even with in-viewfinder aids , which is why AF cameras now dominate the market. This is the huge advantage of mirrorless cameras with EVFs, you can easily toggle a variety of manual focusing aids depending upon the situation.

I can't help agreeing with Lloyd Chambers [http://diglloyd.com/blog/2013/20130306_2-why-electronic-viewfinder-matters.html] that the next development in DSLRs should be hybrid OVF/EVFs (like the X-Pro 1). Imagine that on your 1D Xs or 5D Mk4: a nice bright OVF for when you want to track moving targets with the PDAF system, which can be swapped over to a high resolution EVF at the flick of a switch when critical focus on slow moving or static subjects is required....

mackguyver

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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #34 on: February 26, 2014, 03:59:09 PM »
There is no prime that exists that's f/2 or faster below 150mm besides the Otus that doesn't have ridiculous amounts of purple fringing.
That is one ugly example of purple fringing!  I would agree with your statement on LoCA the exception of the word ridiculous - and I think the 85 f/1.2 II suffers very little from fringing.  From my use of Canon's fast primes, I'd say:

24 f/1.4 II - pretty bad purple/green fringing until f/2 or so
35 f/1.4 - purple fringing until f/2.8 or even f/4
50 f/1.2 - guilty as charged - bad red fringing until f/2.8
85 f/1.2 II - minimal red fringing at f/1.2, mostly gone by f/1.6
135 f/2 - some red fringing at f/2, mostly gone by f/2.8

This isn't taking away from the Otus and like you, I'm surprised that they didn't market this quality.

For me, the elephant in the room with fast primes is focus.
Yep, though you have to wonder how much that would have added to the Otus price!  I have the EF-S screen for my 5DII (the primary reason I keep this body) and it really helps, but even then, only to about f/1.8, which doesn't help much on the 50 or 85 f/1.2s...

max

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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #35 on: February 26, 2014, 06:04:09 PM »
3 stops of vignette in the corner seems like a bit too much...

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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #36 on: February 26, 2014, 07:20:06 PM »
I think everyone is missing the entire point of this lens and all of the information about it.

Perhaps not everyone, I'm reasonably sure the owners of this Lens appreciate the finer points of design & end product, and a lot of people that may never own the Lens probably do as well.

I think the "emotion" that this Lens generates is mostly around the Cost, people do tend to leave a certain common sense behind when confronted with a price that's generally twice any other 50 on the Market, excluding the Leica Noctilux f/0.95 which sells for around $11k, I'm just thankful Leica don't produce this Lens with a Canon Mount, it would likely drive some CR members to Self Immolation.

Having said that, I think you've explained exceptionally well why the Lens exists, why it's as good as it clearly is, and why some of us have opted to own it.
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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #36 on: February 26, 2014, 07:20:06 PM »

NancyP

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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #37 on: February 26, 2014, 07:41:30 PM »
Retrofocal "Distagon" design, rather than classic "Planar" design - that is the innovation. A lot of those planars are quite good from f/2.8 or f/4 to f/11. I use old manual-everything planar lenses. There's no question that there is a trade-off at f/2 and a big trade-off at f/1.4.

jrista

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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #38 on: February 26, 2014, 11:45:35 PM »
The thing that really caught my eye in this review was it's wide-open focal plane performance. Not only is it much sharper center frame than any other 50mm, but the corner performance!! HOLY HELL! That truly blows my mind.

Radiating

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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #39 on: February 27, 2014, 02:58:31 AM »
The Zeiss Otus was the first retrofocal normal lens for full frame cameras and it showed there was a night and day difference compared to the double gauss design.

(snip)

There is no prime that exists that's f/2 or faster below 150mm besides the Otus that doesn't have ridiculous amounts of purple fringing.

If the whole way it got so good is that it's retrofocus, shouldn't the 35/1.4 and 24/1.4 also have those same benefits, since they have to be retrofocus?

The purpose of going retrofocal in a standard prime is so you have more room to put corrective lens elements into the optical path.

The reason why 35mm and 24mm lenses are retrofocal is because there is no other way to do them. You need the focal length to be longer than 35mm when the distance from your sensor to the last optical element is 35mm+.

With a 35mm lens going retrofocal is just barley necessary (Canon can make a 40mm pancake after all for EF with a standard lens design). So you gain a ton of room for aberration correction. The Sigma, Zeiss and Nikon 35mm primes are crazy good for that reason. There is mountains of room to correct everything you can imagine. The Canon 35mm prime is so-so because Canon is lazy and complacent and they didn't feel like updating their 16 year old lens to a modern highly computer corrected design because it was good enough.

With a 24mm lens you don't get the same benefits, as a 35 or 50. Going retrofocal barley gets you enough room to put the basic corrective elements in, which is the same problem as you get with a planar 50mm lens, and because of the wide angles the elements have to be a bit larger so everything is ridiculously scrunched up, which leads to poor performance. To get around this issue Zeiss only makes a 25mm f/2 prime. Going to a slower aperture and 1mm longer focal length gave them just a little more room to correct everything properly, which is why they have the best wide angle prime. Compromising a little on the focal length and aperture was the only way to get the image quality they require.


That's also why telephoto lenses are so incredibly good. There is a ample room within the optical path to add elements to correct for anything and everything.

Having room to correct aberrations has a large effect on image quality, that's why wide angle lenses on mirrorless cameras (which have more room because they have no mirror) are so insanely good. Sony's 10-18mm and Canon's 11-22mm cheap consumer mirroless wide angle zooms are sharper wide open on crop than any pro wide angle zoom available for any Canon camera at any aperture, full frame or crop.


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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #40 on: February 27, 2014, 03:46:16 AM »
As you can image, and predictably, the lens is phenomenal and possibly the best 50mm (yes, it’s 55mm) lens ever made for an DSLR.
Here in Germany the "fotomagazin" jounal has made a test and review where they say that the Sony/Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm F1,8 ZA has a better IQ at 1/4 of the price.
I don't get 100% through their test methods to see if they did something wrong but the results are hard to believe as the optics are comming from the same source.


I think everyone is missing the entire point of this lens and all of the information about it.
Hi Radiating!
And thank you for your detailed summary of lens design and optics for this topic.
I can see clearer now (although not having the Otus ;) )

Quote
The Sony 55mm f/1.8 ZA is not an SLR lens, it's a mirroless lens. .
I didn't take this into account. But I understand, that this allows a different optical design as for DSLR cameras.

Quote
Hopefully that puts everything into perspective. This is a very special lens, which more than doubles anything in it's class. The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 ART is going to be equally special with 89% the performance, although lacking APO, but also doubling the performance of anything else like it.
Yes it does - at least for me. Thanks again.
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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #41 on: February 27, 2014, 04:29:51 AM »

I think everyone is missing the entire point of this lens and all of the information about it.

The 55mm Otus is a very special lens too because it's Apochromatic, which means it has no purple fringing all other primes in this range have a ton of purple fringing that looks very ugly, and most publications won't allow you to submit photos with any hint of purple fringing.


Now that's an important aspect IMHO, Radiating! Superfast lenses in the standard/ short tele range nearly always come with heavy fringing. I use e.g. a Canon 85/1.2 II quite often, I love it but it produces a hell of strong purple fringing if there are edges with a lot of contrast in the image. Fortunately, in digital photography you can correct this by carefully post-processing RAW images (LR e.g. supports that quite nicely). But, of course, it is always better to have a lens that delivers clean images right to the sensor.

Radiating, your posts look like your a much immersed in lens design, it is really worth reading them. From this is a thread I really learned something, thx a lot!
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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #42 on: February 27, 2014, 04:40:11 AM »
The Zeiss Otus was the first retrofocal normal lens for full frame cameras and it showed there was a night and day difference compared to the double gauss design.

(snip)

There is no prime that exists that's f/2 or faster below 150mm besides the Otus that doesn't have ridiculous amounts of purple fringing.

If the whole way it got so good is that it's retrofocus, shouldn't the 35/1.4 and 24/1.4 also have those same benefits, since they have to be retrofocus?

The purpose of going retrofocal in a standard prime is so you have more room to put corrective lens elements into the optical path.

The reason why 35mm and 24mm lenses are retrofocal is because there is no other way to do them. You need the focal length to be longer than 35mm when the distance from your sensor to the last optical element is 35mm+.

With a 35mm lens going retrofocal is just barley necessary (Canon can make a 40mm pancake after all for EF with a standard lens design). So you gain a ton of room for aberration correction. The Sigma, Zeiss and Nikon 35mm primes are crazy good for that reason. There is mountains of room to correct everything you can imagine. The Canon 35mm prime is so-so because Canon is lazy and complacent and they didn't feel like updating their 16 year old lens to a modern highly computer corrected design because it was good enough.

With a 24mm lens you don't get the same benefits, as a 35 or 50. Going retrofocal barley gets you enough room to put the basic corrective elements in, which is the same problem as you get with a planar 50mm lens, and because of the wide angles the elements have to be a bit larger so everything is ridiculously scrunched up, which leads to poor performance. To get around this issue Zeiss only makes a 25mm f/2 prime. Going to a slower aperture and 1mm longer focal length gave them just a little more room to correct everything properly, which is why they have the best wide angle prime. Compromising a little on the focal length and aperture was the only way to get the image quality they require.


That's also why telephoto lenses are so incredibly good. There is a ample room within the optical path to add elements to correct for anything and everything.

Having room to correct aberrations has a large effect on image quality, that's why wide angle lenses on mirrorless cameras (which have more room because they have no mirror) are so insanely good. Sony's 10-18mm and Canon's 11-22mm cheap consumer mirroless wide angle zooms are sharper wide open on crop than any pro wide angle zoom available for any Canon camera at any aperture, full frame or crop.

+1000

Excellent stuff! Spot on!

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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #42 on: February 27, 2014, 04:40:11 AM »

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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #43 on: February 27, 2014, 06:23:24 AM »
I'm not impressed. A lot of vignetting at large appertures, and the very first sample shot (lady standing) is not even sharp where it should be (face). At this level of money I think it's over-priced. My old Sigma 50mm f/1.4 did nearly just as good a job. at nearly a 10th of the costs.

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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #44 on: February 27, 2014, 06:58:39 AM »
At that price, I would have expected a better looking lens :P. The focus ring looks like it's covered with cheap black electrical tape, and the rest of the barrel looks like it's painted with what ricers use in their Hondas: flat matte black paint for that "prototype-model" look. And yet you still have to "row the gears" yourself!  ;D
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Re: Review: Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Distagon T*
« Reply #44 on: February 27, 2014, 06:58:39 AM »