Does anyone have hands on experience with the Zeiss. It really looks like a great lens, all metal and a smooth focus ring. I had a chance to briefly try it at a store but that is not enough to know how it fares in real world use.
Looks like I might have to give the 135 a little more consideration...
Yes, when I first tried Zeiss after using Canon glass, my first thought was "where have you been all my life?" But keep in mind I shoot video 90% of the time, so I'd say it was more the ease of operability, not a huge jump in IQ or anything. The Zeiss 21mm blew me away relative to my 16-35mm, the 50mm f/2 wowed me relative to my 50L, and the ZE100 was an improvement over my 100L (although I can't say it's worth 2x the price AND losing AF and IS). The Zeiss lenses just have an amazing throw on the focus ring, hard stops at infinity and macro, and are built like tanks. I found their color rendition to be extremely accurate (required much less color correction) and it's nice not having the overblown reds (like Canon does sometimes). The bokeh is beautiful on all of them, there is just something about it that I really like, it's almost like you see these nice individual circles that are somewhat translucent in the middle (more of a cinema look), vs. the big (beautiful) blurred mush that the 50L/85L create.
Anyways, about the ZE 85. Honestly I was the least impressed with this one relative to it's Canon counterpart (85mm f/1.2L II). Granted the 85L is one of my sharpest Canon lenses and costs almost 2x what the ZE does. I'd say if you really factor in the price (not head to head, but with price factored), that the ZE is just as good as the 85L II, and that's very respectable. And although MF can sound scary, the times I've taken stills weren't bad at all, the AF confirmation is spot on and the focus ring has nice resistance so it feels as good as it gets for MF.
Anyways, about that 85mm f/1.8....
Look at this comparison between the 85mm f/1.8, 85mm f/1.2L II, and Zeiss ZE 85mm f/1.4:http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Lenses/Compare-Camera-Lenses/Compare-lenses/(lens1)/329/(lens2)/270/(lens3)/241/(brand1)/Zeiss/(camera1)/483/(brand2)/Canon/(camera2)/483/(brand3)/Canon/(camera3)/483
Notice something strange? Yeah, the 85mm f/1.8 has a higher resolution score than the ZE 85 and 85LII. But at the same time the 85L was being tested at f/1.2 while the 85mm f/1.8 is being tested at f/2.8, stop the 85LII down to f/2.8 and it would be a different story. And while it does exhibit a tiny bit more distortion, it has quite a bit less chromatic aberration. It may not have the bokeh or the color of the other 85's, but for $300-$350 used it can't be beaten. It may be worth picking that one up and seeing how you like the focal length, and then if you really feel like you need an upgrade go for it. It's pretty much like you're renting the lens with a full deposit down, you'll get your money back out of it for sure, so why not?
This is a list of 94 pages of lenses from pretty much every brand you can think of, the scores ranked from high to low. Notice what the #1 lens is:http://www.dxomark.com/index.php/Lenses/Camera-Lens-Ratings/Optical-Metric-Scores
Yup, the 85mm f/1.8.