Zeiss Milvus 85/1.4 vs Zeiss Otus 85/1.4 vs Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 – Comparative Lens Review
We finally made it!
It took us over 2 months to complete and organize all images for this comparative review.
I would like to thanks following people for their unselfish help and support in making it possible:
- Ales Mejdrech – Carl Zeiss s r.o. – camera lens marketing and sales manager for the Czech Republic.
Thank you Mr. Mejdrech for renting us new Milvus and Otus lenses for this review. Because of your kind support, I ended shorter for the price of Otus 85/1.4, which I certainly didn’t need, but after seeing test results, I figured out that I can’t live without it. You are great sales manager, I hate you sir!
- Radek alias VerysmallLobo, man who makes whole verybiglobo project possible by designing pages and investing time and money into it.
No words to thank you enough.
- Martin Zeljak, my friend, great father and talented photographer.
Thank you Martin for borrowing us Zeiss Planar 85/1.4 ZF for this test. I own you couple of beers mate!
- Vladimir who recently joined our team.
He is trying to help with the mess that I managed to create in the back-end of our web editing platform.
- James, Anthony, Melvin, David, Michael and many others who sent us donation. Your contribution is very much appreciated!
- Pavel Sinagl – www.pavelsinagl.com Great photographer who helped me in parallel shooting of our models, beneficiary giving this review his talent and precious time.
The only problem is that his images are much nicer than mine, so please take that in consideration, before you make final conclusion about lenses. It’s a photographer, not the lens.
- Our models – Petra, Viktorie and Anne Nicole
Thank you ladies for your patience (and beauty, that makes us slightly more excited about testing lenses for free in the freezing Prague winter).
- My dear wife Rozalie for her understanding and support that goes far beyond sanity.
You my dear, are my biggest inspiration and motivation.
Before we start
Few months ago, I was able to briefly test new Milvus lenses in Oberkochen, Germany. Most interesting ones were of course completely new designed Milvus 50/1.4 and Milvus 85/1.4. (Rest of Milvus line has same optics as their predecessors, so I don’t expect any significant shift from already published reviews).
Getting back home and talking to my friends and colleagues, we decided to put in the schedule comparative review of Otus vs Milvus vs Planar at 85 and 50(55)mm.
On Verybiglobo, we are focusing on comparative, field test based reviews, rather than pure LAB tests. Here is short attempt to explain why we do so.
LAB tests are certainly better (more reliable) indicator of absolute optical performance than field tests, but at the same time they are strictly and carefully controlled tests, relying on professional testing devices, targets and software analyzes. For many, those tests will remain main indicator of particular lens quality (even if that is mostly wrongly interpreted, because they are usually system performance indicators, not the lenses alone).
On the other hand, we are evaluating our images (the main purpose why we are buying lenses if you forgot it, as I do sometimes) by our eyes. So in case that you are not genius who can see mathematical formulas as beautiful pictures, visual representation of the MTF charts is not bad contribution to overall lens performance presentation.
Understanding lens testing and related limitations
Even with the LAB tests, it is almost impossible to create 100% fair playground for all candidates, because of too many variables involved in the image processing, including optical deviations caused by sensor covers, camera chamber reflections, micro-lenses, production tolerances, in camera RAW software corrections etc.
With the field tests, this is just more complicated, because we have to deal with change of light, lack of large monitors for focus control and last but not least – live subjects that are permanently moving.
Lenses might be also tested on the optical bench or other, sensor independent measuring device, or their performance figures could be synthetically created, but even if the first method will give most reliable results in terms of optical qualities, same might have little impact on a real life pictures, because cameras those lenses will be used on, will contribute (in good and bad) to the final results.
Respected review sites are giving us (lens/camera) system achieved results but that’s why cross-platform comparisons are hardly relevant, no matter how fancy awarding and evaluation method is created and presented.
On top of system based results, most resolution chart based tests are performed at close to minimum focus distances, where another bunch of limitations arise, not to speak about lens optimization for a certain focal length, usually closer to the infinity (While with floating element lens design, focal plane distance deviations are minimized, they are still present, especially with the zoom lenses).
100% even lighting on the test chart (very difficult to achieve), 100% exact alignment (nightmare), 100% elimination of possible shutter shake and 100% accuracy in achieving critical focus are all necessary if we want to get closer to “absolute” comparison between two systems.
Even if all that is accomplished successfully, proper test should include representative number of production samples, in order to eliminate production variations.
All that being said, I know that almost every lens that I ever tested was somehow different, has stronger and weaker sides and is certainly unique enough to represent specific view to the captured scene. This is why comparing lenses make sense, but it is very important to clarify what are we comparing and what we want to find out with such a comparison.
This review is attempting to compare 3 Zeiss DSLR lenses, of the same focal length and same maximum aperture, not to find which one is best, but to give our readers different point of view on obtained data and images, in order to help them decide, which one will serve better their purpose.
We did our best to give you comparable results, but keep in mind, that with super shallow DOF, high-resolution sensors, breathing subjects, inability to check for critical focus etc., field test results shouldn’t be considered as a merit for absolute sharpness e.g. They are serving purpose of indicating rendering characteristics, (such as field curvature, highlight rendering, CA, spherical aberration, practical importance of distortion, flare resistance etc.)
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