Zeiss Milvus 85mm f1.4: Impressions of shooting with a really great lens.

June 05, 2016  •  Leave a Comment

85mm f1.4: one of my absolute favorite lenses.... ever.

Since mostly ever I do love shooting with 85mm f 1.4 lenses. In my analog times I used a Zeiss Planar 85mm f1.4 which I love very much. I adapted it for Canon EF - but there hat been issues with focus confirmation so shooting wide open was close to impossible but it delivers some pretty nice shots there, too.

Later I bought the Sigma 85mm f1.4 - and I was never really satisfied with this lens: wide open it struggles from a slight softness wide open as well as quite an amount of color fringing. It was not really fun to use this lens.

2014 I went to photokina. I made some shots with the Zeiss Otus 85mm f1.4 - and I loved this lens - but not its price tag. Zeiss announced the Milvus product line late 2015 - with a very positive response and a much better price tag. Recently I bought the Milvus 85mm f1.4. Now I want to share some experience and a comparison between the Milvus and the Sigma 85mm f1.4

Build Quality

The build quality of the Milvus is just mind-blowing: It is a full metal design - and weather sealed. As fare as I know: the Milvus is the only weather sealed 85mm lens for the Canon EF mount. But there is a downside with its build quality:  size and weight. It is a really hefty lens. 1280g is quite a bit... 120mm long - and a 77mm filter ø...

The Sigma is a much more handsome: 725g, 87.6mm long - easy to handle, the build quality is more than ok - engineered plastic but that´s standard with Canon, Nikon and others as well....

Sidewise the difference does not look that much... but the Zeiss weights 77% (!) more....

With the lens hood on there is nearly no difference in size...

Mounted on a big body like the 5DMkIII or the 7DMkII it is really bulky equipment. But I would not recommend to use it on smaller bodies: there is the space between lens and grip to small, especially if you have bigger fingers like me.

 

Handling

The main difference in Handling of the lenses comes from the focusing: the Milvus is a manual focusing lens - the Sigma comes with autofocus.. But the Zeiss is made for manual focus....

This becomes clear if you consider the focus thread:

  • Sigma: electric focusing, ca 90º focus thread
  • Zeiss: mechanical focusing, ca 270º focus thread

With this long travel focusing becomes accurate and handy - but slow as well: it is nearly impossible to focus from minimum distance to infinity without changing the position on the focus threat....

It is maybe only a little thing in the handling, but sometimes the small things are making the difference. Beside the weather sealing - nicely made with blue rubber or silicone - there is a little nob on the outside - this makes lens changing so easy when it is dark.

The Sigma instead has a little (very little) white point on the outside - and no weather sealing...

Comparison of Image Quality

Here you can expect differences - and some of them are really astonishing.

One thin is astonishing: aperture identifies the Milvus as Canon EF 35mm f1.4 - but shows the focal length correctly as 85mm.... 

First some excamples shot with f 1.4 which show the diefferences in chromatic aberrations/Color fringing..

I had one focusing point active - and both were set on the same point of the image, slight variations in the focal position between the lenses are natural. 

The 2nd example with the keys shows the advantage of the Milvus even more dramatic than the first one. The Milvus seems to be not as good as the Otus - but really sharp with well controlled color fringing.

Again: easy to see that the Sigma is a bit softer wide open... 

Lens flare is a topic of the Sigma 85mm. But the Milvus does not even show stars - even @ f16...

In the full view of the picture you see even more of the pretty strong lens flare of the Sigma.

With this shot i am a bit uncertain: the color rendering is a bit different - but the lighting might be slightly different . even if the full view does not show a bit difference. For me the Milvus photo ad the bottom shows clearly more contrast...

These images were very much astonishing to me: shot@ f8: and the Sigma shows color fringing on the extrem lower end of the image....

 

Some Remarkable shots with the Milvus 85mm f1.4

Right from the beginning the Milvus delivered shots were I must say: yes it´s worth to carry it....

I use the lens as part of my concept to have 4 lenses and 2 bodies to cover a wide focal range in best possible image quality. With one extender I cover 14mm -640mm focal range.... The 85mm mutates to an 136mm f2.2 lens on the 7DMkII..  

This was one of my very first shots with the Milvus... amazing colors, amazing bokeh...

Shot the next morning.....

This shot @ f2.0 shows bokeh as well as sharpness of the lens...

This shot was at the Kairakuen Park in Mito, Japan.

In the same park I saw this bamboo with its young leaves dried out...

This shot is a bit special - but cute.. the focusing point was the baby.

This photo shows definitely why Zeiss lenses are so great: Tho monkey is backlit but the color rendering just perfect.... When I saw the shot at the back of the camera: yes!

To use the lens for landscape photography isn´t the worst idea to have....

Really sharp and contrasty image....

This is where you need speed: she monks in the temple...

I do like this shot in the dark... the root looks like Kermit, climbing up. 

More a classic shot, showing bokeh...

Here we go: in mor real life environment the practical elimination of color fringing is impressive.

Yes, we all love these monkeys...

This time i used f5.6.. mindblowing sharp... 

The fish is shot with f 3.5, but still pretty vivid...

I like the color rendering in the forest...

Fuji-san. Shot in Hamaya with the 7dMkII

Kamakura: the young bamboo gives me the challenge to check the accuracy of focusing as well as the bokeh...

Another situation, also with very young bamboo leaves

I have never seen a plant like this... But here the 85mm shows it capabilities to focus the viewers eye.... 

Bird in flight - manual shot - but quite a strong crop... 

Part of a wedding ceremony, shot in Kamakura....

Another Temple in Nara...Again the color saturation is really amazing.

I live this shot from Nara. the deer being integrated in the group.... 

Another shot showing the sharpness wide open, @ f1.4...

 

I do love the images when you get a clear and really sharp image... 

Sushi at its best... and shot accordingly...

My first product shot with the Milvus: Yes!!! It is an untouched image. But is performs extremely well. It clearly outperfoms the Canon EF 100mm F2.8 L IS USM - which is a very very good lens as well. In recent shots where I compared the 100mm from Canon against the Sigma: the result was clear: I continued with the Canon... And now: It´s clear again: I continue with the Milvus...

Verdict

The Milvus 85mm f1.4 is clearly a Stradivari among the 85mm lenses on the market (ok: It might be a Stainer to leave the Stradivari for the Otus (I do not want to enter the discussion about the possibilities of new violins vs ancient masterpieces)) These lenses need more knowledge and skills to make great shots, definitely.

The Sigma by the way got a better reputation after the trials: it is better than expected in the direct comparison to the Milvus - especially in uncritical light condition it is a really good lens as well.

I will test the Canon 85mm f1.2L in the future.... The accurate autofocus is really an asset - and it will be interesting to see how soft it is wide open...

Additional remarks

As usual: All photos shown here in the blog can be seen there:

The product shots of the lenses were made with the 5D MkII and the Canon EF 100mm f2.8 L IS USM.

Most of the photos you see are not retouched - but I applied my standard settings for Raw development. The shots of the lenses I increased the shadows as well a bit more than usual.


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