Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 Review

October 27, 2015 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 is a manual-aperture, manual-focus short telephoto prime lens for Canon and Nikon full-frame mirrorless cameras. It features an aperture range of f/1.4-f/16, 11 elements in 9 groups, a nine-bladed circular diaphragm for smoother bokeh blur in out of focus areas, and a precision-engineered full-metal casing. The Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 retails for £1379 / €1799 / $1799.

Ease of Use

Weighing over 1200g and measuring 121mm in length, the all-metal Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 is a massive lens considering the moderate 85mm focal length on offer. It feels fairly well-balanced on the Canon EOS 5DS R that we predominantly tested it with, although we'd suggest fitting a vertical grip as well for the best handling experience.

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4The Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5DS R

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4The Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5DS R

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4The Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 lens mounted on a Canon EOS 5DS R

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4The Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 lens alongside a Canon EOS 5DS R

The Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 boasts superb build quality. The lens’ all-metal casing is dust and moisture resistant and it features a metal mount. With no need for a zoom ring, the manual focussing ring spans a significant width of the lens barrel and is exceptionally smooth to operate, complete with a useful depth of field scale and hard stops at either end.

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4The side of the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 lens

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4The front of the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 lens

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4The rear of the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 lens

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4The side of the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 lens

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4The side of the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 lens

The 85mm f/1.4 has 11 lens elements in 9 groups with seven anomalous partial dispersion glass elements to significantly reduce chromatic aberrations. A nine-bladed rounded diaphragm, combined with the fast maximum aperture, helps provide very smooth bokeh blur.

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4The Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 lens in-hand

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4The Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 lens with the supplied lens hood fitted

There's no optical image stabilisation, but the lens' standard focal length and very fast maximum aperture alleviate the need for it. A special sealing ring on the bayonet also protects the interface between the camera and the lens. A round metal lens hood is supplied.

Focal Range

The 85mm focal length gives an angle of view of 28.24° on a 35mm full frame sensor.

 Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4Field of view at 85mm

Manual Focussing

The Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4's manual focussing ring spans a significant width of the lens barrel and is exceptionally smooth to operate, complete with a useful depth of field scale. It also has a large rotation angle which enables precise focusing and moves smoothly without any play, thus also supporting the intuitive interaction with the focal plane. The precise engravings in meters and feet, together with the depth of focus scale, help make manual focusing a veritable pleasure, especially in conjunction with the excellent Peaking feature offered by the Sony A-series cameras.

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberration (purple fringing) is rarely an issue with the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4, so much so that we could only find a few instances of fringing in our test shots.

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4

Light Fall-off and Distortion

Light fall-off is noticeable wide open at f/1.4, though this is to be expected for such a fast lens and can easily be corrected in Photoshop. Stop down to f/2.8 and the vignetting is already less prominent, but it is still visible when shooting pale scenes that fill the frame.

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4Light fall-off at 85mm

Macro

The Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 is not a macro lens, with the close-focus point at 80cm from the film/sensor plane and a maximum reproduction ratio of 1:8.3. The following example illustrates how close you can get to the subject, in this case a CompactFlash card.

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4Close-up performance

Bokeh

A major appeal of fast, wide-aperture prime lenses is their ability to produce an eye-catching separation between a sharp subject and a very soft out-of-focus background. The Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 generates very smooth out of focus areas through its use of a 9-bladed diaphragm, which provides smoother bokeh than seven or five-blade designs. Bokeh is however a fairly subjective part of a lens' image quality, so check out these 100% crops to see the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4's bokeh quality for yourself.

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4
   
Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following page.

Entry Tags

review, samples, test, sample images, lens, nikon, jpg, dslr, jpgs, sample, full frame, full-frame, zeiss, 85mm, milvus, 85mm full frame, anon, milvus 85, Zeiss Milvus 85mm f1.4