Zeiss Otus 100mm f/1.4 Review

May 28, 2019 | Amy Davies | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


Like most other Zeiss lenses, the Otus 100mm f/1.4 lens can best be described as a niche lens which won’t appeal to a large percentage of ordinary photographers. It’s big, heavy and expensive, but it can really deliver some beautiful results.

Using a manual focus lens can be a challenge to even the most experienced of photographers, and it can be downright frustrating to those who are used to all the benefits of autofocusing. However, if you’re willing to put the time and effort in, you will be rewarded with exceptional image quality. It also has the benefit of slowing you down and making you consider your shots a little bit more - which can be an extremely good way to approach your photography.

Working with a lens like this when using a DSLR can be quite difficult, especially if you’re shooting through the viewfinder. Working at the very widest apertures it can be easy to miss focus, while not having inbuilt stabilisation in the lens means you need both a steady hand and to shoot at fast shutter speeds. In many ways it therefore makes a lot of sense to use this lens with cameras like the Nikon Z7 which both have IBIS and use an electronic viewfinder to help you keep on top of critical focusing with tools like focus peaking and the ability to enlarge the scene in the viewfinder.

When you nail the focus with a lens like this you are rewarded with some gorgeous shots. Bokeh which is fantastically rendered, including wonderful bokeh circles that you can get really creative with. It won’t be a lens you’ll want to use for every shot, but for those creative shots that deserve an extra special treatment, it’s a great option.

For those who want the very best in sharpness and are prepared to make not only a large cash investment, but also are happy to deal with manual focusing and all the issues that presents, you’re unlikely to find anything optically superior at this focal length than the Zeiss Otus 100mm f/1.4. If money was no object, it’d be high on our shopping list, but for those with more ordinary or modest budgets, it may be something to dream about but never own - you might perhaps consider renting one for specific occasions, such as a portrait shoot.

Otherwise, most ordinary photographers are likely to be better served by Nikon’s 105mm f/1.4 lens, a Canon 85mm f/1.4 lens or a Canon 105mm f/1.4 Art lens, especially at the price.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 3
Image quality 5
Value for money 3