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ZEISS Otus Apo-Sonnar 100mm f/1.4 T* Lens Review

John Riley reviews the ZEISS Otus Apo-Sonnar 100mm f/1.4 T* lens to see if the telephoto prime will capture images which are on-par with its own impressive appearance (and price tag).

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ZEISS Otus Apo-Sonnar 100mm f/1.4 T* Lens Review: Zeiss Otus 100mm F/1.4 On Canon 5DSR | 1/5 sec | f/16.0 | 48.0 mm | ISO 100

Building upon the solid foundation of the three Otus lenses already available, 28mm, 55mm and 85mm, this new 100mm f/1.4 optic extends the concept of lenses without compromise into the short telephoto arena. Available for Canon (ZE mount) and Nikon (ZF.2 mount) DSLRs, this range of full-frame lenses is intended for those who seek the absolute optimum in image quality and for whom the cost becomes a secondary consideration. Armed with the full-frame Canon 5DS R 50MP camera body, let's see what the reality of no compromise might be and whether a manual focus prime lens can justify the inevitable price tag that is attached to that concept.


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Zeiss Otus Apo-Sonnar 100mm f/1.4 T* Handling and Features

ZEISS Otus Apo-Sonnar 100mm f/1.4 T* Lens Review: Zeiss Otus 100mm F/1.4 Front Oblique View | 1/6 sec | f/16.0 | 78.0 mm | ISO 100

We are off to a good start with the first impressions. As always, the Zeiss packaging is impressive and of superb quality. The lens itself is equally impressive – large, heavy and clearly made to the highest standards, weighing in at a substantial 1405g (Canon) or 1336g (Nikon). The generously sized metal lens hood is stylishly tapered and blends beautifully with the sleek lines of the lens body. It is attached via a slick bayonet fit. There is no locking catch and none is needed as the precision of the click-stop is perfect. Within this is a conventional 86mm filter thread.

The only control is the manual focusing ring, made of a rubberised material that affords an excellent grip. With some previous Zeiss lenses, this ring has had an unfortunate tendency to pick up dust, but in this new lens, this appears to have been cured. Although the grip remains excellent the ring also remains dust-free. There are clear distance markings in feet and metres, visible in a cut out in the lens barrel. The focusing throw is a massive 315 degrees, which gives the potential for improved accuracy but also means that focusing is slower. In fact, the incredible accuracy possible also means that we can become ever more critical and shots that might have been very acceptable suddenly becomes less so because when focus does really hit the spot it shows. Focusing is down to 1m, or 39.4 inches, giving a maximum magnification of 1:8.6. This is exactly what would be expected from a 100mm lens and is usefully close, but not of course approaching macro distances.

There is a depth of field scale provided and, because of the wide throw of the focusing mechanism, it does show meaningful figures. Unfortunately, at many focusing distances, there are not enough figures on the distance scale to make the most of this, although it is absolutely possible to set the hyperfocal distance accurately. There is an IR focusing mark provided, marking the f/4 point on the DOF scale in red.

ZEISS Otus Apo-Sonnar 100mm f/1.4 T* Lens Review: Zeiss Otus 100mm F/1.4 On Canon 5DSR Top View | 0.5 sec | f/16.0 | 53.0 mm | ISO 100

Focusing is internal and the lens does not change length. It is a mechanical, internal focusing system, so operational with the camera switched off; it is utterly smooth. There is enough resistance to ensure focus position is not accidentally changed, but smooth enough to enable one-finger focusing with ease.

Optical construction is 14 elements in 11 groups. There is 1 Aspheric and no less than 9 elements using glass with anomalous partial dispersion. The design also employs floating elements, usually used to ensure better close up performance. With an eye to the bokeh, there are 9 rounded blades to the diaphragm.

Using the lens over a period of several days, it soon becomes a definite tactile pleasure, smooth as silk in operation and with a quality feel to it that exudes an impression of class. Even the Zeiss nameplates are discrete. At first sight, the yellow paint used to infill the engraving might look a little unsubtle, but the size and fluorescent paint used means that these settings are very visible even as the light fails, so it is very practical.

Of course, how portable the lens is considered is another matter and it is quite an optic to carry around for any length of time. For the very best results, probably a tripod will be needed as there is no inbuilt shake reduction, but then again we have a very fast lens that we can continue shooting with even in the dullest light. Overall, a very satisfying experience.

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1 Aug 2019 5:35PM
So few 100mm ? Well it aint much longer than 85mm, so save money and get an F1.2 Canon or a F1.4.

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