The Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Planar is one of the best 85mm lenses made. While the Zeiss lenses are manually focused, they have the electronics to provide focus confirmation. Basically, you focus the lens manually, but the camera will confirm focus confirmation just as accurately as it would with an autofocus lens. Aperture is controlled from the camera body and even E-TTL flash metering is accurate.
Sale of Zeiss ZE lenses: We are a registered Zeiss dealer and sell new in box, fully warrantied Zeiss ZE lenses and now stock for immediate delivery in our For Sale section. If the lens is listed, a new in box copy of the lens is in stock for immediate shipment. If it is not listed, it is backordered, although we still have rental copies available.
Zeiss Try and Buy: We offer a new service with ZE lenses only. First, rent any ZE lens for 4 days. Then if you decide you want to buy it, we will apply your 4 day rental fee to the purchase of a brand new copy at our listed price. (Note: this is not your used rental copy. You will be buying a new lens.)
Full disclosure: I love Zeiss glass. I used to shoot it on the 1DsII with an adapter and still shoot ZF lenses on Nikon bodies pretty frequently. So, I was as excited as anyone when Zeiss announced the ZE mount. The 85 f/1.4 was the first to be released, and I was less excited about that since I already love the Canon 85 f/1.2 L, but I was excited nonetheless.
The ZE lens is superbly well built with metal body and hood, and it has the smoothest focusing ring I’ve handled. The electronic autofocus confirmation system works. You focus the lens manually with the shutter button half-depressed and you get the “red box” through the viewfinder confirming focus. It’s fairly accurate, although I found it took a few minutes of practice to get used to it and live-view focusing is more accurate. It’s not as convenient or quick as motor driven autofocus but better than unaided through-the-viewfinder manual focus.
The 85 f/1.4 is not as sharp wide open as I’d hoped, and I’d consider f/1.4 for emergency use only. By f/1.8, it’s sharp and at f/2.8 is wickedly sharp—as sharp as anything I’ve shot. My take is that it’s sharpest in the mid-range (from 7 to 50 feet) and not quite as sharp at infinity, which is what would be expected from a lens who’s primary use is portraiture and not landscape. Distortion is nil. The best part is that it has that Zeiss look. It has great microcontrast, even when lighting conditions are harsh and contrast high.
One other point that needs to be made: this lens does exhibit focus shift from f/1.4 to f/2 or so. In that aperture range it will tend to front focus, especially on objects fairly close to the camera.
I know someone will ask this question, so no, it’s not “better” than the Canon 85 f/1.2 L. It’s different. It has a slightly different look in contrast and color that I personally love. It’s also a lot smaller physically than the Canon 85, which can be important sometimes.
- Filter Size
- 72mm (nonrotating front element)
- 1.25 lb
- Minimum Focusing Distance
- 3.5 feet
- Maximum Magnification
- Angle of view: (full frame)
- 28.5 degrees
- Zoom method
- Image Stabilization
- Focusing System
- Internal focusing, nonrotating, manual, floating element
- Aperture Blades
- 9 curved, circular shape
- Low Dispersion Elements
- Fluorite Elements
- Aspherical Elements
- Weather Resistant
- Canon EF
- Crop, Full frame
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