The high-end Zeiss 1,4/55 lens scheduled to be released at the end of the year

Zeiss f1.4 55mm lens

Zeiss published a blog post on the development process behind the 55mm f/1.4 lens which is specially designed for high resolution, full frame DSLR cameras (with resolution more than 30MP). The shipping should start at the end of 2013:

“When the 1,4/55 comes onto the market at the end of 2013 as the first in this family of lenses, it will be one of the best lenses in the world. There will be nothing of comparable quality, and that not only applies to this specific focal length range.  With this product ZEISS has truly opened up a new dimension of digital full-frame photography.”

The Zeiss 1,4/55 lens was announced during the Photokina show last year and was labeled as “the best fast 50mm ever”. Some sample images can be found here. Zeiss also has plans for new 85mm and a wide angle f/1.4 high-end lenses.

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  • Killroy™

    Can’t wait to try out this lens on my Nikon D1.

  • julian

    maybe i’m missing the point but i don’t really see the need for such high end manual focus lenses. i suppose i’m not really the target market shooting concerts, sports and some street.

    or i could just be rubbish at manual focus without a split prism

    • sperdynamite

      It’s a halo product. Something amazing, that few will actually purchase. Builds brand recognition, showcases ability. They probably will sell a whole lot more 32mm Touits and 50mm Planars because of this thing. For the few that can afford it, it’ll probably be pretty dope. Basically Leica comes out with something, likesay the 50mm APO Summicron, and charges some stupid amount for it. Then a few months later Zeiss makes a better lens and still undercuts Leica’s price. Also see: Zeiss Ikon, Contax G lenses, and the ZM line in general. Probably their Cine line too.

      • Pat Mann

        If it’s as clearly superior as Zeiss claims, I think the sales numbers could be very high.
        I like to shoot subjects that have a high degree of more-or-less uniform detail across the entire frame. I have an upcoming project of this nature that requires minimal distortion and accurate dimensional control in the final image, and am upgrading my equipment and technique to move from mostly hand-held photos and digital end products to making high quality large (A2 to A1) prints that hold their detail well when viewed as close as 8 inches, about as close as most people can view the image without magnification.
        Compared to other highest specification lenses I am considering for this project, like the 100mm Makro-Planar and 85mm f/1.4 Nikkor G, the price is high, but not high in context of the complete end-to-end system to accomplish this, including stable giant tripod, geared head, camera, tethering setup, lens, lighting, color checking, printing, software, etc. The fact that this lens is wider than the others would simplify my setup significantly. It would add about 10% to the cost of the complete system to include this lens instead of one of the other choices in the total investment. Moving to medium format from 24 x 36 by comparison would cost much more, and is not feasible for me.
        I have put the lens purchase for this project on hold until I see the field reports on performance of this lens and can do my own tests.

        • Les

          Pat,

          You should run a test with one of the cheaper medium format options, just in case. A Pentax 645D, for instance, may give you better overall sharpness with a standard lens. You can also adapt lenses from other systems. The Hasselblad Distagon 60/3.5 is especially good for low distortion, as are the Pentax 67 100/4.0 and 645 120/4.0.

          • Pat Mann

            Thanks – I’ve considered that option. After using a Pentax 645 with film for many years, I’m confident the 645D with just the basic 55mm lens would do a fine job on my project, and probably with less care and effort than will be required using the D800. I was never disappointed in the results from that camera. It’s just well beyond what I can afford to allocate to photography today to support both a medium-format system and my everyday camera, and the scaling up of every other component in the kit to match. Since this is a 6-month to 1-year project, renting isn’t practical. And after carrying the 645 with 35, 75 and 150mm lenses as my travel camera on a number of European trips, I’m not ready to start packing that kit again, particularly considering all the digital support gear that has to come along. If I can do almost as well with a high-resolution 24 x 36 mm system, I’ll be quite happy. I’m quite pleased with what I get from APS-C for all but my most demanding work. The D800 with the current 60mm micro-Nikkor should be fully capable of meeting the demands of this project, and exceeding the quality of the large prints I made in film days from the Pentax. I’m just seeking to absolutely maximize what I can get out of the system I have by adding the best components I can (just barely, in time) afford that will also have other practical applications.

        • sperdynamite

          How about a 4×5? They’re practically giving that equipment away, and Portra 160 is a truly amazing film.

      • Lee Saxon

        You’re right generally, but not about the Cine line, just FYI. Zeiss Master Primes existed long, long before the Leica Summilux-C’s, and aren’t any cheaper.

        • sperdynamite

          Well the good stuff, no. But Zeiss certainly has a much more expanded line up, considering CP2s and that those on a budget who MUST shoot Zeiss on a DSLR have ZE/F lenses to choose from. While one could grab old R lenses, they’re not readily available, and require adapters to use. I think only the greatest resolution fanatics would choose Leica Cine glass and RED cameras when Cooke and Zeiss lenses are plentiful and readily available around the world.

    • Mark Finney

      Completely agree! A fast normal prime is perfect for street photography and other times when you want to isolate a subject without creating the distance a tele would cause. So this lens should be used wide open or at most a couple of stops down. At those settings DoF is very slim and no modern digital camera has the focusing aids to reliably nail focus under those conditions. I have tried manually focusing an 85mm f1.4 on my D800 and it’s hit or miss at best. Even with live view it’s tough to get 100% right, at least with Nikon’s G series 85mm.
      So it doesn’t matter how sharp it can be, if you can’t focus it you might as well use something much cheaper that focuses well.

      • Les

        Mark,

        You may want to try a manual focus Nikkor (AI-S) or a ZF. Their focusing helicals have a lot less play than the AF Nikkors, which makes it easier to nail the focus.

        • Mark Finney

          I used to have nice 85mm f1.4 AiS and although it was easier to focus using live view I missed so many street shots (due to misfocus) in the end I only used it for tripod work (usually Brenizer panoramas). The new G is joy to use even if it doesn’t offer much more better optical performance.

          • jk

            just try one of these great Zeiss or Leica or Rodenstock MF lenses then you know what we are loving about these , they are much better than Nikkor , Canon , Sigma kind of junks.

          • Mark Finney

            What kind of shooting do you do to find these manual focus lenses useful on a digital body? And if it’s something moving, how do you focus so accurately that it’s worth the cost?

          • jk

            I shoot art paints at museums most of times but I sometimes shoot action with my Zeiss 135m APO on my D800e and it is easy to MF on D800e.

            but actually the easiest MF lens to try is the 25mm f2 ZF2, it is an excellent lens and reasonably priced.
            really it is not that difficult to manual focus at f2.8 -f5.6 range(the 135mm f2 and 85mm f1.4 Zeiss are probably the most difficult lenses to MF on a Nikon body).
            Just do not get the 50mm f1.4 Zeiss or 85mm f1.4Zeiss because they are much worse than similar Nikon AF primes and I am very sure the 85mm f1.4 ZF2 and the 50mm f1.4ZF2 are the worst Zeiss ZF line primes ever made.

          • sperdynamite

            Gotta disagree about the 50mm 1.4! I’m quite happy with mine. It’s soft wide open, yes, but it has a certain beautiful rending for portraits that I really enjoy. At f2 it’s sharp enough for detail, and soft enough for skin. I use mine all the time at the weddings I shoot. I prefer the rending and contrast to the Nikon AF 50s by a wide margin. I even purchased a 50mm 1.4G and I ended up going back to the Zeiss.

          • oneant

            I use only zeiss for street, (D700 and katzeye screen). Always focus in vf, no zone focusing.
            Zeiss 21, 28, 35/2, 50/2, 100/2, 135apo

            http://oneant.com.au/

            This 55 likely not for me but there is talk of a 28 and an 85mm
            Ant.

          • Marcus

            You do know that Japanese Cosina manufactures several of the lenses you just named?

  • Pat Mann

    What’s the point of taking any more pictures before this comes out? You’d just have to go back and reshoot them, right?

  • John Chandler

    I was able to test this lens out with my Nikon D800 and all I can say is…it will blow your mind. the sharpness is truly amazing. Zeiss is making lens to match high megapixel cameras. Marry both the camera and a high MP lens and the result is nothing short is awe inspiring. It’ll cost about $3200. I’d say its worth having at least one of these lens in your collection, i can’t afford to have em all but to just have one is a dream come true for me.

    • Meewok

      It’s amazing what one can do with a lot of money

    • Random

      Just get a Sigma 35/1.4 ART lens. You’ll be just as good off and have far more left in the pocket. ZEISS just has more recycled tin cans in the lens body, in case you like showing off dents.

      • jk

        no way, the Zeiss 55 is the best lens for any current system camera mount and it is even better than any Leica you can buy.
        so you cannot compare this magical quality lens to the Sigma (I know the 35mm f1.4 is a good lens , though).

  • Zorooo

    Seriously, if I am spending this much money, it better have AF wether it’s called Zeiss or not …

    • adam

      some people are paying Leica R E60 50/1.4 for 5 grand. I think this ziess price is reasonable.

    • Pat Mann

      I think most people trying to get that last increment of performance out of their systems with a lens like this aren’t shooting subjects that require autofocus as part of the process. Keeping camera and subject motion to a fraction of a pixel to take full advantage of camera and lens resolution, and getting focus and out-of-focus areas exactly as you want them, isn’t something that usually lends itself to action photography that requires autofocus lenses.

    • Les

      Zorooo,

      No problem. AF is fundamentally incompatible with ultra-high-resolution photography anyway, so this type of lens wouldn’t suit your requirements.

      If you think about it, this type of lens is made for photographers who want to place the field of best focus critically within the frame. Being off by a few mm either way would ruin the effect (front of eyelashes vs back of eyelashes). Typically, the best-corrected lenses (such as the Zeiss Superachromats) have a much steeper sharpness falloff than regular lenses.

      AF, on the other hand, offers “good enough” focus, somewhere in the frame, but it does this very fast. If this lens had AF, it would offer a small plane of incredible sharpness, but that plane would never be exactly where you want it. That would be incredibly frustrating.

      The best lenses for AF don’t quite reach the same peaks of focus, but they will look sharper when they’re “almost there.”

      • Neopulse

        Yeah, but AF does help even when using manual focus (that’s why there exists AF override) and it’s handy especially when you want to get something specifically sharp quicker when you have a subject that isn’t erratic, but slow moving and static (headshots, insects, etc). I personally wouldn’t purchase a lens like this unless I am dedicated to video due to it’s smooth MF that Zeiss lenses tend to have (eg: 85mm).

  • Kevin

    i didn’t know zeiss made anything that is non-high end :)

  • Steve Wakeman

    An anniversary of the initial announcement then?

  • vinman

    The design looks like the Touit lenses for Fuji and NEX cameras. I wish I could justify spending that much on short focal lengths, but living in the real world means having to compromise on certain things. Meanwhile I’m still happily plugging away with my D700, fast Nikkors and new X-E1 and Fujinons. Compromise can be pretty darned incredible when in the right frame of mind :-)

  • Jack

    So it’s not really ment for the Canon’s he? Only high quality camera’s?

    • Neopulse

      Wouldn’t say high quality. Just for sensors that have 30+ MP

  • D4ve

    “One of the best lenses in the world.” At the most boring focal length…

    • De Mentia

      It’s only boring if you lack the creative capability to use the equipment.

      • kb

        not entirely true.

  • Lcky

    I hope it feels better than it looks.. Is it the Touit-esk design that makes the hood look plastic? because it can’t be.. right? Very happy to see an aperture ring.

  • camaman

    Perfect portrait lens for m43 and speed booster.
    78mm f1.0, and even more sharper.

    Now we need a 24MP m43 sensor

    • jk

      no , it is too huge for m43 cameras and most of the best things about it will be just wasted on a tiny sensor camera.
      imo , for a lens of this caliber , you at least need a D800 or better..

  • johnny

    Zeiss has just showed their strength starting from 135/2 APO. Anything before it (including Contax/Yashica, 645…) does not impressed by me.

    • jk

      well, the 135mm APO is a great lens but this 55 will blow it out of the water , if you once try it then you know there is nothing like it.
      when I saw its center sharpness at a local Zeiss event , I thought it might be a big bargain lens , it is that good.

      • johnny

        I know this 55/1.4 is phenomenal. In fact, I already told my local dealer to reserve one for me. There is also MTF chart of this lens & Leica 50/2 APO on Erwin Puts’ site if anyone is interested.

        • Neopulse

          Wouldn’t doubt it’s awesome. Gonna personally wait though for the new Nikons like the 58mm they patented including another similar focal length. I remember the 85mm Zeiss being a badass smooth MF lens, but the 1.4G is also just as amazing.

  • jk

    I tried this one at a local Zeiss event here and loved it but it was just too huge for me.
    it is is almost as long as my Nikon 24-70f2.8 zoom and a bit fatter than that zoom.
    I hope Zeiss makes it a bit slimmer and I will definitely fork out 3 k for it.
    it is that good.

    • Neopulse

      Damn :-S

  • Andrew McDonald

    I’ve given up on manual focus lenses on the D800. Without some kind of focus aid, split image, etc it’s hit or miss.

    • groucher

      The D800 has a manual focus aid that works perfectly. No need for expensive Zeiss glass when all those great compact lightweight metal bodied H series and ais lenses are available at low prices.

      • Andrew McDonald

        I don’t think you’ve ever used the manual focus “aid” on the D800 with a manual lens at f/1.2.

  • jb

    I don’t care how great this lens is because I can’t shoot MF well and it will ruin all my shots.

  • Dave G

    Hey Zeiss. Ever heard the words auto focus? You make it and they will come…I’ll be first in line.

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