The fast 85mm lens occupies a magical place in the hearts of many, but what does the Zeiss Milvus add? Damien Demolder finds out
Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 review: Build and handling
As we might expect by now, the Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 is not a small, compact or lightweight lens – far from it. Big, dense and heavy, it feels as though it has been carved and polished from a solid lump of metal. At 1.2kg it isn’t excessively heavy, though – just heavier than most lenses of its size.
It is, in fact, even better looking than the 50mm lens we tested before, as its extra length provides additional road for those dangerous curves. The dull matt paintwork is very classy, and the 22mm-thick rubber band that forms the focusing ring is nice to the touch.
It feels well made – as though it will last forever. Even the hood is beautifully crafted, with felt lining the interior of its 1.5mm metal thickness as it extends 56mm from the front of the lens and flares out and back to a 100mm diameter at the forward end. As with the 50mm, the hood flips over to fit perfectly around the shapely barrel for storage.
I used the lens on the Nikon D610 and found the two perfect companions when it came to balance and operation. As the lens is big, it is much more suitable for pairing with larger DSLR bodies, and cameras that are approaching an equal level of construction. Focusing at f/1.4 is extremely difficult in all but the most contrasty of light, so a great deal of care needs to be employed.
I used the focus-indicator system that exploits the camera’s AF points and uses them to measure when the subject is sharp. With the D610 AF points gathered as they are around the centre of the screen, and I found myself fretting slightly as I focused and recomposed, as the distance between the lens and the subject invariably changed enough to show with such a shallow depth of field. While tripod-mounted and in live view I was able to focus anywhere across the frame, working handheld often meant closing the aperture to a safer setting.
As tiny focus adjustments will inevitably be required, the focus ring asks a 270° rotation to take it from the 80cm position to infinity. This provides a good deal of potential for precision, and the operation of the ring is so comfortable that working manually has been made as convenient as possible.