The fast 85mm lens occupies a magical place in the hearts of many, but what does the Zeiss Milvus add? Damien Demolder finds out

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Zeiss Milvus 
85mm f/1.4


Zeiss Milvus 
85mm f/1.4 review


Price as reviewed:


Zeiss Milvus 
85mm f/1.4 review: Features

The Zeiss Milvus 85mm f/1.4 uses a design based on Dr Paul Rudolph’s Planar from 1896, although this one includes 11 elements in nine groups. The eight elements either side of the stop are essentially symmetrical, while the forward three include a heavily concave front-facing surface to increase the length of the light path and pull the rear element away from the sensor.

Eight of the 11 elements are made of what Zeiss calls ‘anomalous partial-dispersion glass’ – or low-dispersion glass – and all surfaces have been coated with the company’s T* anti-reflective finish to prevent flare and internal reflections.

Zeiss uses what it calls a ‘floating elements design’ in the lens that allows the spaces between elements, and groups of elements, to be adjusted according to the distance between the camera and the subject.

Zeiss Milvus 85mm f_1.4

While the company isn’t explicit, it suggests that many more elements are on the move than is the case with most lens designs. AF lenses tend to have a focusing group, but the Zeiss design appears to move multiple groups of lenses along the axial path to maintain best image quality while focus is taking place.

The aperture ring on the Nikon version has markings from f/1.4-f/16, with 1⁄2-stop clicks between until f/11, where a full-stop click takes us to f/16. Body controls for aperture allow 1⁄3-stop steps to be taken, and those who like to use their DSLR for movie making can deactivate the clicking ring altogether to 
create a smooth-motion iris adjuster.

The Canon version obviously does not have an aperture ring at all – the lens only comes with a mount for Nikon F (ZF.2) or Canon EOS (ZE) cameras. Both models produce an image circle extensive enough to cover a full-frame sensor.

  1. 1. Zeiss Milvus 
85mm f/1.4 review: Introduction
  2. 2. Zeiss Milvus 
85mm f/1.4 review: Features
  3. 3. Zeiss Milvus 
85mm f/1.4 review: Build and handling
  4. 4. Zeiss Milvus 
85mm f/1.4 review: Image quality
  5. 5. Zeiss Milvus 
85mm f/1.4 review: Resolution, shading and curvilinear distortion
  6. 6. Zeiss Milvus 
85mm f/1.4 review: Verdict
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