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Lens reviews update: test data for the Zeiss Otus 1.4/55

By Andy Westlake on Nov 22, 2013 at 10:09 GMT

DxOMark has just reviewed the Zeiss Otus 1.4/55, a $4000 standard prime for full frame SLRs, and as part of our ongoing collaboration we've added the test data to our lens widget. We've also added test data for the Nikon mount version of Sigma's exceptional 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM.

Also this week, DxOMark has published a review of the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 12-40mm F2.8 PRO for Micro Four Thirds, and its lens recommendations for the Nikon D610. Click here for a full round-up of DxOMark's recent reviews.

Zeiss Otus 1.4/55 lens test data

Here we're showing DxOmark's lens test data for the Zeiss Otus 55mm F1.4 on both the full frame D800 and the DX format D7100, along with a quick summary of the main findings. We're also showing a quick comparison to the AF-S Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G, which isn't quite as expensive, but still costs more than most camera bodies.

Click on any of the images or links below to open our interactive lens widget, and explore the data further

1) Tested on Nikon D800

On the D800, the Zeiss Otus 1.4/55 gives a simply breathtaking performance. It's super-sharp even wide open, and impressively even across the frame too. It's so good that stopping it down doesn't make a huge difference on measured sharpness here - the centre peaks at F4, but it's not obvious that you'd see the difference in real-world shots.

In all other aspects the Otus does equally well. Lateral chromatic aberration is negligible, and while there's a little measurable barrel distortion, it's unlikely ever to be visible in real-world use. Vignetting reaches 1.6 stops wide open, but with a very gradual falloff profile which means it won't look objectionable. At F2 it drops to just 1 stop, and at F2.8 it drops to a photographically-irrelevent 0.5 stops.

Zeiss claims that "the Otus 1.4/55 is the absolute best lens in the world today", and can we see why the company is so confident about it (although we're pretty sure that Leica's latest APO-Summicron-M 50mm f/2 ASPH will give it a run for its money). We were hugely impressed by the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM, but the Zeiss manages to surpass it in every measurement here. Then again it is more than four times the price, and doesn't have autofocus.   

2) Tested on Nikon D7100

It's very much the same story on the DX format D7100 as on full frame. Sharpness is exceptional, chromatic aberration is very low, and vignetting and distortion are minimal. It's difficult to imagine any lens doing much better, in terms of optical test results. 

3) Compared to the AF-S Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G

The difference in test results here is startling, and really accentuates the optical quality of the Zeiss. It's simply much, much sharper wide open, and while the Nikon has slightly lower vignetting, the Zeiss has less distortion. It's important to understand that the Nikon isn't a bad lens - the designers have clearly been thinking about more than just sharpness, and the images it produces on the D800 actually look really nice - but Zeiss's 'no compromises' approach shows what can be done when size and price are taken out of consideration in the overall design.

Sigma 18-35mm F1.4 DC HSM for Nikon test data  

The test results for the Sigma 18-35mm on the Nikon D7100 merely reinforce the excellence of this lens that we highlighted in our in-depth review. Few zooms come close - in fact the Sigma is a match for a bag full of primes. Crucially, though, we've found the lens to focus more reliably on Nikon bodies compared to Canons, which allows you to make the most if the lens's wide open sharpness.  

A comparison between test data on the Nikon D7100 and the Canon EOS 7D shows remarkable consistency of results. Measured sharpness is higher on the D7100 in the centre of the frame, due to its higher resolution 24MP sensor which doesn't have an image-blurring optical low-pass filter (compared to the Canon's 18MP). Other differences are very small, and can generally be attributed to the slightly larger size of the 1.5x Nikon DX sensor compared to Canon's 1.6x APS-C.

Overall, this data reinforces our opinion that the Sigma 18-35mm F1.8 DC HSM is probably the standout lens of the year so far, for its combination of speed, image quality, and reasonably-accessible price. 

Full test results on DxOMark (and other recent reviews)

Our lens test data is produced in collaboration with DxOMark. Click the links below to read DxOMark's own review of the Zeiss Otus 1.4/55, or see other recent reviews on the DxOMark website. 

18
I own it
144
I want it
4
I had it
Discuss in the forums

Comments

Total comments: 74
Clint009
By Clint009 (1 month ago)

For another point of view on this great lens including Zeiss & Leica (3 pages of great test), They compared those "Most Adorable 50s"
http://3d-kraft.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=151:adorable-50s-otus-noctilux-summilux-hyperprime-sonnar&catid=40:camerasandlenses&Itemid=2

1 upvote
rfsIII
By rfsIII (5 months ago)

Here's how this needs to go down: Sell all your other gear except for one body and use the money to buy this lens. Then spend the rest of your life quietly exploring your creative vision with it. After you die, your kids--who always hated your hobby because they felt you loved photography more than you loved them--have a garage sale and sell your hard drives with all your photos on them. The buyer finds the photos on the hard drives, realizes you are a genius and calls the Museum of Modern Art which immediately clears out the main gallery and has a show of your work. You are proclaimed as "the Rembrandt of Photography" and your creative accomplishments live on forever.
The end.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 1 minute after posting
11 upvotes
io_bg
By io_bg (5 months ago)

Too bad, even if I sell my camera gear I won't have the money to buy the Otus.

4 upvotes
Clint009
By Clint009 (1 month ago)

Same for me, no money = no candy; but I like high quality like Ferrari, Lamborghini etc... and I don't have those :(

0 upvotes
samhain
By samhain (5 months ago)

I'd still rather have the Nikon 58.
The Otis may be razor sharp but it can't compete with the Nikon for rendering, bokeh, transitions, etc. It's just sterile.

Throw in the fact that it's twice the size of the Nikon, over twice the price & manual focus, it's a no brainer.
But there's plenty of folks who prize sharpness over all else, so for them I'm sure it's a dream lens.
Now lets see how many people actually buy it at $4k...

0 upvotes
Clueless Wanderer
By Clueless Wanderer (5 months ago)

Hmm.. Recently somebody stated that modern lenses don't conform to the two stop's close down for sharper images rule. Judging by the graph, that rule still applies.

0 upvotes
samhain
By samhain (5 months ago)

Silly blanket statement. All lenses are different.

0 upvotes
jojo37
By jojo37 (5 months ago)

The most amazing thing about this lens will be all the finely tuned, fully-calibrated, micro-adjusted, pixel-peeped, flash-saturated 36MP lossless 14-bit cat photos that will come out of it. (See internet).

Congratulations, rich hobbyist guys. You turned your $4000 lens and $3000 camera body into a Canon Powershot.

If it weren't so depressing, it would almost be kind of impressive.

5 upvotes
rfsIII
By rfsIII (5 months ago)

You mock, but you're righter than you know. This lens was designed to capture fine linear detail and what is more finely detailed, yet linear, than the individual hairs of cat fur. Instead of naming it Otus, they should have named it Catus.

0 upvotes
Scorpius1
By Scorpius1 (5 months ago)

People should stop whinging about the price of this amazing lens,it is still far cheaper than a Noctilux or Cron 50mm APO and they don't have A.F either,this is a brilliant piece of optical engineering and I will by buying one as soon as I have the greenbacks to spare.. Roll on the 85 and wide angle version's,, ;-)

2 upvotes
budi0251
By budi0251 (5 months ago)

now, focusing issue, which to choose? using your eyes (and probably a very good focusing screen) or built-in phase detect AF sensor or zoomed 100% Live View?

Thing is, you can't use all 3 at the same time; at most PDAF and your eyes or Live view & your eyes.

0 upvotes
Stanchung
By Stanchung (5 months ago)

Nikon might wanna go and do a 58 f1.4 V2.

5 upvotes
yabokkie
By yabokkie (5 months ago)

but we still don't know yet if this Zeiss can perform better.

0 upvotes
DarkShift
By DarkShift (5 months ago)

Is there still doubt about that? The Zeiss has ca. two times better resolution @ f1.4. Quite amazing...

I was interested in the Nikkor 58mm until I saw some samples shot @ f1.4. Not worth it IMHO. And stopped down two stops to f2.8 there's so many cheaper alternatives with very good performance. Micro-Nikkor 55/2.8 AI-S shot at widest aperture renders very nice portraits too...

5 upvotes
yabokkie
By yabokkie (5 months ago)

why should anyone be interested in 58/1.4G if resolution is what they want?

Comment edited 21 seconds after posting
1 upvote
mgblack74
By mgblack74 (5 months ago)

Try it before armchair quarterbacking it. It's an excellent lens even at 1.4. Sharper than other 50's at 1.4. And right across the frame which is key. The Zeiss is better, sure. Just as a Lamborghini is better than a Subaru. But it should be. Be it sucks in the snow and carrying more than 2 people. The Zeiss is touted as a no compromise lens, but no AF is a big compromise isn't it. Even MF lenses near the same price tag have AF, resolve much higher mp's and have more glass in them. If I were a hobbyist in a position to buy a $4000 Zeiss lens, I would reconsider buying into digital MF.

5 upvotes
ButterflySkies
By ButterflySkies (5 months ago)

I fint the 58/1.4 sharp enough, and the main thing I look for here is bokeh and coma correction.
So untill we see a side by side comparison or lenstip test the 58/1.4, there's no way to know

2 upvotes
nstam
By nstam (5 months ago)

some amazing lenses being put out; i wonder if these companies creep online forums and listen to what some folk rant about. i dont understand on the comment about LFO... i understand fixing with a program isnt beneficial but theres tons of blue on both the Zeiss and Sigma.

Regardless of price and/or target audience, these companies are setting a bar to which Canikon has to reply to.

1 upvote
rurikw
By rurikw (5 months ago)

It's certainly got the blues. Must be lonely up there in those lofty spheres.

1 upvote
wherearemyshorts
By wherearemyshorts (5 months ago)

$4000 Zeiss Otus 1.4/55

f/1.4 Falloff: 1.59 stops at corner

for a $4000 lens this seems terrible

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
5 upvotes
Wally626
By Wally626 (5 months ago)

All lens designs have trade-offs even $4000 ones. The corner fall-off is probably in exchange for better corner sharpness. There are certainly other lenses that have close to the same center sharpness at f/1.4, but none that I have seen that can stand up in the corners.

9 upvotes
Stanchung
By Stanchung (5 months ago)

only seems terrible but it may add character to the shot.
it sounds easy to correct in post.

what's terrible is the price and perhaps being manual.

3 upvotes
yabokkie
By yabokkie (5 months ago)

there have to be compromizations.

the lens could be twice as big to bring it down to one stop.

2 upvotes
plevyadophy
By plevyadophy (5 months ago)

The real issue is that lens mounts on DSLRs are just not wide enough. For reasons of legacy support we are lumbered with film era lens mounts.

So corner fall off is inevitable ........... unless one is willing to tolerate an even bigger and more expensive lens.

Only Oly (Four Thirds DSLR) and Leica (S System) have bothered to make wide lens mounts. Oly's Four Thirds system was unsuccessful and who knows what the future holds for Leica.

1 upvote
yabokkie
By yabokkie (5 months ago)

retrofocus design could be used for standard lenses > back-focal distance.

Oly's 4/3" SLR mount was simply silly. Leica S is okay only the company doesn't have the capability to make it a usable system.

0 upvotes
meland
By meland (5 months ago)

To plevadophy
You are partially right - many mounts like the Nikon F Mount are quite narrow, in this case 44mm (as is four thirds at 44mm). However the Canon EF Mount which was a clean sheet design is wider at 54mm and this diameter was specifically chosen to allow the design of very fast lenses, e.g. 50mm f/1.0.
However third party lens manufacturers tend to be limited by the constraints of the diameter of the smallest mount.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 3 minutes after posting
1 upvote
RichRMA
By RichRMA (5 months ago)

How long can you call a 1.4 a 1.4 when a portion of the lens isn't?

1 upvote
philosomatographer
By philosomatographer (5 months ago)

"Oly's 4/3" SLR mount was simply silly" ??

The Olympus SHG f/2.0 Zoom Lenses are the most deeply impressive optics I have ever used - more so than even the best Leica M lenses, and easily a match for this Zeiss Otus (though they of course won't do anything near an "equivalent" f/1.4 aperture).

Problem with four thirds, was that the technology to make really great small sensors came too late.

0 upvotes
philosomatographer
By philosomatographer (5 months ago)

"How long can you call a 1.4 a 1.4 when a portion of the lens isn't?"

Good question. The (new) Canon EF 24mm f/1.4L II has *four stops* falloff in the corners. That puts it at f/1.4 in the centre, f/5.6 in the corners. That's a new record! Yet it's a $2000 lens currently being sold.

Then you have the opposite - a Olympus 14-35mm f/2.0 at 14mm and f/2.0 has about half a stop of falloff.

The Zeiss Otus thus does pretty well with 1.5 stops falloff for a f/1.4 lens.

1 upvote
yabokkie
By yabokkie (5 months ago)

ZD14-35/2 has about 2/3 stops vignetting at 14/2
which is very good, excellent.
it has to at 900g compared to 600g of EF24-70/4LIS.

Comment edited 50 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (5 months ago)

There's no reason Nikon or Canon or...even Sigma couldn't make a lens this good--if size, weight and price were not a consideration.

6 upvotes
io_bg
By io_bg (5 months ago)

... and lack of AF :)

3 upvotes
Juan Robert
By Juan Robert (5 months ago)

Une optique au piquée ahurissant, même à pleine ouverture !
Quelle dommage qu'il n'y ait pas d'autofocus, quant au prix, on préfère fermer les yeux...

1 upvote
JF69
By JF69 (5 months ago)

English please!

3 upvotes
Duncan Dimanche
By Duncan Dimanche (5 months ago)

Here is in ENglish:
What an amazing sharpness even wide open, ,too bad that there is no Auto focus and regarding the price we rather close our eyes…

Cheers from France

5 upvotes
Ken Johnes
By Ken Johnes (5 months ago)

the luxus Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G aint even as sharp as the Otus´s `Lens-cap´!!

24 upvotes
Reilly Diefenbach
By Reilly Diefenbach (5 months ago)

Not adding any pixels to the D800e Flickr samples I've seen.

0 upvotes
Jogger
By Jogger (5 months ago)

Zeiss is betting/expecting that FF will eventually supplant MF.. 56mp FF will be the next jump in resolution, and that is only a few years away. The Otus line is being positioned as the premium, no-compromise lens of choice when this eventually happens.

Comment edited 14 seconds after posting
8 upvotes
Scorpius1
By Scorpius1 (5 months ago)

And the next jump in Medium Format will be 120mp sensors.. D7100 pixels (3.9micron's) on a IQ F.F sensor will yield 145MP...

0 upvotes
Den Sh
By Den Sh (5 months ago)

D7100 stretched at the same pixel density to FF would yield 24mp * 1.5 * 1.5 = 54mp, not 145mp.

0 upvotes
Ron A 19
By Ron A 19 (5 months ago)

This is the perfect lens for image generation. Still, even if I could afford it, I don't see myself walking around town with a massive 50 hanging off the camera. But the makro planar 50 compares quite well at f/2, so, if anything, makes that lens more desireable

0 upvotes
zos xavius
By zos xavius (5 months ago)

the makro planar is downright superb! the sharpest 50 I've ever had the pleasure to use.

1 upvote
nelsonal
By nelsonal (5 months ago)

Based on DXO's measurement the Otus is as sharp at f/1.4 in the corners as the 50 MP is at the center of the frame!

6 upvotes
stevens37y
By stevens37y (5 months ago)

Either the AA filter or the moire will ruin the fun.

0 upvotes
Khizer
By Khizer (5 months ago)

Maybe not, IMHO. Moire occurs due to poor resolving power. Maybe some optics expert can clarify...

0 upvotes
Amin Sabet
By Amin Sabet (5 months ago)

They just need a much higher MP sensor - a high enough resolution sensor will take care of aliasing concerns.

4 upvotes
philosomatographer
By philosomatographer (5 months ago)

"Moire occurs due to poor resolving power."

Quite the opposite - moïre occurs when the resolving power of the lens is much greater than the sensor's. Any digital signal processing engineer in any domain - optical or audio - will tell you that omitting the low-pass filter is a *mistake* - I don't know why this has become so fashionable in camera.

Perhaps because it conveniently saves money for the manufacturer, and artificially boosts resolution test results…

0 upvotes
Stitzer23
By Stitzer23 (5 months ago)

Does dxomark publish reviews done by dpreview?

0 upvotes
Andy Westlake
By Andy Westlake (5 months ago)

It's a collaboration. We use their lens test data, but present it differently and put our own interpretation on it. We link to their reviews, they link to ours.

4 upvotes
falconeyes
By falconeyes (5 months ago)

And I may add: DPReview has the much more meaningful presentation IMHO. DPR, continue the good cooperation, please! I like DxO tests but really dislike their cryptic undocumented score system.

5 upvotes
InTheMist
By InTheMist (5 months ago)

Thank goodness for DPR because the usability of the DxO website is horrible.
There are so many ways to better present their (excellent) data.

2 upvotes
Collie Camp
By Collie Camp (5 months ago)

Wow! I´m talking about the optical achivment here. This lens is still cheaper than cinematic lenses, so I guess it´s well worth this price.

And wow: Nikon, you lens ahhhm doesn´t look even close to the Zeiss measures ;) No offence. I´m sure it´s a good lens in it´s own rights even for ahm wait 1500$? I´m looking forward to see Nikons real picture taking abilities.

But the Zeiss Wow!

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 2 minutes after posting
9 upvotes
Ken Johnes
By Ken Johnes (5 months ago)

if the Zeiss is worth 4000$ then the nikkor is worth 400$ max ;-))

10 upvotes
ThePhilips
By ThePhilips (5 months ago)

Wow. I'm talking about the price: wow.

At that price, instead of taking photographs, it's cheaper to invite the models personally.

8 upvotes
Photomonkey
By Photomonkey (5 months ago)

While the price is high, it is not the only lens at that price around. Leica has two current lenses at that and higher prices. Exotic Canon f1.0 sells for more as an old used lens with far less performance at any any aperture that the Otus wide open.

What it is, is the first lens designed to mount on Canon and Nikon bodies that is modern and takes no prisoners in the IQ department.

3 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer
By AbrasiveReducer (5 months ago)

True, but the Canon f/1 is not intended for the same purpose as Otis so there is no way to compare the two.

0 upvotes
Mikael Risedal
By Mikael Risedal (5 months ago)

Nikon has not optimized the 58/1,4 regarding resolution

0 upvotes
Collie Camp
By Collie Camp (5 months ago)

Why not?

0 upvotes
io_bg
By io_bg (5 months ago)

Because it's still quite cheaper than the Zeiss.

0 upvotes
Infared
By Infared (5 months ago)

Your Nikon money would make a nice down payment on the Zeiss! :-)

3 upvotes
yabokkie
By yabokkie (5 months ago)

instead of focal plane, 58/1.4G was designed for a 3D image space which is way more difficult.

2 upvotes
viking79
By viking79 (5 months ago)

You think the Zeiss wasn't?

6 upvotes
mick232
By mick232 (5 months ago)

So which lens has Nikon optimized for resolution then?

1 upvote
reginalddwight
By reginalddwight (5 months ago)

Impressive. These test results support Zeiss' claim that the Otus is a no compromise lens indeed. Well...perhaps only in the pocketbook.

1 upvote
photo nuts
By photo nuts (5 months ago)

Wow, the Nikkor 58 f/1.4 lens only somewhat catches up with Zeiss 55 f/1.4 lens at f/11 when diffraction starts to creep in. Even the antiquated Canon 50 f/1.4 performs better than the Nikkor 58 f/1.4 lens which is touted as "a premium standard lens for Nikon's full frame SLRs... designed to give the best possible imaging performance even when shot at maximum aperture." The hefty price tag accompanying the Nikkor 58 f/1.4 only adds further insult to injury.

12 upvotes
io_bg
By io_bg (5 months ago)

Is sharpness the only performance factor you're considering? How does the 58/1.4 compare to the Canon 50/1.4 regarding build quality, CAs, vignetting, bokeh quality and coma?

5 upvotes
Andy Westlake
By Andy Westlake (5 months ago)

The 58/1.4 is really interesting lens when you actually shoot with it. The test data is correct, but sharpness isn't the only criterion of image quality, and not always even the most important one.

11 upvotes
Peter Lacus
By Peter Lacus (5 months ago)

Amen to that, Andy!

1 upvote
Horshack
By Horshack (5 months ago)

The Canon 50L f/1.2 is similar to the 58/1.4 in terms of being designed for bokeh rendering. I wonder how the two compare in sharpness.

0 upvotes
Ken Johnes
By Ken Johnes (5 months ago)

they compare very well , both are medeocre when it comes to sharpness ;-))

3 upvotes
Infared
By Infared (5 months ago)

"(although we're pretty sure that Leica's latest APO-Summicron-M 50mm f/2 ASPH will give it a run for its money)."

....but the Summicron is only an f/2.0? :-)

2 upvotes
88SAL
By 88SAL (5 months ago)

Id rather it, If only it could be mounted on SLRs. I dont think anyone who owns a Leica doesnt want summicrons. Only when you need need need that seperation between the stops (or going out to shoot in the dark) is when id want a faster lens. And if nocturnal sbooting is the question, go a Nocton! Or Voights f1.1.

0 upvotes
rondiggs
By rondiggs (5 months ago)

Will definitely give it a whirl, probably rent first.

0 upvotes
RichRMA
By RichRMA (5 months ago)

Not saying much, most slow f-stop lenses from the same line will outperform their faster counterparts, no matter what the f-stop is set at. An f/1.4 at f/8 won't be as sharp as an f/1.8 set at f/8.0 because the difficulty in making an f/1.4 "as good" as an f/1.8 is much higher. Make the lens an f/8.0 to start with, and it has the potential to beat anything else, but you'll never have speed, just superb resolution.

Comment edited 31 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Total comments: 74