The new king of portrait lenses? Zeiss announces the Otus 85mm f/1.4

by Felix Esser

posted Monday, September 8, 2014 at 12:02 PM EDT

Back in October 2013, when Zeiss announced its Otus 55mm f/1.4 lens, it was touted as the world's best standard lens. And it turned out that that claim wasn't exaggerated. Zeiss had put all of its expertise into that lens and had created a masterpiece that would deliver outstanding performance under all circumstances. (Check out our review of the lens here.)

With all the hype that the original Otus lens created, it was only a matter of time that Zeiss would come up with another model in the series. A longer focal length had been rumored, and this seemed to be the most plausible next step as going wider would mean an infinitely more complex optical design if Zeiss wants to keep up the same performance.

And today, after stirring up the rumor mill themselves by teasing an upcoming lens whose outlines looked remarkably similar to those of the Otus 55mm f/1.4, Zeiss has announced the Otus 85mm f/1.4, the "best short tele lens in the world." With its longer focal length, the 85mm will speak to those who do mainly portraiture work and are looking for most critically sharp lens there is.

Unlike the Otus 55mm, which is a Distagon lens, the new 85mm lens sports a classic Planar lens design, albeit with a number of additional lens elements. Overall, the optical assembly of the Otus 85mm f/1.4 consists of 11 lens elements in 9 groups, with one aspherical element and six elements made of glass with anomalous partial dispersion.

Focusing is all-manual, just like that of the 55mm Otus, and happens on the inside of the lens, rather than shifting the whole lens assembly forward and backward. In order to prevent front- or back-focus, the Otus also comes with floating lens elements that change their position and with it the position of the focal point depending on the focusing distance.

And just like its 55mm sibling, the new Otus 85mm f/1.4 is an apochromatic lens, which means that chromatic aberrations should be handled extremely well overall. So performance-wise, the lens should be pretty similar to the 55mm: high contrast and sharpness across the frame at all apertures, extremely low distortions, as good as no chromatic aberrations and droves of micro contrast.

Photo via Carl Zeiss' Flickr

Just like the 55mm f/1.4, the new Otus 85mm f/1.4 will come in Canon EF and Nikon F mounts. Once it becomes available, it will retail for US$4,490. If you'd like to get a first impression of the lens' capabilities, Zeiss has a couple of sample photos over on its Flickr page. For those who are going to attend photokina in Cologne next week, the lens will be exhibited there and maybe there'll be a chance to give it a try.

Want to get on that waiting list for this sure-to-be-amazing 'über-lens?' Place your preorder now with one of Imaging Resource's trusted affiliates:

  • Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 in Canon EF Mount; $4,490: B&H
  • Zeiss Otus 85mm f/1.4 in Nikon F Mount; $4,490: B&H