ZEISS announced that it was working on a new line of ultra-high-quality lenses last year. These lenses were being designed from the ground up to provide unmatched optical performance for high-resolution full-frame cameras like Nikon’s D800.
Well, the first fruits of all that labor have finally arrived on digital shelves in the form of the Distagon 55mm f/1.4 Otus: a lens ZEISS promises will perform better for you than anything else on the market… assuming you can afford it.
Here’s a video comparing the optical quality of this 55mm with your standard “fast 50” lens:
That are two things you’ll notice about the 55mm f/1.4 immediately: it’s big for its focal length, and it’s got the Distagon designation usually reserved for wide-angle lenses. Both have to do with the high design standards ZEISS placed on this lens.
The Distagon designation simply indicates that they “were aiming for the best possible imaging performance,” and the only way they could achieve this performance was by packing more glass elements into the lens, hence the size.
Unlike most 50mm lenses, the 55mm f/1.4 sports 12 elements in 10 groups, six of which are made of glass so rare it’s more valuable than gold. Here’s another video that goes into a little bit more detail about the lens:
You can read into the technical details of the lens on the ZEISS blog, but the basic premise here is that this is best “fast 50” on the market… period. It supposedly offers a level of contrast and sharpness at f/1.4 that other lenses can only match when stopped down to f/4 or 5, and you won’t notice chromatic aberrations even in the corners.
Here are a few sample photos taken with the new 55mm (pixel peepers can find the high-res versions here):
“Our goal was to bring the best standard lens for SLR cameras onto the market,” explains product manager Christophe Casenave. And as you might imagine, the “best standard lens” on the market doesn’t come cheap.
The lens is officially up for pre-order in both Canon EF and Nikon F mount over on B&H at the not-so-affordable price of $4,000. Both mounts are expected to ship early next month.