Zeiss' latest Canon, Nikon mount lens promises big quality — for a price

Zeiss is encouraging photographers to test out their latest lens wide open. On Wednesday, Zeiss launched the Milvus 1.4/35, a high-end manual focus prime lens that the company says offers optimum performance even when shooting with the f/1.4 maximum aperture. The full-frame lens is launching in both a Canon and Nikon mount.

The 35mm lens is the tenth in the Milvus family, but boasts a completely new optical design. The lens is designed with 14 lens elements in 12 groups. Along with coating the lenses to prevent flares, each glass piece is also edged with black lacquer, which helps trap more light inside the lens. Zeiss says that design allows the lens to capture a high-contrast image that is ideal for pairing with modern digital cameras as the sensors continue to offer more dynamic range than earlier models.

Zeiss says the lens is also designed to minimize several types of lens distortions, including coma, astigmatism and spherical aberrations. As part of Zeiss’ high-end prime line, the lens is designed to pair with high-resolution cameras.

“This means the photos are practically free from chromatic aberrations,”  Zeiss product manager Christophe Casenave said. ”The resolutions of camera sensors are constantly becoming higher, and this also increases the demands made on the lenses. For ZEISS Milvus lenses this is no problem. They are a solid investment in the future.”

The Milvus 1.4/35 includes a set of features designed to make the lens a wide-ranging workhorse instead of a specialized piece like several of the other options in the Milvus line. The wide aperture is ideal for portrait work and low light, while the wide angle is also a popular choice for landscape photographers. The lens is also ideal for use in video work, Zeiss says, with color matching between all 10 lenses in the series and follow focus compatibility.

The lens is designed around a manual focus system that the company says allows photographers to actively compose images and video with a system that is both precise and ergonomic.

“The high maximum aperture enables the subject to stand out clearly against the background, and the photographer can achieve creative combinations of focus and blur,” Casenave said. “The manual focus enables very exact focusing, and the creamy bokeh provides an excellent image look. And even at full aperture, the image quality leaves nothing to be desired. The 35-millimeter focal length is a genuine all-rounder.”

The lens is wrapped up in a weather-sealed body and weighs in at about 41 ounces.

The lens will go on sale in July at Zeiss retailers and the Zeiss Online shop. The 35mm is expected to retail for 1,999 euros, which is about $2,232.