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  • Cheryl Tan

ZEISS Otus 100mm F/1.4 Review: Simply Phenomenal

Updated: Aug 19, 2021

The ZEISS Otus lenses are some of the best full-frame lenses on the market and we’ve reviewed the 55mm F/1.4 on the Sony A7RIII, as well as the 85mm F/1.4 on the Hasselblad X1D. Now, it’s time for the ZEISS Otus 100mm F/1.4 on the Nikon Z7, using the FTZ adapter.

The lens is a big one, weighing in at 1,336g (2.9 pounds). But it’s the creme de la creme from ZEISS. There’s a lot of great lenses and people would say that Leica is the pinnacle of camera lenses out there. Yes, they’re good, but ZEISS is right up there with them.

One downside of using the FTZ adapter is that you have to set the aperture on the lens to F/16 so the camera controls will take over and then the dials on the camera can be used to edit the aperture directly.

Thankfully the Z7 has built-in stabilisation because the lens doesn’t have IS, and it really is necessary if you’re shooting wide open since you’ll see a lot of camera shake at such a shallow depth of field.

The focal throw is quite long on this lens, so if you’re looking to use this in high speed situations, it might not be the ideal lens. You could preset your focusing distance if you know that you’re approximately going to be a set distance from the subject, however.

The lens is truly stunning at F/1.4, but you really do require focus peaking, image stabilisation and magnification to get the most out of the lens. To nail the focus, you either need to have eyes of an eagle or a mirrorless camera that you can zoom in to check the focus.

The image quality is amazing, ZEISS Otus mimics medium format with a beautiful 3D pop and separation, tonality, graduation from highlights to shadows and colour tonality. It shoots very different from other full-frame lenses out there. There’ll be some vignetting if you shoot wide open at F/1.4 but any lens at this focal length will be subject to that. It’s always fixable in post-processing anyway, so if you don’t enjoy it, you’re able to fix that.

There’s a vibrancy and beautiful look to skin tones, with pin sharp photos that straddle the line between digital-looking and realistic images.

It’s definitely a lens you need patience with, however. It takes time to focus, dial in and capture that perfect image. But when you manage to get it, the images are a work of art.

There are some problems with the lens though, namely the focal throw and the absolute requirement for the magnifier or EVF. An optical viewfinder will make your life hell since you can’t zoom in to check the focus and photos can come out soft if you don’t get the focus right.

Another issue is the mount type. There are mounts for Canon and Nikon, but none for Sony. This lens on an A7RIII would be phenomenal. Of course, there are workarounds, but a Sony mount for the ZEISS Otus would be best.

Overall, it’s a beautiful lens to shoot with, but it can be limiting for many photographers who aren’t used to manual focus.

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