Lens review

Carl Zeiss Milvus 50 mm f/1.4

18 November 2015
Arkadiusz Olech

3. Build quality

The following chart compares some of contemporary full frame standard f/1.4 SLR lenses. Although the construction of the Milvus is less complex than that of the expensive Otus and the Sigma, it clearly still remains more advanced than e.g. the Nikkor 1.4/58G. The tested lens is noticeably smaller than the Otus but it remains a heavy instrument, weighing almost three times as much as the old Planar or the heavily plasticized Nikkor. Compared to the Otus its minimum focusing distance is better as well.

In the photo below the Milvus we are testing is positioned next to the Pentax 1.4/50 and the Canon 1.4/50 – it is clear the physical dimensions of the new construction are different than those of the older models, based on the double Gauss system.

Carl Zeiss Milvus 50 mm f/1.4 - Build quality

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The tested lens starts with a metal mount surrounding a rear element, 31 mm in diameter. That element is mobile, situated on the same level as the mount when the focus is set at infinity; when you pass to the minimum focusing distance it hides inside the casing almost one centimeter deep. During that movement an excellently blackened and ribbed tube is revealed, without any slits or gaps. A blue gasket which could be found on the outside part of the mount improves the weather-sealed properties of the lens as well.

Carl Zeiss Milvus 50 mm f/1.4 - Build quality

The proper body of the lens is made of metal; it starts with an immobile ring on which you can see a blue dot making the alignment with a camera easier. Then there is the name and the parameters of the lens, its serial number and information that it was produced in Japan along with a depth of field scale with markers for apertures ranging from f/16 to f/2.8.

What’s interesting, the rest of the lens, as wide as 6 cm, is almost entirely occupied by the manual focus ring. On that ring you find a distance scale, expressed in feet and meters, and a rubberized stripe, 22 mm wide, which makes the grip more secure. The full working range of the ring amounts to 225 degrees which is enough to allow you very precise setting – e.g. the working range of the ring featured by the Otus 1.4/55 amounted to 250 degrees.

Carl Zeiss Milvus 50 mm f/1.4 - Build quality

The front element is 46 mm in diameter and around it you see an inscription ‘Zeiss Distagon 1.4/50 T*’ with the information concerning the filter diameter, amounting in this case to 67 mm. The filter thread, surrounding the element, doesn’t move and its outer rim also features a hood mount. The front element system changes its position during the focusing.

The fine, sound workmanship of the Zeiss lens should be emphasized at the end of this chapter – after all it’s a beautiful, manual classic device, made mainly of metal and glass. If you are among those customers who have deep aversion to cheap, plastic instruments which have inundated the market for some time you will certainly appreciate it.

Carl Zeiss Milvus 50 mm f/1.4 - Build quality

The optical construction of the Milvus 1.4/50 consists of 10 elements positioned in 8 groups. Among them you can find one aspherical element and four anomalous partial dispersion elements. Inside there is also a round aperture with nine blades which can be shut down to f/16. The T* sign means all air-to-glass surfaces are covered by high quality anti-reflection multi coatings.

Buyers get both caps and a metal hood included in the box but we think for such amount of money a pouch or case should be added as well.

Carl Zeiss Milvus 50 mm f/1.4 - Build quality