Lens review

Carl Zeiss Milvus 85 mm f/1.4

30 December 2015
Arkadiusz Olech

3. Build quality

The following chart shows a comparison between the Milvus 1.4/85 and other reflex camera lenses with similar parameters. The first surprise: the Milvus has exactly as many elements and groups as the noticeably more expensive Otus. Still optically these construction differ because the Otus features one aspherical element which cannot be found in the Milvus design. Still it doesn’t change the fact that both new Zeiss lenses are the most complex instruments in the whole group. Another surprise: the Milvus is smaller than the Otus and its filter thread has a smaller diameter. However when it comes to the weight the Otus is actually heavier! The new Zeiss lenses can also be praised for their minimum focusing distance which is shorter than those of the older Planar, the Samyang or the new Nikkor.

In the following photo the Milvus 1.4/85 is positioned next to the Canon EF 85 mm f/1.8 USM.

Carl Zeiss Milvus 85 mm f/1.4 - Build quality

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The tested lens starts with a metal mount which surrounds a rear element, 31 mm in diameter. That element is situated on almost the same level as the mount with the focus set at infinity. When you progress to the minimum focusing distance the element hides inside the barrel about one centimeter deep, revealing a perfectly blackened and ribbed tube without any slits. The sealing of the body is additionally improved by a blue gasket situated outside the mount.

Carl Zeiss Milvus 85 mm f/1.4 - Build quality

The proper casing of the lens is made of metal and it starts with an immobile ring with a blue dot, making an alignment with a camera easier. Right behind it you see the name and parameters of the lens, its serial number and information that it was produced in Japan. There is also a depth of field scale with marks ranging from f/16 to f/4.0.

What’s interesting, almost all the rest of the lens, as wide as 6.5 cm, is covered by a manual focus ring. On the ring you can find a distance scale expressed in feet and meters and a rubberized stripe, 22 mm wide, which makes your grip firmer. In order to run through the full working range of the ring you need a turn through 270 degrees – that value allows you very precise settings. For example the working range of the Otus 1.4/85 focusing ring amounted to 270 degrees as well. Unfortunately that rubberized stripe tends to catch specks of dust very easily.

Carl Zeiss Milvus 85 mm f/1.4 - Build quality

The front element is 60 mm in diameter and around it you can find an inscription Zeiss Planar 1.4/85 T* with information that the filters are 77 mm in diameter. The filter thread surrounding the front element doesn’t move and its outer ring features a hood mount. The front element system changes its position while focusing.

The solid workmanship of the Zeiss is worth emphasizing as well. You get a beautiful, manual classic made mostly of metal and glass. If you have an aversion to cheap, plastic instruments which have been flooding the market for some time you will find the Milvus a joy to use and play with.

Carl Zeiss Milvus 85 mm f/1.4 - Build quality

The optical construction of the Milvus 1.4/85 consists of 11 elements situated in 9 groups. Among them there are as many as seven elements made of glass with anomalous partial dispersion. Inside there is also a round aperture with nine diaphragm blades which can be closed down to a value of f/16.

Buyers get both caps and a metal hood in the box with the lens.

Carl Zeiss Milvus 85 mm f/1.4 - Build quality