ZEISS Otus in Focus
ZEISS Ambassador Phil Holland took a closer look at all three lenses in the ZEISS Otus family. Join him for a trip around the world and experience amazing results taken with the Otus lenses in combination with various camera systems.
These last few years have been a very special imaging journey. Camera and lens technology has advanced greatly while I’ve been presented with some unprecedented shooting opportunities around the globe. The clear focus for much of my motion and still work as of late has been to create the highest possible quality image while maintaining a sense of artistry to the frame. That concept is pretty much what attracted me to the first ZEISS Otus lens. Now that the Otus line-up has expanded to three focal lengths I thought I’d share a few thoughts and images from the ZEISS Otus 1.4/28, Otus 1.4/55, and Otus 1.4/85 lenses as they are three of the most extraordinary lenses I’ve used in some time.
I looked at the 55mm f/1.4 back in 2013 and it was a pretty instant reaction when I first got my hands on it. When inspecting the images themselves I saw imediately that the 55mm was a very different type of lens design and understood the message of what ZEISS was hoping to achieve with this “best ever” concept. The build quality was robust and used a new design aesthetic that ZEISS has since applied to not just the other Otus primes, but the new Milvus primes as well. A design that feels great in the hand when shooting.
In 2014 the ZEISS Otus 1.4/85 was shown to me and once again it was something very, very impressive. Which is not an easy thing to say as there are so many wonderful 85mm lenses out there. But that newer 85mm remained true to what I feel Otus is all about and has produced some exceptional detail rich images.
In 2015 I took a hard look at my cameras selection and where I wanted to go with my images. Things have changed a lot when it comes to resolution, sensors, and what it takes to get the most out of a camera. Cinematography-wise I’ve been working at 6K resolution since 2013 with my RED Epic Dragon and more recently Weapon cameras. In 2016 I begin to shoot on the 8K RED Weapon with a FF35+ sized sensor. Also in 2015, I added the 50 megapixel Canon 5DsR and 42.4 megapixel Sony A7RII to my kit. To fully explore these higher resolution FF35 and slightly beyond sensor sizes I decided to add the Otus primes to my arsenal of gear with the full intent of using them for motion and still work. The cameras as well as the displays have evolved and I wanted bring what I was capturing closer to the audience if possible.
There has been something missing from the Otus line-up however. And that has been a wide angle lens to compliment the other two Otus primes. For my way of working it’s pretty fundamental to have a wide, normal, and telephoto options for motion and still work. A wide was very much needed. And fortunately that time has come.
Late 2015 and during the first moments of 2016 I was fortunate to spend time with the newest Otus prime, the 28mm f/1.4, about two months before it’s release no less. 28mm is fascinating focal length that brought me back about 16 years as it was a focal length I used a great deal during the beginning of my professional career.
After performing a quick round of technical tests I wanted to go out and get some real world shooting in. I’m based out of Los Angeles and probably have driven by the Walt Disney Music Hall a thousand times,. I’ve always been a fan of Frank Gehry’s tremendous design and have wanted to take a few hours to walk around the building and take in it’s unique architecture. I packed up the Otus 28mm and my Sony A7RII and made way to Downtown Los Angeles on a brisk winter day.
Shortly into exploring the grounds I saw a an opportunity to shoot an interesting series of images that emphasized the moderately disorienting quality of the structure’s shape and form, focusing on unique compositions, while chasing interesting light play that bounces off of the hall’s stainless steel exterior.
That landed somewhere between an abstract, landscape, and architectural shoot for me. As this was my first real world test with the lens I spent a great deal of time focused on what the 28mm Otus was doing as much as the compositions themselves. This was all shot in the range of f/1.4-f/10 apertures, with most exposures around f/2.8-f/5. This particular subject matter served as a bit of a stress test and did indeed show off some of the tremendous strengths of having such high quality wide angle prime lens. It’s very impressive that with such a spectacular and shiny material such as steel that the 28mm maintains minimal chromatic aberrations. I’ve never experienced quality like this from a full frame wide angle prime before. It’s also presenting pretty minimal geometric distortion, which is very nice for subject matter like this.
After that I took a short trip to Jerome, Arizona and brought all three Otus primes with me. But really what this gave me was the opportunity to explore other types of subject matter with the 28mm Otus while discovering a new beautiful and extremely small town.
The engineers at ZEISS have taken their time to create a fantastic trio of lenses with the Otus series. There truly isn’t anything else like these three lenses out there. The Otus image quality and build quality will stand up for years as camera technology progresses further. I have a feeling I’ll be shooting with these Otus primes for decades to come.