OTUS 1.4/55. Just Hype, Or A New Standard?
In the above, an obvious sales piece for the new Zeiss OTUS 1.4/55 published on Oct 7, 2013, Zeiss makes some strong claims about this new lens. Statements like “Experience a new dimension. The Otus 1.4/55 is the pinnacle of over 120 years of expertise and experience in optical and mechanical excellence. Only the best materials and the highest quality glass were good enough for a lens that was designed, at every stage, with one single thought in mind: to offer the highest possible performance. Achieving the simple goal of offering you something that is truly perfect. The best standard lens in the world.”
Wow. Statements like these are so strong, it really gets my investigative journalist blood going. I just had to investigate for myself to find out how many, if any of these wild sounding claims for the OTUS 1.4/55, are actually true. Unable to locate a sample OTUS 1.4/55 to test for myself, I got in touch with old friend and incomparable photographer Michael Prince, known for his famous portraits of famous people in famous situations for famous magazine covers. (Think Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet and Justin Bieber for the cover of Forbes Magazine, and you nailed it)
Who better to get an “up close and personal” opinion and perspective on this new “wannabe superlens,” sure to become famous if it performs as advertised? Michael has had a Zeiss OTUS 1.4/55 on order practically since the day of its announcement and has now received and tested his OTUS 1.4/55. Michael’s opinion is gold in my book; his gear tastes impeccable, as his work clearly shows.
A bit of background on Michael and his fabulous work (for my few deprived readers not already familiar.) Born and raised in Miami, Florida, USA, Michael Prince graduated from the University of Florida with a degree in Advertising and Communications. After enjoying a self confessed “bohemian and somewhat itinerant lifestyle,” Michael decided to settle down and get serious about his professional career while still having fun. So Michael married and moved to Florence, Italy, to study photography to satisfy his many cravings and weird urges.
Fed up with wine, woman, song, pasta, pictures, and basically being broke but happy, Michael left Italy in late 1989 to pursue a professional career in photography. After working as a photojournalist, Michael also decided to start showing his fine art photography with his first of many future solo shows at the Howard Greenberg Gallery in New York City. He has since shown work in solo exhibitions in Chicago, Seattle, San Francisco, and Los Angeles galleries. Michael’s work is in the Library of Congress, several museums, and many private collections. In 2000 Michael began shooting commercially, quickly gaining a broad clientele, and enjoying many awards and high recognition. In 2010 he began working with video and produced and directed his first TV commercial. Michael currently lives near Boston, MA, with his wife, two children, their awesome dog, and a backyard pond.
Michael has won most of the major awards in a top professional’s book, including: Communication Arts Photo Annual 2002, 2004 & 2008; PDN Photo Annual 2004, 2006, 2008 & 2009; Hatch Awards Best in Show, 2010. Michael is also a good friend to have, a nice guy, and an artist who really likes taking pictures. You can see more of Michael’s fantastic work on his photography web site at MichaelPrince.com and be sure you catch Michael’s always entertaining read at morebutterlessguns.com
But enough of the fluff, down to business.
Question One – Michael, first off thanks for agreeing to this interview, we all appreciate it. You put in your order for a new OTUS 1.4/55mm what, the first day it was announced? Why so early? Did you see something, or just sense it was going to be good for your type of work?
Michael Prince: Not the first day, but pretty soon after that. I was excited about the potential of MF quality on my high ISO Nikons.
Question Two – What were your first impressions of the OTUS 1.4/55mm when you saw those first frames up full screen on your studio monitor?
Michael Prince: Pretty fired up. Incredibly sharp at 1.4 with very little color fringing.
Question Three – In the marketing statements for the OTUS 1.4/55mm, Zeiss claims “Experience a new dimension… Achieving the simple goal of offering you something that is truly perfect. The best standard lens in the world.” As an “A List” advertising and editorial photographer I know you have heard many a marketing claim that proved upon closer examination to be mostly hype. Now that you have had a bit of time to test the production version of the OTUS 1.4/55mm, in your opinion how close is the reality to the hype in Zeiss’s statements? Is it something exceptional? Is it, as they claim, the “best standard lens in the world” in your opinion?
Michael Prince: It is certainly the best one I have ever used, and I have used a lot! I currently own 3 Nikon 50mm lens and none of them are even close.
Question Four – What do you like best about the OTUS 1.4/55? What qualities does it bring to the toolbox that makes it invaluable to you?
Michael Prince: Being sharp at 1.4 opens up a world of creative possibilities.
Question Five – What don’t you like about it? What are the hidden negatives they forget to mention in the marketing pieces?
Michael Prince: Well obviously, AF would be nice. But that’s about it. It is bigger than other “normal” lenses, but a lot smaller and lighter than the Nikon zooms.
Question Six – I know you also do some most excellent and tasty video work. Have you tried the OTUS 1.4/55mm out rolling any video? What are your thoughts on its suitability there?
Michael Prince: I have not tried it yet, but I think it will be good. The focus is very smooth.
Question Seven – What did your wife have to say when you told her you were spending $4k on yet another piece of glass, a ‘Normal” focal length, no less? Was a psychiatric testing session or evaluation session ever discussed?
Michael Prince: She is pretty good about stuff like that, as long as I make more than I spend!
Once again, many thanks to Michael for sharing his findings and exciting test images with all of us, and we do look forward to seeing that next Forbes cover using the new OTUS 1.4/55!
For more information, on the OTUS 1.4/55, please visit: http://www.zeiss.com/photo
Video at top of page Produced by Stefan Czech Filmproduktion
STORY UPDATE: November 19th – Roger Cicala, Owner of LensRentals.Com has just posted his own review on this new lens, and has also put up his measurement numbers for it. Roger’s piece as always is well worth reading for anyone interested in this lens. LensRentals.Com is also a great place to rent one of these puppies and give it a test drive for yourself! http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2013/11/otus-is-scharf