Dutch ZEISS Camera Lens Ambassador Martjin Kort was testing the Milvus 2/35. Read more to get his full review.
I was fortunate to use the new ZEISS Milvus 2/35 for a couple of weeks and took it with me to Dubai. The perfect location to test the lens on architecture, cityscape and street photography. Both during day and night time. And what a surprise it was! I loved the lens. The sharpness and ease of use are fantastic. Furthermore the 35mm range is a perfect focal length to capture the world in a natural perspective. It’s a perfect general purpose lens. It’s wide enough to capture the wide view, without distorting people and other subjects and it’s a nice focal range to capture full or mid-body portraits and fantastic for street photography. With landscape and cityscape (night) photography I’m used to manual focus my lens using live view or calculating the hyperfocal distance.
But I’ve never used manual focus 100% of the time, and I was a bit anxious to do so. But it was a relief that after a short time I was completely used to it and I was even wondering why I would use autofocus ever again in my photography. Not needing to pay attention to the focus point. Just compose, focus and take the shot. It’s so much faster! Below are my findings on this lens but as you can see above I really like it.
First up, manual focussing. This may hold back a lot of people to buy this lens or any other Zeiss lenses. But the ease of focussing with these lenses is so big, that after a short while you will be completely comfortable in manual focussing. You can also use “zone focussing”, with the aperture and distance scale on the lens. The focus ring moves incredibly smooth and has a good travel range. This helps you to fine tune your focus very smoothly. When it’s difficult to see the correct focus through the viewfinder, just use the focus range finder in the viewfinder (on Nikon). I found that on my Nikon D610, the focus range finder was really helpful and correct. As said before, I’m not used to manual focussing other than using live view when on a tripod. But after a short while and maybe 20-30 images I got used to it and started to embrace it. The ease of using such a smooth system makes street photography fun. You can prefocus on a certain distance (zone focussing) but fine tuning the focus quickly and precise makes it much easier to get some good street shots at wider apertures.
The second thing that I loved when I was shooting at night with this lens on a tripod, is that the lens has a hard stop at infinity. So when you focus on the infinity symbol it is actually focussed at infinity. Normally my go to lens was the Nikon 16-35mm f4. At night when focussing is an issue when you don’t have a lot of bright lights to focus on, it can be a pain to focus correctly in one try on the Nikon lens. You can calculate the hyperfocal distance but that is more than 1m and my index scale is lost after 1m on the Nikon lens. When I turn it to the infinity symbol it focusses even further than that, rendering everything unsharp.
When I focussed the Zeiss Milvus 2/35 at the infinity symbol, it has everything in focus. This helps me so much when I need to focus in dark areas, where live view focussing isn’t helpful (on my camera at least). This is such a simple thing but it makes a huge difference.
Well what can I say…. It is sharp. Period. Corner to corner sharpness is fantastic. It stays sharp throughout the image. When opening up to f2, the lens stays really sharp in the center. The corners get a bit less sharp, but when stopping down to even f2.8 this improves a lot. I’d say that at f2 still 90% of the total frame is sharp.
The images it produces are sharp and the colors are really good. The only thing I thought could be better was the contrast. It tends to be a bit soft in the contrast, but it is easily added in post production. The photos have a bit of cyan chromatic aberration under some circumstances, but with a tick in the box in Lightroom that is taken care of.
Flare and Bokeh
The multi flare resistant coatings on the lens elements work well. I was shooting into the sun quite often or with the sun on an angle towards me, and I didn’t had an issue with flare. The only time (1 image) I had a tiny sun flare, it was so tiny that it was easily corrected in post processing. The bokeh of the lens is really pleasant. It renders nice and smooth bokeh in the out of focus area’s.
Well what can I say…. It is sharp. Period.
Martijn Kort about the Milvus 2/35
The build quality is one of the first things that stands out when unboxing. The weight of the lens is quite high. It feels solid and the glass is surrounded by an all metal housing, even the lens hood is made of metal (instead of plastic like most brands). The rotating parts move very smooth and precise. And the big focus ring has a nice rubber grip. The lens is weather sealed as you might expect from a high quality lens. When holding this lens you know this is a hight quality product, made to last a lifetime.
The lens has a little amount of distortion, almost none.
This lens isn’t cheap but it’s one of the cheaper Milvus lenses. Coming in at around USD 1150,- and € 1100,-
When you are about to invest in your lenses and you want a high quality product with fantastic specifications, get this lens. It’s a perfect all purpose lens. The build quality, the sharpness and the ease of use are all fantastic. The disadvantage of this lens? I don’t know, maybe it’s weight, but on the other hand this helps keeping it steady when hand holding the camera. While using this lens for 2 weeks, I didn’t find any big disadvantages. I was becoming more and more enthusiastic about the lens and the quality it delivers. I can really recommend the Zeiss Milvus 35mm f2.0.
Martijn Kort’s website: www.martijnkort-photography.com
Lenses Martin used: Milvus 2/35