#415. Oh no! Not Another OTUS! 28 good reasons to run away …

By pascaljappy | News

Oct 14

In April 2015, rumours rose from the East. Someone had apparently spotted an OTUS 24 prototype on a Zeiss senior designer’s desk. Forums lit up.

A few months later, the magical number had risen to 28, and sources were now more than credible. Even since, at casa DS, it’s been a frantic anticipation of what this lens might render like. I say render, because “what the lens might test like” is a little pointless in that range.


OTUS 28 lookalike shot

OTUS 28 lookalike shot


So, for the past few months, I’ve been fantasizing about this and merging photographs to simulate what I anticipate the OTUS 28 look to be. The photo above is one such example, made on the remains of Route 66, in Petrified Forest, Arizona. Wonderful place to be, wonderful old car, wonderful virtual lens.

But that will have to do, for quite some time to come … ’cause, yes, let’s begin with the bad news: as with all evolved beings, the OTUS 28’s gestation period is a long one and the lens will grace our window shops not before Q2 2016. The retail price hasn’t yet been decided but you can expect it to be every bit as eye-watering as its predecessors, possibly more.

Still, when you’ve used one of these lenses and are fortunate enough to be able to buy one, price doesn’t matter anymore. So, will the 28 be up to the very high standards of the older family members ?

Size-wize, it would appear so. And the OTUS 1.4/50 (codename Bertha, here on DS) is looking more and more like the undernourished runt of the family.



Happy family (c) Zeiss


As you can see from this picture, Zeiss are kindly providing two versions of this gem: a ZF.2 photographic lens with aperture ring and a ZE decorative paperweight, without. How thoughtful.



Zeiss OTUS 28/1.4 (c) Zeiss


Joking aside, here are some specs to ponder.

16 lenses in 13 groups is more than the other OTI (1.4/50: 12/10, 1.4/85:11/9). Only 3 surfaces are aspherics (compare that to the Batis 25), promising relaxed bokeh and 8 are made of special glass, presumably for great apo-chromatic correction. Here’s what Zeiss have to say about this:

One of the lens elements has an aspheric optical surface and one element is aspheric on both sides. Eight other lens elements are made of special glass. The basis of the optical design is a Distagon. The special glass has anomalous partial dispersion, as is typical for an apochromatic lens. This corrects the longitudinal chromatic aberrations superbly, which therefore lie considerably below the tightly defined boundaries.  Bright-dark transitions in the image, in particular highlights, are depicted almost completely free of color artifacts. The floating elements design (the change of distances between certain lens elements when focusing) allows for unrivalled imaging performance along the entire focusing range, from 0.3 m (11.81”) to infinity.


Zeiss OTUS 28 optical formula (c) Zeiss

Zeiss OTUS 28 optical formula (c) Zeiss


The minimal working distance is 15cm !!!!!!! This promises a lot of strong compositions in the hands of creative photographers and should be great for product photography as well, if a 28mm lens appeals to that crowd.


Zeiss OTUS 28 sepcifications

Zeiss OTUS 28 sepcifications (c) Zeiss


The MTF curves are, well, OTUS like. They are more similar to the 1.4/55, with which the 1.4/28 shares the Distagon optical formula (in fact, although chronological causality suggests otherwise, the OTUS 1.4/55 actually uses the OTUS 1.4/28’s wide angle formula rather than a conventional 50 formula), than to the 1.4/85 Planar. Very slightly inferior to the 1.4/55 at full aperture, very slightly superior at f/4. So close as to probably be identical in the field.

So we’re on very familiar grounds here and anyone used to the OTUS 55 can expect a virtually identical, but much wider, lens. Which means a progressive shift from sharp to out of focus, and significant structure and 3D in the bokeh, compared to a more brutal transition in the OTUS 85. Great neutrality and colour fidelity, controled contrast and an image field flatter than pre-Magellanic Earth.


Zeiss OTUS 28 MTF

Zeiss OTUS 28 MTF


More and more portrait photographers are using wide angle lenses for their work and this one should be splendid for this application. Landscape photography? Definitely, if you’re not hiking too far with 4 other lenses. Architecture? Yes, please. Street might be pushing it, but I’ve shot quite a bit of street photography with an OTUS 85, so why not?



A painter completes a portrait in the streets of Marseilles. SOny A7rII & Zeiss OTUS 85


All in all, bad news, then …

Because you’re likely to want one badly if you’re ever silly enough to try it. This will be a heavy and expensive beast that you won’t be able to take off your camera, once mounted. A statement lens for Zeiss and  a once-bitten-forever-smitten wide-angle, or 28 good reasons to run away, while you still can.

So, will you be joining the queue ?


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  • richard warren says:

    Dear Pascal
    I love Zeiss lenses, I’ve had Zeiss practically everything practically all my life. But no – I’ll pass on this one – until those people at the Lotteries Commission remember how to spell my name on the winning cheque, anyway.
    I do have one Zeiss lens (still), and I nearly passed out when I stumbled across the Otus 55mm – but DxO and my camera shop managed to talk me into buying the Sigma Art lenses (wide angle and standard primes) instead, so I could still throw money at all my other new toys.
    I had a refit this year and when you do the lot, all at once, people like wives start making REALLY ugly noises, if you front them with an invoice for some of the seriously top end glass. So I pulled my head in and decided to take their advice. It didn’t shut my wife up, but at least she put the knife down, and I still have a LITTLE bit left to spend on the things I overlooked along the way.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Ha Ha, Richard I feel your pain. The OTUS range *is* very expensive and can raise some domestic concerns. I sold 6 lenses to buy my 1.4/85 … But these lenses offer a lot more than technical quality that I don’t regret it. My problem is that I don’t have another 6 lenses to sell to buy the 1.4/28, now … Hmmm

  • Bstrom says:

    If lacking the funds or fortitude to own these über lenses is any indication of photographic failure, I will be the first to admit it. I still can’t tell what lens was used to take a picture, it’s only if I actually like it that any technical prowess might be attributed to a particular lens or camera body. Can Zeiss make all my pictures memorable and financially rewarding? Eliminate my shooting mistakes and add drama I can’t find in a scene? Or am I going to have to continue to rely on skill and foresight to create images that bring a smile or a pause to the viewer’s face? I too would sell my entire lens collection for that one omnipotent optic that brings me to photographic nirvana. Sigh…reality prevails.

    • pascaljappy says:

      Thankfully, that is not the case … Phew, that would be horrible. Some excellent photographers are able to know their gear so well as to predict the look of a photograph in any situation. It’s my firm belief that great great lenses only broarden the scope of possible use scenarios. In some situations a dirt cheap 40 year old 28mm will probably be almost as good as this OTUS. On other situations, some other cheap lens will shine. The expensive OTUS simply makes the range very broad. It is highly neutral and can serve more purposes than the cheaper lenses. So, basically, if you know what you like and have tried out a few lenses and found the one you love, forget about the expensive stuff 🙂 An OTUS is a great lens for a pro, because it offers security. It’s an investment that makes a lot of sense. It’s also great for a wealthy amateur with a wide range of photographic interests. But, again, anyone who’s found a lens that suits his style would be crazy to spend a small fortune on anything else … And thank God for that! 🙂

  • Tillmann says:

    I read somewhere (think ming thein) that a combination that lets you work with this lens comfortably weighs around 3.4 kilos. So I’m definitely passing. I think it was a D800E with the grip.

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