Zeiss Milvus 21mm f/2.8 Lens Review

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The Opening…

Over the years, I have found that Zeiss is a lot like Apple in the sense of giving the consumer a very luxurious experience from the unboxing all the way to the look and feel of the product.

After all of the fluff and the dopamine hit of marketing psychology wears off, is this lens really work the $1843 USD price tag? Let’s find out!

The Full Review…


Build Quality & Ergonomics

The metal construction on the Zeiss Milvus 21mm lens is absolutely brilliant. The focus ring, aperture ring, and lens mount are all built just as well as the main chassy of the lens. From the second you pick it up, you know that you should be more worried about WHAT you drop the lens on instead of the lens itself. In short, it’s built like a tank!

The handling and ergonomics of this lens is also quite pleasing. I have pretty big hands and really enjoy the way the manual focus ring is positioned in the right place to fit into that perfect “pocket” between the thumb and index finder for easy focusing.

The only small complaint I had within this category was with the felt material inside of the lens hood. It is literally a dust and fuzz magnet! It attracts everything! Luckily, I leave it off most of the time since I use filters.

Distortion

This will be a very short category because there’s only so much you can say about distortion. All wide angle lenses have it, and I can say with complete confidence that this lens handles it much better than my Nikkor 16-35 that I used to shoot landscapes with all the time.

Keep in mind that most distortion can be easily fixed inside of photoshop, but it has definitely been nice to see that this lens almost no distortion issue at all.

Optical Image Quality And Performance

This is definitely the most important category of the review because optical quality is the reason we purchase expensive lenses.

After using this lens exclusively for the one month I have owned it, I can say that the pure quality that it can squeeze out of my 36 megapixel Nikon D810 is just outstanding! I would almost say that this lens is too sharp! Did you hear that, pixel peepers?? TOO SHARP! Wait, who am I talking to? The second the pixel peepers read that it was too sharp, they stopped reading and immediately left to purchase the lens…

I expect my D810 RAW files to come into Capture One looking flat as always, but when I imported my first set of images from the Zeiss 21mm Milvus, I couldn’t believe the natural contrast and color rendition. I honestly had to make sure I didn’t have a preset turned on in Capture One because I was so skeptical of what I was looking at.

I tested this lens on a tripod at my native 64 ISO going through the entire aperture range, and I can confirm that you get all of the Zeiss goodness that I talked about above from about f/4 to f/16. Shooting this lens wide open at f/2.8, you will see a little bit of light fall off and slight vignetting in the corners. Luckily, those minor setbacks can be easily fixed with modern software.

Keep in mind that I am only shedding light on those minor complaints so that you have all of the information I have discovered about this lens. If you and I were casually discussing this lens over a cup of coffee, I would probably never shut up about how awesome it is.

Feel free to download a few of my RAW files from shooting the my D810 and Zeiss 21mm Milvus.

Value

So, it’s time for the million dollar question….or should I say the $1843 question? Is this lens worth the hefty price? It all depends on what kind of photography you do and how you will use this lens

If you are an avid printer who sells to galleries or consistently prints large and participates in print exhibitions, then It is worth every penny! You will love it and actually be able to see the difference it makes when you start printing large or licensing work to companies who need massive banners, etc.

If you are like the other 70% of photographers who post to Facebook, Instagram, and your blog, then I would take the $1843 and spend it on marketing your business. Launch some Facebook ads, spruce up your website, pay a videographer to create a compelling story about your business. as a business owner,  your money can be much better spent if you aren’t going to regularly let the Zeiss 21mm Milvus shine in it’s full glory. 


 

New FREE YouTube Series! Photoshop Made Easy

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I find that so many photographers don’t get the results they want our of their RAW files because they’re simply scared of introducing Photoshop into their workflow.  

Yes, I have some premium tutorials that help you learn Photoshop, but I wanted to provide a completely FREE way for you to learn the basics so that you aren’t afraid of the interface.

That is where the “Photoshop Made Easy” series comes in, and I have made four videos already! With each new video, I teach you a new tip or trick that Photoshop offers, and I make sure to go step-by-step so you don’t miss a thing! 🙂

If you decide to take your photoshop skills further and want to join me for over 10 hours of post processing knowledge, be sure to pick up my Landscape Photography Post Processing & HDR Blending course while it’s 75% off! Only $25!


Enjoy the four videos I have posted so far! I will update the blog post as I record more!


 

Long Exposure Photography Tips – Firecrest ND Filters & Exposure Blending

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Using ND Filters…

Long exposure photography is one of the most interesting ways to experiment with your scene and creativity. I have been shooting long exposures for almost 13 years, so I thought it was time a provided a couple of tips about it 🙂

In part 1 of the videos below, I explain the importance of using an ND filters to soften the water while the golden light is still lingering in the sky. If you break your scene into puzzle pieces for blending like me, you will understand why I take one exposure for the sky, one for the foreground, and in this case, one for the “long exposure” water effect.

Once I get back to my workstation and start post processing, I choose the exposures that showcase the best light of the scene, and I blend them together. This is why it is so important to know when to use your ND filters so that the light values match the other exposures for post production. 

Side note: If you are interested in what filters to purchase, I highly recommend Formatt-Hitech Firecrest Filters. They leave no color cast and don’t harm image quality at all! Also, if you do decide to buy those, they gave me a discount code for all of my viewers to save 10% off of any purchase! Just use code: EMARKS10 at checkout.

Watch part 1 below for my long exposure tips in the field.

Using Luminosity Masks To Piece Your Puzzle Together…

In Part 2, I show you how to leverage luminosity masks in post production to seamlessly blend everything together.

I chat with so many photographers that are literally afraid to photograph brackets or multiple exposures just because they don’t know how to blend everything together in Photoshop. If you think that blending exposures together is accomplished by manually brushing and masking every pixel of your photo, have not fear! My video below will show you a better way!

Ok, now that I am starting to sound like an infomercial, I will stop typing and let you watch part 2 so you can actually see me blend all of the exposures from the first video. 😉

The Final Image…

Fujifilm X-T2 | Exposure Blend From Three Images