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.
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.
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.