A superlative ultra wide angle lens! – Zeiss 15mm f/2.8 Milvus Lens


JAsuperlative2Performance
The optical performance is par excellence. Chromatic aberration is so less that it can be ignored. There is very less barrel distortion, an achievement considering the nature of this lens. Plus, it was corrected fully and automatically in Lightroom once the lens profile was activated. The images showed excellent contrast with vibrant and saturated colors. Being an ultra wide-angle lens there was vignetting, about 1.5 stops fully open. Most of this can be corrected in Lightroom automatically and in any case, it was gone when the aperture was closed to f/5.6. Flare control was superb with and without the light source in the frame. Once again this is remarkable considering the extreme wide angle the lens covers.

Sharpness was overall superb. The center sharpness was excellent even wide open and was beyond reproach by the time you get to f/4. Edge sharpness improves till about f/5.6 at which point the sharpness is excellent from corner to corner. This aperture, can be called as the sweet spot of the lens.

Value For Money
This lens is priced at a whopping Rs.1,99,950/- (MRP). That’s a high figure but this is to be expected as this is not a run of the mill lens. Designing and manufacturing a lens with a focal length of 15mm covering a full fame is not an easy task. That coupled with superlative optical performance makes it good value for money. Zeiss also told us that they are bundling a 95mm Zeiss UV filter and plus a cleaning kit (together they have  an MRP close to Rs.30,000/-).

So, is it worth it? This is not a walk in the park casual photography lens. The huge angle of view (AOV) 110° makes it a bit tricky to use. It will take some time to master this lens, if you are not already familiar with the usage of ultra-wides. However, once you have understood its idiosyncrasies, you can compose with the foreground objects very close and this gives a dramatic, exaggerated perspective that has no equal. Photography like this, plus critical architectural / landscape work needs some contemplation and if you are willing to engage in that, you can be assured of some fantastic images. |SP

JAsuperlative1

FINAL SCORE                                               91%

Design and Build Quality                 20/20
Key Features                                         18/20
Ergonomics                                          18/20
Performance
Sharpness                                                     6/6
Distortion control                                       6/6
Aberrations                                                 6/6
Darkening of corners                                6/6
Extra features                                            4/6
Sub-Total                                         28/30
Value for Money                              7/10

PLUS
• Extremely sharp
• Highest optical quality you can get in this focal length
• Almost negligible aberrations or distortion
• Outstanding build quality and finish
• Silky smooth focussing
• Aperture ring click stops very positive

MINUS
• Expensive
• No AF or image stabilization
• Large and heavy

VERDICT
While people may take fancy to the AOV of 110°, it also comes with its own unusual characteristics. Not understanding those can quickly result in frustration. Still, if you are willing to set aside sometime to climb the learning curve you can get results that will be the envy of others. The extreme focal length plus its cost may curtail its popularity. However, this is perhaps the best lens in its class. The high price is due to the advanced technology used in this lens and its superior performance.

Ashok Kandimalla