If you are not a photographer, your morning read would best be spent reading…. well…. just about anything else.

A few days ago we saw the formal announcement of the Zeiss 55 f/1.4 Otus…. a new prime lens that makes no compromises on image sharpness. If you have already seen the articles surrounding this piece of glass, you have most likely not read past one particular aspect… it costs $4,000. Roughly ten times the standard 50 f/1.4 lenses that we are accustomed to using on shoots.

So if you are still reading this article, you are probably thinking, “damn, I bet this thing is an AF speed monster, I can’t wait to go shoot my first piece with that.”  Not so fast. You see, Zeiss has taken a bit of a Ferrari approach to this lens. Ferrari will sell you a 458 Italia road car $230K, however if you want it without radio, A/C and power windows, it will run you $330K. With the new Zeiss Otus, they created a four thousand dollar lens with an AF made of platinum which they then remove before shipping and charge the buyer for it anyway. (sarcasm sign)

In all reality, this a lens that will be purchased specifically for the glass, and most likely by landscape and architecture shooters. As much as I would love it, the idea of loosing sharpness from a missed focus makes the point of paying so much for sharpness rather moot. While I revel in the idea of the ability to finally resolve images from sensors like that in the D800E, justifying a lens that won’t close past f/16 is also a tough compromise for me as I tend to hang around f/18-22 on set.

Bitching and moaning aside, will I pick up the new lens…. probably.

Zeiss 55

With that said, I think we need to look at what this lens says about how far digital technology has come and where it is going….

It was not long ago that we had conversations about whether or not digital would ever beat the quality of film when it comes to resolution. Obviously film posses a certain romantic quality to it, but I think we can all agree that in resolution, we are now seeing a cleaner, higher resolution imagery than we have ever had. Lenses that we once used to determine the resolution of a camera are now being surpassed by those very sensors.

Perhaps what is more exciting about the new Zeiss Otus is that it shows us where the future of 35mm DSLR cameras are going. The industry of photography although diverse, is actually a small family. While I joke about other brands of cameras or lenses, at the end of the day I am joking, and actually have a world of respect for what they do and what approach in which they try to push the envelope of photographic technology. With that said, I have always had a deep appreciation for Zeiss and have had quite a few of their lenses in my collection over time. Their lenses are often the milestone that other companies measure against and this is a reputation that has been well earned.

All things held equal, we also know that Zeiss works together with the two big camera manufactures, to make their product compatible and applicable. Making a lens like the Otus that is very expensive and no doubt a large undertaking from Zeiss themselves tells us one thing…

The Otus, wasn’t made for the cameras we have today, it was make for the cameras of the future. Its sharpness and absolute resolving power shows us what those cameras will be.