Some times, you are witness to visuals that just don’t look right or shouldn’t even be happening. That someone wearing leggings when they really shouldn’t be or the 70 year old sun bleached tourist on Miami beach with a heavy accent wearing Speedo’s. We all know it’s just wrong. However, people rise above the scrutiny of others and proudly parade themselves no matter what the others think. Why should a photographer be any different? Especially when you marry and Sony A7RII to a Zeiss 85mm Milvus. Just like those previous observations you have made of things that don’t look right, The A7RII and Milvus fall into that category. It is the most ridiculous unbalanced ugly looking combination of camera and lens you can image. Yet, there is something beautiful about it and you don’t mind parading with it.
The new 85 Milvus which was provided by Popflash Photo is obviously different than the original ZF/ZE version which have been around for a while. But the difference goes deeper than just the look. Compared to the previous Planar, the Milvus delivers better contrast, better flare control with new coatings, sharper images, better control of the dreaded purple fringing and weather sealing. All of these benefits come at a cost. Monetarily and physically. At $1800.00, the new Milvus is definitely stretching the budget for many photographers and at 2.67lbs ( 1.21kg ) it’s breaking the backs of others.
Since I no longer have a Nikon digital camera and am strictly shooting Sony now, my only choice was to adapt this behemoth to the A7RII or take a few pictures on film with the F6. I did a little of both. So, having said all that, here is the first hand field report of using the Milvus on the A7RII.
As you can image it was heavy. I could not carry this around all day long around my neck as it would be fatiguing and painful on the neck after a while. Having the camera in a camera bag around the shoulders can ease this quite a bit as there is better padding on the bag straps and the weight is better distributed.
Shooting stills is not bad at all since you have time to work the focus and verify it with focus peak and magnification as mentioned HERE. However, moving subjects can be more challenging because of the large focus rotation. To put it simply, you can’t focus fast enough. At least I can’t. You have to rotate the focus ring quite a bit to get from one focus point to another within a few feet. On the other hand, the advantage of this is that focusing can be much more critical and granular giving you much better control of your focus point. Furthermore, the focus is really tight and smooth with no play or wiggle. This lens is built to the tight tolerances you would expect from German engineering.
Rendering and bokeh is just what you would expect. You will be hard pressed to find a lens that tops the smoothness and out of focus transition this lens delivers. It will not let you down. This is a prime example of what to expect from a high end lens such as this. I can’t recall ever seeing images from a Leica 90 M or 80 R looking as nice as what you get from the Milvus 85. This lens is destined to become a classic. It will only be a matter of time.
The weight and stiffness of the focus become evident when shooting it on the A7RII. There were times when you felt the lens move on the adapter as you rotated the focus. I did not experience this when the lens was mounted on the Nikon F6. Definitely not an issue but something to keep in mind as you consider putting heavy lenses on such a small camera body.
Looking forward, I have a dilemma since I cannot really afford two 85’s. The obvious thing to do is get a Batis 85mm for the Sony and be done with it. However, that would limit you to using the lens strictly on the Sony and after seeing what this lens is capable of and how it is built, I can honestly tell you I am reconsidering my abandonment of the DSLR in favor of the mirror less camera. As much as I love the EVF, I may be forced to get back into something like a D750 or DF just so I can use this lens more comfortably. The real option for me is the unthinkable. Getting a Leica SL with an F to T adapter would probably be the best thing to do since it is a larger full frame camera built to accommodate large lenses. As much as I dislike what Leica stands for, they have produced something no one else has. A true replacement for a full size DSLR in a mirror less camera that is available now! But, there are also some gotcha’s with that option. It’s hard to beat the Sony sensor, It lacks image stabilization, it is 24 megapixels and it costs and arm and a leg which I cannot afford. What to do ???
The answer is simple. I am keeping the 85 Milvus. It is truly a gem. I will use it on the A7RII until Nikon produces a full frame mirror less camera that can take F mount lenses without a threat to the body integrity. As much as I love the Sony, I don’t see myself keeping it long term simply because of the restrictions encountered due to it’s small size. I love the larger lenses and what they can deliver and am having a hard time giving them up completely. Who knows. If we ever get a pro Sony mirror less like an SL I will be singing a different praise. But for now I will use what I have unless you want to donate an SL to me.
Have a look at some sample pictures with the 85 on the A7RII