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Carl Zeiss 85mm F1.4 Planar ZK T*

Reviews Views Date of last review
8 35,679 Sat November 30, 2019
Recommended By Average Price Average User Rating
100% of reviewers $870.00 9.38
Carl Zeiss 85mm F1.4 Planar ZK T*

Optical construction: 6 elements in 5 groups
Number of aperture blades: 9
Min. focus distance: 1m
(max. magnification ratio 1:10)
Dimensions: 77x62mm
Weight: 570g
Filter size: 72mm (non-rotating)
Hood Included, barrel shaped (snap-on)
Mount Type:
Price History:

Add Review of Carl Zeiss 85mm F1.4 Planar ZK T*
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Site Supporter

Registered: July, 2009
Location: eastern Pennsylvania, USA
Posts: 151
Lens Review Date: November 30, 2019 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $900.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Colour saturation, micro-contrast, bokeh
Cons: stiff focusing ring, focus shift
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 9    Value: 10    Camera Used: MX, MZ-S, A7s   

This is the second review of this lens I have posted here. (I erased the original review some time back.) I have owned this lens for a number of years, and as time passes, my understanding of it has greatly increased.

A few points: (1) This is an 'old school' portrait lens. While it is very good at landscapes, it is in portraiture that it excels. The uncorrected spherical aberration at large apertures should be seen as a 'feature'--not a flaw. It provides a glow to images that newer iterations by Zeiss (and others) lack.

(2) This is not to say that this lens is not sharp. Stop down to f4 and f5.6 and the lens is (as one reviewer put it) 'biting'. And what makes it a such a strong landscape lens is its micro-contrast and color saturation. While this lens does present certain difficulties, I think it is, in these areas,(micro contrast and color saturation) that it is superior to more recent offerings by Zeiss (and others).

(3) These points come down to what many have called 'rendering'. This lens has a way of rendering a scene that is unique. It is, to my eye, the most 'artistic' of the Zeiss offerings. When I sold off many of my K mount lenses some years back (before the release of the K-1), this is the only one by Zeiss that I kept.

This lens does present one real difficulty: It can be tricky to focus on DSLRS (and SLRS). The lens--like many fast lenses of traditional design-suffers from 'focus shift'. That is, as the lens is stopped down, the plane of sharpest focus slightly moves away from the photographer.

I think that the less than glowing reviews of this lens that have occasionally appeared have been the result of photographers not knowing how to deal with this phenomenon. It is a pain, to be sure. But it can be dealt with. (As a reviewer noted above, this is not a problem if one is using a mirrorless camera with focus peaking since the lens is always focused at shooting aperture.)

Although it takes some work to get the best from this lens, one should realize that there is a price to be paid with recent offerings that are more highly 'corrected'. With the addition of glass elements that handle the various 'flaws' this lens presents (CA, focus shift etc.), micro contrast and color saturation are diminished.

Every lens made is a compromise. And the designers of this lens have made choices that are very much in line with my idea of how an 85mm lens should render an image. However, if you are after the highest possible resolution, and you find correcting CA in post a waste of your time, this is probably not the lens for you.

One last comment: My wife (a Sony A7 user) owns the Zeiss Milvus 85mm. The Milvus, while it overcomes most of the flaws mentioned here, provides an image that even she finds somewhat 'sterile' compared to my Zeiss 85mm ZK.

Note: My overall rating of 10 includes aspects of lens performance that are not listed above : micro contrast, color saturation, and general rendering.
Site Supporter

Registered: November, 2016
Location: Brisbane
Posts: 2
Lens Review Date: November 13, 2017 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $690.00 | Rating: 8 

Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 7    Bokeh: 9    Handling: 10    Value: 8    Camera Used: K1   

I've recently started using this lens. I'll start with the build quality, it's first class. From the focus ring to the lens hood, just using it and feeling the weight of the lens, it's compact and solid. The lens is very forgiving if you don't nail your exposure, or even focus for that matter. The photo of Wonder Woman, I snuck the photo shooting from the hip while she was posing other photographers, her face isn't in focus but it still looks great. When you dial in the focus at max aperture then I found you can glean a lot of detail, especially from shadows and highlights if you wish. The bokeh is unusual, I noticed it when I looked at my first photos. Blurred points of light have a defined edge while the rest is smooth. I like it but some might not. For me it's something different to my other wide aperture teles and I consider it a positive. Colour is great but the CA is present at large apertures so you'll need to fix that in post if you don't like it. I need to get the 35mm F2 Distagon T* now

Site Supporter

Registered: April, 2015
Location: Wisconsin, USA
Posts: 2,761
Lens Review Date: December 28, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $800.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: This lens has the "pixie dust magic" in it!
Cons: large, heavy, not good wide open
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 8    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 7    Camera Used: Pentax K3ii   

I own five Zeiss ZK lenses, and this one is by FAR my favorite.

The only other lens that I've owned that compares with this lens is the Pentax FA 31mm lens. In my opinion, these two lenses are in a class by themselves.

At f/2.2 and f/2.5 there is an unmistakable 3D quality to it's images.

At less then f/2.8 there is heavy purple fringing, so either don't use it in high contrast situations or be prepared to address it in post.

It is very sharp from f/3.5 to f/13. Is it the sharpest lens I've ever shot? No, there are some Pentax lenses that I would say are just a hair sharper. It's color is very good, but I guess I have it admit that I slightly prefer the colors of my Pentax FA Limiteds and some of the Pentax DA lenses.

However, it's magic is in it's bokeh, micro-contrast, and it's tones!

This is the best lens for Black and White images that I've ever used!

While my other Zeiss ZK lenses are very good, the images I make with this lens just have a little something extra that makes it's images even nicer then those produced by any of my other Zeiss lens.

This lens is a joy to hold and use - very well made and a great feel to it's focus wheel.

Junior Member

Registered: October, 2012
Posts: 43
Lens Review Date: May 12, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $700.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Sharpness, micro contrast, 3-D rendering
Cons: some minor CA wide open, no problem in pp
Sharpness: 10    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10   

Stunning lens, build quality is excellent, therefore rather heavy. Typical Zeiss rendering. Very sharp from F2.8. Wide open perfectly usable with good sharpness, esp. center sharpness for portraits. Also excellent for landscape shots due to great micro contrast.

New Member

Registered: January, 2012
Posts: 14

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: April 16, 2015 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $800.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: Sharpness at f/2 and above, color, bokeh
Cons: CA, sharpness below f/2
Sharpness: 9    Aberrations: 9    Bokeh: 10    Handling: 10    Value: 10    Camera Used: K-5, K-7   

Site Supporter

Registered: January, 2011
Location: The Canadian WetCoast
Posts: 379
Lens Review Date: May 8, 2013 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $900.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: IQ. Construction.

I am offering a different perspective on this "cult" lens after using it with a 24M Sony NEX7, and compare the reuslting images to Pentax A*85/1.4 & Zeiss Marko 100/2.

Focusing this lens with the NEX7 viewfinders totally eliminated the "focus shift" problem because the image in the viewfinder is at the actual shooting f-stop, unlike the always wide open mode in SLR. Similar to LV on Pentax camera, the NEX has a "Peak Focus" feature which can enlarge a selected area for fine focusing even in manual mode, up to 11X.

At 24M pixel, the Zeiss Marko 100/2 outperforms this lens in all aspects, proving again this is more a fast portrait lens with cult status. Many Canon 5DII & Nikon D800 users agree that they were surprised to find out this lens is not "sharp" after viewing the images at >24M.

Lastly, this lens prove Pentax make world class optics. I was hard pressed to distinguish between images taken with an A*85/1.4 and this lens. Yes, the images from this lens have an excellent 3D effect when the lighting is perfect, otherwise, the IQ of the smaller & lighter A*85/1.4 is just as pleasing.
Junior Member

Registered: December, 2011
Posts: 43

1 user found this helpful
Lens Review Date: May 8, 2012 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $1,180.00 | Rating: 9 

Pros: build quality, color
Cons: focus

since the body of this lens is built with all metal and glass, so it gives a very solid feeling when you hold it in hand.

focus ring rotates very smoothly, which can help me to find the correct focus distance.

Yet the only thing annoys me is the focus shift which is stated in the first review. I am using a K-r, I cannot use focus tip or catch-in focus to shoot photos, because I always get a fuzzy pic especially under big aperture. While there is no split-screen in Kr, so I can only use naked eye to do the focus, although Lv mode can help some, but battery life will be compromised. Anyway, beside this problem, I am all ok with this lens.

I recommend this lens of cause, especially with current price of A85, FA85, this one definitely worth its price.

Registered: November, 2009
Location: Brisbane, Australia
Posts: 3,758
Lens Review Date: May 27, 2011 I can recommend this lens: Yes | Price: $990.00 | Rating: 10 

Pros: Focus ring, Quality grade, Fast prime, Zeiss,
Cons: Weight

I have the Carl Zeiss Planar 85mm f1.4 ZK with automatic aperture. ZK stands for the Pentax K-mount and my lens is equivalent to the ZF.2 series for Nikon cameras. While the ZK lens is discontinued, some second hand copies are available irregularly on the market. Mine was sourced from Adorama.

The lens comes with a hood and a set of instructions. It is all metallic and the feel is superb. This is high grade construction. The lens is full frame.

The focus ring rotates around 270 degrees. The sensitivity and precision of the focus ring is superb. It allows a very nice control and the grip is nice. With my K-7, the catch-in-focus function works nicely with the Zeiss, thanks to the very precise focus ring. I do not miss AF.

The lens is fast. It is well-suited for indoor portrait. The close-up capability is limited to 1 m but this is neither a problem nor an issue.

While not the best value for money, it costs about the same as the Sigma 85mm f1.4 and the Zeiss is comparatively not that expensive.

I recommend strongly the lens. I am extremely impressed by the all metallic high-quality construction, as well as by the very accurate focus ring. I would rate the lens 9.5-10/10. My final score is consistent with the previous reviewer who wanted to give a 9.5.
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