I photograph with a variety of the ZEISS lenses and over time I’ve received many questions about what the naming of them are, if they’re available for certain peoples camera lens mounts or simply what are the differences between one family vs another? In this blog I’m going to explain all of that for you, to help those not familiar with ZEISS lenses have a greater understanding of the families and which ones may be right for them!
What about naming? ZEISS lenses are categorized by families and each family has a name, that is named after exotic birds, Otus, Milvus, Loxia, Batis and Touit. There’s also three other lens families that don’t utilize the bird naming and are known as the Classic, ZM and Sony/ZEISS (which are produced by Sony, but utilize ZEISS optics) lenses.
ZEISS lenses are color matched across the lens families and to avoid being redundant in the info mentioned for all of the below lens families I thought it would be best to mention that here. Having lenses that are color matched is essential to anyone, as that helps in providing consistency across your images and videos, which in turn helps for any post work you may do for your content.
1. ZEISS Otus Lenses for Canon EF & Nikon F
ZEISS Otus lenses are fully manual lenses, designed for the Canon EF and Nikon F mounts. This is the flagship family of lenses offered by ZEISS.
This family presently offers four available lenses (listed below) and offer no compromise in image or build quality. These are the best lenses I’ve ever used and at a price point starting at $4,000+ you’d expect nothing but the best. These lenses may not be for everyone, especially because of the price but if you’re someone who values quality then the Otus lenses are the best you could obtain.
ZEISS Classic lenses are fully manual lenses, designed for the Canon EF and Nikon F mounts.
This family of lenses has mostly been discontinued, with the exception of two lenses (listed below). These have been replaced by the above Milvus line of lenses.
The Classic family are older releases compared to the Milvus and don’t offer the weather sealing you have in the entire Milvus family. The coatings of the optics are also updated on the Milvus. Being that the Classic family is older you’re able to find many of these lenses on third party websites, such as eBay for a bit less than their Milvus counterpart. If weather sealing isn’t important for your photographic needs then the Classic is still a great family to look into for the Canon and Nikon mount.
ZEISS Loxia lenses are fully manual lenses, designed for the Sony Alpha E-Mount mirrorless system.
What makes these lenses unique is that they’re all the same diameter in their millimeter thread. This is a bonus for those who may be cinematographers and are doing productions that utilize gears, eliminating the need for different sizes for different size lenses. These lenses also offer a de-clicking capability for smooth transitioning in focusing or keeping brightness balanced in camera throughout a scene.
I love these lenses, as they offer a very unique look that’s a bit different from the Batis lenses. I consider these lenses the Otus of the lenses available for Sony E-Mount. The contrast, bokeh and sharpness is exceptional from the Loxia’s and they’re quite reasonably priced lenses as well. They may be expensive for those who’s applications may not call for manual, but if you don’t mind full manual glass and want amazing quality then the Loxia’s are perfect.
ZEISS Batis lenses are auto-focusing lenses, designed for the Sony Alpha E-Mount mirrorless system.
These lenses offer very accurate and fast focusing in a weather sealed and dust resistant body. They also include a very unique OLED display, that displays focusing distance and depth of field. The Batis lenses are designed with future sensor technology in mind, just as Otus, Milvus, Loxia and Touit for the increased resolutions of camera sensors.
Sony/ZEISS lenses are auto-focusing lenses, designed for the Sony Alpha E-Mount mirrorless system and available for both full frame and APS-C (crop) camera sensors. These lenses are produced by Sony, but are developed with ZEISS optics - through their partnership, that began in 1996 and offer the same color matched and sharpness quality you’d expect from the ZEISS only branded lenses.
The Sony/ZEISS lenses are the only lenses where you’ll find zoom lenses as well. Combined with the ZEISS Batis family the Sony/ZEISS lenses give you a wider range of auto-focusing lens options for your Sony camera.
ZEISS ZM lenses are fully manual lenses, designed for the Leica M mount rangefinder system and come available in black or silver finishes.
Not only do these lenses pair beautifully with the Leica M mount cameras, but they can also be adapted to the Sony & Fujifilm mirrorless cameras, giving a wider available range of lenses to both of those systems. Click here for available adapters