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Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Lens: Finding An Aesthetic Dimension Beyond Brand Identity

Video above: Dr. Hubert Nasse, Staff Scientist at Carl Zeiss about a new dimension in photography.

Zeiss is going to release a new 55mm f/1.4 lens by the end of 2013. They published an interesting post – titled From brand personality definition to prize-winning design – on their site about finding an aesthetic identity that moves their line-up further on from the well known qualities usually associated with the brand. The Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 will be the first of a new family of high-end lenses. A lens that will not only deliver the well known image and build quality but also introduce a new aesthetic dimension to Zeiss’ line-up. Quoting Martin Dominicus, Head of Marketing in the Carl Zeiss Camera Lens Division:

 ZEISS lenses are known for their technical precision, excellent image performance and ergonomics. That will always be the case because we know photographers’ needs and user circumstances. But our new lenses should also fulfill the highest aesthetic expectations of our customers to become design objects in their own right […].

The main question Zeiss was facing is about how to mirror the consolidated brand identity in a form without compromising it.

Zeiss put [German design studio Phoenix Design] in contact with a pool of professional photographers, many of whom had worked with ZEISS for a long time. In a series of interviews with photo artists, as well as product and automotive photographers, the core factors of the ZEISS brand were analyzed and given certain attributes. Accordingly, it was concluded the brand’s image has three core elements.  The technology is defined in the combination of terms “precise – progressive – high-performance”. From the user’s perspective, the elements “logical – uniform — reliable – user-oriented” are most important.  Finally, the effect of the lenses is described as “integrative – pleasant – distinct.”  This definition prescribed fairly clearly how the external design of the lenses should look: Form and labeling should be part of the brand’s uniqueness. At the same time, ZEISS lenses should also be recognizably ZEISS.

The new aesthetic philosophy Zeiss’ is embracing doesn’t neglect pragmatic aspects, as how to make reading the lens parameters easy even in poor lighting conditions. This is achieved by taking care of details in consideration of the aesthetic dimension:

The lenses’ new window scales serve the same purpose: Only the relevant scale range around the index line is visible to the photographer. The yellow scale numbers, which like the scales themselves were modeled after professional cinema lenses, are easy to recognize in poor lighting conditions and therefore represent an additional unique feature for camera lenses. The new typeface DIN 1451, which was introduced with the lenses, is highly legible. This typeface is known not only for its clear, classic, modern appearance; it has been in use since 1936 for German road and rail signage. It was cut into the lens using fine cutters and a fixed stroke width.

That’s what they mean:

Zeiss 55mm

Credit: Carl Zeiss

The high-end SLR lens that will come on the market at the end of 2013 reflects the new design language the best: the funnel-shaped form, a surface that is soft to the touch, the optimized focus ring and other details will contribute to even better manageability and an unmistakable look.

Zeiss 55mm

Credit: Carl Zeiss

Well, yes, looks really good! :-)

[source: Carl Zeiss]
  • Tanglefoot

    Looks like an IKEA lampshade…. & that yellow writing looks really cheap :(

  • Bob B.

    The performance is what interests me. If Zeiss designed and produced this bad boy to perform with the quality of their 21mm & their 15mm…it will b a popular item!

    • Rolleiflex

      As good as the 21 and 15 are, they still have some major field curvature and high distortion (though understandably so) with quite a drop off in the corners. I hope it will beat those two squarely being that big and at such price tag.

      • dave

        “they still have some major field curvature and high distortion (though understandably so) with quite a drop off in the corners” ???

        I own the 15mm and I can tell you, that you certainly are not talking about my sample…. :-)

    • Ron V

      The performance will be much better than the 21/2.8 and 15/2.8. As u can see in the video.

      This 55/1.4 is the first of a new lens series from zeiss. Positioned above their current SLR ZE/ZF line and made for the best performance without taking to much notice on price.

      Listprice will be about 3000 dollar. They said two extra lenses in this line will be introduced in a while.

      • Bob B.

        The performance looks impressive…and the price is prohibitive for a 55mm lens for this photographer. Lot of physics there.
        OK…You and Rollie are putting down the Zeiss 15mm and the 21mm. Find me lenses that preform BETTER in those focal lengths on a FF camera. Nikon or Canon. There are not any better performers. Please do not bring up any Nikon or Canon lenses for those focal lengths. Not happening.

      • adam

        The price is euro 3000 and not $3000.

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