Sony 85mm F2.8 SAM A-mount lens review by MinoltaMaxxum

reviewer#11975 date: Sep-6-2014
sharpness: 4
color: 5
build: 3
distortion: 5
flare control: 4
overall: 4.2
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:* Sony 35mm f/1.8 DT SAM
* Sony 50mm f/1.8 DT SAM
* Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 DT SAM II
* Sony 55-200mm f/4-5.6 DT SAM II
* Minolta 35-105mm f/3.5-4.5 (Original)
* Minolta 70-210mm f/4 (Beercan)
* Sigma 50-150mm F2.8 II APO EX DC HSM
* Tokina 11-16mm f/2.8 116 PRO DX-II
price paid:200 USD
positive:* Sharp wide open
* Circular Bokeh wide open
* Accurate auto focus
* Bright colours and contrast
* Modern lens coatings
* Very small and lightweight
* Full frame compatible
* Lens hood supplied
negative:* In lens SAM speed is average (no difference to in body screw drive) and noisy
* Small and too light manual focus ring
* Plastic fantastic build quality
* New pricing increasing slightly
comment:Although not as versatile as some zooms such as budget variable aperture Sony 55-200mm DT, Minolta 70-210mm f/4 beercan and Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 it has the advantage of:

1. Bokeh

The Sony 55-200mm has the worst onion-ring Bokeh I have ever seen on a zoom lens, the Beercan good but not great and the Sigma more similar to a 70-200mm fast telephoto.

The 85mm f/2.8 on the other hand produces excellent circular highlights wide open.

If you like outdoor portraiture I would recommend taking a look at this lens over the APS-C only Sony 50mm f/1.8 DT which has less background compression and aesthetically less pleasing hexagonal Bokeh.

2. Sharpness wide open

The lens is sharp wide open, whereas the other budget portrait lens including the Minolta Beercan 70-210mm f/4 Sigma 50-150mm f/2.8 needs to be stopped down to at least f/5-5.6. The lens also out resolves either zooms by a fair margin.

3. Accurate auto focus

I have not had any focus issues with the lens and have used it to shoot with the sun behind the subject.

4. Smaller and light weight

Usually I carry my camera and telephoto lens in a shoulder bag. After attaching the diminutive 85mm I did not notice my camera in my bag at the end of the day for the first time.

The small size is also less intimidating for street shooting and after a long day the light weight is good on the shoulders.

5. Modern lens coatings

Similar to other Sony kit and budget primes lens, the 85mm f/2.8 has better colour contrast and flare control than the older Minolta lens which require ideal light conditions.

Areas of improvement ...

1. Build quality

The lens build, like most Sony budget lens, is plastic fantastic. Although this keeps the costs and weight down considerably, a tougher polycarbonate or plastic similar to what they use on the camera body would go a long way to the survivability of the lens. I would expect the rubber focus ring, like the 50mm f/1.8 DT, to show wear with weekend use after a year as it does not have the tank like build quality of the old Minolta primes.

2. SAM motor

The internal lens auto focus motor is only marginally faster than the budget kit zoom. It does not feel any faster than an in camera body screw drive motor. It is also very noisy - again similar to a in camera body screw drive motor.

3. Pricing

The lens has slowly crept up in price since release.

Compared to the ~$300-400 Canon 85mm f/1.8 it is relatively expensive for a lens with a smaller aperture however it does have the 2-stop benefit of sensor stabilisation and much less chromatic aberration.

Other alternatives in the same price bracket include the much heavier and manual focus only Samyang 85mm f/1.4 and the older Tamron 90mm f/2.8. I chose the Sony due to the in camera chromatic aberration compatibility, light weight, pocketable size and colour contrast.

Overall the Sony 85mm f/2.8 represents a lot of value for money for the price and I highly recommend it for those on a budget looking for a carry anywhere 85mm prime lens.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 46
  • sharpness: 4.68
  • color: 4.70
  • build: 3.35
  • distortion: 4.70
  • flare control: 4.41
  • overall: 4.37 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania