Sony AF 35mm F1.4 G A-mount lens review by a850

reviewer#9833 date: Jan-23-2012
sharpness: 4.5
color: 5
build: 4
distortion: 4
flare control: 5
overall: 4.5
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 35/1.8 DT
Minolta 50/1.7
Sony-Zeiss 16-35/2.8CZ
Sigma 85/1.4
price paid:GBP1250 new
positive:That 1.4 aperture is so useful
Close focus capability
Small and light(ish)
Never mis-focuses
negative:Lens hood design is stupid
Filter thread is dumb too
Focus ring isn't amazing
comment:I registered with Dyxum primarily just to leave a review of this lens.

I went back and forth for AGES about whether to buy it or not. All the reviews say that it's terrible and soft. Most owners and users say that they love it. I didn't know who to believe, and when I found it in a store for gbp900 new (normal retail is 1300-ish) I tried it out. I took my a850 to the store, took the pictures home to look at on my computer, and the next day I went to buy the lens.

The lens is NOT soft at 1.4. Let's get that clear. It does have spherical abberation though, which can smooth out some areas, particularly highlights. For instance, shooting a test chart or a which sheet of paper, the image quality at 100% will look poor, because the white paper kinda "bleeds" into the text, softening it. But for skin, it looks amazing - it adds a warm glow but leaves plenty of sharpness.

Also, I needed a microadjust of -6 on my a850. At the default setting it *was* soft, but that was slight mis-focus and not the optical faults of the lens. With a depth of field this thin, the slightest mis-focus will ruin your image.

The lens IS sharp and it DOES capture a lot of detail at f1.4. Therefore it responds well to sharpening in Lightroom. I gave the lens 4.5/5 for sharpness.

Compared to the Zeiss 16-35/2.8 (which I also own), I think the Sony G is sharper at 2.8 than the Zeiss at 35/2.8. F2 is comparable. F1.4 is softer, as you would reasonably expect.

The good:
TWO more stops, even compared to an f2.8 lens. That's ISO800 instead of 3200. That means your flash can work at 1/16 instead of 1/4. Less noise. More battery life. More rapid shooting. The usefulness of this focal length and speed cannot be understated. If you're upgrading from an f4 lens, the difference is extraordinary. I know this is obvious stuff, but those extra stops are useful - from f4 you're talking ISO 400 instead of 3200. Now imagine what you can shoot back at iso3200!

Almost no distortion as far as I can tell. I don't shoot architecture, but the insides of rooms look natural to me. The Zeiss 16-35/2.8 has considerable distortion at 35mm.

Resistant to flare. I certainly haven't had any problems with bright inside lights, or the sun.

The bokeh. Very smooth. Circular highlights. The transition between in and out of focus is very nice.

Stopped down between f4-f11 it is extraordinarily sharp.

The focus is decisive. It's the screw-drive, so it isn't quiet like SSM, but it generally zips to the target and locks straight away. With moving targets it performs well. Occasionally it judders back and forth before locking, but that's rare.

The bad:
Vignetting. Heavy at 1.4. Moderate at f2. Gone by 2.8. I guess this isn't always a bad thing, but for city shots or hand-held low light landscape shots, it is noticeable. For portraits, wedding reception shots etc it isn't a problem.

The lens hood is stupid. It attaches in front of the filter thread, instead of around it. You can't use a polariser with the hood reversed, which is very annoying if you want to take the filter off and use the hood later in the day.

The manual focus ring isn't amazing. At least it doesn't rotate during focusing, but for the occasional bit of manual focus or video (a580), the Zeiss 16-35 focus ring is FAR better.

Compared to the Sony 35/1.8DT, the G is around the same sharpness wide open at 1.4 as the DT is at 1.8. This is great. The DT lens vignettes even more, and on full frame it is totally un-useable. Even if you tape over the contacts and manually focus it, the corners are black because the image circle is not large enough. The DT also has more purple fringing.

I already compared to the Zeiss above

Compared to the Sigma 85/1.4, the sigma is pixel level sharper, and has less spherical abberation. The 35 vignettes more too. But the 35 is a more versatile focal length, so I use it more than 85.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 50
  • sharpness: 4.57
  • color: 4.96
  • build: 4.84
  • distortion: 4.74
  • flare control: 4.72
  • overall: 4.77 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania