Sony Carl Zeiss 50mm F1.4 ZA SSM Planar T* A-mount lens review by 4paul

reviewer#11283 date: Aug-1-2013
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 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 have experience with this lens
compared to:50/1.7
16-80 @ 35mm on crop frame
35-70/4 @ 50mm on full frame
price paid:
positive:MFD closer than some
well balanced on a900
negative:Is it worth the price?
comment:review based on a five day rental

After using this lens exclusively for a week, I liked it, but I think I can live without it. It has plenty of resolution, contrast, and is all but immune to flare, but it didn't "speak to me" (although I did receive a placing in the Weekly Exhibition, so I got a good result from using the lens!). Disclaimer: I rented the 16-80 and said I would not buy it, now it is a "go-to" lens, so in two years you may see me using this lens every day....

I took a picture with the sun in the frame, and I added veiling haze with software; I found it all but impossible to create flare, ghosting, or veiling haze with this lens - the coatings are unbelievably effective.

Geometric Distortion is quite noticeable at close focus, more normal at infinity focus.

Purple fringing is expected at 1.4

Skin tones on film are fabulous, on a digital sensor colors are full and contrasty, perhaps a little more yellow-ish and magenta-ish than the "steely blue" Zeiss is known for, perhaps hinting at "Minolta Colors" more than most Sony lenses.

Differential Focus is smooth, favoring definition over cream. I think the foreground differential focus is almost immaculate (not quite as immaculate as Master Prime Cinema lenses), but the background differential focus can be messier near infinity focus, smoother at close focus.

I definitely would rent the lens again for a special event, but I did not like it as much as "Special Sauce" 50/1.7, even though 50/1.7 does not have near the resolution or contrast of this lens on the a900; it is better than a zoom, but less noticeably so at f5.6-f11; extreme apertures seem to be this lens's strength (where other lenses lose contrast and resolution, or don't go to 1.4).

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 30
  • sharpness: 4.97
  • color: 5.00
  • build: 4.97
  • distortion: 4.80
  • flare control: 4.90
  • overall: 4.93 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania