Sony Carl Zeiss FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Sonnar T* E-mount lens review by jakobdam

reviewer#11731 date: Mar-18-2014
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 4
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 4.8
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:- Minolta 50mm f/1.7
- Minolta 50mm f/1.4
- Sony Zeiss 16-80 f/3.5-4.5
- Sony Zeiss 135mm f/1.4
- Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 (FE)
price paid:1200 USD (new)
positive:- Small and light weight
- VERY sharp in center already from f/1.8
- VERY sharp in corners already from f/2.8
- Nice Zeiss-contrasts and colors
- Beautiful and smooth bokeh
- Relatively low chromatic aberration at f/1.8; issue disappears entirely from f/2.8 and onwards
negative:- Mild tendency to vignetting at f/1.8; disappears gradually and is not visible from f/2.8 and onwards.
- No SSM
- No OSS
comment:Tested on Alpha 7R and NEX 6N.
This is probably the ultimate 50mm for the Sony FE-platform (and E-mount in general). It's very, very sharp and delivers the well-known Zeiss-quality contrast curves, with naturally punchy colors.

The build quality is below that of my Zeiss 135mm f/1.8, but that's not a bad thing; it makes the 55mm much more portable in terms of weight, and whether it's sitting on either the NEX 6N or the Alpha 7R, it feels RIGHT.

I also have the Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 for FE, and the "grand plan of Sony" can definitely be felt when walking around with only these two primes. Both are incredible in quality and fast to work with, and even with the A7R, you're very lightly packed.

When compared to both of the Minolta 50mm primes, the Zeiss easily wins. Even the better Minolta 50mm f/1.4 doesn't stand a chance in ANY discipline, and visually, the Zeiss 55mm wins in a manner that everyone can appreciate - even people who doesn't pixel peep.

The bokeh quality of the Zeiss is SO MUCH BETTER than on my old Minolta 50mm f/1.4, but please not that my Minolta isn't the RS-version with rounded aperture blades. Since the Zeiss has rounded aperture blades, it's hardly a battle between these two in this discipline.

Compared to the Zeiss 16-80, it's pleasing to see that the 55mm delivers higher quality output overall. The color rendition and contrasts are very Zess-ish for both, but the 55mm wins everytime a comparison can be made. The most obvious is the vignetting tendency; as the 16-80 is really bad in this respect, but sharpness gets a big knotch up too.

Compared to the Zeiss 135mm for A-mount, the 55mm wins in terms of lower chromatic aberration; which is the achilles heel of the 135mm. But sharpness is pretty much on par between these two lenses, and the same can be said for colors, contrasts and bokeh. Of course the 135mm can deliver even creamier bokeh thanks to its longer focal length coupled with the large f/1.8 aperture, but the quality itself is very comparable, which is an admiring trait for the 55mm, as it costs less than half the price of the Zeiss 135mm.

I'll recommend the 55mm for:
- Specialized portrait and model shoots
- General purpose shots in general

The autofocus is fairly fast, but as both of my E-/FE-mount cameras only features contrast detection, this obviously becomes an achilles heel of the 55mm, and it actually loses to the 135mm, as the LA-EA4-adapter transforms the Alpha 7R into an SLT-performing phase detection autofocus.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 27
  • sharpness: 4.91
  • color: 4.96
  • build: 4.78
  • distortion: 4.93
  • flare control: 4.85
  • overall: 4.89 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania