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

reviewer#46899 date: Nov-10-2022
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 own this lens
compared to:Sony 50mm f2.5 G, Samyang 50mm f1.4 ii
price paid:439 GBP (used)
Actual character
Light and compact
Snappy AF
negative:Purple fringing
Dust sealing isn't very robust
comment:This was the first lens I bought when I picked up my A7 back in the day and is still my most used lens.

The shortcomings are well known - purple fringing is a problem below f2.8 and onion bokeh can be an issue in some situations.

On the positive side, it's as sharp as you could want on a 42mp sensor from wide open, the micro contrast is excellent and the colours are very flattering. AF is fast and accurate and MF isn't terrible, considering it's a first gen lens.

This is a lens that's more than the sum of its parts. It consistently delivers very pleasing results, especially for more candid portraits and street photography. It's also fantastic for landscapes, though you need to be careful around water. It has the classic Zeiss 3d pop, with excellent subject isolation.

Compared to the Samyang 50mm f1.4 ii, the Sony is sharper with better colour balance (the Samyang has a noticeable yellow bias). AF is much faster and more accurate with the Sony - my copy of the Samyang consistently misfocussed wide open in AF-S mode.

Compared to the Sony 50mm f2.5, I found the 55mm focused faster with a higher keeper rate. The 55mm is sharper with better micro contrast. Bokeh was fine for an f2.5 lens and handled transitions well, but lacked the wow factor of the 55mm. I found the colour too neutral for my tastes and felt that it needed a bit of tweaking in DXO to get truly pleasing results. The 50mm has a size advantage and full weather sealing. The 55mm has basic dust sealing, but it isn't particularly robust and I wouldn't take it to a beach. Size wise, it's still very compact if you switch the hood for an RX1-style hood.

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