Sony FE 85mm F1.8 E-mount lens review by QuietOC

reviewer#44491 date: Apr-3-2020
sharpness: 4
color: 4
build: 4
distortion: 4
flare control: 4
overall: 4
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:Lensbaby Twist 60 F2.5
Sigma 65 F2 DG DN C
Sigma EX 70 F2.8 DG Macro
Samyang 75 F1.8
Samyang AF 85 F1.4
Tamron SP 85 F1.8 USD
Canon EF 85 F1.8 USM
Minolta MD 85 F2
Sony 85 F2.8 SAM
Tamron SP 90 F2.5 Macro
Canon EF 100 F2 USM
Minolta AF 100 F2
Minolta MC 100 F2.5
Minolta AF 100 F2.8 Soft Focus
Minolta AF 100 F2.8 Macro D
Minolta AF 100 F2.8 Macro RS
price paid:398 USD (used)
30 FPS tracking
Hood included
Lens Compensations
"Dust- and moisture-resistant"
negative:Axial CA/purple fringing
AF issues
Focus breathing
Lack of distance scale
Metal surfaces
Plastic filter threads
Wide - 82.1 to 81.4 mm according to DXOMark
comment:After lugging the Tamron SP 85mm F1.8 around last week I decided to make an offer for this lens. This was the most I've even spent on a single lens so far. This came out the same year as the Tamron and is $150 cheaper than that lens--suggesting a lower end lens. Canon has discounted their EF 85mm F1.8 USM to less than half the price of this Sony. First copy was "Made in Vietnam" like Tamron's OSD primes. The second copy is "Made in CHINA".

Unfortunately, I had AF-S issues using this lens on the A7III. Often the camera will confirm focus and not move when given an out-of-focus scene. It spends a good deal of time racking focus in AF-S on both the A7III and A6000. It is quicker in AF-C. It did work better in AF-S on the A7RII. Adapted 85mm F1.8's lock focus much quicker in AF-S. There are currently no firmware updates for the lens.

I purchased a second used copy of this lens after being disappointed with the AF-C performance of the Samyang 85 F1.4 on the A7RIV. This copy has some issue with the upper left corner but seems slightly better aligned than the previous copy, It was made from a different country. Fast Hybrid AF-C performance is a big selling feature of this lens compared to other options. I found AF-C to miss somewhat often on a fairly easy test.

This lens continues the styling of the early FE lenses like the 1.8/55 Sonnar instead of the newer G and GM primes. The anodized black finish looks nice when brand new. However the parts that extend out the front are plastic. I prefer soft control surfaces and metal filter threads. The redundant MF switch is a nod to cheap SLR lenses of the past, and it has a focus hold button like 1988 Minolta lenses.

While it is pretty sharp wide-open there is a high amount axial fringing--much like the older Canon. Backgrounds can also be somewhat nervous. The former clears up when stopped down to F2.8.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 15
  • sharpness: 4.90
  • color: 4.93
  • build: 4.53
  • distortion: 4.80
  • flare control: 4.67
  • overall: 4.77 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania