Review: Sony 85mm f1.8 FE (Sony E Mount, Full Frame)

If you were to ask me about what my favorite lenses are for the Sony full frame E mount camera system, the Sony 85mm f1.8 FE would surely be up there in the top 5. It’s compact, sharp, can focus quickly (emphasis on can), touts moisture and dust resistance, and overall delivers some of the most pleasing images I’ve gotten in a while. You see, I really LOVE 85mm lenses. They let me work closer to a subject while also being fairly intimate with them in a portrait setting. But then you consider just how great the image quality is with this lens, the fast aperture, and the small size and you’ve got yourself something really quite magical.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Great image quality
  • Fast focusing with the Sony a7r II and in good lighting it will focus quickly with the Sony a7
  • Nice feel; though not as great as the G Master 85mm f1.4 lens.
  • Weather resistance built in
  • Compact size

Cons

  • Honestly, not a darn thing.

Gear Used

We tested the Sony 85mm f1.8 FE lens with the Sony a7, Sony a7r II, Picolos Collapsible beauty dish, Impact Venture 600 TTL light, and the Flashpoint Zoom Li-on flash.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from our first impressions post

MOUNT
Sony E-mount
FORMAT
35 mm full frame
FOCAL LENGTH (MM)
85
35 MM EQUIVALENT FOCAL LENGTH (APS-C)
127.5
LENS GROUPS / ELEMENTS
8-9
ANGLE OF VIEW (35 MM)
29°
ANGLE OF VIEW (APS-C)
19°1
MAXIMUM APERTURE (F)
1.8
MINIMUM APERTURE (F)
22
APERTURE BLADES
9
CIRCULAR APERTURE
Yes
MINIMUM FOCUS DISTANCE
2.63 ft (0.8 m)
MAXIMUM MAGNIFICATION RATIO (X)
0.13
FILTER DIAMETER (MM)
67
IMAGE STABILIZATION (STEADYSHOT)
– (body-integrated)
TELECONVERTER COMPATIBILITY (X1.4)
TELECONVERTER COMPATIBILITY (X2.0)
HOOD TYPE
Round, bayonet type

Ergonomics

Taken from our first impressions post

The Sony FE 85mm F1.8 takes on a similar design language to their budget 50mm F1.8, only (as you would expect) a bit longer. The focus ring on the lens was really fluid with not much resistance at all. We personally like a little more resistance, but those who prefer a looser focusing ring will like this lens.

As far as the lens’s weight is concerned, it feels good in the hands: not like a glass brick like the 85mm G Master. I also appreciated that it was just the perfect size to rest in the palm of my hand while I was panning around the show floor testing out the autofocus.

Build Quality

This lens overall has a pretty solid build and feel to it. It’s not as solid or as well built as the G Master lens; and both of those are plastic. But it also isn’t badly built. The lens has splash and dust proofing built in; and of any of the 85mm lens offerings for Sony t’s probably the worst built option; but still overall it’s not built badly.

Ease of Use

The Sony 85mm f1.8 FE lens is pretty simply designed. It has a function button on the lens and otherwise is very much like any other mirrorless digital camera lens. You’ve got manual control access via switch on the side too. Basically, you’re attaching the lens, using a focusing point, focusing and shooting. To get fine tune the focus more, I recommend using Sony’s eye focusing feature when it comes to portraiture.

Autofocus

Here’s where using the lens becomes a bit tougher. If you’ve got a newer camera body, then the lens will focus flawlessly. Of all the photos that I’ve shot (and that’s hundreds) maybe only two missed the focus. But when you’re using the Sony a7 or an older camera body you’ll need a lot of good light for the lens to focus quickly and accurately. Maybe this will be fixed with a firmware update.

Image Quality

Images from the Sony 85mm f1.8 FE are beautiful in many ways. This lens offers very sharp image quality though arguably as more muted than what Sony users are used to. Sony’s 85mm f1.4 G Master is the most saturated, while the Batis follows after that, then the Loxia and then the standard Sony FE.

In a word, it’s pretty perfect for portrait shooters. And if you’re a fan of something like Kodak Portra film, this lens is for you.

Bokeh

With 9 aperture blades, you can only expect the Sony 85mm f1.8 FE lens to render beautiful bokeh. Indeed it does. The only 85mm lens with better bokeh is the G Master.

Chromatic Aberration

There is none. Moving on.

And even if there was any, you can easily fix it in post.

Color Rendition

The colors from a lens when used with the Portrait color profile on a Sony camera are a lot like Kodak Portra in the 35mm format. They’re great for the most part when it comes to skin tones and when using film style white balances like daylight.

Overall, just know that it’s the most film-like thing Sony has delivered in a while since the Sony a900 DSLR.

Sharpness

Oh man! Here’s where I was really blown away. This lens is crazy sharp. On the Sony a7r II, you’re getting so much incredible detail. But even on the 24MP sensor on the Sony a7 you’re getting a whole lot. It’s amazing.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

Likes

  • Small size
  • Great image quality
  • Great build

Dislikes

  • Nothing

This is in many ways, the absolute most perfect portrait lens for most Sony camera users. If you don’t need or can afford the 85mm f1.4 G Master lens, then the Sony 85mm f1.8 FE lens is a fantastic option. It’s sharp, has less saturated colors (only the Loxia is less saturated that this), focuses pretty well with most cameras (the Batis is fastest) and it has weather resistance. But it’s also small and offered at a pretty affordable price point.

When I get a bit more money, I’m going to buy it. It’s a lens that’s bound to help lots of portrait photographers create inspiring work.

The Sony 85mm f1.8 FE receives our Editor’s Choice award and five out of five stars.