First Impressions: Sony Zeiss 50mm F1.4 (Sony A Mount)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 50mm F1.4 First Impressions product shots (6 of 6)ISO 2001-60 sec at f - 5.6

When Sony’s new Zeiss branded 50mm f1.4 lens was announced, we were excited. The Sony Zeiss glass is often amongst some of the best with micro-contrast built in, sharpness, and most of all–autofocusing built in. Then the company announced the crazy price. We were given a chance to fondle the lens, but not put the pre-production sample that we saw a camera to test the image quality yet. From what we saw so far, we’re not sure that it may be worth the price but it does surely show lots of promise.

 

Tech Specs

Taken from the Sony listing of the lens

Optics/Lens

  • Lens Type : Normal
  • Aperture (Max.) : f/1.4
  • Aperture (Min.) : f/22
  • Filter Diameter : 72 mm
  • Lens Groups-Elements : 8 elements in 5 groups
  • Minimum Focus Distance : 1.6” (.45 m)
  • Aspheric Elements : 2 elements
  • Distance Encoder : Yes
  • Aperture Blade : 9 blades (circular aperture)
  • Focal Length (35mm equivalent) : 35mm equivalent focal length (APS-C) 75mm
  • Magnification : x 0.14

Weights and Measurements

  • Dimensions (Approx.) : 3-1/4 x 2-7/8” (81 x 71.5mm)
  • Weight (Approx.) : 1 lb 2.3 oz (518 g)

Service and Warranty Information

  • Limited Warranty Term : 1 year parts and labor

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 50mm F1.4 First Impressions product shots (1 of 6)ISO 2001-160 sec at f - 5.6

Sony’s new 50mm f1.4 is an update to the Minolta version that they rebranded and rehoused. That optic, despite its age was still quite good. But this new lens is brand new and features a metal exterior that is very smooth. This is typical of all the Sony Zeiss branded prime lenses.

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 50mm F1.4 First Impressions product shots (2 of 6)ISO 2001-40 sec at f - 5.6

This lens also sports the T* and Carl Zeiss branding on it as well as a large 72mm filter thread. Additionally, it features nine aperture blades–which means that when this baby goes on the A99, it had better show some super smooth bokeh.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 50mm F1.4 First Impressions product shots (5 of 6)ISO 2001-40 sec at f - 5.6

The lens features a large manual focusing ring as well that was extremely comfortable due to its size. It was also very smooth to focus. The product manager told me that the production version will be even smoother–which has this vintage lens addict’s appetite wet.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 50mm F1.4 First Impressions product shots (4 of 6)ISO 2001-40 sec at f - 5.6

Because this is also a Zeiss branded lens, the company decided to do things that would also appeal to the more experienced crowd of users. Though it isn’t as superbly precise as an actual Zeiss lens made by Cosina, there is a working depth of field scale for street photographers. This means that A99 users will be able to use the, “F8 and be there” way of shooting when also combining it with Zone Focusing techniques.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 50mm F1.4 First Impressions product shots (3 of 6)ISO 2001-40 sec at f - 5.6

Combine the depth of field scale with Sony and Zeiss’s return to the MF/AF switch, and you have yourself an ergonomic winner. We reviewed the 85mm f1.4 and 135mm f1.8 lenses, and not all of them had this working switch. However, how it can make the A99 an excellent street photography camera. For all other uses though, we recommend leaving it on autofocusing.

The reps gave no confirmation if this lens would be AF-D compatible or not–but we can’t imagine it not being one. Sony would be shooting themselves in the foot otherwise.

Build Quality

Like all of the Sony Zeiss lenses, this one has a very solid build quality. I wasn’t sure about weather sealing, but that would only sweeten the deal. The metal exterior is tougher than anything else out there besides actual Zeiss lenses.

Personally though, I would have preferred a textured surface because smooth surfaces can easily slip out of one’s hands.

Autofocus

Since we couldn’t put it on a camera, we couldn’t test the autofocusing. But if the product manager states that the final product model will have smoother manual focusing does than the unit I held, then that may also mean that it will probably focus much quieter than Sony’s current Zeiss primes.

Ease of Use

We imagine this lens being super simple to use with both the depth of field scale, MF/AF switch (combined with Sony’s peaking mode for focusing manually) and the fact that autofocusing with this lens is literally a point, shoot and click game.

Image Quality

Unfortunately, we couldn’t put it on a camera, but I’m itching to see the results for myself.

First Impressions

So far, I was pretty impressed with that the lens had to offer, but not for the $1,498.00 asking price. Then again, I have yet to test it out on a camera. I absolutely loved the A99 when we reviewed it, and this 50mm should be able to take full advantage of its 24MP sensor.

We will need to wait until the lens actually comes in for testing. But for the price point, I’m scratching my head a bit. It is only a bit cheaper than Canon’s 50mm f1.2 L USM lens–but that aperture is just a bit faster.

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