First Impressions: Sony 35mm f1.4 (Full Frame E Mount)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 Full Frame E Mount lens first impressions product images (2 of 6)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 2.5

Two years ago, Sony released the full frame E mount cameras along with a handful of lenses. On a personal note, with the way Sony treated most of their Alpha line in the past, I wasn’t expecting much. But wow, was I wrong. Not only has the Alpha A mount line received lots of refreshes with fast primes, but they’re reaching the E mount line now, too.

Sony’s 35mm f1.4 for full frame E mount cameras is currently in our hands for review. When we first took it out of the box, we were amazed by its size. More so than any prime lens that I’ve held for the system, this is a giant lens. In fact, it’s pretty much as large as a 35mm f1.4 lens for a full frame DSLR.

While the large size is a bit off putting, what isn’t so jarring is the image quality.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the B&H Photo listing of the lens.

Performance
Focal Length 35mm
Comparable 35mm Equivalent on APS-C Format Focal Length: 52.5 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/1.4
Minimum: f/16
Camera Mount Type Sony E (Full-Frame)
Format Compatibility 35mm Film / Full-Frame Digital Sensor
Sony NEX (APS-C)
Angle of View 63°
APS-C Picture Angle: 44°
Minimum Focus Distance .98′ (.3 m)
Magnification 0.18x
Elements/Groups 12/8
Diaphragm Blades 9, Rounded
Features
Image Stabilization No
Autofocus Yes
Tripod Collar No
Physical
Filter Thread Front:72 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 3.09 x 4.41″ (78.5 x 112.0 mm)
Weight 1.39 lb (630 g)

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 Full Frame E Mount lens first impressions product images (3 of 6)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 2.5

The Sony Zeiss 35mm f1.4 lens is one that is pretty darn solid and standard with a touch of both the future and vintage. No, it isn’t steampunk, but it is cool in many ways. We start our tour at the front of the lens which has a massive 72mm filter thread on the front.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 Full Frame E Mount lens first impressions product images (6 of 6)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 2.5

The lens becomes something pretty big when it’s mounted to the camera. It is indeed large, but for what it’s worth it’s still quite balanced with the body. The lens is characterized by an aperture ring towards the back and a focusing ring towards the front. Keep turning the ring and you can set the lens to an A mode for automatic control or camera control.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 Full Frame E Mount lens first impressions product images (5 of 6)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 2.5

Without the lens hood, the Sony 35mm f1.4 becomes smaller, though still quite hulking for the cameras that it mounts to.

Build Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 Full Frame E Mount lens first impressions product images (4 of 6)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 2.5

It’s solid. The lens is said to be splash resistant, though that doesn’t mean that it may survive an extremely heavy rainfall. What you should be well aware of is the smooth aperture ring designed for video use. If you switch it to the A mode, then it will allow the camera to operate the aperture.

What we’re really amazed at is just how much larger it is than Sony’s 35mm f2.8. The f2.8 lens can fit into a pocket but the f1.4 version is quite a monster.

Ease of Use

For the most part, all you’re doing is mounting it to a camera, focusing, shooting and enjoying what you’ve got. But since there is the inclusion of an aperture ring, you’ll want to consider this when holding the lens. If you’re not used to working with them, sliding your fingers could accidentally turn it if you’re amongst the more clumsy sort. Otherwise, it’s a good idea to hold the lens by the focusing ring area.

Autofocus

When mounted on the Sony A7, we found the 35mm f1.4 to be not as fast to focus as the f2.8 version, but still not really too terrible to hold us back. We wouldn’t use it for street photography unless it was in manual mode and we used the zone focusing system but for most daily shooting tasks it’s probably good enough.

And by all means, this lens is still no slouch even in low light performance. It’s still ahead of Fujifilm and just about on par with Samsung, but it isn’t beating anything that Olympus has.

Image Quality

f1.4, tried to focus on her eye as well as I could. Model: Asta Pardes

f1.4, tried to focus on her eye as well as I could. Model: Asta Paredes

At the time of writing this post, we’ve spent around three hours with the lens and have been able to shoot a couple of images with it and using an off camera monolight to get even sharper images. Here’s what we’ve got.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 Full Frame E Mount lens first impressions photos (12 of 19)ISO 1001-250 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 Full Frame E Mount lens first impressions photos (1 of 19)ISO 2001-80 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 Full Frame E Mount lens first impressions photos (11 of 19)ISO 1001-250 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 Full Frame E Mount lens first impressions photos (2 of 19)ISO 2001-80 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 Full Frame E Mount lens first impressions photos (10 of 19)ISO 1001-250 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 Full Frame E Mount lens first impressions photos (3 of 19)ISO 2001-80 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 Full Frame E Mount lens first impressions photos (9 of 19)ISO 1001-250 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 Full Frame E Mount lens first impressions photos (4 of 19)ISO 2001-80 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 Full Frame E Mount lens first impressions photos (8 of 19)ISO 1001-250 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 Full Frame E Mount lens first impressions photos (7 of 19)ISO 1001-250 sec at f - 1.4

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 Full Frame E Mount lens first impressions photos (5 of 19)ISO 2001-80 sec at f - 5.6

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 35mm f1.4 Full Frame E Mount lens first impressions photos (6 of 19)ISO 1001-200 sec at f - 1.4

First Impressions

So far, we’re liking the Sony 35mm f1.4 lens. It’s got great colors, fair autofocusing performance (but good for its size) and a solid build quality. However, it’s very expensive. Part of this reason could be because of the integrated aperture ring.

We’re already deep into our review, so stay tuned for more.