First Impressions: Sony FE 85mm F1.8 (Sony E Mount, FE)

In addition to the new 100mm F2.8 G Master lens that Sony announced at WPPI 2017, they also brought out their new 85mm F1.8. This should be particularly exciting for money strapped Sony shooters who are looking for an affordable option in the 85mm range.

Tech Specs

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

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

The build quality of this lens is very reminiscent of the FE 50mm F1.8, that is to say, it feels good and solid, even with a mostly plastic exterior. It’s certainly not a luxury lens like the 85mm G Master, but as far as sub-$1,000 lenses go, there is not much to complain about with the FE 85mm F1.8.

Autofocus

This was an interesting bit of our limited testing with the 85mm F1.8, which was mounted to an A7s II. It had some real trouble focusing on people moving around the show floor wide open at F1.8. The performance improved when you stopped down a little, so we think this had more to do with the A7s II AF than the lens itself.

We thought it was worth noting here – obviously additional testing with a review unit will be needed to diagnose if this was just a combination of bad environment and the A7s II AF system or if there are indeed issues with the 85mm F1.8 focusing on moving subjects wide-open (and just to be clear, by moving I mean walking at a normal pace across the show floor, not running or moving fast at all).

Image Quality

We weren’t able to capture any test images on our own media during our limited testing with the pre-production lens. But, from what we could see on the back of the camera, the image quality seemed to be on par with what you would expect for an 85mm F1.8. Full image samples and analysis will, of course, be coming in our full review once our review unit is in. In the mean time, here are a few sample images provided by Sony.

First Impressions

The Sony FE 85mm F1.8 is the company’s second entry into the entry-level/budget F/1.8 prime lens category. So far most indications are that just like the FE 50mm F1.8 was/is, this will be a solid option for Sony users looking for native glass without having to drop over $1,000 or more on Zeiss or G Master lenses.

We will save our sweeping conclusions for the final review of this lens, so stay tuned and we will get you updated once the final review is ready to go.

Anthony Thurston

Anthony is a Portland, Oregon based Boudoir Photographer specializing in a dark, moody style that promotes female body positivity, empowerment, and sexuality. Besides The Phoblographer, he also reviews gear and produces his own educational content on his website.