Review: Sony 35mm f1.4 (Sony Alpha)

If you were to look back at some of the quintessential lens options for the Sony Alpha lineup of lenses, then you’re sure to figure that the company would have updated their 35mm f1.4 by now; but they haven’t. Sony has a fantastic 50mm f1.4 lens for their Alpha lineup of cameras and considering that the A99 II is such a blow-me-away great camera, it would make a whole lot of sense that they updated their 35mm for the wedding and photojournalism crowd.

However, those photographers are understandable looking more towards the mirrorless camera world. So with that said, when Sony sent us the Sony 35mm f1.4 lens in Alpha mount to review with the Minolta a7, we decided to do something different: test the lens entirely on film.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Small
  • Lightweight
  • Fast to focus
  • Effective depth of field scale
  • Nice bokeh
  • Fairly sharp

Cons

  • Could use an update for sure.
  • Very expensive

Gear Used

We tested the Sony 35mm f1.4 with the Minolta a7

Tech Specs

Taken from the Sony website.

MOUNT
Sony A-mount
FORMAT
35 mm full frame
FOCAL LENGTH (MM)
1.38 in
35 MM EQUIVALENT FOCAL LENGTH (APS-C)
2-1/16″
LENS GROUPS / ELEMENTS
8/10
ANGLE OF VIEW (35 MM)
63°
ANGLE OF VIEW (APS-C)
44°
MAXIMUM APERTURE (F)
4.59
MINIMUM APERTURE (F)
22
APERTURE BLADES
9
CIRCULAR APERTURE
Yes
MINIMUM FOCUS DISTANCE
11-13/16″
MAXIMUM MAGNIFICATION RATIO (X)
0.2x
FILTER DIAMETER (MM)
55 mm
IMAGE STABILIZATION (STEADYSHOT)
– (Body-integrated)
DIMENSIONS (DIAMETER X LENGTH)
2-3/4 x 3″ (69 x 76 mm)
WEIGHT
18 oz (510 g)
*
“35 mm equivalent focal length (APS-C)” and “Angle of View (APS-C)” are with interchangeable lens digital camera incorporating APS-C type image sensors.
  • Lens hood (ALC-SH0001: petal shape, bayonet type)
  • Lens front cap
  • Lens rear cap
  • Case

Ergonomics

The Sony 35mm f1.4 lens is a pretty minimal one when you look at it. It appears to be much like other autofocus lenses, but the differences are in the details.

For starters, the Sony 35mm f1.4 has an effective depth of field scale. More lenses really need this.

Then on the side you’ll find an autofocus lock button. In my years of using Sony lenses, I’m honestly not sure how many photographers actually use this.

Build Quality

The Sony 35mm f1.4 is a pretty pricey lens. But with that said, it doesn’t incorporate any sort of significant weather sealing or metal body. However, it’s significantly smaller than most other options on the market. Perhaps this has to do with the fact that the lens is pretty old at this point and so the newer lens designs aren’t like this one.

Ease of Use

If you’re used to using autofocus lenses, then the Sony 35mm f1.4 won’t be anything special. You mount it on, focus, shoot and enjoy the photo. But at the same time, there is also a great reason to use the lens in manual focus mode due to the effective and working depth of field scale.

Focusing

With the Minolta a7, the Sony 35mm f1.4 focuses quickly, easily, and almost never misses a shot. The only times where I felt that it was really off was with an ND filter attached. At that point, you need to sort of accept that that’s going to happen though.

Image Quality

I very much do realize that this lens is pretty old. So I guess I’ll be gentle here. It’s got good image quality, but it’s still not going to hold a candle to offerings from Zeiss, Sigma, Tamron, etc. However, if you’re looking for a very specific look, then you may be attracted to this lens.

Bokeh

The bokeh of the Sony 35mm f1.4 is pretty okay. Obviously, the best bokeh comes when it’s focusing close up and wide open. But then you sacrifice sharpness.

Chromatic Aberration

Luckily, there is none. Distortion? Maybe. But nothing to cry home about.

Color Rendition

Because this is an older lens, the Sony 35mm f1.4 has a more muted color palette. However, that doesn’t mean that I don’t like the colors. In fact, I really like them and I wish that Sony made more lenses with color like this.

Sharpness

The best sharpness from the Sony 35mm f1.4 comes at around f5.6 and when used with a flash.

Extra Image Samples

Conclusions

This is an older lens, so I need to be gentle here simply because of what it is. Let’s start off harsh though: it isn’t worth over $1,000 any more and it can be easily had on eBay for much less. Sony can and should update their 35mm f1.4 for the A mount. The one in E Mount is fantastic.

If you’re a lover or more muted colors though, then you’ll easily fall in love with this lens. There’s a lot to like including the autofocus performance.