Sony FE Portrait Lenses Compared: Which Lens is the Best One?

Which Sony FE Portrait Lenses are the best? We scoured our reviews to see.

If you’re into the Sony FE camera system and you’re looking for the best portrait lenses, then you’ve come to the right place. We’ve reviewed all of them, and a larger summary can be found in our Sony FE Lens Guide. The company that was once known for not having a lot of lenses has been making others eat their words for a few years now. But with this many lenses out there, it can become confusing to figure out which one is right for you. Say no more.

Sony 85mm f1.8 FE

Check out our review!

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.

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.

In addition to that, it also has weather sealing built in.

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.

Sample Images

Buy Now $598: Amazon

Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master

Check out our review!

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • 11 Aperture blades are the most of any autofocus portrait lens made so far
  • Big, but very balanced with the Sony a7
  • Aperture control around the lens is nice
  • Fast autofocus performance
  • Nice color rendition for portraiture
  • The best bokeh of any 85mm lens I’ve tested.
  • Weather sealing
  • Wonderful for skin tones
Cons
  • Expensive

Ease of Use

If you’re familiar with Fujifilm’s lenses, then this one will also make a lot of sense. There is an aperture ring on the outside with clicks and an A setting for automated use. The fact that it’s there though means that it’s targeted to the higher end audience that will really like to control the camera and lens combination via an aperture ring.

With that said, don’t give this lens to a newbie.

Build Quality

The Sony 85mm f1.4 G Master lens has weather resistance built into the lens mount and throughout the body of the lens. That’s a nice touch but when you also consider the exterior of the lens you start to think a bit more critically. Zeiss and Tamron both use metal in their exterior design yet for some odd reason Sony doesn’t. It’s got a plastic exterior with subtle texture, but it isn’t exactly the metal that many of us crave these days.

It’s still an overall well-built lens but I’d be much happier with a metal exterior that would therefore justify the price a bit more.

Sample Images

Buy Now $1,798: Amazon

Sony 90mm f2.8 OSS FE

Check out our review!

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Great image quality in most situations
  • Sharp performance, again in most situations
  • Optical stabilization
  • Fast focusing performance
  • Very silent stabilization
  • Internal focusing design, and one that is pretty small for what it is. In fact, it’s about on par with a DSLR lens designed for the same purpose.
  • Push/pull focusing ring
  • Lightweight
  • At last, a focusing scale that actually work!
Cons
  • The colors just aren’t there compared to many of Sony’s other lenses. Perhaps this was done specifically for portraits, but you’re mostly going to rely on the capabilities of the Sony sensors–which are very good.

Ease of Use

For the most part, you’re slapping the lens onto the camera, focusing and shooting. But this Sony lens is a bit different. While most lenses need to be switched to MF mode via the menu system, this lens lets you do it by pushing/pulling the focusing ring. It’s a nice change, and one that we greatly appreciate. However, there are times when this can be done by accident, so just be careful when using the lens.

When shooting at the macro ranges, you’ll want to use the camera’s Live view and magnification feature over focus peaking. While there is optical stabilization, we found that it’s still best to use a tripod.

Build Quality

Though we didn’t run this lens under water or take it out into the rain, it surely survived commuting around the NYC subway system with it strapped to my side. The bumps that it encountered surely let us know that it’s worth the build when everyone and their mother floods Union Square and squishes against one another.

Sample Images

Model: Asta Paredes

Model: Bec Fordyce. F2.8

Buy Now $1,098: Amazon

Sony Zeiss 55mm f1.8 FE

Check out our review!

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Sharp images
  • Creamy bokeh
  • Weather-sealed
  • Smooth & large focusing ring
Cons
  • Lens hood adds a good amount of length to the front
  • No depth of field scale

Ease of Use

Step 1: Mount.

Step 2: Aim.

Step 3: Focus.

Step 4: Photograph.

Step 5 is “Ogle” because this lens produces truly beautiful results. Don’t rely on a depth of field scale to help get your image because there isn’t one. While this lens can autofocus, we found it much more satisfying to switch on focus peaking and use that ring.

Build Quality

The Sony 55mm f1.8 is a strong entry to the FE line both in terms design and optical quality. With a weather-sealed body and nine aperture blades, this lens is dense and sits comfortably in the hand. It does well in various weather conditions, but we urge you to stay inside during more extreme bouts of weather.

Through my travels across Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, the 55mm held up remarkably well; and I can only imagine what the next iteration of this lens will bring.

Sample Images

Lightroom Edit

ISO 51,200

Buy Now $975: Amazon

Sony Zeiss 35mm f1.4 FE

Check out our review!

Pros and Cons

Pros

Pros

– Sharp, saturated images

– Beautiful bokeh

– Aperture ring feels very nice if you choose to use it

– Splash and dust resistance

– Pretty fast focusing abilities

– Very silent motors

– Colors work well skin tones

Cons

– Lack of depth of field scale, which really hurts videographers

– Not as sharp as Sigma’s 35mm f1.4 wide open and not as contrasty–but the latter is a personal preference

– Big in relation to the Sony A7 camera bodies

– Very expensive at $1,598

Ease of Use

Mount the lens to your camera, point, focus, shoot and be merry. There is very little that makes this lens go wrong at all with the exception of the aperture ring. If you’re an experienced photographer, you won’t have much of a problem since you most likely know how to use an aperture ring. But if you don’t, then it may take you a little while to figure out that by switching the setting to “A” that you can control it via the camera.

Build Quality

Sony’s 35mm f1.4 is splash proof and dust proof–but don’t run it under a faucet. It can take more abuse than standard photo products, but not idiocy. Otherwise, the feel of the lens in your hand is quite substantial in that it has lots of heft, a solid grip area around the focusing ring and an aperture ring. In fact, it feels just like a DSLR lens.

This is a bit odd as we expected a lens on a mirrorless camera to not feel or be this large.

Sample Images

Model: Evelyn DeVere

Sony Zeiss 35mm f1.4

Buy Now $1,598: Amazon

Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G Master OSS FE

Check out our review!

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Great image quality
  • Nice bokeh
  • Fairly compact for a 70-200mm f2.8 lens.
  • Good build quality
  • Can focus pretty fast with the latest cameras
Cons

Ease of Use

If you’re used to using any 70-200mm f2.8 lens with image stabilization, then this shouldn’t be anything than business as usual to you. You’ll find a lot of switches and buttons around the lens that let you change your experience but for the most part what you’ll be doing is zooming in and out combined with autofocusing. In that case, the lens is very simple to use overall. However, the customization options are many and if a switch hits the wrong part of your bag, you’ll find settings like Optical Steady Shot switched off.

Build Quality

While this lens is big for a mirrorless camera body, it’s overall size is still small in comparison to other 70-200mm f2.8 lenses. This lens also has weather sealing, ergonomic buttons/switches exactly where you need them and a texture on the outside that doesn’t make the lens slippery at all. To boot, the rubber rings are also very grippy.

Sample Images

Buy Now $2,598: Amazon

Zeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis

Check out our review!

Pros and Cons

Pros

– Great colors, though the 25mm f2 edges it out. At the same time, these colors are a bit muted–as is what Zeiss will do with portrait lenses so as not to create too many issues with post-production

– Compact size for a lens like this

– Weather resistance

– Extremely fast and accurate focusing

– Very sharp, though many of Sony’s native offerings are sharper

Cons

– Only f1.8

– Skin tones rendered very blue for us and generally need to be warmed up

– Top LCD display is pretty useless on a focal length like this

Ease of Use

Like the 25mm f2 Batis lens, we’re a bit weirded out by the display on top. It provides information like focusing distance, and depth of field when set to manual focus. But otherwise, it’s fairly useless. Zeiss would have been much better off simply just creating a lens with a more effective depth of field scale in some way or another.

Otherwise, using this lens is a piece of cake. Simply choose a focusing point, focus, and shoot. After this, you’ll be in awe of the images that you can create.

Build Quality

This is one of Zeiss’s first lenses with weather sealing (the Loxia lineup are the only others) and so with that in mind we’re positive that it will be able to survive the rain. When we traveled with it in Portland and NYC, we didn’t exactly pull it out during the rain. However, we did pull it out on a boat ride and a warehouse shooting session involving lots of splashes. The lens and cameras stood up to the challenges with no problems.

What you’ll appreciate the most is the way that the lens feels. It’s solid and has extra grip thanks to the rubber ring Zeiss has made standard with their lenses in recent years.

Sample Images

Buy Now $1,145: Amazon

Zeiss 135mm f2.8 Batis

Check out our review!

Pros and Cons

Pros
  • Very sharp
  • Nice colors for those of you who love the more saturated look
  • Good feel to the lens overall
  • Weather sealing
  • Fast focusing on all Sony a7 camera bodies no matter the generation
Cons
  • I would’ve like something faster than f2.8.

Ease of Use

Zone focusing with this lens is pretty useless considering that it’s such a long telephoto focal length. Instead, it’s designed to really utilize the autofocus system in the camera or the focus peaking that can be used. With that also said, I’m still not quite sure why this option has an LCD screen on top of it. Maybe for video use? Either way, the Sony system has a lot of control and information that it can display with ease.

Build Quality

The Zeiss 135mm f2.8 Batis lens has weather sealing built into it. In fact, I’m pretty positive that the sealing is probably better than the Sony cameras that it’s designed to be on.

Sample Images

Buy Now $1,481.49: Amazon