First Impressions: Sony 135mm f1.8 G Master (Sony FE)

The Sony 135mm f1.8 G Master FE is the 9th lens in Sony’s Premium G Master lineup

On a particularly snowy New York City day last week, Sony debuted their latest Full Frame E Mount lens in a top secret media briefing: the Sony 135mm f1.8 G Master FE. The Sony 135mm f1.8 G Master FE is the 31st lens overall in Sony’s first party Full Frame E Mount lens lineup, and the 9th one to join the elite ranks of Sony’s Premium G Master line.  Featuring dust and moisture resistant construction, lightweight magnesium alloy body, an optics design that includes Super ED (Extra-low Dispersion), ED, and XA (Extreme Aspherical) lens elements paired with an 11 blade circular aperture, the Sony 135mm f1.8 G Master FE promises to be a beast of a lens that’s not only suitable for portraiture work, but macro and sports as well. We got to spend a few hours with the Sony 135mm G Master, our First Impressions, Tech Specs, as well as a whole lot of image samples can be found after the jump.

Tech Specs

Tech specs for the Sony FE 135mm f1.8 G Master taken from official Sony press briefing

  • 135mm focal length
  • f1.8 maximum aperture
  • Lens Construction: 10 Groups, 13 Elements
  • Features Super ED (Extra-low Dispersion), ED, and XA (Extreme Aspherical) Lens Elements
  • 11 Blade Circular Aperture
  • Four XD (Extreme Dynamic) Linear Motors
  • Floating Focus Mechanism
  • Maximum Magnification of 0.25x
  • Minimum Focusing Distance of 2.3ft (0.7m)
  • Internal Focusing
  • Magnesium Alloy Lens Barrel
  • Fluorine Coated Front Element
  • Weather Sealing (Dust and Moisture Resistance)
  • De-clickable Aperture Ring
  • Linear Response Manual Focus
  • Two Customizable Focus Hold Button
  • Focus Range Limiter (Full, Infinity to 1.5m, and 2m to 0.7m)
  • Autofocus/Manual Focus Switch
  • Size: 3-5/8″ x 5″ (89.5mm x 127mm)
  • Weight: 33.5 oz (950 g)
  • Price: TBD
  • Release Date: End of April 2019

 

Ergonomics

Here’s the Sony FE 135mm f1.8 G Master (with hood attached) mounted onto a Sony A9. As you can see, it is designed much like the other Sony G Master primes. There is a big focusing ring and an aperture ring around the center of the lens.

The Linear Response Manual Focus Ring is located towards the front of the lens. With just the right amount of resistance when turning, you can easily adjust focus manually and quickly. Behind the Linear Response Manual Focus Ring are the two Customizable Focus Hold buttons, allowing you to assign custom functions like Focus Lock or Eye AF to it. The orange G badge between the two buttons signifies that this is a G Master lens. The de-clickable Aperture control ring is just behind the Customizable Focus Hold buttons. You can leave it the Aperture set to “A” and control the aperture using the command dial from your camera, or manually set your aperture from f1.8 all the way down to f22 if you so desire. The Autofocus/Manual Focus switch as well as the Focus Range Limiter can be found on the left side of the lens, just behind the Aperture ring. The Focus Range Limiter allows you to lock the focusing mechanism within a specific range (Full, Infinity to 1.5m, and 2m to 0.7m) and can be particularly useful in instances where the autofocus mechanism happens to be hunting a lot.

The Click On/Off Switch for the Aperture Control Ring can be found on the right side of the 135mm G Master.

 

Build Quality

The Sony 135mm f1.8 G Master FE feels robustly constructed, and features the same premium fit and finish found on the other lenses within Sony’s G Master lineup. The Manual Focus Ring has just the right amount of resistance when turning, the inclusion of a second Customizable Focus Hold button will be a welcomed addition for photographers that shoot in portrait orientation often, and the de-clickable Aperture Control Ring makes this lens great for video shooters as well. The 135mm G Master also features excellent weather sealing, and while this doesn’t mean that you should take the lens for a swim, you can feel confident using it in most adverse weather conditions.

Obviously as you can tell, the Sony 135mm f1.8 G Master FE has weather resistance built into it. These product images were shot in the snow and the mount itself is also sealed.

 

Ease of Use

While we only got to spend a few short hours with the Sony 135mm f1.8 G Master FE during the media briefing, we came away quite impressed with the lens. The 135mm focal length is one prized by many portrait photographers for its ability to capture subjects in a true to life perspective with very minimal distortions, and the 135mm G Master surely does a superb job capturing gorgeous portraits. The inclusion of a Floating Focus Mechanism also allows the 135mm G Master to be used as a Macro lens as well, giving you the ability to photograph subjects very close up while keeping aberrations to a minimum and being able to isolate subjects thanks to the beautiful bokeh generated by the 11 blade circular aperture.

 

Autofocus

Again, we need to stress that we only got to spend a few short hours with the Sony FE 135mm f1.8 G Master, so our experiences with the lens are far from comprehensive. With that said, the autofocusing on the 135mm G Master did an admirable job during our time with the lens, almost always acquired focus quickly and accurately, even when the subject is moving quickly. We tested the 135mm G Master with both the Sony A9 as well as the Sony A7RIII, and while the lens certainly performed quicker when paired with the former, we didn’t notice any significant performance degradation when using it with the higher resolution A7RIII either. Autofocusing was also very quick when using the lens in “Macro mode,” provided you’ve appropriately adjusted the Focus Range Limiter. We look forward to testing the Sony 135mm G Master further once production review samples are available.

 

Image Quality

All sample images seen within this First Impressions article were shot using a “near-final” Sony FE 135mm f1.8 G Master production sample unit mated with the Sony A9 and Sony A7RIII and minimally processed in Capture One. As a matter of ethics, none of the sample images have been retouched so that you can judge the quality of the images for yourself.

 

First Impressions

Having only spent a few short hours with the Sony FE 135mm f1.8 G Master, we came away quite impressed with how versatile the lens was. In addition to being an excellent portrait lens, it can double duty as a macro lens as well and also did a fine job shooting fast moving sports. The Sony FE 135mm f1.8 G Master is expected to begin shipping at the end of April 2019, but Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Pricing has yet to be finalized. We suspect it will fall somewhere within the US$1,900 to US$2,100 range. We look forward to conducting a comprehensive review of the 135mm G Master once production samples are available. Please stay tuned for the full review.

Pauleth Ip

Paul is a New York City based photographer, creative, and writer. His body of work includes headshots and commercial editorials for professionals, in-demand actors/performers, high net worth individuals, and corporate clients, as well as intimate lifestyle/boudoir photography with an emphasis on body positivity and empowerment. Paul also has a background in technology and higher education, and regularly teaches private photography seminars. When not working on reviews and features for The Phoblographer or shooting client work, Paul can be seen photographing personal projects around NYC, or traveling the world with his cameras in tow. You can find Paul’s latest work on his Instagram over at @thepicreative.