When I pinged Sony about an upcoming announcement, I wouldn’t have dreamed that the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master lens would be real. I mean, it can’t be, right? Why would a company have this many 50mm lenses? But, it’s real. This is Sony’s 6th 50mm lens if you’re not including their Zeiss 55mm f1.8. It boasts almost everything you’d expect from a Sony G Master. That sentence was worded very carefully as the new Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master shows that there’s hope the company might be headed in a new direction.
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With Sony having a 50mm f1.2 lens that’s been making a lot of people really happy, it seems like this new Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master is addressing my issues with that exact lens. When I reviewed the Sony 50mm f1.2 G Master, I gave it high praise and ratings. But quite honestly, my soul wasn’t in that review because it was sucked dry by the clinical rendering that lens delivers. I loathe clinical looks; and so does our staff. The more I occasionally watch YouTubers talk, the more I realize that they’re saying the same things I am. In my own work, though, I never embrace clinical looks at all.
That’s a long way of saying that the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master isn’t as clinical as the f1.2 G Master. It’s also nowhere as large. However, I’m still not getting rid of my 55mm f1.8. And this is why.
The Big Picture
The Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master is another entry into the higher-end products that Sony offers to photographers. It’s designed to work complementary to the 35mm f1.4 and 24mm f1.4. In fact, they all share the same front filter thread of 67mm. The lens also boasts weather resistance, a good but plastic feeling in the hand, and is lightweight. By all means, this lens delivers everything that we’d expect from a Sony G Master, except for the fact that it doesn’t feel as clinical.
In terms of image quality, the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master is sharper than the 55mm f1.8 up until f4 and beyond, where the two lenses are indistinguishable when looking at the images at 100%. We don’t encourage pixel-peeping here, and that’s where this gets even more fascinating. When you’re looking at the photos as a whole, the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master and the Sony 55mm f1.8 look pretty much exactly the same. And so, photographers that want to walk the line between the classic 55mm and the 50mm f1.2 might want to reach for this.
The Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master receives five out of five stars. And I’m awarding it an Editor’s Choice award for the fact that it shows that Sony is really trying to bring character into their lenses. Want one? Check them out at Amazon and Adorama.
- Beautiful image quality
- It’s sharp. And after a while, I started to realize that it’s not the Sony clinical sharpness that I’m so used to. Instead, it’s more classically sharp.
- Muted colors compared to so many other Sony lenses.
- Weather sealed
- Fast focusing on the Sony a7r V
- Very sharp on 24MP sensors and infrared conversions
- 67mm filter thread to match a bunch of their other f1.4 primes
- Tracking people in good lighting is no problem in video mode.
- Plastic body, but not a bad build quality. We really like metal lenses here at Phoblographer.
- If you don’t want classic sharpness, you’ll hate this lens.
- Can surely suffer from autofocus problems in low light with higher megapixel cameras in the a7r series. Hopefully some firmware will fix this.
The Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master is a loaner unit provided to us by Sony. They coordinated the loan of a Sony a7r V from LensRentals. The following gear is our own that we used for this review:
- Sony a7r III
- Sony a7 original converted to infrared
- Profoto B10
- B+W Lens Filter
In the grand scheme of things, the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master isn’t really innovative. But instead, it’s innovative within the Sony system. This is the second G Master lens to show some character in addition to what the 35mm f1.4 renders. Comparatively speaking, it’s much smaller and lighter than Panasonic’s very good 50mm f1.4 Lumix S Pro lens.
Here’s a look at the front of the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master. It boasts a 67mm filter thread to be shared with the company’s 35mm f1.4 and 24mm f1.4.
On the side, you can see that it’s a plastic lens with two control rings. The back ring is for aperture control while the front ring is for focusing. You’ll also see the Iris lock and the de-click setting.
On the other side is an af/mf switch along with the preset button.
Oh yeah, there’s a preset button on top. As you can also see there is no focusing scale.
The Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master is every bit as durable as you’d expect it and need it to be. That, in and of itself, is a divisive statement. In addition to what our publication has said many times about Sony’s build quality, other journalists have confirmed that the sensors tend to get very dirty. But with our use of the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master with the various cameras we mated it to, we didn’t have that problem.
This lens survived and kept working through some rain and even splashes of water in our studio. We know a lot of folks treat their lenses better than their children. So know that it can stand up to some abuse.
In the hand, it’s a very lightweight lens and feels very comfortable to hold. But when you use this and the 55mm f1.8 side by side, there’s no comparison when it comes to photowalking. You really just want to use the 55mm f1.8 and go shooting. While the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master is a very nice lens, it’s kind of in an odd spot with build quality. It’s nowhere as heavy as the 50mm f1.2, so you’d probably want to take it out for serious work. But it’s also much heavier than the 55mm. So if you really like the 50mm field of view, there’s reason to have both lenses — as ludicrous as that seems.
Here’s where I was very, very surprised. To both myself and a few others, the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master focused incredibly fast. In fact, my findings and personal experiences are pretty fascinating even to me.
On the Sony a7r V, the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master focused the slowest and least accurately in low light. This happened with the Live View Setting effect activated and deactivated. Still, saying that it’s the slowest on this camera isn’t saying much as it still beats a few competitors.
On the Sony a7r III, the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master focused very quickly. In fact, it was faster than on the newer camera. I keep this camera around for various reasons. Besides the fact that it’s still the highest ranking Sony camera on DXOMark’s ratings, it also focuses much faster than some of Sony’s newer cameras.
All of them sometimes had a few issues focusing on subjects in low light. I’ve found that Sony cameras work best when you turn off the Live View Setting effect and instead use a programmable button for the Picture Effect preview. However, the system performed overall very admirably and yielded me a bunch of keeper shots. I think that during the experience of shooting, an event photographer would sometimes get frustrated with the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master. But when they come back and look at the photos, they’ll be just fine. Indeed, it’s sometimes hard to tell when your image is sharp or not because Sony’s LCD screens really need an upgrade.
In good lighting outdoors on the streets of NYC, the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master delivered when it came to street photography. Set to AF-C with human detection on, the cameras and lenses really nailed the focus with no troubles.
With my infrared-converted Sony a7 original, the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master was also very fast to focus. I’d truly say that it’s more than usable enough for lots of applications. It’s nice to know that battery-life aside, I can still enjoy my older cameras with newer lenses.
Ease of Use
The Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master is an easy-to-use lens. For street photography and candids, I’ve always appreciated that their lenses don’t really need to be thrown into manual focus. With that said, there is no depth of field scale on this lens. So you can easily use it in the field with no problems.
During use, my hands never unintentionally bumped any of the settings. There’s stuff like de-clicking the aperture ring, custom buttons, etc. It worked perfectly fine using the aperture ring and not using it at all if I chose to do so.
There’s something fascinating about the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master’s image quality. Wide open, it’s pretty soft for a G Master lens. In fact, it reminds me a bit more of classic Zeiss and Leica rendering. That’s not at all a bad thing, as it’s a totally different type of sharpness. It also still enjoys having beautiful bokeh, nice colors, and a bit of character. Once you stop the lens down, that character starts to go away and this lens truly becomes what we’ve expected of Sony G Master lenses.
The good thing to know is that photographers of all sorts will like the image quality from this lens. Street photographers, portrait photographers, and event photographers will like the balance of bokeh, sharpness, and the fact that they won’t have to retouch as much. Studio photographers will adore how sharp it can look. And those who shoot wider vistas will really like how beautiful the colors can be rendered. Truly, there’s something for everyone with this lens.
With all that in mind, it’s still quite hard to pull me away from my 55mm f1.8.
The bokeh from the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master is hazy and very creamy. Towards the edges you’re supposed to see a bit more cat’s eye bokeh. Part of that comes with the design. I embrace this as a beautiful thing. But photographers will really like how the bokeh presents itself. Portrait photographers and candid shooters especially will fall for it!
Luckily, we’ve reviewed every higher-end Sony 50mm lens. So let’s take a look at how they compare in similar framing situations. This is a non-scientific comparison. Our website isn’t as scientific as it’s about real-world practicality.
Above is the Sony Zeiss 50mm f1.4 original. Compared to the newer one, the G Master looks creamier.
Here is the original Sony 50mm f1.4 for A mount. Lots of photographers sometimes adapt those lenses for their character. And, of course, the fact that these elements don’t have the polishing to rid themselves of onion bokeh shows. Personally, I’ve always liked this type of character. It’s what you see in modern cinema.
Here’s a look at the Sony 50mm f1.8 stopped down just a tad. There’s no comparison between this and Sony’s other lenses.
Above is from the Sony 55mm f1.8 Zeiss lens. It’s a bit less creamy here but also slightly stopped down.
Finally, here is the 50mm f1.2 G Master. I like the bokeh render of the new Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master more than this.
Colors from the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master are a bit more muted and less vibrant than they were with many of Sony’s other offerings. I personally like this. Sometimes the colors from these lenses can make skin tones look a tad odd.
We found no issues with fringing here. However, we’ve discussed what we’ve found about the bokeh already. Something about this lens really makes me think Leica or Zeiss when shot wide open. When stopped down, all that kind of goes away and the lens becomes much sharper. We’ll discuss that a bit more later, though.
To explain what I mean, here’s a look at similar 50mm lenses.
Here’s the Zeiss 50mm f1.4 Milvus lens. The bokeh from the newer Sony seems creamier but that’s because of the perspective. However, it’s clear they share some similarities.
Here’s a look at the Zeiss 50mm f2 Loxia for E mount. Sony’s, again, looks creamier. But there’s still something about the way the light renders that seems similar.
Here’s a look at the last Sony 50mm f1.4 A mount that came out. This was a gorgeous lens, and I feel it has more character than the new G Master.
Here’s a look at the Leica 50mm f1.4 Summilux SL. And it’s indeed where I’m starting to see character, but this new autofocus lens seems more clinical than Sony’s.
Here’s a shot from the Leica 50mm f1.4 for M mount. This is where I’m really seeing a character similar to the Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master. Indeed, certain designs just look so similar.
For some fun, here’s the 7Artisans 50mm f1.1 and its render. This lens obviously has a lot more character.
Here’s a photo straight from the camera with a Profoto B10 on the side. As you can see, it’s very sharp wide open when using a flash. And it only gets sharper as you stop down.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
With Creative Filter
Who Should Buy The Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master?
The Sony 50mm f1.4 G Master is a pretty special lens. So who should get it? Well, if you own the 55mm f1.8 and want something sharper wide open, I’d consider this. But if you like the 55mm’s sharpness and character, I’d stick with what you have. If you own the 50mm f1.2 and want lens character, sell your lens for this. If you have the other 50mm lenses, then this is a strong consideration.
Portrait photographers, candid photographers, street photographers, and anyone dealing with people often should consider what this lens can do for you. Want one? Check them out at Amazon and Adorama.
These specs from directly from Sony.
- 50mm f1.4
- Weather resistance
- Aperture ring
- De-click switch
- 67mm filter thread
- 1.13 lbs
- 3.1 x 3.7 inches
- 14 elements in 11 groups
- Internal focusing
- 2 XA elements
- 1 ED element
- 11 aperture blades
- Nana AR II coating
- 2 XD elements
- 15 inches minimum focusing