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Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 G Master Review

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 G Master Review - John Riley reviews the full-frame Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM for Sony Alpha E mount cameras.

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Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Sony Fe 85mm F1,4 Front Oblique View

The Sony G Master range is described as a “supreme blend of high resolution and beautiful bokeh” and in the case of this Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM goes on to claim “outstanding sharpness dissolving to magnificent bokeh” and “the ultimate portrait lens” - clearly bold claims and definitely desirable aspirations. The Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM lens already reviewed fulfilled all the claims made for it, can this classic portrait lens do the same? Let's find out.

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Handling and Features

Sony Fe 85mm F1,4 On A7r

The 85mm f/1.4 has a special place in the ranges of most marques. A lens just slightly longer than the standard lens is one of the easiest to design to a very high standard, and this results in lenses that are the pinnacle of performance for any given system. Coupled with bright maximum apertures they make ideal short telephotos, perfectly suited to portraiture in particular. The working distance needed ensures a very realistic and most flattering rendition of faces.

Not only portraits of course, but also street photography, night shoots, landscapes, close range sports and many more subjects are within the scope of the versatile 85mm lens.

This 85mm f/1.4 is a big, heavy lens weighing in at 820g. A 77mm filter thread is surrounded by the bayonet fitting for the substantial round lens hood. The hood has a locking catch to prevent any chance of it coming loose. Looking into the impressive front element, we can see the equally impressive, virtually circular, diaphragm. Most unusually, this has 11 blades, which will no doubt enhance the bokeh.

Behind this we find the manual focus ring, which is electronic in operation. This is very smooth but some care needs to be taken to avoid moving the ring when holding the lens in shooting position. Just behind this, conveniently placed, is a single focus lock button. This allows the focus point in AF to be locked prior to recomposing and shooting.

Sony Fe 85mm F1,4 With Hood On A7r

An interesting addition is the provision of an aperture ring, with third-stop settings very clearly marked. The choice is there to use this ring, or to set A and control the aperture from the camera. The aperture ring is click stopped with a delightful feel of precision, but if desired this can be switched off. Video shooters may well appreciate this feature. Finally, the AF/MF switch is close to the camera body. A mask over the rear element helps ensure that flare is kept to a minimum.

The optical formula comprises 11 elements in 8 groups. There is one XA (extreme aspherical) element, with a quoted surface precision of 0.01 microns. There are three ED (extra low dispersion) elements. The whole lens is dust and moisture resistant. Sony Nano AR coatings reduce flare and improve contrast and colour.

AF is driven by a Direct Drive SSM motor of high precision, offering speed, accuracy and virtual silence in operation. Focusing is down to 0.85m (2.79 feet), a maximum magnification of 0.12x. This is a fairly traditional close focusing distance, and considering how close modern zooms can focus it would have been nice if this could have been just a little closer as well.

There is a certain pleasure in viewing the world though an 85mm f/1.4 lens. It is very bright and focus snaps in and out with almost surgical precision. It does merit remembering though that the depth of field at f/1.4 is very small so the use of an appropriate aperture is especially important. Portraits at f/1.4 can be superb, but the eyes need to be the critically sharp point and this can lead to a few missed shots. This is a matter of practice though, and is no reflection on what is a very exciting lens to use.

Sony Fe 85mm F1,4 Rear Oblique View

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Performance

Resistance to flare is excellent, at most leading to a slight loss of contrast in extreme circumstances. The bokeh is highlighted by Sony themselves and I agree with them, it is beautiful. Bokeh is of course of special interest and I can only report that Sony's claims are fully justified. “Outstanding sharpness dissolving into magnificent bokeh” sums it up.

When we look at the resolution results, the lens shows itself to be quite remarkable. Centre and edge, it makes no difference, as they compete for the highest sharpness all the way through the range. An amazing degree of evenness across the image field means that sharpness will never be lacking wherever the main subject is placed.

At f/1.4 sharpness is already excellent, and it just gets better. From f/2 through to f/5.6 it is outstanding. From f/8 to f/16 it remains excellent. The actual figures do drop slightly because of diffraction, but the standard remains firmly within the category of excellent.


 

 
Sony 85mm GM 1 4 MTF
MTF
 

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. 

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. 

For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony Alpha A7R II using Imatest.

 

CA (chromatic aberration) is almost zero in the centre of the field, and is contained to less than one pixel at the edges. Any residual fringing is unlikely to be much of a problem, but it can in any event be corrected in software.


 

 
Sony 85mm GM 1 4 CA
CA
 

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony Alpha A7R II using Imatest.

 

Distortion is also commendably low, the lens showing +0.512% barrelling.

Whilst it is impossible to make a “perfect lens” this Sony goes as far as it could possibly be expected to and is one of the very finest lenses I have received for review.

 

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Sample Photos

Value For Money

The lens arrived for review with the Sony a7R II and clearly this combination is intended to take on the DSLR ranges, rather than being compared to the CSC cameras. (It will of course also be usable on E mount APS-C format CSCs).

With this in mind, it may be fair to compare its £1499 price tag with the lenses available for DSLRs.

This gives us the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM (£619), the Nikon AF-S 85mm f/1.4 G (£1199) and the Canon 85mm f/1.2 L II USM (£1499).

In manual focus lenses we also have the Samyang 85mm f/1.4 IF MC (£229) and four Zeiss lenses, the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 Otus (£3299), Milvus 85mm f/1.4 (£1379), 85mm f/1.4 T* Planar (£1199), and Batis 85mm f/1.8 (£909).

The Samyang and Sigma do offer lower cost alternatives, but the rest are all serious money. Against this backdrop, and considering the quality of the results, the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM looks to be fair enough value.

For more options have a look at the Top 27 Best Portrait Lenses.

 

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Verdict

The Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 G Master lens is a traditionally very high quality choice. It is ideal for many more types of subject than portraits, although with the beautiful bokeh provided portraiture may well be high on the list for users of this lens. A very fine lens, very well made and a joy to use, this is superb in every respect.  

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Pros

Outstanding sharpness
Low CA
Flare resistant
Beautiful bokeh

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Cons

Price
Some edge CA
Heavy
Bulky

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
VERDICT  

The Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM gives outstanding performance and beautiful bokeh, a magnificent short telephoto with a bright f/1.4 aperture.

 

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Specifications

ManufacturerSony
General
Lens Mounts
  • Sony FE Mount
Lens
Focal Length85mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/1.4
Min ApertureNo Data
Filter SizeNo Data
StabilisedNo
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Focusing
Min FocusNo Data
Construction
BladesNo Data
ElementsNo Data
GroupsNo Data
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
WeightNo Data
HeightNo Data

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Comments


kodachrome 5 683
14 Jun 2016 3:42PM
Yet another great FE lens From Sony for their FF cameras, but yet again neglecting the NEX E mount users of more and better lenses. Its almost as if Sony have abandoned the NEX Alpha E mount system in favour of FE users.

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25 Jun 2016 12:16PM
Sad

Most reviews of the 85mm/1.4 fails to mention how slow and loud it is, and multiple AF, AF-C issues.. Using it on Sony A7S is a pain, due to the slowness, if you want to photo/film things like wedding, sports, kids etc.. It's not an all-round lens at all :-( Very slow focus for the price. According to SONY this lens is currently only fully compatible with the A7Sii...

See http://support.d-imaging.sony.co.jp/www/cscs/lens_body/index.php?mdl=SEL85F14GM&area=eu&lang=en&cnt=uk
31 Jul 2016 1:29AM
Is the resolution chart directly comparable to the one for the Batis 85mm? I want to make sure since that would mean that the GM is sharper at 1.4 than the Batis at 1.8 which is pretty outstanding.
Thanks!
Gaby95 1
12 Aug 2016 3:47PM
This is a GREAT lens for weddings IF you have a good AF camera like A7Rii , A7Sii or A6300 so "Thehalfbee" do not mislead people.
Gaby95 1
31 Dec 2016 7:39PM

Quote:Sad

Most reviews of the 85mm/1.4 fails to mention how slow and loud it is, and multiple AF, AF-C issues.. Using it on Sony A7S is a pain, due to the slowness, if you want to photo/film things like wedding, sports, kids etc.. It's not an all-round lens at all :-( Very slow focus for the price. According to SONY this lens is currently only fully compatible with the A7Sii...

See http://support.d-imaging.sony.co.jp/www/cscs/lens_body/index.php?mdl=SEL85F14GM&area=eu&lang=en&cnt=uk



Ignore that "Thehalfbee" poster regarding slow focus. AF is faster than the Canon 85mm 1.2 easily and very usable. It is not a SPORTS lens and is a massive piece of glass but to say is a pain to use is just stupid. Of course, if you are using an A7S then what do you expect, you need a camera with FAST focusing to begin with liek A7Rii, A6300 etc.
Some people just like to post nonsense to confuse others.

Regards

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