Most of the 35 mm lenses in the market open at a maximum of f/1.4 or f/2.8, but with the Sony FE 35mm f/1.8. Sony makes an intermediate choice combining compactness and brightness. This lens has also seduced us by its versatility and its optical qualities.
- Sony E Mount.
- Maximum covered format: 24×36.
- Real focal length: 35 mm.
- Maximum aperture: F/1.8.
- Minimum opening: F/2.2.
- Reproduction ratio: 0.24x.
Compatible with Sony E-mount hybrids equipped with 24×36 and APS-C sensors, the FE 35mm f/1.8 arrives in a market already well stocked with references offering the same field of coverage. At Sony, we already have the Distagon FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA and Sonnar FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA stamped Zeiss. A logic that consists of proposing two options, f/1.4 or f/2.8, which is also found at Samyang with the AF 35mm f/1.4 FE and AF 35mm f/2.8 FE while Sigma only offers for the moment the FE 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, adaptation of its reflex version for Sony hybrids, before the start of the commercialization of the 35 mm f/1.2 DG DN Art announced in early summer.
In Sony E native mount, we also mention the Voigtlander Nokton Classic 35mm f/1.4 E without auto-focus, but which beats all records of compactness and lightness with a weight of only 262 gm at Tamron, the Sony E 24×36 compatible range is gradually expanding and so far, has only two references: the 28-75 mm f/2.8 DI III RXD and 17-28 mm f/2.8 DI III RXD. If the brand did well present an SP 35 mm f/1.4 DI USD in early summer, it is compatible only with SLR cameras.
You may also like - Sigma 35mm F/1.4 DG HSM Art for Nikon and Canon Cameras.
Sony FE 35mm F1.8 Review
Made from 11 optical elements divided into 9 groups, the Sony FE 35mm f/1.8 incorporates an aspheric lens. Its diaphragm consists of nine slats and its minimum focus distance of 22 cm gives it a maximum growth ratio of 0.24 X. The presence of a seal, at the rotating parts of its barrel as well as at its keys ensures good resistance to dust and moisture. Auto-focus is provided by a linear motor. The lens measures 65.6 x 73 mm and weighs 280 gm.
Its weight of only 280 gm is certainly one of the assets of this Sony FE 35mm f1.8. Combined with one of the hybrids of the A7 range, also known for their lightness, it is a particularly discreet and pleasant everyday companion.
To realize the comfort of this lens, it is worth comparing it with the 790 gm of the Sigma FE 35 mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, 645 gm of the Samyang AF 35 mm f/1.4 FE and 630 gm of the Zeiss Distagon FE 35 mm f/1.4 ZA 2/3 IL. It obviously remains heavier than the f/2.8 versions since the Zeiss Sonnar FE 35 mm f/2.8 ZA weighs only 120 gm and the Samyang AF 35 mm f/2.8 FE only 85 gm. But there the difference in brightness which is 1.3 IL.
Despite this lightness, the lens displays impeccable workmanship. It is dense and perfectly assembled. Its smooth black metal coating is not the most pleasant to the touch, but it must be recognized that it has the advantage of not catching dust.
Its manual focus ring is wide and if it does not have a non-slip coating, its structure still offers a good grip. Its friction is good and allows easy handling as well as good positioning accuracy. Unfortunately, it does not have a lock at its extreme positions and the lens also does not have a distance scale. This absence is, however, compensated by an automatic display in the viewfinder of a focus scale as soon as the ring is stressed.
On its barrel, there is an AF/MF selector that offers a quick switch in manual mode without having to go through the menu of the device. It is accompanied by a customizable key by default assigned to the focus lock.
Finally, the lens comes with a seriously manufactured sun visor that holds securely in place despite the absence of a lock button.
Combined with a 24×36 mm sensor, the 35 mm focal length is highly versatile, suitable for landscape, portrait or street photography. This is the configuration we used in the field by combining this Sony FE 35 mm f/1.8 with a Sony A7 III. But used with an APS-C hybrid such as the A6600 and A6100 that Sony has just unveiled, its coverage field would have been that of a 52.5 mm equivalent in 24×36 and it would have retained good skills for portrait or reportage.
On the field, we particularly appreciated its close focus at 22 cm, lower than that of all its competitors. However, pay attention to the management of the depth of field, since its opening at f/1.8 requires to be precise. This great openness is also one of its strengths. It allows to generate a nice bokeh which we could appreciate the absence of deformation.
The lens does not have a stabilization system, but a large part of Sony hybrids are equipped with it, so this is not a handicap. On the geometry side, there is a slight distortion in the pad that remains sufficiently contained to be easily corrected in post-production.
As for vignetting, it is very low at full opening and remains fairly constant at all subsequent openings.
Finally, a good extra point for the autofocus, fast and quiet, on which we have always been able to count.
Measurements in our laboratory are made in partnership with Imatest. The notion of Pique is quite delicate to deal with. This is what can be equated to the “sensation of sharpness” or the “accuracy” observed on an image. It can be very different from one lens to another, from one focal point to another and from one aperture to another. It can also vary between the center and edges of the image. We tested the lens with a Sony A7R II with a 24×36 mm sensor of 42.4 Mpx and a definition of 7952 x 5304 px. Each pixel thus measures 4.51 µm sideways.
At full aperture, the center pitch is not very high, but the lens shows good homogeneity and the results are still acceptable.
As the diaphragm is closed, the thrust in the center progresses rapidly to reach its maximum from f/4 with a good constancy up to f/11 and results still perfectly exploitable at f/16 where the diffraction remains very low. The maximum position at f/22 should be avoided.
These values are excellent and exceed those we were able to measure on the Sigma FE 35 mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and Samyang FE 35 mm f/1.4 under the same conditions. They also surpass the measurements made at the time on the Sony FE 35 mm f/1.4 accompanied by an A7 II with a 24 Mpx sensor.
The sides and corners of the image progress a little less quickly than the center, but here too the sting improves to a good level as you close the diaphragm. It is much better than the Samyang FE 35 mm f/1.4, but on this point, the Sigma FE 35 mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art still shows a better homogeneity.
These results measured on mire are confirmed in the photos of our test scene of which we present here excerpts at 100% of the size of the pixels. At f/1.8, it can be seen that the edges are indented and the details are moderately transcribed. In contrast, the Pique in the center becomes so high that moire appears.
• Big opening.
• Minimum focus at 22 cm.
• Low vignetting.
• Strong stung in the center.
• No indication of distance scale.
• Slight distortion.
• Stitched slightly back at full opening.
It’s not the cheapest of the 35 mm Sony E mount nor the brightest or the lightest, but this Sony FE 35mm f/1.8 defends itself well on all boards and shows no real weakness. Pleasant in the field, it shows great optical performance and turns out to be an interesting choice for owners of Sony hybrids.