Last year has been a great year for Sony Alpha full frame camera owners thanks to the release of some really impressive lenses that have finally filled some gaps in the company’s FE lens range. The latest addition is the Sony FE 35mm f / 1.4 GM, a new premium option that goes above the Sony Distagon T FE 35mm f / 1.4.
The 35mm focal length is a classic that ranges between 28mm wide angle and 50mm standard and is used for a variety of photographic genres. The combination of the focal length and the fast maximum aperture of f / 1.4, the Sony FE 35mm f / 1.4 GM will be of great interest to portrait, street, wedding, landscape and astro photographers. But how does it work?
The 35mm f / 1.4 is certainly not a cheap lens, but let’s not forget that it’s a G Master creation aimed at professional photographers and videographers.
To appeal to these two shooters, the lens has a manual aperture ring that can be adjusted incrementally for photographers with steps of the third aperture or infinitely variable for videographers, as well as an A setting so that the aperture can be controlled from the camera instead .
The manual focus ring is smooth with a comfortable resistance and an internal focusing mechanism so that the lens stays fixed. In addition, the front element does not rotate, which is ideal when using filters on the 67mm filter thread.
As a G Master lens, the 35mm 1: 1.4 is dust and weather resistant. All buttons and rings are sealed so photographers can be sure of using the lens in bad weather. The construction is a mixture of metal and plastic, as is common for many lenses. However, this doesn’t detract from the premium appearance that you would expect from a G Master lens.
The FE 35 mm 1: 1.4 GM lies comfortably in the hand and thanks to a weight of 524 g and dimensions of 96 x 76 mm, the size and weight perfectly match the camera housings of the Sony A7 and A9 series. This is both smaller and lighter than the Distagon T FE 35mm 1: 1.4, which weighs 630g and measures 112 x 78.5mm.
Strengthening its premium qualities, the 35mm f / 1.4 lens uses two XD linear motors for fast and quiet AF that is incredibly fast and virtually silent – the lens undoubtedly performs well in this area.
In terms of lens design, two of the elements are XA (extremely aspherical) elements designed to help achieve edge-to-edge sharpness, while another element is an ED (extra-low dispersion) element designed to suppress the chromatic aberration is used and purple fringes.
Other features of the lens include a Nano AR Coating II to minimize internal reflections and avoid ghosting and stray light when shooting at light sources. A fluorine coating on the front element prevents fingerprints, dust, water and oil.
While the latter is always a welcome feature, keeping any debris off a lens faceplate is always preferable, and the included lens hood is a method of preventing stray light from entering the lens.
While a lens like this has traditionally not been used for close-up photography, it offers a minimum focus distance of 27 cm with a maximum magnification of 0.23x or 0.26x when manually focusing manually.
One feature that really stands out is the 11-blade circular aperture which is two more blades than most other lenses. This ensures a nice circular bokeh when shooting with a maximum aperture of f / 1.4.
The features are undoubtedly impressive, and everything you’d expect from a Sony G Master Prime, but with any lens, image quality, along with handling, is of the greatest interest to photographers.
Prime lenses remain superior to zoom lenses in terms of image quality despite major advances in image quality. Due to their fixed focal length, larger maximum aperture openings can be installed – and this is where they excel.
The Sony FE 35mm f / 1.4 GM certainly follows this format, and at f / 1.4 the center of the frame is certainly sharp, although the outer area of the frame is slightly fuzzy, which is consistent with fast prime lenses.
The vignetting is also visible, and both this and the edge sharpness begin to improve noticeably at 1: 4. The sweet spot or the sharpest point of the lens is 1: 8, and the sharpness decreases again at 1:11 and 1:16 when the diffraction starts.
That certainly doesn’t mean that f / 11 and f / 16 are useless – they’re perfectly sharp enough, but just not the sharpest points on the lens. One strange condition of the lens is that the vignetting is greatest at f / 1.4, which decreases to the lowest value at f / 4 and f / 5.6, but increases again slightly from f / 8 and beyond.
This is not a problem and can be easily removed during processing, but it does not appear often. However, in terms of chromatic aberration and fringing, the lens shows no problem even in high-contrast areas like trees against the sky, which is impressive.
Overall, the Sony FE 35mm f / 1.4 GM is an incredibly versatile lens that could potentially be used for more photographic genres than any other focal length.
The picture quality is excellent, but not perfect. The lens is sharp in the center of the frame at f / 1.4, but it is only at f / 4 that the edges become noticeably sharper. The overall sharpness reaches peak values at 1: 8 at the sweet spot of the lens.
At 1:11, diffraction sets in, but the image remains incredibly sharp, even though it is not the sharpest the lens is capable of. The vignetting problem is strange too, but certainly not a deal breaker.
There’s no denying that the Sony FE 35mm f / 1.4 is another great professional offering from Sony that appeals to a wide range of photographers and is quickly topping the shopping list of many. At that price, it is prohibitively expensive for most photographers. However, this label is consistent with other Sony GM lenses, so it’s no surprise and the price will no doubt drop a bit over time.
Should I buy the Sony FE 35mm f / 1.4 GM?
Buy it when …
They take environmental portraits
The combination of 35 mm focal length and f / 1.4 aperture is extremely attractive for environmental portraits, wedding and street photographers who take photos with cameras from the A7 and A9 series.
You shoot Astro
The Sony FE 20mm f / 1.8 is a great lens for astrophotography. However, if it’s too wide, the 35mm f / 1.4 GM offers a bit more range as well as improved light harvesting capabilities.
You are a videographer
Videographers use a mix of prime numbers and zooms, with prime numbers being preferred. The stepless aperture and the smooth focus ring of the Sony FE 35 mm 1: 1.4 GM are specially designed for video recordings.
Don’t buy it if …
You are on a budget
All GM lenses are expensive because of their premium build quality, features, and image quality. However, if you are on a budget, consider the Sony FE 35mm f / 1.8, which is less than half the price.
You mostly photograph landscapes
For landscape photographers looking for a fast prime lens, the Sony FE 20mm f / 1.8 offers a much more versatile focal length, not to mention a smaller and lighter build than the 35mm f / 1.4 GM.
They usually use different focal lengths
If you’re using a range of focal lengths for a single shot, the Sony FE 16-35mm f / 2.8 GM or the Sony FE 24-70mm f: 2.8 GM may be a more convenient option, albeit not at f / 2 ,8th.
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