Two minutes of review
The Sony FE 50mm f / 1.2 was the 60th E-mount lens the company had made at the time of its launch, though that number has now grown to 63 lenses thanks to the arrival of three G-series prime numbers. In short, Sony has been very busy the last few years.
This lens is also a special addition to his product range. It is Sony’s fastest E-mount lens to date and sets new standards for image quality and speed in the company’s range.
The picture quality is phenomenal. The only point of criticism here is the vignetting when the pictures are wide open, but at f / 2.8 it disappears completely and is easy to fix in the software. Bokeh with wide open shots looks stunning and the lens offers fast, precise and almost noiseless AF.
As a ‘G Master’ (GM) lens, not only is the image quality exceptional with excellent sharpness throughout the aperture range and no visible aberrations or distortions, but also unsurpassed processing quality and dust and water resistance.
The supplied lens hood provides sufficient shade from stray light and provides adequate protection for the front element in bad weather. Also, the front lens element is surprisingly small and the filter size is a reasonable 72mm instead of the expected 82mm.
At 778g, it’s certainly not the lightest 50mm lens you’ll come across, but that weight is typical of a lens this speed. Nevertheless, it is well balanced in the hand compared to an A-series full-frame camera like the Sony A1 with which we tested it.
At $ 1,999 / £ 2,099 / AU $ 3,399, this is an extremely expensive professional lens. However, when you factor in the technical mastery of Sony’s engineers and the exceptional image quality, the price is exactly where you would expect it – and arguably justified given the overall performance of the lens. Sony has undoubtedly created a masterpiece.
Sony FE 50mm 1: 1.2 price and release date
- Announced in March and available from April 2021
- The price is USD 1,999 / GBP 2,099 / AU $ 3,399
In a quick turnaround from announcement to availability of just one month, the Sony FE 50mm f / 1.2 will be available to photographers in April 2021. This is the fastest Sony E-mount lens currently available that combines such a fast maximum aperture and the versatile 50mm focal length is a great step up from Sony.
Lenses this fast aren’t cheap, however, and at $ 1999 / $ 2099 / $ 3,399, the 50mm lenses are out of reach for many photographers. However, it’s still a little cheaper than Canon’s 50mm f / 1.2 USM lens and 172g lighter – although it’s almost the same size.
- The fastest Sony lens yet
- Circular opening with 11 wings
- 40 cm minimum focusing distance
The main feature of this lens is the super fast maximum aperture of 1: 1.2. This offers incredible light gathering capabilities in low light, as well as beautiful bokeh in wide open shots.
The lens uses three XA lens elements (extremely aspherical) which appear to help produce sharp images over the entire aperture range and minimize chromatic aberration. This is certainly the case in practice, which we will discuss in more detail later in the “Image quality” section.
These elements are also intended to help make the lens compact and lightweight. At 108 x 87 mm and 778 g, it is certainly not very large considering the maximum aperture. Weighing in at 778g is heavy for a 50mm lens, but that’s because of the f / 1.2 aperture and is still 172g lighter than the 50mm f / 1.2 USM lens from Canon RF.
This lens also features Sony’s Nano Coating II to reduce internal reflections and prevent ghosting and flare. To repel water, oil and other contaminants and to make cleaning of the lens easier, the front element is provided with a fluorine coating.
Other notable features include an 11-leaf circular opening that helps create stunning bokeh with circular highlights. And while the minimum focusing distance of 16 inches isn’t the closest, this isn’t exactly a lens designed for close-up photography – though it’s a versatile option that can capture most photographic subjects.
- Virtually noiseless autofocus thanks to four linear XD motors
- Dust and moisture resistant
- Smooth and precise manual focus
The 50mm f / 1.2 is solidly made of metal and plastic and matches the design and build quality you would expect from a Sony G Master lens. The construction is dust and waterproof, although the fine print says it isn’t 100%.
In terms of autofocus, it’s quick to capture static and moving subjects, and it’s virtually silent thanks to four XD linear motors. This is ideal for video that requires AF tracking.
The 50mm format is also great for Sony’s Eye AF. This is especially useful when taking portraits with the lens wide open.
Like most new Sony Prime lenses, the 50mm lens also has a manual aperture ring that can be set to click every 1/3 f-stop for still images or to make continuous aperture changes for video recordings.
This is controlled by a switch on the side of the lens that is almost across from a programmable focus hold button on the other side next to a second button on top of the lens. This can also be set to ‘A’ for iris control via the camera body.
When focusing manually, the focus ring offers little resistance but is extremely smooth and provides precise focus when the focus distance dial is used in the camera EVF or on the LCD screen.
The latter is ideal for both still images and video shooters because the focus is smooth and precise and the focus ring is rotated from close focus to infinity for a long time.
- Sharp in the entire aperture range
- Strong vignetting when opened wide
- No visible chromatic aberration
With any expensive lens, expectations of exceptional image quality are naturally high – and the Sony 50mm f / 1.2 certainly doesn’t disappoint. In fact, it sets a new benchmark for image quality combined with speed.
Fast lenses are notorious for being a little soft and wide open. The 50mm lens may not be the sharpest, but it remains incredibly sharp, with the sharpness decreasing slightly around the edges of the frame.
There’s also quite a bit of vignetting at f / 1.2 (as you can see above), but this decreases by about 80% at f / 2 and is completely gone at f / 2.8.
The sweet spot of the lens, i.e. the aperture settings that will produce the sharpest results, is 1: 8. If you lower the lens from 1: 1.2, the image in the center and around the edges of the frame will be up to 1: 8 always sharper, with a slight slope at 1: 11.
At 1: 16, the narrowest aperture, the overall image quality drops again due to the diffraction. However, it is highly unlikely that you will ever need or want to shoot f / 16 with this lens.
In terms of aberrations, even at the widest 1: 1.2 setting, the 50mm is free of any streaks, so chromatic aberration is not a problem at all.
This is really excellent for a lens of this type and, along with the exquisite overall image quality, helps justify the high price.
Should I buy the Sony 50mm 1: 1.2 GM?
Buy it when …
You need a fast prime lens
If you need a fast prime lens for shooting in low light and for shooting extremely shallow depth of field, this is the lens for you. The best results are always achieved with full frame A-series cameras, although owners of the APS-C A-series get a focal length of 75mm.
You are shooting astrophotography
If you’re an avid astrophotographer, this lens may not be the widest, but the fast aperture combined with the exceptional f / 1.2 image quality make it a compelling option for capturing the sky at night.
You are a portrait or wedding photographer
For portraits, this lens is absolutely incredible thanks to the shallow depth of field that is created with wide open shots, as well as the absence of any chromatic aberration. In addition, the 50mm works very well with Sony’s Eye AF.
Don’t buy it if …
You are on a budget
It goes without saying, but the 50mm f / 1.2 isn’t exactly the best choice for an absolute value. Alternatively, the Sony FE 55mm f1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T * lens may be more suitable. While it’s not cheap in and of itself, or as fast as the f / 1.2, it’s a lot cheaper.
They never shoot wide open
If your photography style means that you rarely shoot with the maximum aperture setting, then it doesn’t make sense to buy a lens that is optimized for this type of shot.
You want 50 mm on APS-C
If you’re an owner of a Sony APS-C camera and want a 50mm equivalent, the Sony FE 35mm f / 1.4 GM would do better. However, if that’s outside of your price range, the Sigma 30mm f1.4 DC DN lens offers an equivalent focal length of 45mm for a much cheaper price.
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