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Sony 50mm f/1.2 GM Versus Zeiss 50mm f/1.4: Why You Should Stick with the Cheaper, Older Lens

Sony recently announced their new beast of a fifty: the 50mm f/1.2 GM, which is getting some glowing reviews. How does it compare to the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 and is it worth splashing out if you already own the older, slower lens?

Photographer Julia Trotti runs you through a quick comparison of the two lenses, giving you an idea of the creaminess of the bokeh and the speed, accuracy, and overall performance of the autofocus. No doubt, the newer, more expensive lens will give better, more consistent results, and while f/1.4 and f/1.2 are only a third of a stop apart, you will get slightly smoother out-of-focus areas from the faster lens when you shoot under the right circumstances.

Trotti was pondering an upgrade and gives a detailed explanation of her choice, which, in an era when it seems that gear lust has never been stronger, is quite refreshing. Price will no doubt be a consideration for many photographer,s and while Sony could probably have charged more than the $1,998 for the 50mm f/1.2, it’s still a fair chunk of cash, especially when you consider that the Zeiss is $500 cheaper.

Would you upgrade to the Sony if you owned the Zeiss? Have you already switched? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below.

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Andy Day's picture

Andy Day is a British photographer and writer living in France. He began photographing parkour in 2003 and has been doing weird things in the city and elsewhere ever since. He's addicted to climbing and owns a fairly useless dog. He has an MA in Sociology & Photography which often makes him ponder what all of this really means.

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I remember commenting on a you tube channel about the announcement on the Sony 50mm 1.2 lens, and basically my assessment was this. The Sony-Zeiss in my opinion, is an optically fantastic lens for sharpness and color. I speculated that the only reason someone should consider the 1.2 lens is if they really wanted that speed and for better video auto focus. My assumption was the newer Sony 50 should focus better for video compared to the Sony Zeiss as I felt that video focusing speed was it's only fault on the Zony. Now I'm reading that the new Sony has focus breathing issues in video. Hopefully they can fix that with a firmware update for those looking to purchase the new lens. For strictly photography, I would still recommend the Sony Zeiss 50 1.4. Whatever you decide, if your a Sony shooter, you have some great options.

Focus breathing is an optical/mechanical design problem. Firmware can't fix that, unless they did a variable crop on the image as the focus changed, which would introduce its own new set of problems.

if I didn't have a 50, then I'd seriously consider the new 1.2. as it is I have the Sony/Zeiss 55mm 1.8 and it does a very comparable job. Not identical, but good enough. And if you shoot at f4 then it is a null question.

The Sony Zeiss 55mm 1.8 with the A7R II is a fairly compact setup. The lens is sharp at 1.8. I'm not sure will upgrade to the Zeiss 50mm 1.4 or GM 50mm 1.2, it's a lot of weight, size and money.

50mm is not the best for achieving subject isolation, 50mm 1.2 results can be matched by a lowly 85mm 1.8 and 85mm is more flattering for portraits but it's not too much focal length to limit inside use. 50mm is good for shooting individual portraits at the table, though.

Whether 50mm or 85mm (or 135mm for that matter) gives best object isolation depends entirely on the distance subject-to-background. As can be seen here: http://howmuchblur.dekoning.nl/#compare-1x-50mm-f1.2-and-1x-85mm-f1.8-on...

Interesting. Depending on the subject, one could go under 0.85m with a 50mm lens. Brings another perspective and more options. Though would say that doesn't happen often.

It will be interesting to see how the new lens does with light transmission. Canon and Sigma are notoriously bad, mostly lose more than half stop in their complex designs. Sony and specially Zeiss do much better. With Nikon somewhere in the middle of the road.

The 50mm 1.2 GM if without comatic aberration should be a good choice for astro photography, although Sony cameras are notorious for "star eating" algorithms.

I recently changed from the Zeiss 50mm f1.4 to the Sony GM f1.2. Zeiss having been my most used lens for three years. f1.8, f1.4, f1.2. It all comes down to the look and DoF you want. For shooting wide open there is a difference bbetween the Zeiss and the GM. It is not a big difference, but it is there. Likewise, the AF is faster and more reliable on the GM. The Zeiss would occasionally fail to grab focus which I haven't seen happen at all on the GM.

Do you prefer the Zeiss or the GM for rendering and 3D pop ?