There’s no question that if Sony wants their mirrorless system cameras to succeed, they must be supported with a vast and varied collection of lenses. Today they unveiled the FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA lens, a large aperture prime lens utilizing a Planar design that will soon be found in portrait, wedding, and street photographers’ bags. I was lucky enough to be one of the first people to see and use this lens for a day’s worth of shooting, so take a look at some sample images and my first impressions.
On the heels of another recent large aperture lens release from Sony — the FE 85mm f/1.4 GM — comes the FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA sporting a wider focal length that many call home. However, it is interesting to note that this 50mm is in fact not a G Master release (Sony’s new premium line), rather a new Sony-Zeiss partnership lens. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, not at all, as there’s been a number of nice quality Sony-Zeiss lenses.
The Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA lens construction features 12 elements in 9 groups, with 1 extra-low dispersion element and 2 aspherical elements. As you may suspect, there’s also a Zeiss T* Coating to manage lens flare and ghosting which benefits overall clarity.
With an 11-bladed aperture, the lens is able to attain some really beautiful, all-important bokeh. Also, by utilizing a Planar design for the glass, sharpness is held from the center of the frame to the corner and there’s minimal distortion.
Moviemakers will benefit from the lens’ ring-drive SSM autofocus system which operates at near silence as well as the manual aperture ring and the ability to de-click it for seamless transitions through f-stops. Of course you can always set the aperture ring to “A” for on-camera control. In addition to the on/off switch for aperture clicks, there’s also a AF/MF focus mode switch present.
The Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA lens will ship in July and cost $1,500 USD or $1,950 in Canada.
First of all, the exterior shape is much like the FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA with only a few differences. Not far from the base of the lens mount it shoots out and meets the sides of the barrel. If you have trouble gripping an a7II-series camera with the 35mm ZA or 85mm GM due to the minimal gap between grip and lens, you might run into the same issue with the new 50mm ZA.
The tight-ribbed focus ring is very much like a Zeiss lens, and unlike the FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA there is now ribbing around the entire aperture ring so you can always feel where you are on the lens without looking. The matte black finish looks right at home on Sony a7II-series cameras just as you would expect. I think I picked this up at an early age in my photography life, but petal-style lens hoods always seemed to look more “professional.” Luckily for me, this lens has it — although honestly they can really bug me by snagging on everything when trying to pack the lens away front down in a shoulder bag.
The 50mm ZA measures in at 3.375-inches by 4.375-inches and weighs 1 pound 11.5 ounces. There’s no mistaking it for one of Sony’s earlier slimmer and lighter mirrorless lens varieties. I do appreciate that it uses the same 72mm filter size that many other FE lenses have so I don’t have to buy and carry around another adapter for my Lee Seven5 filter kit.
I noticed very little to no chromatic aberrations or flaring while shooting with the 50mm f/1.4 in a number of lighting scenarios, from flash photography to high-contrast scenes outdoors when the sun was low. The lens construction with ED and AA glass elements and T* coating really do an outstanding job at controlling any negative effects that could harm image quality. The contrast you get from this lens is also up to par with expectations of a Zeiss.
1/60 s @ f/8, ISO 100
No chromatic aberrations in the high-contrast areas. 1/200 s @ f/8, ISO 100
Paired with the flagship Sony a7R II camera, image quality is excellent from what I see. Again, I only used the lens for a day at this point but it does produce clear, sharp images and there’s no reason to shy away from inspecting photos at full resolution. I also have to say that the out of focus areas that the 50mm f/1.4 produces are really clean. Combine the 11-bladed aperture with a shallow depth of field and you are really cooking.
As a walk-around lens I think it’s a solid choice if 50mm suits your style. It isn’t overly cumbersome and if anything the weight keeps your camera from flopping around when hung from your shoulder.
The Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA is priced at $1,500 which lines up well with its closest relative, the $1,598 FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA. There is not really any other 50mm range E-mount lens that compares at the moment with a high number of elements and aperture blades, wide aperture, and autofocus. As I said in the beginning however, this is where Sony wants to be. They need incomparable lenses joining their lineup in order to continue building a healthy platform.
The Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA is now available to pre-order through B&H Photo.