Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA review - Verdict
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Verdict

In my tests the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA left a mixed impression: It is pretty sharp in the center but loses definition already in the APS-C-corner partially due to field curvature, while its control of coma and longitudinal color aberrations is not the best. It may also not be the largest, heaviest wide-angle prime but the lens is still far from compact. It has thorough weather-sealing throughout the body, a large f1.4 focal ratio and a de-clickable aperture-ring but it has no rubber grommet at the lens mount and it’s also pretty expensive.

Let’s put this into perspective and have a closer look at how the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA compares to some alternatives.

 

 

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Above from left to right: Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA, Zeiss Batis 40mm f2.0, Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA, Sigma 40mm f1.4 Art

 

Compared to Sigma 40mm f1.4 Art

With a focal length of 40mm the Sigma 40mm f1.4 Art produces a slightly tighter crop than a 35mm lens. My testing revealed that the optical performance of the Sigma 40mm f1.4 Art is near flawless making it one of the best in the Art line: It is sharper across the full-frame sensor than the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA and has almost no color aberrations and no coma to speak of. The Sigma Art produces very nice Bokeh rendering the background even softer than from the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA. The only optical weakness of the Sigma Art is the focus shift when stopped down from f1.4 to f2.0. But this is only a problem when using the lens on a DSLR body in phase-detect AF. The real let-down of the Sigma Art is its size and weight: At a total length (incl. lens hood) of almost 21cm and a weight of around 1.3kg the Sigma Art is longer and much heavier than the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA. But if you want the very best optical performance the Sigma 40mm f1.4 Art is hard to beat! And it’s cheaper than the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA.

For more details see my Sigma 40mm f1.4 Art review where it earned a Highly Recommended.

 

Compared to Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art

The Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art is available for Canon EF-mount, Nikon F-mount, and Sony E-mount. In size and weight it’s similar to the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA and its price of 750 EUR / 900 USD makes it the cheapest of the f1.4 lenses compared here. The lens produces a very sharp center and a sharper FF-corner than the Sony ZA. Only at the border of the APS-C/DX image-circle its performance is comparably soft like the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA. So the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art is an interesting alternative delivering similar performance with the same focal ratio and focal length at a lower price.

For more details see my  Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art review.

 

Compared to Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA

Ahead of my full review I was able to shoot the Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA at the same time as the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA. The Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA is an alternative for people who want an extremely small and light 35mm lens for their E-mount Sony camera. But naturally the slower focal ratio of f2.8 not only means two stops less light gathering power but also much less potential to blur the out-of-focus regions. The Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA also offers only a meager magnification of 1:7.5. Optically it performs similarly to the FE 35mm f1.4 ZA. It’s the cheapest of the four lenses compared here, although at 700 EUR / 750 USD it still costs a pretty penny – and there’s a much cheaper alternative: the Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE.

Check back soon for my Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA review.

 

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Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA final verdict

Competition is a good thing – but it makes life hard for Sony’s FE 35mm f1.4 ZA: Sigma corners the lens with its 35mm and 40mm Art offerings which are either much cheaper at comparable performance or offer better image quality at a comparable price. And Sony’s more recent 24mm f1.4 GM (see my Sony FE 24mm f1.4 GM review) sets a high bar regarding size and performance; indeed you have to wonder if an improved G Master version of the 35mm f1.4 is in the pipeline. But nonetheless the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA is a clear step-up over its smaller f2.8 ZA sibling with a two stops greater light gathering power, much superior Bokeh, and the de-clickable aperture-ring for continuous and noise-free operation which is important for videographers. It may miss out on our top award, but still earns a recommendation.

Good points:

  • Very good resolution in the center.
  • Very good contrast under contra-light situations.
  • Weather sealing against moist and dust.
  • Fast and reliable AF operation.
  • De-clickable aperture ring.

Bad points:

  • Longitudinal CAs and coma not well controlled.
  • Field-curvature makes APS-C-corner soft.
  • No rubber grommet at the lens mount.
  • High price.

 

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Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA

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