Sony FE 35mm f1.8 review - Verdict
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Verdict

In my tests the Sony FE 35mm f1.8 left a very good impression: It is pretty sharp across the full-frame sensor, has a nice Bokeh, and can be shot confidently under adverse contra-light situations. In addition the lens is small and light, reasonably priced, offers a nice magnification with very usable quality in close-up shooting, and has a multi-function focus hold button.

What’s not to like? Well, its control of coma is not the best. And field curvature softens the performance at the APS-C-corner a bit when shooting landscape or cityscapes wide open. To reduce this effect stop down to f2.8.

Let’s put this into perspective and have a closer look at how the Sony FE 35mm f1.8 compares to some alternatives.

 

 

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Above from left to right: Sony FE 35mm f1.8, Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE, Sigma 35mm f1.2 DG DN Art

 

Compared to Sony FE 35mm f2.8 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 1.3 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 less well than the new FE 35mm f1.8  regarding sharpness, Bokeh, color aberrations. And as the FE 35mm f2.8 ZA is not cheaper I would recommend the newer f1.8 lens over the f2.8 lens unless you need the absolutely smallest and lightest equipment.

For more details see my Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA review where it earned a Recommended.

 

Compared to Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA

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 although the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA is lighter and smaller than the alternatives from Sigma it is still clearly larger and heavier than the new Sony FE 35mm f1.8. The f1.4 Sony offers 0.7 stops more light gathering power and a softer Bokeh over the new lens but color aberrations are stronger and the APS-C- and FF-corner are softer. But if you need the de-clickable aperture-ring for continuous and noise-free operation as a videographer and want the larger aperture and better Bokeh, the FE 35mm f1.4 ZA is the preferred choice – or you think about getting one of those Sigmas.

For more details see my Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA review where it earned a Recommended.

 

Compared to Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE

The Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE is the cheapest alternative in this comparison although it offers 0.7 stops more light gathering power. It’s larger and heavier than the Sony FE 35mm f1.8 but it’s still comparable to the other f1.4 lenses. At f1.8 the lens delivers comparably sharp images as the Sony FE 35mm f1.8. But at larger apertures it becomes visibly softer. The Bokeh is of mixed blessing: it produces larger Bokeh balls at f1.4 than the Sony at f1.8 but the rendering is pretty nervous. And I had issues with focusing: AF performance was less reliable than with the other lenses in this test and manual focus was erratic. That may be individual problems with my copy of the lens but still it left a bad taste. So the Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE may be an interesting alternative delivering similar performance at a lower price. But make sure your copy’s focus performance is up to scratch.

Check back soon for my complete Samyang AF 35mm f1.4 FE review.

 

Compared to Sigma 35mm f1.2 DG DN Art

Sigma’s brand new 35mm lens has the largest focal ratio of any autofocus full-frame 35mm lens available. That bodes well for a nice Bokeh – and the lens delivers: its Bokeh is probably as good as it gets on a 35mm lens. Add to that the light gathering power that is more than 1 stop ahead of the Sony FE 35mm f1.8 and an optical performance that is always a bit better and you have the best 35mm I’ve tested so far. Add in thorough weather sealing with fluorine coating on the front lens, a de-clickable aperture ring, the focus hold button, and a well padded lens case plus strap and you get a well-rounded package that should leave little open to wishes. Unfortunately this performance comes at a price, literally and in size and weight of the lens: Its price is double that of the Sony FE 35mm f1.8 (but only the same as the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA) and it is almost double the size and four times the weight. But still: if you want the best 35mm lens for your full-frame Sony mirrorless camera, the Sigma 35mm f1.2 DG DN Art is it.

Check out my complete Sigma 35mm f1.2 DG DN Art review.

 

Compared to Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art

The Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art is available for Sony E-mount since 2018. But it still is a DSLR design from 2012 – and its age shows. In size and weight it’s similar to the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA and its price of around 700 EUR/USD together with its larger focal ratio of f1.4 makes it look attractive. The lens produces a sharp center and quite a good FF-corner. But the APS-C-corner is soft and color aberrations are high. Personally I’d rather prefer the new Sony FE 35mm f1.8 over the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art.

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

 

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Sony FE 35mm f1.8 final verdict

The Sony FE 35mm f1.8 is a very good addition to Sony’s 35mm full-frame lenses: It surpasses both its 35mm ZA siblings in optical performance but stays small and light, and has a reasonable price tag. It may not have the Bokeh of some larger aperture alternatives and I wish it would have less field-curvature around the APS-C-corner. But the nice magnification with very usable quality in close-up shooting and the multi-function focus hold button add up to an attractive package and makes Sony’s new 35mm lens well worth a recommendation.

Good points:

  • Very good resolution at normal distances.
  • Very good contrast under contra-light situations.
  • Good close-up performance.
  • Weather sealing against moist and dust.
  • Fast and reliable AF operation.
  • Focus hold button.

Bad points:

  • Coma not well controlled.
  • Field-curvature makes APS-C-corner soft.

 

Check prices on the Sony FE 35mm f1.8 at B&H, Amazon, Adorama or WEX. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!
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