Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA review - Verdict
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Verdict

The Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA is designed for people who want an extremely small and light general-purpose prime 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 than f1.4 options but also much less potential to blur the out-of-focus regions. The Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA also offers only a meagre magnification of 1:7.5. But it has weather-sealing throughout the body (albeit no rubber grommet at the lens mount), it’s sharp to very sharp within the APS-C image-circle, and is pretty resistant against flare and glare in contra-light situations.

Let’s put this into perspective and have a closer look at how the Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA compares to some alternatives.

 

 

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

 

Compared to Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA

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, a larger magnification of 1:5.3 and a de-clickable aperture-ring for continuous and noise-free operation which is important for videographers. But then it’s much larger and heavier and comes at a price that’s double that of the f2.8 ZA. And not all aspects of its optical performance are superior: It’s pretty sharp in the center but loses definition in the APS-C-corner, and its control of  longitudinal color aberrations is not the best. So it missed out on our top award, but still earns a recommendation..

For more details see my Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA review.

 

Compared to Zeiss Batis 40mm f2.0 CF

The Zeiss Batis 40mm f2.0 CF is an attractive lens: Not only is it one stop brighter but it is also sharp into the corners of a full-frame sensor, has very low color aberrations and only little coma, and offers a very useful close focus ability with a magnification of almost 1:3. And although clearly larger and heavier than the Sony FE 35mm f2.8 the Zeiss Batis is still of moderate size and weight and it offers thorough weather-sealing and solid build quality. It also features an OLED display for useful distance and depth-of-field information. Its Bokeh is better than from the Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA but less attractive than from the f1.4 alternatives. If you can live with the slightly narrower field-of-view over a 35mm lens the Zeiss Batis 40mm f2.0 CF is an interesting alternative that comes at a price point right between the Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA and the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA.

For more details see my Zeiss Batis 40mm f2.0 CF review where it earned a Highly Recommended.

 

Compared to Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art

At a price that is very close to the Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA (750 EUR / 900 USD) the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art is two stops brighter, allowing you to achieve shallower depth-of-field effects or shoot in lower light while maintaining fast shutters or low ISOs. In size and weight it’s similar to the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA, so much larger and heavier than the Sony f2.8 version. The lens produces very sharp center and sharper FF-corners than both Sony ZA lenses. Only at the border of the APS-C/DX image-circle is its performance is comparably soft like the Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA. Still the Sigma 35mm f1.4 Art is a feasible alternative for those looking for a large aperture 35mm lens at a reasonable price.

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

 

Compared to Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE

The Samyang AF 35mm f2.8 FE looks like the Joker in this comparison. I was not able to test the lens that is even smaller and lighter than the Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA – and much cheaper too at 250 EUR / 270 USD. But the very similar optical design and the MTF-charts of the Samyang suggest performance comparable to the Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA. Where the Samyang is clearly inferior to the Sony is the weather sealing: The Samyang has none. But if you’re on a very tight budget that may not matter much. Still I’d hesitate to recommend matching a modern full-frame mirrorless body costing 4 figures with an extremely cheap lens – which I have not yet tested. Hopefully I’ll get a chance to try it in the future.

 

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Sony FE 35mm f1.4 ZA final verdict

When you first see this lens you can hardly believe that its image-circle covers a full-frame sensor. But it does – and with relatively good results: It’s pretty sharp in the APS-C image-circle and not too soft outside, it has very good contrast under contra-light situations and its autofocus is quiet, fast, and reliable. The Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA is thoroughly sealed on the inside but misses the rubber grommet at the lens mount. Probably its weakest point is the meagre Bokeh it produces with its focal ratio of only f2.8 which also makes it not the fastest lens in low light. But if your priority is small and light I can certainly recommend this lens.

Good points:

  • Very small and light.
  • Good to very good resolution in the APS-C image-circle.
  • Very good contrast under contra-light situations.
  • Extensive weather sealing against moist and dust.
  • Fast, quiet, and reliable AF operation.

Bad points:

  • Focal ratio of f2.8 and onion rings spoil the Bokeh.
  • Relatively soft full-frame corner.
  • No rubber grommet at the lens mount.
  • Maximum magnification of only 1:7.5

 

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Sony FE 35mm f2.8 ZA

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