Sony FE 85mm f1.8 review - Verdict
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Verdict

The Sony FE 85mm f1.8 is an affordable small and light short-telephoto lens which is a good match for Sony’s mirrorless bodies. It performs quite well and does not have a single outstanding flaw although there are some weaknesses: wide open it’s not the sharpest 85mm prime lens, it has longitudinal CAs, magenta halos around bright lights, focuses slowly and it has low resistance against flare and glare in strong contra light .

Let’s put this into perspective and have a closer look at how the Sony FE 85mm f1.8 compares to some alternatives.

 

 

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Above from left to right: Sony FE 85mm f1.8, Sony FE 85mm f1.4 GM, Zeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis, Zeiss 85mm f1.4 Otus

 

Compared to Zeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis

The Batis is slightly longer and some 90g heavier than the Sony. But the additional weight is well invested in its very high build quality. The Batis is sharper than the Sony FE 85mm f1.8 and produces less colorful halos around bright lights-sources. Its built-in optical stabilization unfortunately gives it no advantage over the Sony as in my tests it actually delivers slightly less compensation than the unstabilised FE 85mm gains from the sensor-shift stabilization of the Sony A7R II body. It is also slower to focus and has stronger vignetting than the Sony plus it costs twice as much. That puts the Batis right in the region of the very good Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art (see below) which is another alternative to consider.

Seee my detailed Zeiss 85mm f1.8 Batis review.

 

Compared to Tamron 85mm f1.8

The Tamron SP 85mm f1.8 Di USD for A-mount is optically the same as the stabilized version which earned a Highly Recommended in my Tamron SP 85mm f1.8 VC review. The lens produces very sharp images right into the corner of the full-frame sensor. In that it is better than the Sony FE 85mm f1.8 (or the Zeiss Batis). It is priced only slightly above the Sony but you have to add the cost for an adapter – if you don’t already own one. At 700g it is surprisingly heavy for an f1.8 focal ratio but its size is not bulkier than the Zeiss Batis. The A- to E-mount adapter adds 26.5 mm in length though. The Tamron has weather sealing and fluorine coating at the front lens and offers quiet and fast AF operation.

 

Compared to Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art

The Sigma Art AF 85mm f1.4 DG HSM is the only other f1.4 85mm lens with E-mount and autofocus besides Sony’s 85mm f1.4 GM. It is optically superior to the Sony FE 85mm f1.8 and the Zeiss Batis and collects 2/3 of a stop more light with its f1.4 focal ratio. This is also the reason why it’s better than the three f1.8 lenses with respect to creamy Bokeh.  At a price that is comparable to the Zeiss Batis and a similarly impressive build-quality it is an alternative that is well worth considering. Its only real drawback is its size and especially its weight of over 1.2 kg.

For more details see my Sigma 85mm f1.4 Art review.

 

Compared to Sony FE 85mm f1.4 GM

Sony’s flagship G Master 85mm lens is the most expensive of the lenses compared here. Its optical performance is quite impressive and certainly a step-up over Sony’s FE 85mm f1.8. It has the same customizable focus-lock button as its smaller sibling and adds an aperture ring that can be used with clicked 1/3 stops or de-clicked for smooth aperture operation in videos. It’s double the weight of the Sony FE 85mm f1.8 but is still 300g lighter than the Sigma Art. Its major drawback is the price: it costs around three times as much as the Sony FE 85mm f1.8.

Check back soon for my detailed Sony FE 85mm f1.4 GM review or have a look at the Sony FE 85mm f1.4 GM sample images in the meantime.

 

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Sony FE 85mm f1.8 final verdict

The Sony FE 85mm f1.8 has some clear advantages: It is the smallest, lightest and cheapest large aperture 85mm prime lens that autofocuses on Sony mirrorless bodies. It performs quite well and gives you the reach and distinct Bokeh of a 85mm f1.8 lens which is ideal for portrait and street shooters. Should the photographic subject require highest sharpness or lower longitudinal CAs it’s easy to achieve by stopping the lens down to f2.8 or f4.0 – which is helped in many situations by the three stop benefit of the image stabilization provided by the Sony A7 bodies. All in all the Sony FE 85mm f1.8 clearly earns a Recommended!

Good points:

  • Small and light.
  • Good resolution and contrast.
  • Low vignetting and minimal distortions (through lens profile).
  • Low price.
  • Weather sealing.
  • Image stabilization of 3 stops (on a A7R II body).

Bad points:

  • Slow to focus.
  • Longitudinal colour aberrations up to f4.0.
  • Low resistance against flare, glare, and ghosting.
  • ‘Only’ f1.8 focal ratio makes Bokeh less desirable than from f1.4 lenses.

 

Check prices on the Sony FE 85mm f1.8 at Amazon, B&H, Adorama, or Wex. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!
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Sony FE 85mm f1.8

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