Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Review

4.5
December 5, 2013 | Mark Goldstein |

Introduction

The Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA is a fast standard prime lens for Sony's new 35mm full-frame E-mount camera system. The FE 55mm offers an extra-bright F1.8 maximum aperture, 9-blade circular aperture, dust and moisture resistance, and a unique T* surface coating. Is the Carl Zeiss FE 55mm the perfect partner for the Sony A7/7R cameras? Read our Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA review to find out...

The Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA is a standard prime lens for the new Sony A7R/A7 full-frame E-mount compact system cameras. It offers a fixed 55mm focal length and extra-bright F1.8 aperture, features seven elements in five groups, and is dust- and moisture-resistant. The Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA has a minimum focusing distance of 50cm and a maximum magnification of 0.14x. It has a near-circular 9 blade diaphragm which creates an attractive blur to the out of focus areas of the image. A special Carl Zeiss T* coating is applied to the lens elements to help reduce lens flare and surface reflections. The Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens will be available for £849 / $999 in the UK and the US, respectively.

Ease of Use

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA The Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens mounted on a Sony A7R

Weighing in at 281grams, the alloy-bodied Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA is a substantial FE E-Mount lens. It complements a full-frame body like the Sony A7R body that we tested it with, as shown in the photos below.

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA The Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens mounted on a Sony A7R

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA The Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens mounted on a Sony A7R

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Top of the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Bottom of the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens

Build quality is excellent, but you'd expect that given the high price of the lens. The Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA has a sealed dust and moisture resistant design and is a natural partner for the A7R and A7 cameras.

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Side of the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Side of the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens

The wide and ridged manual focus ring is the only external control of note. Manual focusing is possible via the generously sized, textured focus ring when set on the specific camera body. The lens utilizes a linear motor to produce quiet and smooth focusing, making it well-suited to shooting video.

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Side of the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Front of the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Rear of the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens

The Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens has a metal lens mount. It accepts 49mm filters via plastic threads.

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Side of the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Side of the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA The Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens in-hand

The lens doesn't ship with a case, but it is supplied with an excellent petal-shaped lens hood.

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA The Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens with the ALC-SH131 lens hood fitted

Focal Range

At the 55mm focal length the angle of view is 43 degrees.

 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Field of view at 55mm

Focusing

The Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA lens has quite a wide focus ring. There are no hard stops at either end of the range, making it a little more difficult to set focus at infinity. Polariser users should be pleased that the 49mm filter thread doesn't rotate on focus.

When it comes to auto-focusing, the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA zoom is a quiet and fairly quick performer on the Sony A7R that we tested it with, taking about 0.2 seconds to lock onto the subject.

We didn't experience much "hunting", either in good or bad light, with the lens accurately focusing almost all of the time, and it's also a quiet performer thanks to the linear motor driven internal focusing, making it ideal for movie shooting.

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as purple or blue fringes along contrasty edges, are only notable by their complete absence from our test shots.

Light Fall-off

With the lens set to its maximum aperture, there is some light fall-off in the extreme corners, but it won't affect your real-world shots.

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Light fall-off

Macro

The Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA isn't claimed to be a macro lens, offering a minimum focusing distance of 50cm and a maximum magnification of 0.14x. The following example demonstrates how close you can get to your subject, in this case a Compact Flash memory card.

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Close-up performance

Bokeh

Bokeh is a word used for the out-of-focus areas of a photograph, and is usually described in qualitative terms, such as smooth / creamy / harsh etc. In the Carl Zeiss Planar T* 55mm F1.4 ZA SSM lens, Sony employed an iris diaphragm with nine rounded blades, which has resulted in very appealing bokeh in our view. We do realise, however, that bokeh evaluation is subjective, so we've included several 100% crops for your perusal.

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA
   
Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA

Sharpness

In order to show you how sharp this lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following page.

Entry Tags

review, samples, lens, compact system camera, test, csc, mirrorless, sample images, jpg, jpgs, 35mm, full frame, sample, full-frame, e-mount, 55mm, a7r, a7, sony a7, sony a7r, sony fe, 35mm full frame, Carl Zeiss, FE 55mm, Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Review