Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Review

April 28, 2016 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM is a new short telephoto prime lens for the Sony A7-series full-frame E-mount compact system cameras. It features 11 elements in 8 groups including a newly developed, extremely precise XA (extreme aspherical) element that reduces aberration and increases resolution, as well as three ED glass elements. It has a near-circular 11 blade diaphragm, the most ever used in an α lens, which creates a very attractive blur to the out-of-focus areas of the image, Sony’s Nano AR Coating to reduce flare and ghosting, and it’s also dust and moisture resistant. The Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens is available for £1500 / $1799 in the UK and the US, respectively.

Ease of Use

Weighing in at 820g and measuring over 10cm in length, the aluminium alloy bodied Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM is certainly a substantial lens, dwarfing the A7R II camera that we tested it on (especially with the supplied lens hood fitted), as shown in the photos below.

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GMThe Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens mounted on a Sony A7R II

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GMThe Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens mounted on a Sony A7R II

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GMThe Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens mounted on a Sony A7R II

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GMThe Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens alongside a Sony A7R II

Build quality is excellent, a relief given the price-tag. The Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM has a sealed dust and moisture resistant design which makes it well-suited to life in both the field and the studio.

The Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens has a metal lens mount. It accepts 77mm filters via metal threads.

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GMSide of the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GMSide of the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens

The Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM has features a manual aperture ring (1/3 EV stops) and can be easily de-clicked for smooth, silent aperture switching via the dedicated Click switch found on the underside of the lens.

The Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM has a round Focus Hold Button which keeps the lens locked to the current focusing distance, useful if you're auto-focusing and don't want the lens to try and find focus again. The preview function can also be assigned to this button through the camera's custom settings.

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GMFront of the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GMRear of the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens

The Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM has a fairly wide and ridged focus ring. Manual focusing is possible by using the dedicated AF/MF switch to toggle between AF and MF.

The lens utilizes a linear SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor) for smooth auto-focusing, although it's pretty noisy in operation making it less well-suited to shooting video. The overall lens length remaining constant during focusing.

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GMFront of the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GMRear of the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens

The Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM does not feature optical image stabilisation, so it relies on the camera body's own built-in stabilisation.

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GMThe Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens in-hand

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GMThe Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens with the supplied lens hood fitted

The Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens is commendably supplied with both a soft case and a good quality plastic round lens hood (ALC-SH142) which has a button to lock/unlock it.

Focal Range

At the 85mm focal length the angle of view is 29 degrees.

 Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GMField of view at 85mm

Focusing

The Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM 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 77mm filter thread doesn't rotate on focus.

When it comes to auto-focusing, the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM zoom is a fairly quick performer on the Sony A7R II that we tested it with, taking about 0.25 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. It is a noisy lens when auto-focusing, though, making it less than ideal for movie shooting or for candid use in very quiet environments.

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as blue or purple fringes along contrasty edges, were not very apparent in our test shots, only appearing in very high contrast areas.

Light Fall-off and Distortion

With the lens set to its maximum aperture of f/1.4, there is some obvious light fall-off in the corners, requiring you to stop down by at least 2 f-stops to prevent it.

There's virtually no pin-cushion distortion evident either in the RAW files or the JPG files.

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM

Macro

The Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM offers a minimum focusing distance of 80cm when manual focusing and 85cm when auto-focusing, with a maximum magnification of 0.12x. The following example demonstrates how close you can get to your subject, in this case a Compact Flash memory card.

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GMClose-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 Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens, Sony employed an iris diaphragm with 11 rounded blades, which has resulted in very appealing bokeh indeed. We do realise, however, that bokeh evaluation is subjective, so we've included several 100% crops for your perusal.

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM
   
Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM

Sharpness

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

Entry Tags

review, samples, test, sample images, lens, compact system camera, mirrorless, csc, sony, jpg, jpgs, full frame, sample, full-frame, sony a7r, sony a7, a7, a7r, Sony, a7s, 35mm full frame, sony fe, 85mm, Sony FE 85mm f1.4 GM review, Sony FE 85mm f1.4 GM, sony 85mm, 85mm f1.4

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