Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Review

October 3, 2016 | Mark Goldstein | |

Introduction

The Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA is a new standard prime lens for full-frame Sony Alpha cameras. Designed to be the ultimate “fast 50”, the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA is comprised of 12 elements in 9 groups with 1 AA element, 1 Aspherical element and 1 Extra-Low Dispersion element and it has a rounded 11 blade diaphragm which creates an attractive blur to the out of focus areas of the image. The Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA features an aperture ring with an adjustable ON/OFF switch, an AF/MF focus mode switch, and a dust and moisture resistant design. The lens has a minimum focusing distance of 45cm/1.47ft and a maximum reproduction ratio of 0.15x. The Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens retails for £1500 in the UK, $1500 in the US, and €1,800 in Europe.

Ease of Use

Weighing in at 778 grams and measuring 10.8cm in length, the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA is a very big and heavy lens given its focal length, and significantly larger and heavier than the Sony FE 50mm F1/8, Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA and the Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FE. As seen in the photos below, it rather dwarves the full-frame Sony A7R II camera, especially with the lens hood attached.

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA The Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens mounted on a Sony A7R II

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA The Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens mounted on a Sony A7R II

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA The Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens mounted on a Sony A7R II

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA The Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens alongside a Sony A7R II

Build quality is excellent. The lens has both a metal housing and a metal mount. The optical elements are made of high-grade glass and aspherical lenses have been included to minimise aberration and unnecessary light dispersion. The focus ring is pleasingly wide and ridged for easier grip.

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Side of the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Side of the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens

Focusing is usefully internal and manual focusing is possible when set using the dedicated switch on the bottom-left of the lens barrel. Full-time manual focus override is not available, and there's no distance and/or depth of field scale either.

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Front of the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Rear of the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens

The dedicated aperture ring has 1/3EV stops ranging from f/1.4 to f/16 and an Auto setting. A dedicated switch on the bottom-right of the lens barrel lets you select whether the aperture ring clicks into place at each aperture stop or rotates smoothly for silent operation during movie recording.

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Side of the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Side of the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens

The Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA ships with a soft drawstring bag and a large plastic petal-shaped lens hood (ALC-SH143). It accepts 72mm filters.

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA The Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens in-hand

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA The Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens with the supplied hood fitted

Focal Range

A 50mm focal length gives an angle of view of 47 degrees on 35mm full frame sensor. Mount the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA to an APS-C camera and you’ll have a focal length equivalent to 75mm, resulting in a 32 degree angle of view.

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA 50mm

Focusing

The Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens has a very wide focus ring. There are no hard stops at the ends of the range, making it more difficult to set focus at infinity. Polariser users should be pleased that the 71mm filter thread doesn't rotate on focus.

When it comes to auto-focusing, the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA is a fairly quick performer, taking about 0.25 seconds to lock onto the subject when mounted on the Sony A7R II that we tested it with.

We didn't experience too much "hunting", either in good or bad light, with the lens accurately focusing almost all of the time. It has a quiet focusing mechanism, which makes this lens well-suited to video recording.

Chromatic Aberrations

Even without exploiting Sony’s in-camera aberration correction, the FE 50mm is very resistant to fringing and you’ll have to shoot extremely high contrast scenes and scrutinise very closely to spot any.

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA

Light Fall-off and Distortion

With the lens set to its maximum aperture of f/1.4, there is significant light fall-off in the corners. Stopping-down to f/5.6 virtually eliminates this.

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Light fall-off at 50mm

Macro

The Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA isn't claimed to be a macro lens, with a minimum focusing distance of 45cm/1.47ft and a magnification reproduction ratio of 0.15x. The following example demonstrates how close you can get to your subject, in this case a Compact Flash memory card.

Samyang AF 50mm f/1.4 FEClose-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 Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA lens, Sony employed an iris diaphragm with 11 rounded blades, which has resulted in fantastic bokeh in our view. We do realise, however, that bokeh evaluation is subjective, so we've included several 100% crops for your perusal.

Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA
   
Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA

Sharpness

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

Entry Tags

review, test, sample images, mirrorless, jpegs, sony, jpgs, 50mm, sony fe, manual focus, sony aps-c, 50mm lens, auto-focus, auto focus, fast fifty, sony full frame, sony mirrorless, fast 50, Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA, sony AF 50mm f1.4 FE, Sony AF 50mm f1.4 FE review