Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM Review
The Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM (SEL50F14GM) is a very fast standard prime lens for Sony Alpha full-frame mirrorless cameras.
It can also be used on APS-C sensor Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras, where it provides a 75mm equivalent focal length.
This is the second 50mm F1.4 Alpha-system lens that Sony have released, the first being the 7-year-old Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA.
The Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM features 14 elements in 11 groups, including two xtreme aspherical (XA) elements which help to ensure that the image is sharp across the frame and to suppress chromatic aberrations and purple fringing.
There's a Nano AR II coating to minimize internal reflections so that flare and ghosting do not occur and a flourine coating on the front element to prevent fingerprints, dust, oil and other contaminants.
There are two extreme dynamic (XD) linear motors for fast, quiet and precise auto-focusing, and it boasts a dust- and moisture-resistant design.
This lens has a minimum focusing distance of 38cm with a maximum magnification of 0.18x.
It has a circular 11-blade diaphragm which creates a very attractive blur to out-of-focus areas of the image, two customizable focus hold buttons, and an internal focusing mechanism which means the lens barrel doesn't move.
A traditional aperture ring runs from f/1.4 to f/16 in third-stop increments with an Auto setting also available. The Click On/Off switch changes the aperture ring between 1/3 clicked steps and a smooth clickless movement. There's also an Iris Lock switch included for the very first time on a Sony prime lens.
The Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM lens will be available in April 2023 priced at £1500 in the UK, €1700 in Europe, and $1600 in the USA.
Ease of Use
Weighing in at 516g and measuring 80.6mm in diameter and 96mm in length, the hybrid metal and engineering plastic bodied Sony 50mm F1.4 GM is very light and compact for such a fast, 35mm full-frame lens.
Its overall dimensions and weight make it very well-suited to a camera like the Sony Alpha 7R IV that we tested it with, as shown in the photos below, even with the supplied hood attached.
This new lens is 33% lighter than the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA and a whopping 262g lighter than the slightly faster FE 50mm F1.2 GM.
It is also a lot cheaper than its F1.2 sibling, to the tune of around £500 / $400, so unless you're really sure that you'll benefit from the faster maximum aperture of the F1.2 optic, this new lens is potentially a wiser investment.
Compared to the Sigma 50mm f1.4 DG HSM Art, which is one of the biggest and heaviest 50mm prime lenses that we've ever tested with a weight of 910 grams and length of 12.6cm, the new Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM is 3cm shorter and 394g lighter whilst still offering the same maximum aperture.
The Sony 50mm F1.4 GM's build quality is excellent, certainly up to the high standard established by the other flagship G Master lenses in the range.
It has a sealed dust and moisture resistant design, although Sony stops short of saying that it's 100% weather-proof.
The Sony 50mm F1.4 GM lens has a metal lens mount and it accepts 67mm filters via metal threads on the front of the lens.
This is the same filter size as used by the 24mm and 35mm F1.4 GM lenses, which together form a holy trinity of compact, fast primes (there's also the 85mm F1.4 GM, but that has a larger filter size).
The lens has two customisable focus hold buttons which keep 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. It can also, amongst other options, be usefully set to Eye AF.
The lens doesn't feature built-in optical image stabilisation, relying instead on the camera body's stabilisation system, which is fine unless you're an owner of an early Sony Alpha camera.
The Sony 50mm F1.4 GM lens has a fairly wide, ridged focus ring. Manual focusing is possible by using the focus mode switch to toggle between AF and MF.
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 67mm filter thread doesn't rotate on focus.
The Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM lens has two XD linear motors which produce very quiet and smooth focusing, making it well-suited to shooting video, with the overall lens length remaining constant during focusing.
When it comes to auto-focusing, it proved to be an almost silent, very quick performer on the Sony Alpha 7R IV camera that we tested it with. We didn't experience very much "hunting" at all, either in good or bad light, with the lens accurately focusing almost all of the time.
Sony claim that this lens provides 1.9x faster auto-focusing than the older Sony Planar T* FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Zeiss lens.
Sony's near flawless Eye AF works perfectly with this lens, quickly locking onto and tracking the subject's eye despite the non-telephoto view.
The Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM lens features an aperture ring that has 1/3EV stops ranging from f/1.4 to f/16 and an Auto setting.
The Click 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.
Using the Iris Lock switch on the lens barrel, it can also be locked to either the Auto or F1.4-F16 settings to prevent accidental movement of the aperture ring.
The Sony 50mm F1.4 GM lens is commendably supplied with both a soft case and a very good quality, plastic, circular lens hood (ALC-SH173) with a locking button and a rubberized edge to help protect it.
The 50mm focal length provides an angle of view of 47 degrees on a 35mm full-frame camera.
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. The example below shows the worst-case scenario.
With the lens set to its maximum aperture of f/1.4, there is some light fall-off in the corners as you'd expect, requiring you to stop down by at least 3 f-stops to prevent it completely.
There's just some slight barrel distortion evident in both the JPEG and RAW files.
Sunstars and Flare
The Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM is capable of producing quite nice sunstars when stopped-down to f/16, as shown below.
The lens is susceptible to flare when shooting directly into the sun, though, even with the supplied lens hood fitted, but it's mostly well-controlled.
The Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM isn't claimed to be a macro lens, but it does usefully offer a minimum focusing distance of 41cm (AF) / 38cm (MF) with a maximum magnification of 0.16x when auto-focusing and 0.18x when manually focusing. The following examples demonstrate how close you can get to your subject.
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 FE 50mm F1.4 GM lens, Sony have employed an iris diaphragm with 11 circular blades, which has resulted in very appealing bokeh for a standard prime lens.
We do realise, however, that bokeh evaluation is subjective, so we've included several examples below for your perusal.
In order to show you how sharp the Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM lens is, we are providing 100% crops on the following page.