Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA evaluate – Introduction
Again in 2006, Sony took over Konica Minolta’s troubled digicam enterprise in a bid to turn out to be a significant participant available in the market. Ten years later in 2016, when this Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA was launched, Sony’s relentless experimentation and innovation had paid dividends, with the Alpha 7 full-frame mirrorless system quickly establishing itself as a severe various to the most effective DSLRs. In 2023, Sony’s web site lists 47 full body E-mount optics, together with no fewer than six 50mm primes. So the place does the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA slot in right this moment?
There’s no level having massively formidable cameras just like the 61-million-pixel Alpha 7R V, among the finest Sony cameras proper now, with out lenses to match. To this finish, Sony has quickly constructed up its full-frame FE vary, which, from a standing begin in 2013, was as much as 17 lenses on the time of the 2016 launch of the premium Zeiss-branded Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA. That was then, after all, and by 2023 Sony’s lens vary has moved on even additional. At this time, Sony continues to be advertising and marketing its Zeiss-branded lenses however they’re now combined in with the corporate’s personal flagship G-Grasp optics. You get the sensation Sony has introduced its premium line in-house, and that the Zeiss lenses at the moment are taking part in second fiddle.
As of 2023, the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA continues to be a front-line 50mm lens for Sony’s full body mirrorless cameras, nevertheless it’s straddled by the cheaper Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 G Grasp and the costlier and undeniably superior Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 G Grasp, which is costlier, however not ruinously so. Each of those G Grasp lenses look tempting options to this older Zeiss lens, so is it nonetheless as interesting right this moment? (See additionally the most effective Sony E-mount lenses.)
Sony’s advertising and marketing tagline for this Zeiss is ‘Tomorrow’s lenses right this moment’, and by this it implies that it’s designing optics to fulfill the necessities of not simply the most recent high-resolution sensors, however future generations as nicely. To this finish, it has established a few premium strains, with its home-grown ‘G Grasp’ vary exemplified by the optics just like the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM. Considerably confusingly, the road developed in partnership with Zeiss is basically parallel, however the lenses have a selected steadiness of optical properties.
Regardless of the design intention, it’s unimaginable to overlook the Zeiss 50mm f/1.4’s worth. At $1,499 / £1299, it’s roughly than the Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 G Grasp, relying in your territory ($1299 / £1499) and never quite a bit lower than the Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM ($1998 / £2099). So how can Sony conceivably justify such a wallet-busting price ticket?
Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA evaluate – Options
One clue to Sony’s intentions is the optical design; with 12 components in 9 teams, that is unusually advanced for a 50mm prime. Certainly, whereas Sony designates it as a refined Planar-type lens, its optical system has strayed nearly unrecognisably from the basic symmetric double Gauss implied by the title. It consists of a sophisticated aspheric factor, which Sony claims has an exceptionally high-quality floor tolerance of simply 0.01μm in a bid to enhance the rendition of out-of-focus areas, whereas offering the sharpest doable picture from the centre to the corners of the body. Additionally on board are an extra aspheric factor and an ED glass factor to maximise distinction, cut back chromatic aberration and suppress distortion.
Sony has additionally included an 11-bladed diaphragm that’s designed to maintain the aperture as near round as doable, and in flip preserve out-of-focus highlights round. Look into the entrance of the lens as you cease down and it’s clear that this serves its function admirably.
On the entrance of the lens is a big 72mm filter thread that doesn’t rotate on focusing, together with a bayonet mount for the deep petal-type hood. When not in use, the hood may be reversed snugly across the barrel, however on this place it does block the manual-focus ring nearly completely. The minimal focus distance is 45cm, which is pretty typical for its class, however like all different full-frame 50mm f/1.4 designs there’s no optical stabilisation.
Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA evaluate – Construct and dealing with
Measuring 83.5mm in diameter and 108mm in size whereas weighing in at 778g, the FE 50mm f/1.4 follows the present vogue of constructing giant lenses with high-quality optics. On this respect, it resembles the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM | Artwork and the Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/1.4, though all three use very totally different optical designs. Whereas this bulk received’t go unnoticed if you’re capturing, the lens isn’t awkward to make use of on the Alpha 7R II physique I used for testing, and I doubt it would discover its means onto smaller APS-C our bodies fairly often.
When it comes to design, the lens is broadly much like Sony’s present FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA. Its barrel maintains the identical diameter alongside most of its size, and it’s encircled by a broad manual-focus ring on the entrance with an aperture ring nearer to the digicam physique. Instantly behind the aperture ring, the barrel tapers dramatically in the direction of the mount – a design that’s vital to provide your fingers area to wrap across the handgrips of the comparatively small Alpha 7 our bodies. The construct high quality is impeccable, with a robust-feeling steel barrel, and dust- and splash-proof building.
Stills photographers can be happy to search out that the aperture ring has detents at 1⁄3-stop increments, from f/1.4 to its minimal setting of f/16. When it comes to really feel they’re good, being neither too unfastened nor overly stiff. There’s additionally an ‘A’ place that passes aperture management to the digicam physique, permitting you to make use of its digital dials in case you desire, as with different lenses. Videographers can be happy to discover a change on the barrel that enables the aperture ring to be declicked, permitting steady, silent changes to its setting.
Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA evaluate – Focusing
Focusing employs a ring-type ultrasonic motor to drive the massive and heavy focus group, with auto or handbook focus chosen by a change on the facet of the barrel. On the Alpha 7R II, I discovered autofocus to be quiet however not particularly quick, with a really noticeable ‘wobble’ again and forwards earlier than deciding on the topic. Focus velocity additionally slows down progressively as you select smaller apertures, particularly in marginal mild, attributable to Sony’s behavior of at all times stopping the lens right down to the taking aperture for focusing. Crucially, although, AF was constantly correct, even when capturing off-centre topics with the aperture large open. This reliability is typical of mirrorless programs, which at all times use the primary picture sensor to find out right focus, and isn’t essentially at all times matched by DSLRs. The AF actuators on this lens are an indication of its age and depend in opposition to it when weighed up in opposition to the newer 50mm f/1.4 and 50mm f/1.2 G Grasp lenses.
Handbook focus is by wire, with the easily rotating focus ring used to drive the AF motor, quite than being mechanically coupled to the main target group. This isn’t essentially probably the most tactile technique of focusing, nevertheless it works nicely sufficient and could be very correct, particularly as turning the main target ring will routinely change the viewfinder to magnified view. However I actually can’t see why Sony couldn’t have used a design much like the FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro, the place pulling the main target ring in the direction of the digicam successfully emulates an previous manual-focus lens, with a distance scale and arduous end-stops on the ends of its journey. It might be much more becoming to a lens of this worth.
Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA evaluate – Picture high quality
In the event you’re going to be spending this a lot cash on a lens, clearly you’ll have fairly excessive hopes by way of picture high quality. Besides, you is probably not fairly ready for the beauties in retailer if you first come to take a look at pictures from this Sony 50mm. It achieves a barely plausible mixture of cross-frame sharpness with gorgeous-looking out-of-focus blur, basically no matter aperture or focus distance. Certainly, few lenses come near resolving as a lot element throughout the body from nook to nook when used at f/1.4.
Lateral chromatic aberration is exceptionally low, with only a trace of crimson and cyan fringing on the corners of the body in case you flip off in-camera compensation after which go looking for it. Nevertheless, uncooked recordsdata comprise profile info for correcting this, which is routinely utilized by each Adobe’s and Sony’s personal software program. Extra impressively, there’s barely any color fringing in out-of-focus areas attributable to longitudinal chromatic aberration, which is way tougher to suppress in post-processing. Mixed with the correct autofocus, because of this pictures constantly come out trying near-perfectly clear and sharp.
Rectilinear distortion is, to all intents and functions, invisible, even in uncorrected uncooked recordsdata. Certainly, the closest factor the lens has to a technical flaw is vignetting at giant apertures, however you’ll get that with any f/1.4 prime. Personally, I discover it provides character to most photographs, and is vital to the distinctive aesthetic of selective-focus capturing. However it’s straightforward sufficient to take away in post-processing in case you don’t prefer it.
All this optical excellence implies that the lens’s pictures are extremely amenable to additional manipulation – for instance, they are often closely cropped with out dropping integrity. The beautiful sharpness additionally helps when capturing at excessive ISO sensitivities, as noise-reduction programs have extra actual element to work with. Sony’s claims that the lens will maintain as much as sensors with even greater resolutions additionally look like nicely based.
Sharpness, shading and curvilinear distortion
At first sight these graphs could look unremarkable, with central sharpness exceeding the corners at all apertures, and the sharpest outcomes round f/2.8-f/5.6. However the precise numbers from our Utilized Imaging MTF evaluation are staggering; this lens is sharper within the centre at f/1.4 than most others handle at their perfect. Remarkably, even within the corners it’s as sharp as most different lenses are within the centre. That is spectacular certainly.
Inevitably for a full-frame quick prime, vignetting is quickly seen, with our exams revealing 1.5 stops of fall-off within the corners of the body at f/1.4. The graceful fall-off profile implies that it’s not objectionable, notably compared to some zooms that present sudden brightness drops within the corners. Vignetting drops to lower than 0.8 stops at f/2 and successfully disappears altogether at f/2.8.
Our exams reveal only a trace of pincushion distortion, nevertheless it’s not seen in regular use. In contrast to with many mirrorless lenses that depend on software program compensation, the optical correction is sort of full. It’s doable to use some extra correction in-camera, however there’s no need.
Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA evaluate – Verdict
It’s at all times slightly troublesome to critically assess a lens this good. Just like the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM launched beforehand, its optical traits are so near good that every one we will sensibly do is admire the images it creates. In the event you’re liable to nitpicking high-resolution picture recordsdata at 100% view on-screen, then perhaps you’ll discover one thing to complain about, nevertheless it appears to me that this type of evaluation has turn out to be quite divorced from any wise means of picture making.
Nevertheless, it’s unimaginable to disregard the related prices of this optical excellence: not simply by way of cash, but in addition dimension and weight. That is very true within the context of increase a system: put collectively, on the time of this Zeiss lens’s launch, Sony’s 35mm, 50mm and 85mm f/1.4 primes weighed over 2.2kg. Nevertheless, quick full body lenses are inevitably large and maybe even getting larger, so whereas this lens regarded large and costly at launch, neither its dimension nor its worth are more likely to increase any eyebrows right this moment.