Review: Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM

The Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM is the longest fixed-focal length G Master lens. With a brightness of F1.8 and a focal length of 135mm, you get a razor-thin depth of field with this lens. That is of course wonderful for portraits, but the Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM can of course be used for many more types of photography.

Click on the lens for specifications, prices and test results.

TEST RESULTS Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM:

PROS

CONS

  • High sharpness
  • High contrast
  • Little CA
  • Fast autofocus
  • Solid construction
  • Weight and dimensions (for this brightness)
  • Price
  • Weight and dimensions (for a 135mm)
  • Not usable with teleconverters
The Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM is a telephoto lens with exceptional image quality.

The Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM is a bright telephoto lens in Sony’s G Master series for full-frame and APS-C cameras. On APS-C bodies, it works about like a 200mm. On full-frame cameras, it is a nice telephoto range. An 85mm is very suitable for portraits, but actually too short to get the real compression in perspective that one expects from telephoto lenses. With a 135 you get that compression and flattening of the image, while at the same time it is just short enough for portrait photography. An advantage of a 135mm above an 85mm is also that you get a little less background in portraits, which can provide more tranquility. In portraits, however, your distance to your model is slightly larger. In terms of depth of field, the 135mm with its brightness of F1.8 is approximately equivalent to, for example, the Sony FE 85 mm F1.4 GM.

For the time being, the Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM is a fairly unique lens for the Sony system. Sigma also makes a 135mm F1.8, the Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM, but this is in fact a design for SLR cameras and is bigger and heavier. Zeiss has the Zeiss Batis 135mm F2.8. That is an apochromatic lens with very good image quality and lower weight, but it is more than a full stop less bright. For travel photography and landscape, the Zeiss may be more attractive. For portrait photography or (indoor) sports, the Sony offers clear advantages. The only thing that’s a pity about this lens is that you can’t use it with one of Sony’s teleconverters for some extra range. That would have made this lens even more versatile.

BUILD

Weight

The FE 135mm F1.8 GM is a G Master lens, and you can feel that as soon as you have it in your hand. That, of course, is also partly to do with the weight. The Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM weighs almost a kilo. With the thick lens hood on it, the lens comes in a little bit over that. For a 135mm with such a high brightness, however, the weight is quite modest. The Sigma 135mm F1.8 DG HSM Art, the most obvious alternative to this Sony, weighs almost two ounces more. The Sony owes its lower weight largely to the polycarbonate housing. We have said it before: there is nothing wrong with lenses with a body made of high-quality plastic. Less weight is almost always better, plastic feels less cold and when the lens falls, you suffer less permanent damage in the form of dents.

Weather resistance

As a G Master lens, it is of course provided with gaskets around all moving parts and a gasket on the mount to prevent penetration of moisture and dust. The lens has a wide focus ring at the front and an aperture ring at about the middle. That ring clicks into 1/3rd stops and can be made clickless with a switch, for video work. The lens has an AF/MF switch and a slide switch to limit the focus range. There are also two buttons between the focus ring and the aperture ring to lock the focus.

XA and ED

The optical design consists of 13 elements in 10 groups. It contains 1 XA (extremely aspherical) element, 1 element of Super-ED glass and 1 ED element. The diaphragm has 11 diaphragm blades that are also rounded. The filter size is 82mm, and the lens comes with a large, round lens hood.

FOCUSING

The Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM has dual, linear XD motors for focusing, and they do their work in the 135mm particularly well. The focus is particularly fast, and that makes the 135mm also suitable for sports photography. Due to the high brightness, the 135mm with its fast focusing is ideal for indoor sports in moderately lit gyms. The low depth of field ensures that manual focusing at full aperture can also be very accurate. The shortest setting distance is 70 centimeters, and that is quite close for a 135mm lens. For portraits, it’s already more than you need. The magnification scale is 0.25x or 1:4. That is not a macro, but good close-ups are certainly possible as a result.

IMAGE QUALITY

MTF curves bij 10 en 30 linnenparen per mm.
MTF curves at 10 and 30 line pairs per mm.

The sharpness of the Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM is high. This is one of the sharpest lenses we have ever tested in this range. The lens already reaches that high sharpness at almost full aperture. At F1.8, the center sharpness is already very high, and there is a very small gradient to the corners. With only a third stop stopping down, the contrast increases a fraction and the corners tighten slightly, so that the image is actually as good as it can be. You only stop down after that to get extra depth of field or to shorten your shutter speeds.

Color errors

What contributes to this high sharpness impression is the high contrast of the lens and the fact that the lens has virtually no problems with chromatic aberrations. Both lateral color shifts and longitudinal chromatic aberrations are virtually absent. Especially the latter is remarkable. With longitudinal chromatic aberration, you get a color shift in one direction (usually magenta) in blurry areas in the foreground and a color shift in the other direction (green) in blurry areas in the background. Because it occurs in the blurred parts, you see it especially with bright lenses and it can hardly be corrected in the post-processing. The Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM is bright, but hardly bothered by it, and that is a huge plus.

Distortion and vignetting

Distortion is also hardly present. There is a slight pincushion-shaped distortion that is easy to correct in the post-processing and will not lead to a noticeable loss of quality. Vignetting is also very minor, even at full aperture, and that is also unique. Of course, this is not a wide angle, but for a lens with this brightness, the low vignetting is remarkable and a sign of excellent optical design.

Lichtafval op F1.8 en F5.6
Vignetting at F1.8 and F5.6
Bokeh

The bokeh of the Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM is beautiful, especially at full aperture. Bokeh balls are fairly (but not entirely) clean and have a very small edge. That is not perfect, but it will not distract in practice. What is unfortunate is that the bokeh balls are cut off towards the corners and become more elliptical. However, we do not know a bright telephoto in this range that does it better.

Reflections

This is not a lens that you buy for sun stars. Even at F16, they are difficult to create, and even then they are not very well defined. For beautiful sun stars, you prefer an aperture with few, angular blades instead of 11 rounded blades. The lens also suffers little from flare and reflections, as long as you use the supplied lens hood. If you don’t do that, then you have to be careful with sun just outside the image or light that falls on the protruding filter edge and can cause reflections.

 Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM
 specifications
  
field of view (diag)18°
sensor formatfull frame
min. setting distance70 cm
filter diameter82mm
diaphragm blades11, rounded
image stabilizernooo
dimensions (dxl)90×127 mm
weight950 gr
mountSony FE
particularsclickless aperture
importerwww.sony.nl/www.sony.be
list price€ 2000.00
  
resolution/109.5
contrast/109.5
chromatic aberration/55
distortion/54.5
vignetting/55
autofocus/54.5
flare/55
finish/109
  
final score9.3

ConclusiON: REVIEW Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM ON Sony A7R III

The Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM is the sharpest lens in this range we’ve tested.

The Sony FE 135mm F1.8 GM is one of the sharpest lenses we have tested for the Sony cameras. It is also virtually free of lens errors that could impair the high image quality. The optical quality is so high that the hefty price of this lens is very reasonable.