The Sony FE 85 mm f/1.8 is a nicely compact telephoto lens for the Sony cameras with E-mount. The weight and the price are very favorable, and the brightness is also good. If you are considering purchasing a short telephoto for portraits with beautiful, blurred backgrounds, then this is a lens that should be at the top of your list.
Little gem: Sony FE 85mm f/1.8
The Sony FE 85 mm f/1.8 is a short telephoto lens for the Sony A7 and A9 cameras. The focal point is perfect for portrait photography. And thanks to the fairly high brightness of f/1.8, you can also create great, blurry backgrounds with a beautiful bokeh. The focal length is just a little too short for real telephoto work, where you get a flattened perspective. For that, we would rather choose something like a 100 or 105mm. But that is not yet available in autofocus for Sony. The 85mm is again very nice for isolating details. The FE 85 mm f/1.8 is a light and small lens, especially for this focal length. Besides this f/1.8 version, Sony also makes an 85mm in the GMaster series with a brightness of f/1.4. It is significantly bigger and heavier and much more expensive. Zeiss also makes an 85 mm f/1.8 Batis. This has image stabilization, but is also slightly bigger, heavier and almost twice as expensive. Thanks to the low weight and compact dimensions of the FE 85 mm f/1.8, this is the first choice if you are looking for a portrait lens for traveling or just to have with you at all times.
BUILD AND autofocus
The Sony FE 85 mm f/1.8 is a compact and light lens, with a relatively impressive amount of glass in it. That’s necessary for achieving that high brightness. Despite the low weight, the lens feels solid and is pretty weatherproof. It has a gasket at the back to seal the connection to the camera. It has a nice, wide focus ring that turns lightly but has enough resistance to feel it. When you turn the focus ring, you immediately take over from the autofocus. The lens also has a switch to switch between autofocus and manual focus and a function button that you can program. The manual focus is not linear. That means that the focus goes in smaller steps as you turn the ring more slowly. That is very accurate, but difficult for videographers to move the focus while shooting. The filter size is a very common 67mm, and the aperture has 9 lamellae. The lens comes with a lens hood that you can attach in reverse for transport. It does not have image stabilization or an aperture ring, because these are things that you find on the Sony cameras.
VIGNETTING, FLARE AND DISTORTION
Bright lenses develop vignetting more easily than less bright lenses. But in general, the vignetting is less of a problem with lenses with a bit longer focal length. The Sony FE 85 mm f/1.8 is right in between. At full aperture, you see some vignetting in RAW. It is less than one stop, and that is not so bad. However, it does not decrease quickly with stopping down, and even at f/4, for example, some vignetting can be seen. In jpeg, the recordings have extra contrast, and you even see the vignetting increase. For portrait photography, that is actually quite beautiful.
In RAW, there is a little bit of pincushion distortion present in this 85mm, though it is not much. In jpeg, this is completely corrected, and the image is completely smooth. You can, of course, see the same when you edit the RAW files in programs that automatically apply lens corrections, such as Adobe Lightroom.
Chromatic aberrations can still occur in extreme situations, but they are well suppressed. What you can still see is a slight pink glow in the blurry areas in the foreground and green edges in blurry areas in the background when shooting at full aperture. That is something that almost all bright lenses suffer from to a greater or lesser degree, and telephoto lenses in particular, because they create more blur at full aperture than wide-angle lenses. The 85mm, however, does not suffer much from it. If it is distracting, because of strong shiny blurred areas in the foreground or background, you can reduce it in RAW or eliminate it by just stopping down. The bokeh at full aperture is beautiful, without onion rings in the center of the bokeh balls. There are also few to no hard edges visible around blurred areas. Only light sources just behind your subject can become elliptical, taking on the “cat eyes” shape. The closer they are to the edge, the stronger this effect becomes.
The sharpness of the Sony FE 85 mm f/1.8 is very good. Immediately at full aperture, the lens scores well, both in the center and at the edges and in the corners. That sharpness increases when you stop down, and at f/5.6, you reach the maximum values. In jpeg, you even achieve the best score at f/4, thanks to the lens corrections. After that, the sharpness slowly decreases, but f/11 is still very usable. In practice, there is little to no difference between the shots that you can make with this 85mm and those with the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8.
ConclusiON: REVIEW Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 @ A7Riii
- Outstanding image quality
- Good autofocus
- Great bokeh
- Custom button
- Low price
- No image stabilization on older models
Sony 85mm f/1.8 almost equals the image quality of the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8
The Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 is a very nice lens. It is one of the less expensive lenses from Sony that you can buy for the A7 and A9 cameras, but that says nothing about the image quality, which is particularly good. Thanks to the terrific brightness of f/1.8, you can also create beautiful blurry backgrounds, and the lens is also so light and compact that you can easily take it with you. The lens is a direct competitor of the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8. The Zeiss is bigger, heavier and considerably more expensive and offers virtually comparable image quality. With that, we are not criticizing the Zeiss. That lens is also very good. It says more how unique this Sony is, that it almost equals the Zeiss for this price. The only real advantage that the Zeiss offers is the image stabilization in the lens. But you pay a lot for that. If you have a Sony camera with image stabilization in the body, we advise you to go for the smaller, lighter and cheaper Sony FE 85mm f/1.8.