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Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lab Test Review

January 2014 | By Andy Westlake
Buy on Amazon.com From $998.00

The FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* is one of the first three lenses available for Sony's full-frame E-mount system, having been announced alongside the Alpha 7 and 7R camera bodies. It's a slightly long 'normal' prime designed for everyday photography, and its relatively fast F1.8 aperture makes it a good choice for selective focus work or shooting in low light. Its 7-element, 5-group optical design includes three aspherical elements to minimise aberrations, which is unusual for this type of lens.

The 55mm is a large-ish lens for its type (it's 71mm / 2.8" long), but even so, when coupled with the A7 or A7R it's still more compact than comparable full frame SLR options (as the cameras themselves are slimmer). It's also decidedly expensive, at around $999 / £910 / €940 at the time of writing. It's pretty clear that this isn't going to be quite the same proposition as the inexpensive 50mm F1.8 primes available for full frame SLRs - indeed it costs several times as much as the average 50mm F1.4.

The FE 55mm F1.8 can also be used on Sony's APS-C E-mount bodies, on which it will behave like a classic short telephoto 'portrait' lens. However most users of these cameras will probably find the Sony E 50mm F1.8 OSS to be a better choice, as it's much cheaper and includes optical image stabilisation, while offering decent optical quality too.

Headline features

  • 55mm focal length
  • Fast F1.8 maximum aperture
  • FE lens for full frame Sony E-mount cameras (also works on APS-C E-mount models)

Lens test data

The 55mm F1.8 lives up to its Carl Zeiss branding, returning truly superb test results on the Alpha 7R. It's extremely sharp, shows little chromatic aberration or distortion, and has entirely acceptable levels of vignetting. In fact it comes very close indeed to the astounding (but $4000) Zeiss Otus 55mm F1.4.

Sharpness Sharpness is simply spectacular. At F1.8 the 55mm is impressively sharp, outperforming the 50mm F1.8s for Canon and Nikon SLRs by a substantial margin (and the 50mm F1.4s for that matter, too). It just gets better on stopping down; at F4 and F5.6, central sharpness is literally off the charts (helped here by being tested on the 36MP, AA filterless A7R). Diffraction takes the edge off sharpness at F22, as usual, but this setting should still be perfectly usable when depth of field is a priority.
Chromatic Aberration Chromatic aberration is pretty low. There'll be some green/magenta fringing visible towards the extreme corners of the frame if you look closely, but it's unlikely to be hugely objectionable. It will be automatically corrected in the camera's JPEGs, too.
Vignetting Vignetting is kept pretty well under control, at 1.6 stops wide open, which is perfectly respectable for a fast prime. The falloff profile is rather gradual too, which tends to make any vignetting less visually objectionable.
Distortion Distortion is extremely low, with just a little barrel-type visible if you look closely. This will also be corrected automatically by the camera when shooting JPEG.

The scale of Sony's achievement here becomes clear when comparing the FE 55mm F1.8 directly to the Zeiss Otus 55mm F1.4, which lays a strong claim to being the best lens for which we have test data. The Otus still just about comes out on top - it measures as slightly sharper wide open - but it's unlikely any difference will be particularly visible in real-world photography. The Otus also just about wins out on chromatic aberration and distortion, but overall the Sony can certainly wear its Zeiss badge with pride.

Compared to the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 II or Nikon AF-S Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G, the Sony is quite simply in a different class in terms of wide-open sharpness. This is only to be expected, given its much higher price and far more modern design, but it does give some idea of why Sony feels it can charge a premium for the lens. The Zeiss also beats Nikon's latest, and even-more-pricey AF-S Nikkor 58mm f/1.4G for sharpness in these tests - it really is very good indeed.

Summary

From the lab test results, the Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA is quite simply one of the sharpest lenses we've seen. It's clearly been designed with the demands of modern high resolution sensors in mind, and is easily a match for the currently class-leading resolution of the Alpha 7R. It's impossible to ignore its price, but in this case, there's a pretty good argument that you get what you pay for.

Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* specifications

Principal specifications
Lens typePrime lens
Max Format size35mm FF
Focal length55 mm
Image stabilisationNo
Lens mountSony E (NEX)
Aperture
Maximum apertureF1.8
Minimum apertureF22.0
Aperture ringNo
Number of diaphragm blades9
Optics
Elements7
Groups5
Special elements / coatings3 aspherical elements
Focus
Minimum focus0.50 m (19.69)
Maximum magnification0.14×
AutofocusYes
Motor typeStepper motor
Full time manualUnknown
Focus methodInternal
Distance scaleNo
DoF scaleNo
Physical
Weight281 g (0.62 lb)
Diameter64 mm (2.52)
Length71 mm (2.8)
MaterialsAll-metal construction
SealingYes
ColourBlack
Zoom methodRotary (internal)
Power zoomNo
Zoom lockNo
Filter thread49 mm
Hood suppliedYes
Hood product codeALC-SH131
Tripod collarNo


This lens review uses DxOMark data thanks to a partnership between dpreview.com and DxO Labs (read more about DxOMark and our partnership with DxO Labs). DxOMark is the trusted industry standard for independent image quality measurements and ratings. DxOMark has established this reputation with its rigorous hardware testing, industry-grade laboratory tools, and database of thousands of camera, lens and mobile test results. Full test results for this lens can be found at www.dxomark.com.


If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read the Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).

Conclusion / Recommendation / Ratings are based on the opinion of the reviewer, you should read the ENTIRE review before coming to your own conclusions.

Images which can be viewed at a larger size have a small magnifying glass icon in the bottom right corner of the image, clicking on the image will display a larger (typically VGA) image in a new window.

To navigate the review simply use the next / previous page buttons, to jump to a particular section either pick the section from the drop down or select it from the navigation bar at the top.

DPReview calibrate their monitors using Color Vision OptiCal at the (fairly well accepted) PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the (computer generated) grayscale blocks below. We recommend to make the most of this review you should be able to see the difference (at least) between X,Y and Z and ideally A,B and C.

This article is Copyright 2014 and may NOT in part or in whole be reproduced in any electronic or printed medium without prior permission from the author.

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Comments

Total comments: 310
12
Flashback

'The 55mm F1.8 is quite sharp and also enjoyable to use'

It's actually from the A7 review, 'Handling and shooting Experience' page

It made me smile when I read that. Talk about damned with faint praise!

11 upvotes
dynaxx

Hear, Hear !

Perfect Will' Shakespeare quotation ( Merchant of Venice, I think ) to summarise how bleak and downcast the A7 review was. Please, oh please give Andy Westlake some input into the A7R review if you want to minimise the damage.

Comment edited 54 seconds after posting
7 upvotes
quezra

DPR, like tons of DPR readers, never could get over the prejudice of reading the paper specifications and concluding it was overpriced. Don't judge a lens by its f-stop! (judge it by its sharpness, bokeh, contrast and T-stop)

4 upvotes
Heaven is for real

Wow, time to sell your gear and switch people...Sony is non stop innovating and adding more impressive lens like this one. Nothing compare, this lens blew away best of Canon and Nikon....

10 upvotes
BobYIL

One thing is for sure: It is "the reference" normal lens below $1.000.

4 upvotes
RichRMA

Just not quite as good as the OTUS line. I never thought I'd see the day when 50mm f/1.8 lenses cost $1000+, except maybe Leica's.

0 upvotes
white shadow

Well, I am not surprise as the Zeiss ZE/ZF 50mm f/2.0 Macro (made for a few years now) also cost about $1000+ and I would say it is worth the price they are selling it. Until the Otus, this is probably the best 50mm lens for full frame.

The built quality, colour rendition, micro-contrast (3D effect) and smoothness of the manual focus is just typical Zeiss and could not be obtain from other brand except perhaps Leica.

Comment edited 3 times, last edit 13 minutes after posting
6 upvotes
Sergey Borachev

Looks great, but still not sure as DXO is involved in the lens testing. I will wait for Lenstip and Photozone to be sure.

Correction. These are DXO's test results, not DPR's.

Comment edited 9 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
jdu_sg

yeah, I;m sure DPR is allowing DxO Mark to publish crap results for them.

2 upvotes
Sergey Borachev

Unfortunately, DPR is not what it used to be. It does not seem to be growing with the industry and needs, except in these forum visits, it seems to rely on others doing reviews for it. Some cameras and lenses still take a long time to get reviewed if at all, although we do get a lot of previews.

Comment edited 37 seconds after posting
1 upvote
Tonio Loewald

In the past, DPR didn't do lens reviews (or did them so sporadically it wasn't useful), so is it better that they cooperate with DxO to provide lens reviews, or simply not do lens reviews?

That said, I vastly prefer Photozone's lens reviews.

2 upvotes
joger

that's why I normally never use filter except ND filters in certain situations.
Almost all Lenses are calculated to work best without filters.

With a filter in front of the previous lens you get 2 extra surfaces and possibility for reflections and you get the chance of multiple
reflections between the flat filter and the curved front lens.

For me more then obvious that this can be a root cause for degradation of the optical system.

On top of that you loose a bit of light and sometimes contrast and you can get ghosting and flare . . .

All in all a best case mediocre idea to put a filter in front of a high class lens just for protection or UV blocking purpose in area where UV is no issue

0 upvotes
Emacs23

Photozone guy is a pure joke. Telling you cannot compare resolutions between different system is a BS. Resolution is ABSOLUTE value and was invented for such comparisons. Although its technical data is OK. But its rating is far more awful than one of DxO. Just a sample: Pentax 31Ltd on K10 has higher rating than 31Ltd on K-5, although this lens has higher resolution with K-5. This guy seems to measure lens greatness based on its uniformity, which is always relative scale and thus cannot be compared. In other words, that guy has problems in general understanding and knowledge.
I didn't read about lenstip testing procedure though, so cannot comment it.

0 upvotes
Emacs23

So, took a look about lenstip procedures. Their results are certainly interesting but useless, because they don't seem to take cameras into account.

0 upvotes
chadwads

http://slrgear.com/reviews/showproduct.php/product/1656/cat/82

0 upvotes
Emacs23

@chadwads
Good thing you put this link here. Add another one useless "testing" site to my list. Any testing is only usable when it provides some basis for comparison. The slrgear is obviously not.
The same lens on larger sensor with larger amount of pixels always has higher resolution in terms of LW/PH, this is straight consequence from testing procedure. The testing procedure itself is a generalization of the way people shooting. And in this SLR gear graph FE 55 on NEX-7 has better graph than on D800 even at areas that refers to the same area of lens coverage.
So, people, think next time before to suggest these crappies (photozone, lenstip, slrgear) as viable alternative to dxomark lens testing. They are not even close to purity and adequacy of dxo methodics.

Comment edited 43 seconds after posting
0 upvotes
chadwads

Dearest Emacs. I simply added another source of evaluation, which btw, would seem to be very much inline with your beloved DXOMark and was released far earlier than theirs.

0 upvotes
eths

wow, just wow...

2 upvotes
Richt2000

Paired with the A7r it is exceptional.

I haven't been this as over the moon with a camera/lens combo since that day in September 2005 when I got my Canon 5Di and 24-105 L kit.

10 upvotes
webrunner5

I still have a Canon 5Di and 24-105 L. And it still gets the job done. A pretty darn good combo.

1 upvote
Richt2000

It is in't it. Such clean files and very sharp at pixel level. Still hold's its own 8.5 years on!

0 upvotes
shaocaholica

Sharpness is overrated for the casual photographer.

7 upvotes
String

And a 36mp FF sensor isn't? <boggle>

21 upvotes
Richt2000

What casual photog is this £800 lens aimed at?
This is the second best lens ever made and still people are negative. Unbelievable.

35 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer

I think this lens is aimed at Lloyd Chambers as a less expensive substitute for his mirror slap studies.

1 upvote
Timbukto

Sharpness is overrated but croppability is underrated. If the 36MP Sony gives you about 15MP at crop, its clearly in the same league as many expensive and popular mirrorless alternatives (Fuji, Pana, Olympus). So if you couple a 55 1.8 and perform an APS-C crop you get the ability to significantly crop and frame tighter. Considering the Olympus 45mm 1.8 is very well regarded and costs 300-400 bucks, for 1k the Sony gives you a overkill ridiculously sharp 55mm 1.8 and a lens/system combo that when cropped significantly yields you performance of popular MFT lens/systems...thats pretty good.

6 upvotes
Andrew Booth

Timbukto - indeed, this was the joy of Medium Format back in the day. You took pictures on your Hasselblad and 80mm, then were able to impressively crop in once back home/at the lab.

It makes prime lens shooting a much more forgiving and enjoyable experience, when you can kind of treat one like a limited zoom.

0 upvotes
Emacs23

@Timbukto
Then, the cropability of A7r+FE 55 is overrated too. Just check how it works with NEX-7. Not an Otus level anyway. Well, IMO it is even arguably worse than SEL 50.

0 upvotes
ChapelThrill23

One of the biggest issues that the Sony systems have right now is how expensive the native lenses tend to be. I don't doubt that they are very high quality but other mounts offer some optional but still quality lenses at more modest prices too.

1 upvote
sandy b

A lens of this quality under a thousand is a bargain. You want first class sensors you need first class glass. this lens delivers in spades.

25 upvotes
ChapelThrill23

$1000 is a lot of money for most people. Particularly when you are buying multiple lenses. I like the Nikon approach. They have some very well reviewed primes that deliver 90-95% of what their top level primes do (for instance the 85 1.8G gets fantastic reviews) for much less. Canon does the same thing. I think its important to have that in a system.

3 upvotes
Richt2000

Yep, just like Sony's £200 50/1.8 OSS for they cheaper crop bodies...

8 upvotes
quezra

FE 55 has proven it is cheap for the quality you're getting (or that Nikon 58/1.4 is a rip-off). If you want budget FF there's always legacy nifties which are excellent - I have a couple!

10 upvotes
Heaven is for real

ChapelThrill23 , if you want a premium brand, you have to invest. Otherwise, there is always Canon and Nikon cameras you can choose from.

0 upvotes
Photomonkey

I see the bus of cheap trolls just stopped at DPR.

5 upvotes
viking79

It really is a wonderful lens, and given that the light transmission is about the same as the Nikkor 58mm f/1.4 it is a bargain price, and resolves far more detail than that lens. At least the Nikon is good if you want "character".

11 upvotes
Den Sh

To tell the truth this lens completely embarrasses new nikon. http://www.dxomark.com/Lenses/Compare/Side-by-side/Sony-FE-Carl-Zeiss-Sonnar-T-STAR-55mm-F18-versus-Nikon-AF-S-Nikkor-58mm-F14G-on-Nikon-D800___1252_0_1254_792

Just look at sharpness map at f/1.8. Nikon is just not worth half of the price it's being sold for.

13 upvotes
G1Houston

"If you want the nicest rendition of out of focus areas, and/or want to do a lot of night urban scenes with point lights, and don't mind the price, the 58mm Nikkor is a good choice."

See the whole thread here: http://photo.net/nikon-camera-forum/00cLa4?start=0

In short the Nikon is not designed to be sharp edge to edge but to work well rendering smooth bokeh in night photography when point light source (a bokeh killer) is common. It is a very specialized lens, thus the very high price, with features that cannot be easily measured by shooting charts.

7 upvotes
sgoldswo

In fairness the new Nikon was designed for bokeh performance rather than test chart sharpness. For a lot of purposes you might well be better off shooting with the nikon than this sony.

1 upvote
sandy b

Beautiful job, great lens.

3 upvotes
Suave

I have a single question - can a camera, equipped with this lens, track?

0 upvotes
whtchocla7e

It should be able to track static objects without a problem.

18 upvotes
viking79

I think I would hire a hunting guide if you want to track. Seriously though, this lens works fine for portraits, etc and it focuses fairly quick for a large aperture prime as long as light levels are good. What are you trying to photograph?

2 upvotes
Heaven is for real

how do you track a "static" object? ;-)

1 upvote
vesa1tahti

Without moving the camera !

2 upvotes
vesa1tahti

To Heaven is for real: without moving the camera !

0 upvotes
Heaven is for real

Maybe I am not getting it, static object mean a stationary subject, right? so of course we don't need to move the camera. Am I missing something? please give me a sample of a "track "static" object"....

0 upvotes
Dimit

To Heaven is for real :
Have you ever heard of the word ''joke'' ????

1 upvote
AbrasiveReducer

I think it's unfair to compare to Canon and Nikon 50 1.8 lenses because these designs were traditionally made as cheap as possible so if the customer had any money left after buying the body, they could still afford a lens.

With the expensive Otus and the not great 58mm Nikon, this Sony seems like a deal. If you really like 50mm lenses.

3 upvotes
TrojMacReady

You can compare it to the Canon 50 1.4 and 1.2 or the Sigma 50 in the DXO databaste.

6 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer

The Canon 1.4 is old and less than half the price. I'm sure this Sony is better than the Canon 1.2 but these really aren't the same type of lens.

1 upvote
MikeF4Black

@Abrasive: the "not great" 58. You've used it, or are you just parroting what you read on the net?

4 upvotes
sgoldswo

In a lot of cases it would be preferable to have more attractive bokeh than a sharper subject. That's what the nikon 58 does, but that's also why it doesn't rate very highly on dxo. This sony on the other hand is optimised to achieve the highest sharpness rating on dxo. Nothing wrong with that but it's comparing apples to oranges...

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
tkbslc

Pretty impressive.

However, what about all the other photographers who don't have the money or need for the absolute best? A $400 50mm f1.4 is fantastic for most of us. A7 is a pretty cheap FF body. Seems like a handful of $400-600 primes would be in order.

1 upvote
PaulDavis

I would love to see some affordable fast primes too. Although if I wanted a 55mm I would save up for this one just because of it being so good. For now I will be sticking with some Rokinon glass for some of my fast primes. I currently own the 35mm FE and it is fantastic.

1 upvote
G1Houston

The only way for most of us to justify the cost is that if you buy this lens, as well as the 35/2.9, you do not have to buy a 50 and 85mm lens, as the 58mm can more or less do head/shoulder half body shots that we encounter more often on a daily basis. Of course SONY must have thought of this so they made the 35/2.8 almost as expensive, while the new Nikon 35/1.8 is "only" $600.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 51 seconds after posting
1 upvote
tkbslc

Sorry, but I disagree that the extra 5mm suddenly lets this lens act as a 85mm portrait lens.

6 upvotes
String

If you dont have the money or need the absolute best, why on earth would you buy a 36mp FF body in the first place? Like seriously, you buy a top end sensor but want to cheap out on the glass?

11 upvotes
Timbukto

It is *not* the extra 5mm that lets it behave like an 85mm, its the 166% resolving power wide open on a 36MP sensor. It is *not* going to behave like an 85mm on the 36MP FF sensor...the question is does it get close to 85mm equivalent on smaller or lower resolution sensor/lens systems? Obviously not in terms of DOF, but with smaller sensor systems they are already taking that hit.

Comment edited 1 minute after posting
1 upvote
AbrasiveReducer

If you do have the money and have been told that more megapixels is always better, that answers half the question. The other half is that you haven't been told that the extra megapixels you probably didn't need will really tax lenses that you used to be happy with.

0 upvotes
chadwads

Throw an LAEA-4 adapter on and take your pick of reasonably priced Sony and older but excellent Minolta AF A-mount lenses. Even with the adapter size, the smaller primes like the 50/1.4 aren't any bigger than this 55. You get some fast PDAF while you are at it.

0 upvotes
mediman30

I paid £572 on mine brand new including shipping from Japan. UK custom charged me £19 and lens arrived today. I ordered it through eBay UK on 17th January. Ebay seller is matsuiyastore, bought some lenses from them before with no problems, tracking number also provided. I just saved myself £300!!!

Regarding the lens, it is an awesome little performer!

12 upvotes
KonstantinosK

Wow, only £19 for import duty? This is amazing. Lucky you, enjoy this gem.

3 upvotes
mediman30

Well, it's £19.86 to be exact. In total, this lens cost me £592.20.

0 upvotes
Asaifa

Did they put a lower-price invoice on it, to make sure the import duty was this low?

0 upvotes
mediman30

@Asaifa - on the dispatch note, it was declared that it was a lens with a total value of 3,180 Yen. I don't know how much is that in British Pound. But yes, UK customs only charged me £19.86.

0 upvotes
quezra

I'm surprised there's no mention of the most amazing part about the lens, which is that it is T1.8 (despite vignetting?), which makes it virtually as bright as several of those f1.4s.

17 upvotes
quezra

btw is an official review coming?

0 upvotes
alberto_b

yes, the $1,700 58 mm by Nikon has 1.7 t/value... and very disappointing test results compared to this Sony.

19 upvotes
Francis Carver

"....at around $999 / £900, it costs several times as much as the 50mm F1.4 options for DSLR systems. So what exactly are you paying for?"

Oh, that is an easy enough question to answer, yes indeed.

Let us see now... okay, so the lens will go for USD 999 buckaroos, correct?

Okay, so first you pay the "name surcharge" associated with the Sony name: $300.

Next, you pay the "name surcharge" associated with the Zeiss name: yeap, that will be yet another $300, good people.

What you have got left -- $399 - is all that this lens is really worth and should be selling for. Really.

4 upvotes
BarnET

It has nearly double the resolution of the 50mm f1.4 VROM canon andere Nikon. That justifies the premium

15 upvotes
BobYIL

Do you know any other lens of the same optical quality before setting its real worth as $399?

11 upvotes
Timbukto

The lens can be considered quite affordable...the question to answer is does it have enough IQ coupled with the 36MP sensor to effectively serve as also a tighter lens when cropped in terms of pop and detail? It also increases the versatility of the prime...being the prime is good enough to *easily* outperform the quality of say a zoom at 85mm equivalent on a differing system. Considering the crazy costs of some 85mm equivalents of other mirrorless cameras...an Otus-like 55mm on a 36MP FF may potentially give you ridiculously good 55mm performance and perfectly acceptable 85mm performance as well after crop. That is both a factor in cost-effectiveness, convenience, and portability.

I have both a Canon 50mm and 85mm, both are dated. A modern 55mm with modern sensor that gives me both is pretty convenient and cost-effective. What may be lacking is equivalent DOF control when cropped and possibly AF performance.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 4 minutes after posting
1 upvote
chadwads

I guess the OP isn't familiar with Sony A-Mount or APS-C E-Mount pricing. There is no "Sony up-charge". The CZ Zeiss lenses are arguably in the same league as Canon L and are priced at about the same points.

As to this 55mm, compare it to a Leica Summicron or Zeiss Otus at a fraction of the price while including auto focus.

0 upvotes
TimT999

Wow. I'm surprised that DP Review made such an amateur mistake. The review compared the Zeiss' image quality against the Canon EF 50mm f/1.8. Canon has two 50mm lenses that are considered far better than the 50mm 1.8 -- the f 1.4 and f 1.2. So why use the 1.8 -- at $100 it's the cheapest lens Canon sells.

It's true that the Zeiss is a 1.8. But anyone who is a pro shooter would be looking at Canon's 1.4 or 1.2. So DP should have used a Canon lens of comparable value and cost and then dialing one of those lenses up to 1.8 to do an apples to apples comparison.

Comment edited 49 seconds after posting
7 upvotes
liquid stereo

Canon's 50/1.4 is a true dog. There's no way around that.

14 upvotes
yabokkie

the results cannot be compared directly tested on different cameras (but we may estimate with error).

the Canon 50/1.8II was tested on 1Ds3 with a PH of 3744,
while FE55/1.8ZA on 7R with a PH of 4912 (1.31x),
and there are factors like low pass filter (D800E resolves better black-white test target) and image processing.

then the performance may not be that different.

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 13 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
Wally626

The review mentions in several places the lens performs better than the other makers f/1.4 lenses as well, in terms of sharpness. It is hard to compare with the high end Canon lenses as the DXO is a coupled lens-camera test and only Sony and Nikon have a 36 MP sensor to test with.

3 upvotes
TimT999

Wally, your point about the use of a 36 MP sensor also backs up my point about this not being an apples to apples comparison. You have several Canon lenses that are better in low light and sharper than the $100 Canon. But the $1000 Zeiss is compared to the cheap plastic Canon and the (admittedly amazing) level of resolution you get with the Zeiss is partly a result of having a camera with a sensor that's far sharper than what's on a Canon.

The lens is obviously a thing of beauty but the writeup weakens the test because they made the $100 Canon their reference lens. If DP had used the $1600 Canon f 1.2, they would have made their case far more effectively.

0 upvotes
chadwads

Tim, take a moment and fire up the DXO lens comparison tool and you will find that the 55mm trumps all the Canon and Nikon 50s, including the 1.2 L, which is really not much sharper than the 1.4, just faster.

Agreed though, I thought it weird that they referenced the 1.7 but I'm guessing they didn't want to open a can of worms comparing a 1.8 to a 1.4 or 1.2

Also, I wouldn't blame the Canon sensors too much. If you take a look at the regular old Sony A-Mount 50/1.4 on the A99 it beats the Canon 50/1.4 on the 5D Mark III. Truth is, most of these FF lenses are designs from the 80s.

The A7(r) is going to necessitate all new, high resolution designs. With these new demanding sensors, the slate is being wiped clean and all manufacturers are going to need to produce new designs, right now, that puts Sony a step ahead while still providing access to all the existing A-mount Minolta and Zeiss lenses that are in many instances the best of those 80s designs.

0 upvotes
Mike99999

Spectacular. This confirms the DxO findings.

I'm happy Sony is following the OM-D route by releasing high quality primes from the start, even if they are significantly more expensive than standard Canikon offerings.

As an owner of the 55/1.8 and 35/2.8 I couldn't be happier and I've begun the process of selling all my Nikon lenses.

I cannot wait for what primes Sony/Zeiss have in store next. I've been playing with the Zeiss Planar T* 85mm f/1.4 ZA and Sonnar T* 135mm f/1.8 ZA with adapter at the camera store. Those lenses are amazing...

5 upvotes
Andy Westlake

To be clear, these *are* the DxOMark findings, but presented in our own way.

8 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer

I haven't found DxO results to match my own (at all) but it's good to know that DxO findings at least agree with DxO findings.

4 upvotes
Ralf B

@ Andy Westlake
" To be clear, these are the DxOMark findings, but presented in our own way."
Thankfully, that is not true. This is not the DPR style of late when reviewing a Sony product but a remarkable recovery instead.
Let's hope it carries over to the A7R review.

0 upvotes
sgoldswo

I've come to the conclusion over the last year or two that a mirrorless in its current form cannot replace a DSLR, including in the the A7. However, that's me, not others, so if a CSC only system works for some people, good for them.

Me, I'll keep both :-)

0 upvotes
jhinkey

Great, but how about a compact 50/2.8 to go along with that compact A7R? The A7(r) are very attractive cameras, but when you stick a 50/1.8 Zeiss on them the body/lens combination loses it's compactness that the A7R brings.

Sometimes you need an excellent f/1.8 lens and you have to pay the price in size and weight, but for many situations f/2.8 works just as well and with the high ISO DR of today's sensors there is not that much of a price to pay.

This is the reason I have a 50/1.8G AND a 45/2.8 AI-P for my D800 - the 50G is great for low light, but it's not very compact while the 45/2.8P is super compact and gives me very very good performance and f/2.8 DOF is fine. The 45/2.8P lives on the D800 because it makes it far more portable.

I use the 20/1.7 Pany on my GX7 (roughly equivalent to my 45/2.8P on FX) because the combo is so small and the 20/1.7 is a very very good lens.

I guess there's no money to be made in compact f/2.8 (or f/4) primes for FX these days . . .

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
1 upvote
Mike99999

What are you talking about? The 35mm f/2.8 is a compact prime. And I'm sure this is not the last f/2.8 prime for this system.

2 upvotes
RobertSigmund

Yes, but 35 is not the same as 50.

1 upvote
Babka08

And the 35/2.8 is quite sticky-outy. Everyone should take a page from the Pentax book if they're talking about small sized systems. It can be done. DA70/2.4.

1 upvote
jhinkey

Yes, 35mm is not a 50mm. A 35/2.8 is a good start, but an equally compact (and high IQ) 50/2.8 would be fantastic for this system.

0 upvotes
jhinkey

A compact 20/2.8 & 100/4 would also be great to have with this system - that would be quite the trio and would cover a lot of situations.

0 upvotes
TrojMacReady

" Everyone should take a page from the Pentax book if they're talking about small sized systems. It can be done. DA70/2.4."

The distance between sensor and the tip of that DA70 is only 17mm shorter than that of A7R/A7 plus FE 55mm Zeiss. The A7R/A7 plus FE 35mm Zeiss has 18mm less distance between sensor and lenstip than the DA70 plus camera. In fact, it's within 5mm of a Pentax plus the thinnest pancake in existence (40mm f/2.8).

The wonders of flange distance.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
lecoupdejarnac

Not to mention that, AFAIK the Pentax pancakes don't cover a full frame sensor.

Voigtlander on the the other hand make some excellent pancake lenses in M-mount that can be adapter to the A7R.

0 upvotes
peevee1

Well, between f/4 and f/5.6 this lens gives 36mpix something to resolve. Although it should be noted that 3000 lines per picture height was enough for 12 mpix sensors and should be updated.

2 upvotes
steelhead3

Right now, Andy is the star of DPreview; his reviews are the best.

4 upvotes
Digimat

first time i used that lens on the A7 my jaw was on the floor (was able to get one in middle december where no real reviews were out). it easily wipes the floor with all of my canon L glass. its just f1.8, but its a true performer.i hope sony is able to keep that level of performance and mix between size and aperture. a 105 2.0 would be an awesome addition.

26 upvotes
chadwads

I've had the same experience. My mouth was literally left gaping when I pulled up the first few files. We are talking Summicron level performance at a fraction of the price and with autofocus.

0 upvotes
Jogger

Great lens.. but, i just find 50-55mm focal length to be extremely boring. Too short for isolation and compression.. and not wide enough to capture people and interesting background.

5 upvotes
Prime_Lens

Yet, it is most commonly needed focal length.

6 upvotes
Heliconius

Maybe because its angle of view and dof is close to what human eye sees..

Comment edited 2 times, last edit 5 minutes after posting
2 upvotes
Pixnat2

Zeiss have always made outstanding 50mm, and this one follows the trend.

10 upvotes
G1Houston

Still most people will be quite happy for a very good 50mm f1.8 lens, like the one from Nikon or Canon, priced around $200 and weighs no more than 200g to go with this relatively inexpensive and light weight full frame body. This is how you can capture the market to build user bases to the point of no return, which is why Nikon and Canon are still holding on to most of their customers b/c SONY did not make it easy for most to switch.

58mm is also an odd focal length for FF, too long as a walk about normal lens and too short for head/shoulder shot. Is 58mm supposed to be a compromise to be between these two extremes? Any way, I don't understand it.

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
4 upvotes
HFLM

It's about sufficiency. A human eye can distinguish between 5-10lp/mm. So if you don't print extremely large, don't need the finest in detail, you simply don't use it. I have the D610 with 50mm/1.8 and get sharp results (in my eyes) at 100% for most pictures. Why would I need even sharper lenses for 5times the price then? However, my greatest respect for Zeiss for the engineering part (as a German, even more).

6 upvotes
Mike99999

As a Nikon user I agree that these inexpensive 50mm lenses are sharp enough for most needs. However, these cheap 50mm lenses have terrible rendering and downright ugly bokeh. They are so mediocre to the point where crop alternatives render far more attractive images (Fuji 35/1.4 and Pana Leica 25/1.4 come to mind).

As the A7/R is competing with Fuji and Olympus, it makes a lot of sense for Sony to start with a very strong 50mm-equivalent, and a miniature 35mm-equivalent.

There's no doubt in my mind that Sony will follow with a cheaper non-Zeiss set of primes in the future.

11 upvotes
HFLM

There are better ones in terms of bokeh. For that I use the 85mm/1.8 Nikkor, which is very good imo. I think the sigma A-series 50mm could be great (the 35mm/1.4 is very good, too).
But I like the 1.8G.

2 upvotes
G1Houston

Indeed the newer AFS version of the Nikon 50 mm lenses have better bokeh. Even the current Sigma 50/1.4 at about $450 has spectacular bokeh.

3 upvotes
Infared

OK...since it costs $1000, but at least it performs.... (don't own a Sony Camera)
Now c'mon Sigma...get that Art Series 50mm out for my 5D3 and slay all three of the Canon lame offerings!!!!!!! Can't wait.

1 upvote
white shadow

Sony is finally getting there.

Now, they will have to produce a few wide angle lenses, namely 21mm, 24mm and a 28mm and a portrait lens like an 85mm to complete the set.

A 100mm macro lens would be great.

Later, they can produce a 70-200 f/2.8 zoom lens for general use.

Will we see this in the next 2 years before we can seriously consider the Sony A series over Canon or Nikon?

Zeiss has done it for their ZE and ZF mounts. Will Sony go on the fast track to catch up?

Comment edited 7 minutes after posting
3 upvotes
Just a Photographer

You have to wait for a few more years before all of your wishes will come true - if at all....

Lens design is not something that can be done in a day.
Before Sony has a proper lens-line up they have already switched to another system.

Thats just Sony way of working.

4 upvotes
AbrasiveReducer

Start saving now. If this is what they charge for the 50mm lens....

2 upvotes
filipe brandao

Sadly that is true! I have been let down by sony and their twists too many times (not in photography products), so I'm very distrustful about their commitment to this product line. I might be wrong, but in the meantime I wait...

0 upvotes
white shadow

Unfortunately, I have to agree with "Just a Photographer" and "filipe brandao".

That's the reason I would stick with Canon as far as a serious full frame camera is concern.

Comment edited 3 minutes after posting
0 upvotes
chadwads

Guys, all those great FF lenses you mentioned already exist and have been measured by DXO higher (on the A99) than their Canon and Nikon counterparts. They have been made by Minolta, Zeiss and Sony for A-Mount and some are absolute bargains for the performance level. On the A7 I've used the CZ 24/2, Minolta 35/2, CZ 85/1.4, CZ 135/1.8, Minolta 200/2.8 APO and 70-200/2.8 G - all with fast PDAF with the LAEA-4 adapter.

This is the beauty of the A7(r) - amazing lenses (check the DXO scores yourself) ready now, and a new stable of small high performance lenses like this 55mm being developed.

0 upvotes
Joel Pimenta

The poorman Otus...

2 upvotes
Mike99999

Or better: the baby Otus.

This lens is considerably smaller.

15 upvotes
FrancW
1 upvote
Miguel Teotonio

Great lens review but I don't understand why could the SONY E 50mm 1.8 OSS be a better choice. It's an APS-C lens, right?!

1 upvote
Andy Westlake

Yes, and that paragraph is specifically talking about use on APS-C bodies.

4 upvotes
Miguel Teotonio

OK. My bad. :)

0 upvotes
James Pilcher

If Sony sticks with this new line of cameras, the possibilities seem exceptional if the first two primes (55mm, 35mm) are any indication of what is to come.

6 upvotes
ncsakany

No doubt an awesome lens. It balances perfectly on the A7/A7r body, and it's one of my favorite lenses. I love it!

Comment edited 2 minutes after posting
6 upvotes
Total comments: 310
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