Sony 50mm F1.4 review
The Sony 50mm F1.4 is the company's current offering in the classic 'fast standard' category, and was introduced at the genesis of the Alpha system in July 2006. Of course its origins go back well before then; this lens is essentially a reworking of the Minolta AF 50mm 1:1.4 RS from 1990, which was itself a restyling of a 1985 design that, alongside the Maxxum/Dynax 7000, formed part of the world's first autofocus SLR system. And that original AF version was itself heir to a long line of manual focus Rokkor lenses dating back many years before. To consumers brought up on the 'use it for a year, throw it away' upgrade cycle which electronics manufacturers (and until recently, credit-card companies) have so encouraged, such longevity may come as a real surprise, making the design seem positively antique. But in truth it really serves to illustrate the maturity of the traditional standard lens formula, which has been refined over many years to a quality level difficult to surpass without a major redesign.
The current Sony 50mm F1.4 has been cosmetically refreshed for the Alpha branding, with smooth rubber grips giving a distinctly minimalist look broken only by a few trademark orange accents. It also adds a couple of useful refinements to the older Minolta design, including modified coatings more suited to the demands of digital SLRs, and the addition of ADI focus distance encoding for improved flash metering. However the underlying design appears to be otherwise the same, and size and weight are identical. It features the classic 50mm F1.4 lens formula of 7 elements in 6 groups, with all-spherical lens surfaces. However there is one standout feature compared to similar lenses, a circular aperture diaphragm using 7 rounded blades, again inherited from Minolta's designers who were concerned about the aesthetics of out-of-focus backgrounds long before the internet popularized 'bokeh' as a buzz-word every savvy on-line photographer needed to know (if not necessarily understand, or even be able to pronounce).
The 50mm F1.4 was obviously designed as a 'standard' lens for 35mm film, and therefore will behave as such on the Alpha 900 full-frame DSLR, with an angle of view offering none of the 'perspective distortion' associated with wideangle or telephoto lenses. However its mainstream usage will now be with APS-C cameras such as the Alpha 700, on which it behaves like a short 'portrait' telephoto, a role requiring subtly different characteristics (including high sharpness at wide apertures and attractive bokeh). But this year we've seen the first genuinely new-design mainstream contender in this lens class for many years, the Sigma 50mm F1.4 EX DG HSM, which we found to offer precisely these benefits. So how does the Sony fare against such stiff competition?
- 50mm focal length
- F1.4 maximum aperture
- Alpha mount for Sony and Konica Minolta DSLRs
Angle of view
The pictures below illustrate the angles of view on 35mm full frame and APS-C camera bodies:
|50mm (35mm full-frame)||50mm (APS-C; 75mm equivalent)|
Sony 50mm F1.4 specifications
|Street price||• $350 (US)
• £250 (UK)
|Date introduced||July 2006|
|Maximum format size||35mm full frame|
|35mm equivalent focal length(APS-C)||75mm
|Diagonal Angle of view (FF)||47º|
|Diagonal Angle of view (APS-C)||32º|
|Lens Construction||• 7 elements / 6 groups|
|Number of diaphragm blades||7, rounded|
|Minimum focus||0.45m (1.5 ft)|
|AF motor type||'Screw drive’ from camera body|
|Focus method||Unit focus|
|Image stabilization||• None|
|Filter thread||• 55mm
• Does not rotate on focus
|Supplied accessories||• Front and rear caps
• SH0011 lens hood
|Weight||222g (7.8 oz)|
|Dimensions||65.5mm diameter x 43mm length
(2.6 x 1.7 in)
|Lens Mount||Sony Alpha/Minolta MA|
* Supplied accessories may differ in each country or area
Foreword / notes
If you're new to digital photography you may wish to read some of our Digital Photography Glossary before diving into this article (it may help you understand some of the terms used).
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Dpreview use calibrated monitors at the PC normal gamma 2.2, this means that on our monitors we can make out the difference between all of the 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 also A, B and C.