Design, handling and autofocus

Simple and unflashy in terms of design, the FE 35mm F1.8 won't draw any attention mounted on a Sony A7-series or A9 body, and its light weight and small dimensions make it an good lens for casual daily shooting. This is an easy lens to shoot in both automatic and manual focus, and the customizable multi-function button can provide quick access to a range of features including AF lock and Eye-AF.

Key Takeaways:

  • Simple, functional design
  • Useful multi-function button
  • Large, well-damped focus ring
  • Linear manual focus response (will please videographers)
  • Good standard of construction, including limited weather sealing
  • Extremely fast autofocus

The FE 35mm F1.8 is a near dead-ringer for the older FE 28mm F2, with the addition of a multi-function button adjacent to the MF/AF switch (also offered on the FE 85mm F1.8). The FE 28mm F2 lacks this control, which can be customized to a range of functions.

Aside from that, the FE 35mm F1.8 is about as simple as lenses get. There's a 55mm filter thread at the front, a finely-knurled focus ring in the middle, and a bunch of electrical contacts at the rear, with a thin rubber ring helping to seal the connection between camera and lens.

At only 280g (10 oz) the metal and plastic-bodied FE 35mm F1.8 is a truly lightweight lens, and balances beautifully on the Sony A7 III, as well as providing a useful 50mm (equivalent) option on Sony's APS-C a6000-series bodies.

While definitely not up to the same standard of construction as Sony's GM lenses or the older Distagon 35mm F1.4, the FE 35mm F1.8 doesn't feel 'plasticky' and in fact gives the impression of being solid and well-made. We've used this lens in the rain without any issues, but we'd recommend caution if you're planning on shooting in especially wet or dusty conditions for extended periods of time.

Auto / manual focus

Autofocus is extremely fast, thanks to the linear focus drive motor. It takes about a half second to focus from the impressively minimum focus distance to infinity, and in more real-world use-cases feels essentially instant. Mounted on an a7R III, focus had no problems keeping up with a fast swinging child shot mid-motion, approaching the camera as in the example below.

As with most Sony cameras and lenses, there's a caveat to AF speed: autofocus is fastest when the lens is shot wide open. Ironically, stopping down to F2.8 or F4 reduced our hit-rate, since the cameras focuses at the shooting aperture. We had hoped that a new option to force wide-open focus acquisition on the a7R IV might resolve this issue, but the implementation - as of now - appears to be broken.

ISO 100 | 1/1600 sec | F2.8

Manual focus is 'by wire' and unlike the Nikon Z 35mm F1.8 S which we reviewed recently, response is linear. This will be welcomed by videographers, since it means that x degrees of focus ring rotation will always result in x amount of focus adjustment - no matter how quickly or slowly the focus ring is rotated.

Videographers will also appreciate the absence of any noticeable focus breathing, thanks in part to the design of the lens, with the focusing optics placed towards the rear, nearest the camera sensor.