Conclusion

What we like What we don't
  • Very sharp wide open
  • Pleasing, uniform bokeh
  • Good close focus performance
  • Extremely fast to focus
  • Negligible distortion
  • Linear focus response / no breathing
  • Lightweight and nicely balanced on a9/a7-series cameras
  • Well-built, with (limited) weather sealing
  • Multi-function button allows for some customization
  • Longitudinal and lateral CA can be distracting in some situations
  • Vignetting persists at smaller apertures, even at F8-F11
  • Coma present at widest apertures
  • Out-of-focus highlights can get slightly hard-edged at image corners

The Sony FE 35mm F1.8 isn't a perfect lens, but it's perhaps one of Sony's most versatile primes, and definitely worthy of serious consideration by all Sony full-frame shooters. In terms of optical quality - in all respects - it's a cut above the much more expensive Distagon 35mm F1.4, and far more portable.

This one image sums up the FE 35/1.8: incredibly sharp and contrasty wide open, with pleasing, relatively uniform bokeh. Longitudinal CA can cause purple and green fringing in out-of-focus areas of high contrast images, and bokeh can get slightly busy at image corners due to bright-edged circles of confusion.

ISO 100 | 1/1000s | F1.8

The gap between Sony's two 35mm options, the 35mm F2.8 and the much larger F1.4 (both Zeiss-branded optics), took the company a long time to fill. But it was worth the wait. On balance, the FE 35mm F1.8 does its job admirably, and of all three lenses, in fact, the FE 35mm F1.8 would be our first choice. It's meaningfully faster than the F2.8, and it's not so much bigger that you should leave it at home in preference to the older, slower lens.

ISO 500 | 1/80s | F1.8

Photo by Carey Rose

Compared to the premium-priced Distagon F1.4, the FE 35mm F1.8 is much sharper at all apertures, and generally delivers prettier, simpler and more uniform bokeh. High-contrast edges have a magenta fringe at very wide apertures, and longitudinal CA (LoCA) can be obvious in high contrast situations, showing up as purple and green fringing in front of and behind the focus plane, respectively. To its credit, LoCA is better controlled in comparison to its bigger brother, and realistically we've come to expect some degree of this aberration from small, lightweight lenses of this type (the Nikon 35mm F1.8 S lens shows similar levels of fringing, as do Sony's 55mm and 85mm F1.8 primes). The fact that the FE 35mm F1.8 is almost as sharp wide open as our reference fast 35mm - the Canon EF 35mm F1.4L II USM - is impressive.

The close focus capabilities of the FE 35mm F1.8 are impressive, and what's more: the lens remains very sharp at these working distances.

ISO 100 | 1/640s | F2.5

Sony has continued to develop its autofocus motor designs, recently releasing some of the fastest to focus lenses we've tested. Although the FE 35mm F1.8 lens doesn't inherit some of the newer direct drive SSM designs, its linear focus motor ensures that focus acquisition is near-instantaneous, and is fast enough in continuous AF to track fast, erratic subjects.

Overall, the Sony FE 35mm F1.8 is a well-balanced, nicely behaved lens for everyday shooting at normal apertures, which should be able to withstand the occasional downpour. Meanwhile, sharpness at wide apertures and close focusing distances are superb, allowing you to isolate razor-sharp subjects against very defocused backgrounds - with a wide enough field-of-view to provide some scene context. Couple the fast aperture with the effective in-camera stabilization systems in Sony cameras and you have a highly versatile lens for photography in challenging light. The lack of focus breathing and linear manual focus response make this a great lens for videographers as well.

All in all, considering its size, handling, and performance, the Sony FE 35mm F1.8 is arguably one of the best non-'professional' (read: F1.4 or F1.2) fast 35mm prime we've ever tested. That makes it a no-brainer for Sony a7-series and a9 photographers - despite its 'non-traditional' pricing.


Scoring

Sony FE 35mm F1.8
Category: Wideangle Lens
Optical Quality
Build Quality
Autofocus
Ergonomics and Handling
Value
PoorExcellent
Conclusion
The Sony FE 35mm F1.8 is one of Sony's most versatile primes, worthy of serious consideration by all Sony full-frame shooters who desire high quality in a small, lightweight package. Autofocus is swift, and it's extremely sharp wide open. The lens renders out-of-focus areas very smoothly, but purple and green fringing can be an issue in high contrast situations.
Good for
Portrait and low light shooters that need tack sharp images wide open, videographers, and those that require fast autofocus
Not so good for
Portrait photographers shooting in high contrast light where chromatic aberration may be distracting, and astrophotographers
88%
Overall score

Sample Gallery

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