Sony FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* Lab Test Review
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.
- 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.
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
|Lens type||Prime lens|
|Max Format size||35mm FF|
|Focal length||55 mm|
|Lens mount||Sony FE|
|Number of diaphragm blades||9|
|Special elements / coatings||3 aspherical elements|
|Minimum focus||0.50 m (19.69″)|
|Motor type||Stepper motor|
|Full time manual||Unknown|
|Weight||281 g (0.62 lb)|
|Diameter||64 mm (2.52″)|
|Length||71 mm (2.8″)|
|Zoom method||Rotary (internal)|
|Filter thread||49 mm|
|Hood product code||ALC-SH131|
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.
|New Pencils by johnmhome|
from Macro - A Rainbow of Colours
|The Maze by Anatol_M|
from Your City - HDR in overdrive: cityscape (rerun)
|Mother and Nestlings by Domenick Creaco|
NVIDIA researchers have created an AI that can create realistic portraits on demand using various elements from source images.
Free and open source Raw photo-processing software RawTherapee has been updated to version 5.5, which brings a slew of new features and functionality.
Leica has listed a pair of pint-sized LEGO Leica cameras.
This new macOS app can automatically create HTML web galleries from your photos that can be shared and viewed in any browser.
Weeks after he was first reported missing, Chinese authorities have confirmed photographer Lu Guang has been arrested near China's far western region Xinjiang.
For the past few weeks, our readers have been voting on their favorite photographic gear released in the past year in a wide range of categories. Now that the first round of voting is over, it's time to pick the best overall product of 2018.
Thanks to camera drones, it's easier than ever to capture stunning photos from an aerial perspective. We present the 10 drone images that inspired us most this year.
After previously teasing the website, DJI has officially opened up its Pro-branded website for photographers and videographers alike.
Fujifilm has made firmware version 2.0 available on its website for its X-T3 and X-H1 mirrorless cameras, as well as an incremental update for its 80mm F2.8 macro lens.
The Nova 4 is the brand's first model with a circular cutout for the front camera in the display.
Sony had the full-frame mirrorless market to itself for nearly five years, but it's no longer alone – the Nikon Z6 and Canon EOS R have both arrived priced to compete with the a7 III. We take a head to head to head look at these three cameras.
As if it needed one, the triple-camera smartphone might really be the final nail in the compact camera's coffin. DPR contributor Lars Rehm brought the LG V40 on a hiking trip recently and found it to be a huge leap forward in terms of creative freedom.
Renowned UK-based landscape photographer Nigel Danson has been using DSLRs for years. In this video, created exclusively for DPReview, Nigel discusses his experience using the Nikon Z7 and why he's excited about mirrorless cameras. (Spoiler... beautiful scenery ahead.)
Tenba has unveiled a collection of products to help keep lenses, cables, batteries and more safe and organized when traveling and shooting.
Tune in this week to see Chris and Jordan's review of the Nikon Z6 full frame mirrorless camera, and also find out what Chris thinks of the popular 35mm focal length. (Rant alert!)
There are plenty of ways to spend well over $250 on photography gear, but we've picked out some standout accessories that are sure to wow the photographer on your shopping list.
Facebook has disclosed a major photo API bug that left the private images of millions of users exposed to third-party apps from September 13, 2018 to September 25, 2018.
Loupedeck has added support for Adobe Photoshop CC 2019 to Loupedeck+, its newest keyboard-style editing module.
YouTuber Casey Cavanaugh has produced a handy video guide for those looking for buy their first film camera.
If you're looking for a photography gift that's a bit more substantial than a stocking stuffer, we've got some suggestions that should fit the bill.
Chinese optical manufacturer Kipon has added the Nikon Z and Canon R mounts to its range of adapters made to attach medium format lenses from Hasselblad, Mamiya, Pentax and others to full frame cameras.
Palette Gear has announced an update to its modular, physical editing interface that lets MacOS users now use their palette with Capture One 11 and 12.
German company OPC Optics announced that it has acquired the trademark rights to Meyer Optik Görlitz at the insolvency procedure of NetSE in Koblenz.
Shopping for a photographer? We've got some gift ideas for all budget sizes, but here you'll find our budget-friendliest suggestions – just right for stockings.
It's not always easy to find marble, wood or concrete surfaces on demand. Enter Replica Surfaces, small tiles designed to replicate popular photo surfaces and backdrops.
Lensrentals Founder Roger Cicala set aside some time to take apart Canon's new 50mm F1.2L RF lens and in doing so revealed a number of interesting discoveries.
Google is cracking down on unsupported video files being uploaded to its Photos platform and taking up free storage space.
With a nickname like 'bokeh master,' we had to see what the Sigma 105mm F1.4 was all about. Take a look at our gallery of samples shot with the Sony a7R III.
The Nikon Museum in Shinagawa, Tokyo has an exhibition showing off some of the most rare and unique prototype lenses Nikon ever developed.
VSCO has announced it will stop selling its film emulation presets for desktop programs March 1st, 2019.