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.
|Peruvian sweetness by VickyGo|
from street life
|Floating Dice by TX Photo Doc|
|Nautilus Sliced by Buzz Lightyear|
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.
On their latest models the two smartphone manufacturers have replaced the dreaded display notch by a design that features a circular hole for the front camera in the display.
With the latest version, Adobe Camera now lets you import Raw files from the newest iPhones, Pixel devices, the Samsung Galaxy Note 9 and Nikon Z6 among others.
The Nikon Z6 may not offer the incredible resolution of its sibling, the Z7, but its 24MP resolution is more than enough for most people, and the money saved can buy a lot of glass. Find out what's new and notable about the Z6 in our First Impressions Review.
Sigma says its 70-200mm F2.8 DG OS HSM Sport lens is set to hit shelves by the end of December 2018 at a retail price of $1,499.
DxO PhotoLab 2.1 brings a collection of new features to MacOS and Windows users alike.
The new 'Elegant' lens series includes entirely manual F2.4 lenses in 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, 75mm and 90mm focal lengths.
A feature alerts pilots visually and/or verbally when their drone is approaching airspace that is unsafe or areas where drone flying is not permitted.
GoPro announced Monday morning that it plans to move production of United States-bound cameras out of China, citing tariffs concerns.
The Sigma 56mm F1.4 combines a sensible sub-$500 price tag and excellent performance, providing a portrait-friendly 85mm equiv. view on Sony's APS-C mirrorless cameras.
Azriel Knight of the YouTube channel This Old Camera explains the history of DX encoding.
The 250mm F4 is Fujifilm's longest lens for its medium-format system. It's equivalent to about 200mm on a GFX camera, and we put it to work on some portraits as well as some scenes around Seattle's waterfront – take a look.
Sony has removed the ability to download firmware version 2.0 for its a7 III and a7R III mirrorless cameras from its website.
Handing out awards for the best gear of the year is a big job, so we called in some reinforcements from Calgary to help us.
A new patent from Canon lays out the schematics for a speedbooster-style adapter for mounting Canon EF lenses onto EOS M cameras, but with a variable baffle to reduce the risk of flare.
The Jackson Hole Travel and Tourism Board has started a campaign asking visitors to stop geotagging their specific locations when visiting Wyoming's national parks.
Film simulation app Filmborn has been updated with new presets, features, and overall improved support on Apple's latest mobile operating system and devices.
The Colorado Tripod Company has introduced what it claims is the world’s first titanium tripod system, with a funding campaign on Kickstarter.
We've been shooting with the LX100 II both in and out of the studio, as part of our ongoing review. We're pretty impressed, so far, with the revised JPEG color and addition of a touchscreen both noticeable improvements.
An upcoming Xiaomi smartphone might use a 48MP sensor for pixel-binning, high-quality digital zooming and other algorithm-powered imaging features.
It's not cheap, but you may soon be able to get your hands on peel apart film once again thanks to ONE INSTANT.
Skylum's Luminar 3 arrives on December 18 with the long-awaited ability to manage your photo library. However, it won't be a full DAM (digital asset manager); the company plans to roll out features throughout 2019 and won't charge for updates from Luminar 2018 during that time.
Hasselblad has released an update to its Phocus post-production software that brings new and updated tools, as well as updated native lens support.
Nikon's IPTC Preset Manager, a tool for creating predetermined sets of metadata, has received an update. Version 1.1.0 no longer uses Microsoft Silverlight, sheds the network connection requirement, adds extended language support, updates support for Windows 8.1 and Windows 10, and ends support for Windows Vista and Windows XP.
Insta360 has launched a software update for its One X 360-degree camera and announced a camera bundle exclusively available on Apple.com.
Xiaomi has laid out the details for its new AI-powered image processing platform DeepExposure.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset is expected to power most 2019 high-end Android phones, including the Samsung Galaxy S10.
Camera app developer Hipstamatic says it has found a way to use the depth data generated by the iPhone X to improve the way its TinType app works out which areas of a picture to render out of focus.