Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Lens Review (Zeiss Optics)
When I was with Nikon, I rarely used my 35mm f/1.8 prime. There is just something about this super popular focal length that doesn’t do it for me.
It’s not quite as wide as I would like for my style, and then it doesn’t have the compression for portraits that I like that the 50mm or 85mm gives me.
Despite this, I decided to pick up the Sony Distagon 35mm f/1.4 when I switched from Nikon to Sony. I’m not mad at it either!
This Sony lens has a beautiful characteristic on the Sony bodies that leads me to pick it up quite a bit.
If you are looking for a super technical review of the Sony 35mm f/1.4, this won’t be it. However, I will dive into my personal likes and experience with this lens as a wedding and portrait photographer.
Table of Contents
Sony Distagon 35mm f/1.4 ZA Specs
- Fantastic color
- Beautiul bokeh
- That Zeiss “Pop”
- Aperture Ring not lockable
- Not the sharpest across the frame
- MOUNT: Sony E-mount
- FORMAT: 35 mm full frame
- FOCAL LENGTH (MM): 35mm
- 35 MM EQUIVALENT FOCAL LENGTH (APS-C): 52.5mm
- LENS GROUPS / ELEMENTS: 8/12
- ANGLE OF VIEW (35 MM): 63°
- ANGLE OF VIEW (APS-C): 44°
- MAXIMUM APERTURE (F): 1.4
- MINIMUM APERTURE (F): 16
- APERTURE BLADES: 9
- CIRCULAR APERTURE: Yes
- MINIMUM FOCUS DISTANCE: 0.98 ft (0.3 m)
- MAXIMUM MAGNIFICATION RATIO (X): 0.18x
- FILTER DIAMETER (MM): 72mm
- DIMENSIONS (DIAMETER X LENGTH): 3-1/8 x 4-1/2″ (78.5 x 112.0 mm)
- WEIGHT: 22.3 oz (630 g)
Build & Ergonomics
The build quality of the Sony 35mm f/1.4 feels very solid. It is comprised of mostly metal on the exterior of the lens, which gives it a nice feel.
It is certainly not small or ultralight on the smaller Sony cameras, however, it isn’t as heavy as it looks.
It is fairly long and much larger than the new Sony FE 35mm f/1.8.
The majority of the body is taken up by a very large metal focus ring that feels very light and smooth.
This lens utilizes an aperture ring directly on the lens near the base and is similar in design to the G-Master primes.
It has a switch for enabling a “click” or smooth rotation on the ring when selecting the Aperture.
I personally prefer controlling the aperture via the camera dial after coming from Nikon DSLR’s and being used to those controls.
You can slide the aperture ring to the “A” icon to enable selection from the camera.
This leads to one of my dislikes on this lens – there is no lock switch to keep the aperture ring in place.
I wish Sony would have added one on all their lenses with an aperture ring as it is far to easy to bump the ring from “A” to F/16.
Also, the aperture ring is purely electronic and not actually mechanical so the clicks aren’t quite as defined as they could be, and it could be hard to determine what aperture you’re on if you are going purely off feel.
As you can see in the photos, I have some wear on mine over the past 3 years. The metal body has held up really well to my abuse but will show paint nicks and dings fairly easily.
Also, the Sony 35mm f/1.4 does come with a lens hood which is not pictured as I have lost mine somewhere along the way.
Overall the focus performance is good on the newer Sony cameras such as the A7iii and A7riii, but it is not going to be as snappy as the GM’s or newer FE lenses.
The new Sony 35mm f/1.8 outperforms the f/1.4 for example, but it’s not “worlds better.” It is similar in comparison to how the FE 85mm f1.8 acquires focuses faster than the 85mm f1.4 GM.
The Eye-AF and Face Detection appear to work just as well as all of our GM and FE lenses as well.
In low light, the performance is about the same. Not as snappy as some of my other Sony lenses, but not annoyingly slow either.
Manual focus on the Sony 35mm f/1.4 is done with “focus by wire” and the very large manual focus ring make it fairly easy if you choose to do so.
This Sony Distagon 35mm f/1.4 carries that little Zeiss “pop” that makes it stand out just ever so slightly from the other Sony lenses.
The lens renders beautiful color and while it is sharp stopped down, the sharpness does fall off a little in between f/1.4-f/1.8. The new Sony 35mm f/1.8 is sharper wide open with my little testing.
Unfortunately, my copy of the Sony Distagon 35mm f/1.4 also suffers a little from the “decentering” problem you may have heard about.
It is ever so soft going out towards the edges and when photographing a brick wall straight on, you will notice the lines start to tilt up a lot more than regular 35mm distortion.
I typically only use this lens for engagement portraits and some wedding images with just a single or 2 subjects, so it hasn’t affected me enough to want to get rid of.
Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Sample Images
Check out these sample images taken with the Sony FE 35mm f/1.4.
Value for Money
Overall I believe the Sony Distagon 35mm f/1.4 is a pretty decent value and I have gotten great use out of mine, but I personally would have opted for the new 35mm f/1.8 if it was out and I had a chance to do it all over again.
Neither lens is cheap, but the FE is a great value at around $700-800 and the Distagon is around $1,500.
I don’t believe it is worth double the price since I rarely shoot this lens below f/1.8 anyway! I also use my Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM more than I do this lens now.
Sony Distagon 35mm f/1.4 ZA Review | Conclusion
I believe wedding photographers who are coming from Nikon or Canon to Sony would be thrilled with this lens despite some of its shortcomings as it stacks up very well, if not better than their counterparts.
If you love the character of Zeiss lenses and shooting wide open, then I would recommend looking into this lens.
If you look to keep your kit small and lightweight and love sharp and fast focusing lenses, I recommend picking up the new FE f/1.8 instead.
I personally will be looking to sell my copy in the near future to pick up the new FE 1.8 more as I try to go smaller and lighter weight, and have been more than happy with my 85mm FE f/1.8.
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