Review: Sony Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Planar T*

 
The Sony Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Planar on the Sony A7 II
 

Conclusion

Pros

  • Excellent build quality with great control haptics
  • Fast and accurate autofocus
  • Truly exceptional sharpness, straight from f/1.4
  • Very pleasing bokeh
  • Excellent control of chromatic aberration
  • Low distortion
  • Very good flare control
  • Outstanding color and contrast

Cons

  • Expensive
  • Large and Heavy

The cons list is short, and show really the only two things that are bad about the lens: it’s quite big, and it’s quite expensive. If you can get past those, there’s absolutely nothing left to worry about. Optically, this is the finest 50mm lens I’ve ever used, and is among the finest lenses of any focal length I’ve ever used. It’s exceptionally sharp across the entire frame right from f/1.4, and somehow gets even a bit sharper at smaller apertures. The bokeh is excellent and it controls almost all aberrations extremely well. The lens handily outperforms the already rather exceptional FE 55mm f/1.8: extremely impressive.

While I will likely stick with the 55mm f/1.8 for my personal shooting, as I value the smaller size and lighter weight, if you don’t want to compromise on image quality, the FE 50mm f/1.4 is the lens to get. A spectacular effort from Sony and Zeiss.

Image Samples

Click on an image to enlarge.

Columbus Reflected - Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/8

Columbus Reflected – Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/8

Nature Near the City - Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/2

Nature Near the City – Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/2

Ohio Statehouse - Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

Ohio Statehouse – Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

Sunrise on the Scioto - Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/11

Sunrise on the Scioto – Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/11

Halloween Spoils - Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

Halloween Spoils – Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

Columbus Riverfront (HDR+panorama, 27 total shots) - Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/8

Columbus Riverfront (HDR+panorama, 27 total shots) – Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/8

Coneflowers at Night - Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

Coneflowers at Night – Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

Blue Reflections (3 image stitch) - Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/8

Blue Reflections (3 image stitch) – Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/8

Black Eyed Susans - Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

Black Eyed Susans – Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

Checkers - Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

Checkers – Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

Parking Garage - Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

Parking Garage – Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/1.4

Morning Path - Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @

Morning Path – Sony A7 II with Zeiss FE 50mm f/1.4 @ f/8

If you enjoyed this review, check out my other reviews in the Review Index.



 

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  1. Alex says:

    November 13, 2016 at 9:05 am

    Great review, great pictures, thanks a lot. The cons are sadly important for me, because damn, I’d like one… The FE55/1.8 is already an excellent lense, I love it, but the rendering of this one is really beautiful.

  2. Mike Stratil says:

    November 14, 2016 at 10:40 am

    Thanks for this review. One question: I had the impression you were going to provide some photos with the 55 1.8 for comparison, but I don’t see them. Have I missed something?

  3. Jordan Steele says:

    November 14, 2016 at 1:57 pm

    There is a link to the comparison in the Sharpness section of the review. It’s a separate article, and is also right below this review on the main page.

  4. Jonathan says:

    November 14, 2016 at 11:30 am

    I could not agree more. I own this lens and shoot on an A7R II. This lens completely blows my mind. Unbelievably sharp wide open, beautiful bokeh, simply the best, and I’ve shot different formats / systems over many years. Kudos to Sony and Zeiss. Please give us more primes in the FE mount with AF (eye AF on this combo is out of this world).

  5. Robert Picard says:

    November 14, 2016 at 10:19 pm

    Hi Jordan,

    Another excellent article to showcase your many beautiful images.
    I especially enjoy the “Columbus Riverfront” panorama – it really has some WOW! factor.
    It’s one of those images that slows the viewer down in order to take in all of the detail.

    Perfect timing/placement of the lone cyclist.

    Nice work, Jordan

    RWP

  6. Wil says:

    February 19, 2017 at 1:10 pm

    If you use an A7 ii for testing focus speed. Almost all Sony lenses will be slow and lack low light focus. It’s an issue that camera has. Please keep that in mind. Maybe you should look into an A7R ii, A6000, A6300, or A6500. They are completely different level of low light focus and speed to acquire subject.

  7. Jordan Steele says:

    April 19, 2017 at 8:58 am

    I have an a6000, and I account for AF differences between bodies when I evaluate it. Still, Some lenses AF just fine in lower light on my A7 II, so if it’s a noticeable change from something like my 28/2 or 55/1.8, which both do fine (as does the 85/1.8 for the most part), then I’ll take notice.

  8. Ben says:

    April 18, 2017 at 11:36 pm

    i personally own this 50 1.4 as well. lovely image quality and bokeh i must say. but i am not sure if its sample variation, the af on my copy has quite a bit of hunting and difficulties on accurate locking. i would include imperfect AF as one of the cons, especially if one wants to do photography with a fast moving object.

    why i bought this instead of the 55 1.8: it cannot be quantified/measured, but i feel the bokeh of this lens much smoother, creamier and aesthetically pleasing compared to the 55 1.8, which is tact sharp and but renders bokeh in a very clinical and uninteresting fashion.

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