Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Sony Alpha (Full Format)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published July 2019

Introduction

If you like (classic-)cars you may know the statement that there's no substitution for engine displacement but more displacement. It is quite similar with lenses actually - there's no substitution for speed but more speed - and the fastest lenses around are usually in the f/1.2-f/1.4 range. So in the context of this review - meet the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM - Sony's professional-grade medium-tele prime lens. As the name implies, it is a member of the "GM" (G-Master) lineup thus it's among the best of what Sony is offering today. Of course, this also means that you'll suffer quite a bit when investing in such a lens. The typical price-tag hovers around the 1700USD/EUR mark. An 85mm f/1.4 is flexible regarding its application but it is most popular among portrait-/wedding photographers and wherever you'd like to isolate your main subject from its surroundings via a shallow depth-of-field.

In order to achieve the best possible optical results, Sony went a couple of extra miles with this lens. The optical design uses an aspherical element. This is often not a good idea when it comes to the rendition of the bokeh (out-of-focus blur) because it tends to have negative effects on out-of-focus highlights. However, Sony polished the element to a 0.01 micron surface precision in order to make sure that the highlights are as smooth as possible. The aperture features no less than 11 rounded elements and "Nano AR" coating is meant to minimize flare. Of course, the proof is in the pudding as we'll see later on.

The mechanical quality of the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM is, of course, up to pro standards. It feels very sturdy, weather-sealed and tightly assembled. Size- and weight-wise it remains within the scope of classic 85mm f/1.4 lenses so there's no free lunch here just because it's a lens for a mirrorless system. The length of the lens remains constant throughout the focus range. The focus ring operates smoothly. Unlike on most Sony FE lenses, you can also control the aperture on the lens if you like. You also have the choice between a clicked or de-clicked aperture ring with the latter option targeting movie makers. A deep barrel-shaped hood is provided.

In terms of AF, Sony incorporated an RDSSM ( Ring Drive Super Sonic wave Motor ) and a secondary sensor to ensure accurate focusing. In real life, the lens isn't all that different compared to other 85mm f/1.4 lenses. Reads - the AF is reasonably fast but not really snappy. And whether you hit or miss your focus depends probably more on the camera than the lens. During the field trip, we had several misses because the AF sensor is just too coarse for the shallow depth-of-field at f/1.4 in close focus scenes. Manual focusing is very precise and much better than what we've seen in most other "by-wire" systems. An image stabilizer is, unfortunately, not provided but most full-format Sony cameras feature in-body stabilization anyway.

Specifications
Optical construction11 elements in 8 groups including 1xXA & 3xED elements
Number of aperture blades11 (rounded)
min. focus distance0.8m (max. magnification ratio 1:8.3)
Dimensions89.5x107.5mm
Weight820g
Filter size77mm
Hoodbarrel-shaped (bayonet mount, supplied)
Other featuresDe-click button, Nano AR Coating, focus-hold button, dust and moisture resistant
MountSony FE