The Sony FE 85mm f1.4 GM is one of Sony’s flagship lenses for its Alpha mirrorless cameras. While it works well for shooting just about anything when you need a short telephoto focal length, it comes into its own for top-quality portraiture and still-life photography.
Mount: Sony E (FE)
Sony model code: SEL85F14GM
Full frame: Yes
Image stabilisation: No
Lens construction: 13 elements in 10 groups
Angle of view: 29 degrees
Diaphragm blades: 11
Minimum aperture: f/16
Minimum focusing distance: 0.8m
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.12x
Filter size: 77mm
Typical of Sony’s top-flight G Master lenses, this one is immaculately turned out. Build quality is rock-solid, with a weather-sealed construction. There’s no lack of high-tech features either, including a customizable focus-hold button and an aperture control ring that comes complete with a ‘de-click’ option, enabling smooth aperture transitions when shooting video.
The optical path includes a high-precision XA (eXtreme Aspherical) element, which enhances the quality of bokeh. There are also three ED (Extra-low Dispersion) elements to boost sharpness and contrast while reducing color fringing. The aperture remains extremely well-rounded when stopping down, thanks to an 11-blade diaphragm.
Based on a Linear SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor), autofocus is fast and near-silent, while the electronically coupled manual focus ring operates with smooth precision. Sharpness is very good at f/1.4 and simply stunning when stopping down a little, as confirmed in our lab tests. Bokeh is wonderfully smooth and Sony’s nano-structure AR coating is highly effective at minimizing ghosting and flare. All in all, it’s a top-performance lens.
We run a range of lab tests under controlled conditions, using the Imatest Master testing suite. Photos of test charts are taken across the range of apertures and zooms (where available), then analyzed for sharpness, distortion and chromatic aberrations.
We use Imatest SFR (spatial frequency response) charts and analysis software to plot lens resolution at the center of the image frame, corners and mid-point distances, across the range of aperture settings and, with zoom lenses, at four different focal lengths. The tests also measure distortion and color fringing (chromatic aberration).
Spectacular levels of sharpness only drop off when shooting wide-open at f/1.4 but even here they’re very good.
Lateral chromatic aberration is negligible throughout the entire aperture range, even in the extreme corners of the frame, and axial chromatic aberration is also very minimal.
There’s a touch of pincushion distortion but it’s of a very low order and in-camera correction is available.
This Sony lens ticks all the right boxes for portraiture on a full-frame camera, with its 85mm focal length and fast f/1.4 aperture. As such, it works really well for isolating the main subject against a blurred background. As well as being super-sharp, the quality of bokeh is wonderfully soft and dreamy, and remains so even when stopping down a little, helped by a very well-rounded 11-blade diaphragm. It’s undeniably a very pricey lens but its performance more than justifies the cost.
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