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Sony FE 85mm f1.4 GM review

The Sony FE 85mm f1.4 GM is a portrait photographer’s dream

5 Star Rating
Sony FE 85mm f1.4 GM
(Image: © Sony)

Digital Camera World Verdict

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.

Pros

  • +

    Stunning image quality

  • +

    High-end handling

  • +

    Top-quality construction

Cons

  • -

    Fairly weighty

  • -

    Expensive to buy

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.

Specifications

Mount: Sony E (FE)
Full frame: Yes
Autofocus: 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
Dimensions: 90x108mm
Weight: 820g

Key features

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.

Performance

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.

Lab results

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).

Sharpness:

(Image credit: Future)
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Spectacular levels of sharpness only drop off when shooting wide-open at f/1.4 but even here they’re very good.

Fringing:

(Image credit: Future)
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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.

Distortion: 0.71

There’s a touch of pincushion distortion but it’s of a very low order and in-camera correction is available.

Verdict

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.

Read more:

• Best camera lenses (opens in new tab) to get
• Best Canon lenses (opens in new tab)
• Best Nikon lenses (opens in new tab)
• Best Sony lenses (opens in new tab)

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Matthew Richards
Matthew Richards

Matthew Richards is a photographer and journalist who has spent years using and reviewing all manner of photo gear. He is Digital Camera World's principal lens reviewer – and has tested more primes and zooms than most people have had hot dinners! 


His expertise with equipment doesn’t end there, though. He is also an encyclopedia  when it comes to all manner of cameras, camera holsters and bags, flashguns, tripods and heads, printers, papers and inks, and just about anything imaging-related. 


In an earlier life he was a broadcast engineer at the BBC, as well as a former editor of PC Guide.