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Sony 50mm f/1.4
For Sony Alpha & Minolta MAXXUM

© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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Sony 50mm f/1.4

Sony 50mm f/1.4 (Full frame, 35mm and smaller-format coverage, 55mm filters, 7.8 oz. /221g, 1.5'/0.45m close focus, about $450).

This free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to this lens at Adorama or at Amazon when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep reviewing these lenses when you get yours through these links — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you buy elsewhere. Thanks for your support! Ken.


May 2013    Sony   Zeiss   Minolta   Nikon   Canon   Fuji   LEICA   All Reviews

Why Fixed Lenses Take Better Pictures


Introduction       top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

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This is a standard 50mm f/1.4 autofocus lens for Sony Alpha-mount cameras, which includes every autofocus Minolta MAXXUM or DYNAX, 35mm or digital, on which it works perfectly.

Except for exterior materials and branding, it's the same lens as the MAXXUM AF 50mm f/1.4 introduced by Minolta in 1985 for use with the MAXXUM 7000. This current lens with 8 rear gold contacts adds distance encoding for better flash exposure accuracy. Other than that, it's the same lens optically as it was 1985.

Autofocus is via a screw on the lens, driven by a motor in the camera. As the lens focuses, the focus ring turns.

There is no instant manual focus override, unless your camera (like the Sony A99) has a DMF ("Direct Manual Focus") override mode. For manual focus with older cameras you must move a switch on the camera.

Optically it's exactly as expected for a traditional 50mm f/1.4 SLR lens: softer wide open with plenty of Spherochromatism in the center and coma in the corners, and it improves to near perfection as stopped down a stop or two.

It has moderate barrel distortion, which new cameras like the Sony A99 can correct automatically as you shoot.


Specifications         top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations


Name        top

Sony 50mm f/1.4

Sony 50mm f/1.4.

Sony calls this the model number SAL50F14.


Optics        top

7 elements in 6 groups, standard augmented double-Gauss SLR lens.

Unit focus.



Diaphragm        top

Front, Sony 50mm f/1.4

Sony 50mm f/1.4 at f/22.

7 rounded blades.

Round at larger apertures, heptagonal from f/4 and smaller.

Stops down to f/22.


Coverage        top

35mm film, full-frame and smaller format digital.


Focal Length        top


When used on an APS-C style camera, sees an angle of view similar to what an 80mm lens sees when used on a full-frame or 35mm camera.


Close Focus        top

1.5 feet (0.45 meters) from the image plane.


Maximum Reproduction Ratio        top

1:6.7 (0.15x).


Hard Infinity Focus Stop?        top


This is great for astronomy; just turn to the stop and you have fixed laboratory-perfect focus all night.


Focus Scale        top



Depth-of-Field Scale        top



Infra-Red Focus Index        top



Aperture Ring        top



Filter Thread        top

55mm, plastic.

Does not rotate, but moves in and out with focus.


Size        top

Sony specifies 2-9/16" (65.5 mm) diameter by 1-11/16" (43 mm) extension from flange.


Weight        top

7.805 oz. (221.2g), actual measured.

Sony specifies 8 oz. (220 g).


Hood        top

Plastic ALC-SH0011 hood, included.


Case        top



Included        top

Caps and hood.


Quality         top

Made in Japan.


Warranty         top

1 year, USA.


Packaging        top

Microcorrugated cardboard box with formed pulp innards.

Box, Sony 50mm f/1.4

Box, Sony 50mm f/1.4.


Sony Product Number        top



Price, USA        top

$450, May 2013.

Sony 50mm f/1.4

Sony 50mm f/1.4.


Performance       top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

Overall    Autofocus    Bokeh    Coma    Distortion  Ergonomics   

Falloff    Filters   Focus Breathing   Ghosts   Hood    

Lateral Color Fringes    Macro    Mechanics    Sharpness

Spherochromatism  Sunstars   Survivability


Overall       performance     top

The Sony 50mm f/1.4 is a classic 50mm f/1.4, performing the same as Minolta's and Nikon's comparable lenses.


Autofocus       performance     top


AF Speed

AF speed is pretty fast, with one full turn (two half-turns) of the AF screw bringing it from infinity down to 5 feet (1.5 meters).


AF Accuracy

On the Sony A99, focus is dead-on every time at f/1.4.


Manual Focus

Manual focus is traditional, and feels pretty plasticy.


Bokeh       performance     top

Katie's cooking show, .

Katie's cooking show, 15 May 2013. (Sony A99, Sony 50mm f/1.4, f/4 at 1/60 at Auto ISO 160, Athentech Perfectly Clear plug-in.) bigger.

Bokeh, the character of out of focus backgrounds, not simply how far out of focus they are, is marvelous around f/4.

The Sony A99's program mode rarely shoots at larger apertures. If I shift it the hard way out to f/1.4, bokeh is only mediocre:

Lamp, carlsbad speech lady, 16 May 2013

Lamp at f/1.4. bigger.


Coma       performance     top

Coma (saggital coma flare) often causes weird smeared blobs to appear around bright points of light in the corners of fast or wide lenses at large apertures.

The Sony 50mm f/1.4, like other conventional 50mm f/1.4 lenses, has loads of coma at f/1.4 and f/2.

It's pretty much gone at f/2.8, and completely gone by f/4.


Distortion       performance     top

The Sony 50mm f/1.4 has moderate barrel distortion, just slightly more than Nikon's similar 50mm f/1.4 AF-D and Canon's 50mm f/1.4 USM. It's about the same as the much newer Nikon 50mm f/1.4 G.

This can be corrected for critical use by plugging a figure of +2.0 into Photoshop's lens distortion filter for use at 3 meters (10 feet) on full-frame. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.

Used on recent digital cameras like the Sony Alpha 99, a menu can be set to correct the distortion completely. Bravo!


Ergonomics (handling and ease-of-use)       performance     top

Sony 50mm f/1.4

Sony 50mm f/1.4.

Ergonomics are OK, but this lens feels like crappy plastic to me. It's all plastic; the only exterior metal is the mount. Manual focus feels gritty and plasticy.

Used on MAXXUM cameras you won't have instant manual-focus override as we do with the newest lenses Nikon (AFS) or Canon (USM), but on the Sony A99, this lens does have great instant manual-focus override.

This lens, just like Nikon's (AF-D) and Canon's (EF non-USM) older-model lenses, requires moving a switch on the camera, or fiddling in menus, to swap between auto and manual focus.

This lens moves its focus ring all by itself as it autofocuses.

Other than this, it's easy to mount and unmount; 90% of the barrel is grip.

It doesn't mount and unmount as smoothly as a compatible 1985 Minolta MAXXUM lens mounting on a 1985 MAXXUM 7000, sad to say.


Falloff (darkened corners)       performance     top

Falloff on FX and 35mm is visible at f/1.4, and gone otherwise.

The Shading Correction in the Sony A99 improves it a little if you turn it ON.

I've exaggerated this by shooting a gray field and placing these on a gray background.


Sony 50mm f/1.4 falloff on full frame and 35mm at infinity, no correction:

Sony 50mm f/1.4 falloff Sony 50mm f/1.4 falloff
Sony 50mm f/1.4 falloff Sony 50mm f/1.4 falloff


Sony 50mm f/1.4 falloff on full-frame Sony A99 at ISO 100 with Shading Correction ON:

Sony 50mm f/1.4 falloff Sony 50mm f/1.4 falloff
Sony 50mm f/1.4 falloff Sony 50mm f/1.4 falloff

© 2013 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.



Filters, use with       performance     top

There is no problem with vignetting, even with combinations of thick stacked filters, even on full-frame.

The filter ring doesn't rotate, but it does move in and out as focused.


Focus Breathing       performance     top

Of interest mostly to cinematographers focusing back and forth between two subjects, the image from the Sony 50mm f/1.4 gets larger as focused more closely.


Ghosts       performance     top

Ghosts are no problem with this multicoated lens, even on the complex Sony A99 which has all sorts of internal mirrors in the optical shooting path.

Here's looking directly into the disk of the noonday sun, which was blinding in person:

Sony 50mm f/1.4 ghosts

Sony 50mm f/1.4 at f/8. enlarge.

Enough glare to blind a dead man, and the worst I could show for it after several tries was one dim blue blob.

It looked worse through the A99's finder, probably because the A99 views with the lens wide-open. For all I know, the A99 will catch fire doing this before you'll see any significant glare.


Hood       performance     top

The dinky plastic hood is included.

I never use it.


Lateral Color Fringes       performance     top

There are no lateral color fringes on the when shot on the 24 MP full-frame Sony A99, with lateral color correction turned OFF.

Oddly, there is some very minor lateral yellow-blue on the A99 when this correction is turned ON along with shading and distortion correction. I'll presume that the distortion correction somehow isn't quite perfect and interacted with the lateral color corrections. Your camera will differ.


Macro       performance     top

It gets exactly as close as every other 50mm SLR lens has for the past 40 years:

Sony 50mm f/1.4

Complete image at close-focus distance on full-frame camera.


Sony 50mm f/1.4

Crop from above image at f/8. If this is 6" wide on your screen, the complete image printed at this same magnification would be 18 x 26." (45 x 65 cm.)

Stopped down to f/8 as shown here, it's super-sharp, too. Shot at large aperture like f/2, there's nothing in focus, and if anything is, it's not this sharp.


Mechanics and Construction       performance     top

Sony 50mm f/1.4

Sony 50mm f/1.4. enlarge.

The Sony 50mm f/1.4 is mostly plastic, except for the mount, and it feels that way.


Filter Threads




Plastic bayonet.


Hood Mount



Barrel Exterior



Focus Ring

Plastic; rubber covered.


Focus Helicoids

Feel like plastic, look like they might be metal.


Depth-of-Field Scale



Aperture Ring




Chromed metal.





Mounting Index Dot

Red plastic nubbin.


Identity Plate

Sticker glued on barrel.


Serial Number

Sticker glued into a recess on the bottom of the lens.


Moisture seal at mount



Noises When Shaken

Some clicking.


Made in



Sharpness       performance     top

Mom shows Katie how to use the baton, 16 May 2013

Katie and the baton, 16 May 2013. (Sony A99, Sony 50mm f/1.4, f/8 at 1/250 at Auto ISO 100, Athentech Perfectly Clear plug-in.) bigger.

Yes, it's very sharp if you know what you're doing. Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens, and lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers.

The shot above is actually cropped from a small segment of this frame:

Katie 16 May 2013

While amateurs waste time worrying about lens sharpness, pros know that lens sharpness has little to do with making sharp pictures. This said, the Sony 50mm f/1.4 is super-sharp stopped down, and softer at f/1.4.

As shot on the full-frame 24MP A99:


At f/1.4

The corners are dark and blurrier due to coma (which only matters if they are in focus in the first place), while the center is sharp enough.


At f/2

The center is better — nice and sharp, while the corners are still a bit blurry, but corner sharpness only matters if they are in focus in the first place.


At f/2.8

The corners are much sharper, and the center is just about perfect.


At f/4

The center is perfect, and the corners are even better.


At f/5.6

The corners are even a little bit better than at f/4.


At f/8

This is the optimum aperture; the corners are at their best.


At f/11

It's about the same as at f/8, with the center just slightly dulled from diffraction. (Diffraction isn't as obvious in the corners since they tend to be softer.)


At f/16

Diffraction limits performance.


At f/22

Diffraction limits performance.


Spherochromatism       performance     top

Spherochromatism, sometimes mistakenly called "color bokeh" by laymen, is a minor aberration which can add slight color fringes to out-of focus highlights.

At f/1.4, the Sony 50 1.4 shows spherochromatism as expected.


Sunstars       performance     top

Sony 50mm f/1.4

Sunstar at f/8. enlarge.

With its 7-bladed diaphragm that's reasonably straight from f/4 and smaller, the Sony 50/1.4 can make great 14-pointed sunstars on brilliant points of light. Bravo!


Survivability       performance     top

The Sony 50mm f/1.4 may be plastic, but it has no motors.

If you don't beat on it mechanically, I expect it will last for many decades as have its MAXXUM brethren. The worst I expect will happen with wear is that maybe a focus encoder will wear out, and if you can't get the part, just clip it out with a pair of dykes.


Compared             top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

I compared it directly to two different Minolta MAXXUM 50mm f/1.7 lenses from 1985, which sell used for about $75 and pretty much do exactly the same thing.

To my surprise, while the f/1.7 lens has much less distortion, neither of the f/1.7 lenses was as sharp under the microscope as this f/1.4 lens, and the ancient lenses lack distance encoding for optimum flash exposure accuracy on the newest cameras.

Therefore, I'm sorry to say it, but you may as well get one of these instead of using an old MAXXUM lens — but only if you're counitng your pixels wide-open.


Recommendations       top

Intro   Specifications   Performance   Compared   Recommendations

The Sony 50mm f/1.4 feels junky, but works great, especially with the newest Sony A99 which corrects its distortion and gives this old-design lens instant manual-focus override.

I prefer this fast fixed lens to zooms. Midrange zooms are bigger and slower. With this fast and light lens, I can move to get a better shot than standing like an idiot in one place with a zoom.

There are many good reasons Why Fixed Lenses Take Better Pictures.

If you've found the time, effort and expense I incur researchign and sharing all this information for free, this free website's biggest source of support is when you use these links, especially this link directly to this lens at Adorama or at Amazon when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. It helps me keep reviewing these lenses when you get yours through these links — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you "scab" and buy elsewhere. I'm not NPR; I don't get any grants.

Thanks for your support!




I'd leave 55mm Hoya HD UV on the lens at all times for protection. I would leave the hood at home.

If I was working in nasty, dirty areas, I'd forget the cap, and use an uncoated 55mm Tiffen UV filter instead. Uncoated filters are much easier to clean, but more prone to ghosting.

For color slides (shot on Velvia 50 in a Minolta MAXXUM, for instance), I use a 55mm Hoya HMC 81A outdoors.

For B&W film outdoors in daylight, I'd use a 55mm Hoya HMC K2 Yellow for natural rendition, or I prefer a 55mm Hoya HMC Orange for slightly more contrast in the skies.


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Mr. & Mrs. Ken Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.


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