Sony 85mm f/1.8

Full-Frame E-Mount FE

Sample Images   Intro   Format   Compatibility

Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

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Sony 85mm f/1.8

Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 (covers full-frame and APS-C, 67mm filters, 13.1 oz./372g, 2.6'/0.8m close focus, about $598) bigger. I got mine at B&H. I'd also get it at Adorama, at Amazon or at Crutchfield.

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to my personally-approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Sony does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any other source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, damaged, returned, non-USA, store demo or used lens. Get yours only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.

 

September 2017   Sony   Sony Lenses   Minolta Lenses   Zeiss   Canon   Nikon   All Reviews

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM

Why Fixed Lenses Take Better Pictures

 

Sample Images

(more throughout the review)

Top   Samples   Intro   Format   Compatibility

Specs   Performance   Recommendations

 

Quiet Green Grass

Quiet Green Grass, 01 August 2017, 6:30PM. Sony A9, Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 at f/8 at 1/50 at Auto ISO 100, Perfectly Clear. bigger or full-resolution file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display the full resolution files properly).

 

Katie Sleeping

Katie sleeping, 22 September 2017, 7:03AM. Sony A9, Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 at f/1.8 at 1/125 at Auto ISO 3,200, Perfectly Clear. bigger or full-resolution file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display the full resolution files properly).

 

Katie Sleeping

1,200 × 900 pixel crop from above. Sharp enough for you?

 

VP-61, Palm Springs Air Museum

VP-61, Palm Springs Air Museum, 04 August 2017. Sony A9, Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 at f/5 at 1/640 at Auto ISO 100, Perfectly Clear. bigger or full-resolution © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display the full resolution files properly).

 

Red Dots, Palm Springs Air Museum

Red Dots, Palm Springs Air Museum, 04 August 2017. Sony A9, Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 at f/8 at 1/640 at Auto ISO 100, Perfectly Clear. bigger or full-resolution © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display the full resolution files properly).

 

Propeller, Palm Springs Air Museum

Propeller, Palm Springs Air Museum, 04 August 2017. Sony A9, Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 at f/5.6 at 1/800 at Auto ISO 100, Perfectly Clear. bigger or full-resolution © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display the full resolution files properly).

 

Here again is how sharp it is edge to edge wide-open at f/1.8. Of course no one shoots landscapes in daylight wide-open like this, but if you do, there isn't any sharper lens. It only gets sharper as stopped down, and wide-open here it's ultra sharp corner to corner:

Laguna Beach

Looking North towards Newport from Laguna Main Beach, California, 20 August 2017. Sony A9, Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 at f/1.8 at 1/3,200 at Auto ISO 100, Perfectly Clear. bigger or camera-original © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display the full resolution files properly).

 

Laguna Beach

1,200 × 900 pixel crop from the far right side of the image above. bigger or camera-original © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display the full resolution files properly).

If this are about 6" (15cm) wide on your screen, the complete image would print at 20 × 30" (50 × 75 cm) at this same magnification. If this are about 12" (30cm) wide on your screen, the complete image would print at 40 × 60" (1 × 1.5 meters) at this same high magnification.

 

Introduction

Top   Samples   Intro   Format   Compatibility

Specs   Performance   Recommendations

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This Sony 85mm f/1.8 is a spectacular lens with flawless optics as good or better than the huge 85mm f/1.4 GM. This f/1.8 lens has great handling and it's super small, light and inexpensive. It weighs less than half as much as the beastly 85mm f/1.4 GM, has the same fantastic sharpness, silent operation, fast, silent autofocus and great bokeh — and costs only one-third as much!

It's also a fast f/1.8 for great results in low light. It's ideal for people who understand that the whole point of a mirrorless camera is small size and light weight. This is a small, non-imposing lens for great shots of anything anywhere.

It's sharp, fast, has no distortion and has great bokeh.

The expensive 85mm f/1.4 GM is for men who like to spend a lot of money and flash around fancy cameras, while this 85/1.8 takes the same pictures with a lot less hassle. This lens is for people who want great pictures as opposed to paying for and carrying way too much.

Sony did what many camera makers do: they introduced the exotic 85mm f/1.4 GM a year before in February 2016 so the rich guys could all buy it, and then a year later in February 2017 Sony announced this lens which is just as good, for one third the price. This is called market segmentation: selling a slightly different product to different levels of the market to extract as much money as possible from the overall market. By introducing the exotic lens a year before, all the Sony fanatics had already bought the f/1.4 before this lens came out. f/1.4 only throws backgrounds 25% more out of focus than f/1.8. Do you care? I don't.

The whole point of a mirrorless camera is using small, light lenses like this. If I wanted to haul a huge 85/1.4, I'll shoot the Canon or Nikon I already own.

 

Good

Spectacularly sharp optics.

Great bokeh.

No distortion.

Sony 85mm f/1.8

Focus lock button! bigger.

Focus Lock button.

Fast and silent autofocus.

Silent diaphragm operation.

Small.

Light.

Reasonably inexpensive.

Autofocuses over the entire frame on an A9.

Fast f/1.8 aperture for low light and shallow focus.

 

Bad

Manual focus ring is electronic, not direct mechanical.

 

Sony 85mm f/1.8

Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. bigger.

 

Format

Top   Samples   Intro   Format   Compatibility

Specs   Performance   Recommendations

This is a full frame lens and I'm reviewing it as such.

It also works great APS-C cameras, on which you may make the usual inferences.

 

Compatibility

Top   Samples   Intro   Format   Compatibility

Specs   Performance   Recommendations

This works on all Sony E-mount cameras, full-frame and APS-C crop-sensor. This includes all the variations of NEX, A9-, A7-, A6xxx and A5xxx series cameras.

It will not work on any Sony A-mount DSLR or any Minolta MAXXUM 35mm SLR of any kind. Those use the old A mount which was actually the Minolta MAXXUM mount from 1987.

 

Specifications

Top   Samples   Intro   Format   Compatibility

Specs   Performance   Recommendations

 

Name

Sony 85mm f/1.8

Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. bigger.

Sony calls this the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8.

    FE: Full-frame coverage, E-mount.

It's Sony model number SEL85F18F.

 

Optics

Sony 85mm f/1.8 internal construction

Sony 85/1.8 internal construction. ED element. bigger.

9 elements in 8 groups.

1 element made of ED extra-low dispersion glass to help reduce secondary axial chromatic aberration.

Mutlicoated.

 

Diaphragm

Sony 85mm f/1.8 internal construction

Sony 85/1.8. bigger.

9 rounded blades.

Stops down to f/22.

The diaphragm is silent as it operates on a silent camera.

 

Aperture Ring

No.

 

Focal Length

85mm.

When used on APS-C, it sees the same angle of view as a 130mm lens sees when used on a full-frame or 35mm camera.

See also Crop Factor.

 

Angle of View

29º diagonal on full-frame.

19º diagonal on APS-C.

 

Autofocus

Focus is internal. Nothing moves externally as focussed.

Focus is entirely electronic both auto and manual focus work with a genuinely silent internal motor.

Focus-lock button.

 

Focus Scale

No.

 

Infinity Focus Stop

No.

 

Depth of Field Scale

No.

 

Infrared Focus Index

No.

 

Close Focus

2.6 feet (0.8 meters).

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio

1:7.7 (0.13×).

 

Filters

Plastic 67 mm filter thread.

 

Hood

Sony ALC-SH150 hood

Sony ALC-SH150 hood for 85mm f/1.8. bigger.

Plastic bayonet ALC-SH150 hood included.

 

Size

3.07" maximum diameter × 3.23" extension from flange.

78 mm maximum diameter × 82 mm extension from flange.

 

Weight

13.140 oz. (372.5g), actual measured.

Rated 13.1 oz. (371g).

 

Quality

Made in China.

 

Announced

February 2017.

 

Included

Lens.

ALC-F67S front and ALC-R1EM rear cap.

ALC-SH150 hood.

 

Packaging

Sony 85mm f/1.8

Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. bigger.

Bubble-wrapped lens in corrugated cardboard box.

 

Sony's Model Number

SEL85F18F.

 

Price, USA

$598, October 2017.

 

Performance

Top   Samples   Intro   Format   Compatibility

Specs   Performance   Recommendations

 

Overall   Autofocus   Manual Focus

Breathing   Bokeh   Distortion   Ergonomics

Falloff   Filters   Flare & Ghosts

Lateral Color Fringes    Macro   Mechanics

Sharpness   Spherochromatism

Stabilization   Sunstars

 

Overall

Performance          top

The Sony 85mm f/1.8 is optically superb, as most 85mm f/1.8 lenses are. It's at least as good as the exotic 85mm f/1.4 GM, for a fraction of the price.

 

Autofocus

Performance          top

Autofocus is fast, and completely silent.

My A9 autofocuses over the entire frame.

The DNF mode for instant manual override in AFS mode works great on an A9.

 

Manual Focus

performance          top

Manual focus is with an electronic ring on the front half of the lens.

It's moderately damped. A fingertip will move it.

 

Focus Breathing

Performance          top

Focus breathing is the image changing size as focused in and out. It's important to cinematographers because it looks funny if the image changes size as focus gets pulled back and forth between actors. If the lens does this, the image "breathes" by growing and contracting slightly as the dialog goes back and forth.

The image from this 85/1.8 gets bigger as focussed more closely.

 

Bokeh

Performance          top

Bokeh, the feel or quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to how far out of focus they are, is beautiful. Nothing distracts:

 

Sony 85 1.8 Bokeh

Davis 6250 weather station, 8:48 AM, 08 October 2017. bigger or camera-original © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display full resolutions images properly).

As always, if you want to throw the background as far out of focus as possible, shoot at f/1.8 and get as close as possible.

 

Distortion

Performance          top

The Sony 85/1.8 has no measurable distortion at 10 feet (3 meters), even uncorrected.

Bravo!

 

Ergonomics

Performance          top

Sony 85mm f/1.8

Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. bigger.

 

Sony 85mm f/1.8

Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. bigger.

No mysteries here: it has an electronic focus ring, an AF/MF slide switch and a big, unmarked focus lock button.

This is not as good as a mechanical focus ring as on the 70-200/2.8 GM, but if you set your camera controls well, the focus ring works fine — but only works in certain modes.

The focus lock button is a huge help, although to be honest on a camera like the A9 that focuses throughout the entire frame, not as necessary as it was with DSLRs that only focussed in the center and had to be recomposed.

 

Falloff

Performance          top

There is no significant falloff at any aperture, at least on most Sony cameras which correct it by default.

See the f/1.8 sample at the top. No problem.

 

Filters, use with

performance          top

No problem; 67mm is a more than an ample filter size for the optics of this lens. Even on full-frame you can stack several filters before you see any vignetting.

Go ahead and use any normal filters and thick rotating polarizer and grad filters; there's no problem.

 

Flare & Ghosts

Performance          top

I can't see any ghosts.

It has less flare and fewer ghosts than the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM because this is a simpler optical design with fewer air-glass surfaces.

See samples also at Sunstars.

Here's as bad as I could make it look, and this is with a multicoated filter in front of it! These were shot at f/5.6. Click either to enlarge:

Sony 85mm f/1.8 Flare

Sony 85mm f/1.8 Flare

This second shot is more typical. I really had to go out of my way to make it look as bad as the first photo.

 

Lateral Color Fringes

Performance          top

There are no color fringes as shot on my Sony A9, which corrects them by default if there are any.

 

Macro

Performance          top

This lens gets exactly as close as every other standard 85mm lens since the 1970s, which isn't that close. It has the same rated close-focus distance as the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM, but has a slightly better maximum reproduction ratio!

Presuming you get perfect focus at f/1.8, it's super-sharp:

 

At f/1.8

Sony 85mm f/1.8 Macro Performance

Kienzle Flieger Automat 800/2843, 22 September 2017. Full-frame Sony A9, Sony 85mm f/1.8 wide-open at f/1.8 at close focus distance at Auto ISO 100. bigger or camera-original © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display full resolution images properly).

 

Sony 85mm f/1.8 Macro Performance

1,200 × 900 pixel crop from above. bigger or camera-original © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display full resolution images properly).

If this crop is about 6" (15cm) wide on your screen, then the complete image printed at this same extreme magnification would be about 20 × 30" (50 × 75cm).

If this crop is about 12" (30cm) wide on your screen, then the complete image printed at this same extreme magnification would be about 40 × 60" (1 × 1.5 meters).

This is great performance for an 85mm lens this close at f/1.8; it's super sharp and has no spherical aberration to lower contrast.

If you don't get perfect focus, spherochromatism will be visible.

 

Mechanical Quality

Performance          top

 

Sony 85mm f/1.8

Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. bigger.

It's a mostly plastic lens with metal vanity shell, glass glass and a metal mount.

 

Included Hood

Plastic bayonet.

 

Front Bumper

None.

 

Filter Threads

Plastic.

 

Hood Bayonet Mount

Plastic.

 

Front Barrel

Part ahead of focus ring: metal.

 

Focus Ring

Metal.

 

Rear Barrel

Metal.

 

Identity & Markings

Printed inside filter ring, printed on top of barrel and sticker on bottom.

 

Internals

Plastic.

 

Moisture Seal at Mount

No.

 

Mount

Chromed metal.

 

Serial Number

Printed on sticker glued on bottom of barrel.

 

Date Code

None found on lens, but it is marked on the box. Be sure the serial number in the middle of the number below the second bar code on the box matches the serial number printed on the sticker on the bottom of the lens.

Sony 85mm f/1.8

Box, Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. bigger.

 

Noises When Shaken

Very minor clattering.

 

Made in

China.

Sony hides this in black-on-black molded on the top of the plastic light shield on the back of the lens opposite the gold contacts that's only visible with the lens off a camera and without its rear cap. Sony shamefully puts a sticker that says SONY JAPAN on the bottom of the lens to confuse the issue.

 

Sharpness

Performance          top

As I showed at the top, It's flawlessly sharp and contrasty from corner-to-corner at every aperture. Look at the camera-original © file at 100% on your computer and you will see that everything is super-sharp from corner-to-corner. This is the most difficult test of a lens' sharpness: a detailed shot wide-open with everything out at infinity.

Sony confirms with its MTF curve below that it's as good and possibly a hair sharper that the exotic 85/1.4 GM:

 

Sony 85mm f/1.8 MTF

MTF at f/1.8 at 10 cyc/mm and 30 cyc/mm. bigger.

 

Spherochromatism

Performance          top

Spherochromatism, also called "color bokeh" by laymen, can cause colored fringes on out-of-focus highlights, usually seen as green fringes on backgrounds and magenta fringes on foregrounds with fast, long lenses shot wide open. It's an advanced form of chromatic aberration in a different dimension than lateral color. Spherochromatism is most commonly seen in fast lenses of moderate focal length when shooting contrasty items at full aperture. It goes away as stopped down.

The Sony 85 1.8 has a moderate amount of spherochromatism, seen as yellow on the far (left) side and violet fringes on the near (right) side of focus on this watch face:

Sony 85mm f/1.8 Macro Performance

Kienzle Flieger Automat 800/2843, 22 September 2017. Full-frame Sony A9, Sony 85mm f/1.8 wide-open at f/1.8 at 1/3,200 at close focus distance at Auto ISO 100. bigger or camera-original © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display full resolution images properly).

 

Sony 85mm f/1.8 Macro Performance

1,200 × 900 pixel crop from above. bigger or camera-original © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display full resolution images properly).

The yellow and violet color fringes are from spherochromatism in areas that aren't in perfect focus. This is typical and maybe better than average for an 85mm f/1.8 lens.

If this crop is about 6" (15cm) wide on your screen, then the complete image printed at this same extreme magnification would be about 20 × 30" (50 × 75cm).

If this crop is about 12" (30cm) wide on your screen, then the complete image printed at this same extreme magnification would be about 40 × 60" (1 × 1.5 meters).

 

Image Stabilization

Performance          top

It has no built-in optical stabilizer, but with sensor-shift stabilization in my A9 I easily can hand-hold it at 1/8 or slower. The f/22 shot below was shot at 1/8, for instance.

 

Sunstars

Performance          top

The rounded blades thankfully are only rounded at large apertures, and reasonably straight at smaller apertures so we can get sunstars. Click any to enlarge:

Sony 85mm f/1.8 Sunstars

Sony 85mm f/1.8 Sunstars

Sony 85mm f/1.8 Sunstars

Click any to enlarge.

This is much better than the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM that has no sunstars!

 

Recommendations

Top   Samples   Intro   Format   Compatibility

Specs   Performance   Recommendations

This is an awesome lens at a reasonable price. It's smaller and lighter than the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM that costs three times as much, and this f/1.8 lens performs as well or better!

The very best protective filter is the Hoya multicoated HD3 67mm UV which uses hardened glass and repels dirt and fingerprints.

For less money, the B+W 67mm 010 is an excellent filter, as are the multicoated version and the basic multicoated Hoya filters, but the Hoya HD3 is the toughest and the best.

Filters last a lifetime, so you may as well get the best. The Hoya HD3 stays cleaner than the others since it repels oil and dirt.

I got my 85 1.8 at B&H. I'd also get it at Adorama, at Amazon or at Crutchfield.

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Sony does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any other source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, damaged, returned, non-USA, store demo or used lens. I use the stores I do because they ship from secure remote warehouses where no one gets to touch your new camera before you do. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection.

Thanks for helping me help you!

Ken, Mrs. Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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21 October 2017, 10-21 Sep 2017