Sony FE 35mm F/2.8 ZA review - Photo Jottings

Sony FE 35mm F/2.8 ZA review

The Sony Sonnar FE 35mm F/2.8 ZA is the first prime lens for use with Sony’s new full frame ‘E’ system, (formerly called NEX that used only APS-C sized sensors).  It’s a small and light-weight lens and is a good match for the diminutive A7 series cameras.

Fit and finish are very good.  The lens appears to be clad in high quality plastic with a metal mount.  There is a ribbed grip around the focus ring.  Sony claims the use of three double sided aspherical elements in the design.  Sporadic, and dubious claims of weather and dust resistance; the lens does not appear to have any features to back that up.  Adding a filter to the front of the lens is probably the only thing you can do if you’re out in the drizzle or really dusty conditions.  Zeiss T* coatings.  Lens is made in Japan.

Filter size is 49mm, and is quite popular for ‘E’ primes.  Be careful when mounting filters as the filter threads are plastic. You can mount 40.5 filters to the hood, but you may not need to; the hood will fit over your thin 49mm mounted filters, but not thick type like polarizers and grads etc.  Speaking of such, rotating filters like these are hard to mount, you can’t get your fingers between the lens barrel and ring to tighten them up, see third product shot below.  I’d stay away from super expensive Sony filters and cheap ‘general brand’ filters.  I’ve had great luck with Tiffen and Hoya; they’re priced appropriately, and are the only brands I use now.

Focusing.  This lens auto-focuses quickly and mostly accurately, and has a very quiet linear focusing motor so it can be used for video.  The front filter ring doesn’t turn when focusing, so your polarizers and grads will work great.  The focusing ring is easy to turn, and is damped about right.

In the box is the lens, front and rear caps, and a hood.
  • Sorry about the dust on the box, forgot to wipe it off
  • Small slit-type hood with 40.5mm filter threads cut on the outside
  • Thick or thin 49mm filters can be used without the hood
  • Backside with baffle
  • Sony MTF graph

Specifications

 Official lens name and code  Sony Sonnar FE 35mm F/2.8 ZA T*   SEL35F28Z
 Box contents  Front cap, rear cap, slit type hood and user’s manual.
 Cost  $799 as of 3/14.
 Build Quality  very good.
 Additional information  This model is made for Sony ‘E’ mount cameras, and won’t work on ‘A’ mount cameras as of this review.
 Optical configuration  7 elements in 5 groups.
 Angle of view  63° diagonally, (44˚when mounted on an APS-C sensor camera).  54° horizontally, and 38° vertically.
 Aperture  7 blades, curved
 Coverage for  Sony E mount 24x36mm sensor.  When mounted to an APS-C camera, the focal length is equivalent to 52°.
 Depth of field and focus scales  nothing.
Minimum focus, image plane to  subject  About 13.5″  (343mm).
Minimum focus, end of lens barrel to subject  About 11″ (279mm) from front of lens barrel, no hood.
 Infinity focus hard stop  No.
 Length changes when focusing  No.
 Focus ring turn in AF  No.
 Filter size  49mm filter, 40.5mm (cap) size when mounted to hood.
 Filter ring rotates  No.
 Maximum reproduction ratio  1:8.1 or 0.12x.
 Minimum F/stop  F/22
 Sony Teleconverter compatible  No.
 Length changes when zooming  N/A
 Dimensions WxL  2.41″ x 1.43″    61mm x 36mm.
 Maximum extended length  Lens does not extend.
 Weight  4.2oz, (120g) bare.

 

Optical qualities summary.

 Lens flare/ghosting  overall, good control.
 Light fall-off  strong wide open, lessening at smaller apertures.
 Color fringing excellent control of lateral type.  I do see a very small amount of magenta axial type at F.2.8, but it goes away as you stop down. Easy to correct in Lightroom 5.
 Bokeh  somewhat smooth at wide apertures.
 Color  seems about the same as other Sony lenses.
 Close-up filter  works ok, +4 tested.
 Coma  basically none, you might see a trace at F/2.8 in the extreme corners.
 Regular filters  cause no noticeable additional light fall-off.
 Filter size  49mm.  A popular size for Sony ‘E’ primes.
 Distortion  Very mild barrel type.

 

Miscellaneous samples.

The first image is the usual stamp shot from the old site, cropped and displayed at 100%  The subject is a standard US stamp, 0.87″x 1.0″ or 22mm x 25mm.  It’s very sharp, but the maximum reproduction ratio is small at 0.12x.  The second is a full resized image of distortion.  The last four show how the lens handles the sun when inside the frame.  Sun stars start to show up at F/11.

  • Close focus at F/11
  • Distortion sample
  • F/2.8
  • Sun directly in shot, F/5.6
  • F/11
  • F/22

Vignetting gallery below.

Vignetting or light fall-off is quite noticeable at wide apertures when displayed like this, however, in the real world, it’s not distracting in my opinion, and is useful for keeping your eyes from wandering off the subject.

  • F/2.8
  • F/4
  • F/5.6
  • F/8

Resolution samples.

Here are the resolution images, they are pretty boring, but do a good job at showing a wide range of details, scattered evenly across the frame so it’s easy to tell how the aperture affects sharpness in the centers, mid sections, sides and corners.  All were taken in RAW and converted to jpegs, no sharpening or other enhancements have been made, and they have not been cropped.  Feel free to download them and flip between the images to see the changes.  The last image was taken with the Sony FE 24-70mm F/4 at 35mm.  The little prime really smokes the zoom; of course that’s no surprise.

  • F/2.8
  • F/4
  • F/5.6
  • F/8
  • F/11
  • F/16
  • F/8 from Sony 24-70mm F/4 taken at 35mm.

Background highlight blur (bokeh) at short focusing distances.

Here are a few full size images of a subject taken from a relatively short distance.  You can get a good idea of the character of out of focus highlights.  I did not take these on a tripod, so they are not perfectly lined up.

  • F/2.8
  • F/4
  • F/5.6
  • F/8

That’s it for this review.  Please check out the Sony 35/2.8 FE lens at B&H Photo and help support the site!

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