- Aug 6, 2011
I've been fortunate to own a lot of excellent "normal" lenses. Some of the standouts were the Zeiss ZM 50mm f/2, Konica 50mm f/2 M-Hexanon, Voigtlander (Cosina) 50/1.5 (both versions), and Zeiss ZF 50/2 Makro. I've owned fast normals like the Olympus OM 50/1.2, Pentax K 50/1.2, and Canon 50/0.95. High value 50s like the Nikon AF-S 50/1.8G, Canon EF 50/1.8, Sigma 50/1.4, and Canon EF 50/1.4. Several excellent crop sensor "normal" lenses: Panasonic Leica DG 25/1.4, Fuji 35/1.4, Pentax 35/2.4, Nikon 35/1.8, Sigma 30/1.4. Two fantastic 40mm equivalent normals: Olympus OM 40/2 and Panasonic 20/1.7. Beyond the ones I've owned, there are a whole bunch I've borrowed, including my older brother's wonderful Leica M 50/1.4 ASPH and 50/0.95 ASPH. I'm sure there are others I'm forgetting and a couple not worth mentioning.
For me, the Sony Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Lens is the best of the best. To begin with, it's easily the sharpest normal lens I have ever used. Performance is balanced across the frame, and I don't think twice about using it at any aperture from wide open on down. Bokeh is just about perfect for my tastes. Not harsh but not so soft as to eliminate all structure. Just enough swirl to give it unique character. Distortion is negligible. No problems noted with flare. Minimal lateral CA. Optically the only issue is the usual axial CA seen with nearly all lenses in this class.
To be honest, I'm surprised by how few reviews there are online for this lens. Maybe because this year saw the introduction of the Otus as well as the 50mm APO Summicron? All I can say is that there is no "normal" focal length lens at any price point that I would prefer to my Sony FE 55/1.8.
The samples shown below are all at f/1.8 or f/2. To see any of the below samples larger, go to the far bottom left corner of this page and select "TalkEmount default for Hi-Res Displays" from the dropdown menu. Or click on any of them to view the full-resolution version.
DSC00628 by Amin Sabet, on Flickr
DSC00917 by Amin Sabet, on Flickr
DSC00714 by Amin Sabet, on Flickr