Sony Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Lens Mini-Review

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Lenses' started by Amin Sabet, May 15, 2014.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    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.

    by Amin Sabet, on Flickr

    by Amin Sabet, on Flickr

    by Amin Sabet, on Flickr
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2016
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  2. jade_monkey07

    jade_monkey07 TalkEmount Regular

    Dec 24, 2013
    What camera do you shoot with? Beautiful shots!

    I dont always drive where others cant. but when I do, its in my Jeep. Stay muddy my friends
  3. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
    Thank you! First one was taken with A7R which I had on loan. The other two were from my A7.
  4. jade_monkey07

    jade_monkey07 TalkEmount Regular

    Dec 24, 2013
    Rediculous detail. Helps to have a camera worth as much as my first car lol! But it takes a good lense to show it. Guess ill have to add this to my long list

    I dont always drive where others cant. but when I do, its in my Jeep. Stay muddy my friends
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  5. John D.

    John D. TalkEmount Regular

    Oct 7, 2013
    Absolutely stunning IQ and micro-contrast... Simply amazing.. I hadn't considered this lens seriously - well, until I just read your review and looked at the images... Real reviews by real photographers are few and far between on this lens - which is why I appreciate yours...

    Thank you..!

    - John
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  6. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 22, 2012
    I guess there's just not much to say about perfection :) 
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  7. Woody112704

    Woody112704 TalkEmount Rookie

    Jan 28, 2014
    Seems really nice. It'd be interesting to see it compared to the new Sigma 50mm. I'm going to wait a couple years on the A7's hopefully they flesh out some of the issues they have with them and build their lens line up a bit. I bet that A7R and the new Sigma is absolutely stunning too.
  8. ilovehatephotography

    ilovehatephotography TalkEmount Regular

    May 30, 2014
    Los Angeles, CA
    Hi Amin, thanks for your photos and review. I agree with you that the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 is a legendary lens and it will surely be a future classic, but I have a slightly different take on it. I'm most impressed by the 3D "pop" of the images this lens produces. Subjects in focus seem to jump out from the blurred background. This isn't a narrow DOF thing because I've used Canon L lenses @ f/1.2 that didn't have the same dimensionality as this Zeiss. It is something to do with the abrupt transition between the focused and unfocused areas of the image. This article talks about it on page 10 (it is a very technical read).

    This lens stands out for me because of its dimensionality. It's quite hard to describe with words, but you can totally see it in your first image where the girl with the helmet seems "on-top" of the blurred background.
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  9. BruPri

    BruPri TalkEmount Regular

    Aug 7, 2011
    I'd been happy with my E mount 50 1.8. After I saw your review Amin, I looked into the 55, read some additional articles and had to have it. Although I'm currently shooting the Alpha 6000, it's a terrific combo. One of the things I commented on previously was the rendering, the combination of detail/sharpness and bokeh, make subjects look almost "photoshopped" over the background such as in these two...


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