posted Wednesday, January 13, 2021 at 10:00 AM EST
Sony has announced its 59th E mount lens, the FE 35mm f/1.4 G Master. In addition to now offering nearly 60 lenses, including teleconverter and conversion lenses, the 35mm f/1.4 is Sony’s 39th full-frame mirrorless optic. It’s an impressive and versatile lineup. Notably, the new FE 35mm f/1.4 GM joins 2015’s Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA lens in the Sony lens lineup, marking the first time the company has doubled up on a focal length and maximum aperture. However, the pair of 35mm f/1.4 primes don’t offer photographers an identical selection of features.
The FE 35mm f/1.4 GM is equipped with the latest in Sony optical technology. It is the 12th G Master lens and the progress Sony’s engineers have made is on full display here. The lens incorporates a pair of XA lens elements, promising edge-to-edge sharpness. The lens has a single ED glass element to suppress chromatic aberration and purple fringing. To minimize flare and ghosting, the lens has Nano AR Coating II. In total, there are 14 lens elements across 10 groups.
The XA elements are designed not only for strong resolving performance but also to deliver smooth, beautiful bokeh performance. The XA elements have a 0.01-micron surface precision to help prevent onion-ring bokeh, which is when an out of focus spherical highlight has spirals or concentric circles, which can be distracting. To further contribute to beautiful bokeh is an 11-bladed circular aperture diaphragm.
In terms of autofocus, the FE 35mm f/1.4 GM incorporates a pair of XD (extreme dynamic) linear motors, which provides the thrust required to quickly position the large focus group in the lens. Sony’s XD motor has no gears, which results in contactless and frictionless focus. Sony promises the XD motors deliver quiet, quiet and precise autofocus performance. The lens is optimized for video work as well, with Sony noting minimal focus breathing in the lens. Further, the prime lens has a linear response focusing ring for performing manual focus.
While not a macro lens, the FE 35mm f/1.4 G Master promises good close-up performance. When using autofocus, the minimum focus distance is 10.63″ (27cm), resulting in a maximum magnification of 0.23x. When using manual focus, the minimum focus distance is 9.8″ (25cm), which is a 0.26x max magnification.
With respect to design and durability, the lens has an aperture ring that can be de-clicked for smooth aperture changes when recording video. The lens has a focus hold button as well, which is customizable. You can switch between autofocus and manual focus using a focus mode switch on the lens barrel. The lens also has a fluorine coating on the front element and is dust and moisture resistant.
The new 35mm f/1.4 GM lens is reasonably compact relative to other 35mm f/1.4 lenses, including the Sony Zeiss Distagon 35mm f/1.4. The GM lens weighs only 524 grams, which is about 100g lighter than the Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA. The GM lens has a maximum diameter of 76mm (slightly narrower than the Zeiss lens) and is 96mm long (about 16mm shorter than the Zeiss lens). Compared to 35m f/1.4 lenses designed for DSLR cameras, the 35mm f/1.4 G Master is between 66 and 231 grams lighter. The FE 35mm f/1.4 GM has a 67mm filter thread.
Versus the Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA, the FE 35mm f/1.4 GM has the edge in terms of optical technology as well. The GM has Nano AR II coating and uses Sony’s new XA lens elements, features lacking from the Distagon T*. Additionally, the GM has XD autofocus tech. A lot of advancements in lens design and performance have been made in the last five years.
The Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 GM lens is arriving in February with a retail price of $1,400 USD ($1,900 CAD). The Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA will remain in the lineup and will maintain its current $1,600 price for now, although it’s reasonable to expect a price shift in short order.