Richard Sibley tries out Sony’s fastest FE lens for the Alpha 7-series full-frame compact system cameras

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Sony Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 ZA


Sony Zeiss Distagon T* 35mm f/1.4 ZA review


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Build and handling

Sony Zeiss Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA on A7R

The Sony Zeiss Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA is a large, chunky lens, here seen on the 36MP A7R

There is no escaping the size of the 35mm f/1.4 lens – the large f/1.4 aperture and full-frame coverage mean that it uses some large, heavy elements. Weighing 630g and measuring 78 x 112mm, it is one of the largest lenses we have seen for the Sony Alpha 7 cameras, and it is certainly large when compared to its full-frame DSLR equivalents. It’s also significantly bigger than similar lenses for other CSCs (for example, it’s about twice the size and weight of the Fujifilm XF 23mm f/1.4R, which is designed for APS-C sensors).

Is the size and weight a problem? It depends. In terms of handling, no it is not. The aperture ring around the lens barrel means you can easily support the lens and change aperture with your left hand, while the right hand balances the camera and fires the shutter. It is one of those cases where you hold the lens, not the camera.

Those who travel light may prefer the 35mm f/2.8 lens, but if you are taking out numerous lenses the extra weight of the f/1.4 over the f/2.8 lens will make very little noticeable difference once your kit is in a bag on your back.

Sony Zeiss Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA front element

The 35mm f/1.4 accepts 72mm filters, and has a bayonet attachment for the supplied hood

The addition of an aperture ring to the lens adds something to the Sony Alpha 7 system as a whole. It is like the missing piece of the puzzle that gives the Alpha 7 the feel of using a traditional SLR, which is something Sony hasn’t quite managed to capture compared to the likes of Fujifilm with its XT-1. I really hope that Sony and Zeiss produce more lenses for the FE mount with aperture rings.

The option to turn the aperture click on or off is very neat, and something that those shooting video will really appreciate. I found the aperture ring to have just enough resistance when turned that it didn’t slip out of position, but it was still easily manoeuvrable. With the live view on the screen, you can watch the depth of field change with the smooth turn of the aperture ring, and again, I’m sure many videographers would like to see this feature included across the FE lens range.

Sony Zeiss Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA click switch

A switch on the barrel allows the aperture click stops to be turned off, for silent stepless control during video recording

As with other lenses in the FE range, the 35mm f/1.4 has electronic fly-by-wire focusing, meaning that turning the focus ring signals for the electronic motors to adjust focus of the lens. The manual-focus ring itself is very wide, and turns smoothly yet precisely. Combined with the 100% manual-focus magnification through the viewfinder, it was fairly fast to get the focus point I wanted.

Overall, I am very impressed with how the lens handles, and it has the solid build quality and style one would expect from a lens that bears the Zeiss badge.

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Build and handling
  3. 3. Image quality
  4. 4. Test results: MTF (Sharpness)
  5. 5. Test results: Distortion and vignetting
  6. 6. Conclusion
Page 2 of 6 - Show Full List
  • Chris Birchenhall

    The key word in Richard review is “character”. While I have not used this lens everything in the review suggests it a typical Zeiss design. It is typical for Zeiss lenses to vignette and concentrate on central sharpness. I think too much is made of sharpness but too little on overall character. I have long favoured Zeiss glass way back from the days I used a Hasselblad and a Rolleiflex for weddings. I can note the new Nikon 58mm has loads of character too.

  • Oleg Hutsalenko

    Taste is a bigger problem then MTF or Fstop =)

  • ZorakZoran01

    I never saw it in any shot except one, online, of a startrail pushed by 4 ev. And you need to look at 100% to see it. Over the hundredth of thousands pictures taken with the system since it’s out. So…

  • Nigrath

    Does the focus ring have a fixed beginnning and end point or is it continuous? Fixed is essential for remote focus pulling and a deal breaker for me.

  • moxford

    If you push/pull it in post the artifacts get nasty real quick. And seeing it in 10% of my shots is unacceptable. My personal opinion.

  • bakanecko

    why people always complaining the lossy-raw compression, in 90% of shooting style you can’t distinguish it, except if you have very special eye or have very extreme/odd shooting style.

  • moxford

    With excellent Sigma 35mm Art being about half the cost, it seems odd to offer this particular lens, with this optical quality, at this price-point, right now. I’d think they’d hold off until they could at least match the Sigma and shoot closer to the Zeiss Otus for quality. Can’t wait for the head-to-head reports but this release feels almost … premature. Curious. Sony continues to baffle me with what and how they’re tackling this whole MLC thing. While killer sensors are their ace in the hole, lack of a solid, cohesive and well thought out strategy may be a Sony killer. Even as much as I’m rooting for the due to the sensors, the body offerings, lenses and roadmaps just seem … scattered. I was –><– close to jumping systems when I found out about the lossy-RAW compression. I mean, really? What, they didn't think anyone would find out? That's like Nvidia thinking that no one would discover the issues with their 970 cards.