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