Andy Westlake tries out Sony's latest premium fast prime designed for Alpha 7 users, the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA review – Introduction
Back in 2006, Sony took over Konica Minolta’s troubled camera business in a bid to become a major player in the market. Ten years on and its relentless experimentation and innovation have paid dividends, with the Alpha 7 full-frame mirrorless system rapidly establishing itself as a serious alternative to high-end DSLRs.
There’s no point having hugely ambitious cameras like the 42.4-million-pixel Alpha 7R II, though, without lenses to match. To this end, Sony has also been rapidly building up its full-frame FE range, which, from a standing start in 2013, now numbers 17 lenses as well as various converters. Its latest is the premium Zeiss-branded Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA.
Sony’s marketing tagline is ‘Tomorrow’s lenses today’, and by this it means that it is designing optics to satisfy the requirements of not just the latest high-resolution sensors, but future generations as well. To this end, it has established a couple of premium lines, with its home-grown ‘G Master’ range exemplified by the recent FE 85mm f/1.4 GM. Somewhat confusingly, the line developed in partnership with Zeiss is essentially parallel, but the lenses have a specific balance of optical properties.
Whatever the design intention, it’s impossible to miss the new 50mm’s price. At £1,499, it’s more than double that of the existing Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA, which, at around £620, is already very much a premium lens and has gained an enviable reputation for optical quality. In context, Sigma’s stunning 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM | Art for full-frame DSLRs is currently around £580, while Samyang’s new, directly competing FE-fit 50mm f/1.4 will cost just £449. So how can Sony conceivably justify such a wallet-busting price tag?