Sony 35mm 1:2.8 FE – review

Published by Tony on

Sony 35mm 1:2.8 FE Carl Zeiss ZA – lens review.

Full name: Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm F2.8 ZA (SEL35F28Z)

This lens was one of the first two lenses which were produced by Sony for the new A7 cameras series. The new age of digital photography has been started with this 35/2.8.

Sony 35mm 1:2.8 FE specifications:

Name engraved on the lensCarl Zeiss Sonnar FE
f[mm]35
A max [1/f]2.8
A min[1/f]22
Number of blades7
Lens design [el.]7
Lens design [gr.]5
Filter thread front(rear)[mm]49
closefocus[m]0.35
Max. diameter[mm]61.5
Length min/max [mm]36.5
Weight[g]120

Additional information:

  • I’ve got this lens for review in used condition (s/n 1843276)
  • This is the first auto-focused lens tested on the site. Even more, this is the first lens which is still is in production which has been tested on the site
  • The lens is made of a thin weather-resistant aluminum shell over plastic internals (wiki)
  • This lens was introduced 16 October 2013 (with Sony A7 camera – the first Full Frame mirrorless camera in the world)
  • The Zeiss Sonnar is a photographic lens originally designed by Dr. Ludwig Bertele in 1929[1] and patented by Zeiss Ikon (wiki). At least one more review for another famous Sonnar is presented on the site – Canon S 50mm 1:1.5 Serenar

    Sony CZ FE 35mm 1:2.8 ZA optical design

Sony 35mm 1:2.8 FE exterior:

Sony 35mm 1:2.8 FE sharpness

Сlose-distance resolution test, minimal distance

Testing methods description

  • Target: 10-15 cm picture, printed on glossy photo paper
  • Distance: 1.7m
  • Camera: Sony A7II (24mpx, full-frame, tripod, remote control). M-mode, ISO fixed, WB fixed, SteadyShot – OFF.
  • The test was repeated for every F-stop on every focus position with manual focus adjustment for each shot. That is to avoid the effect of field curvature.
  • RAW processing: Capture One, default settings. All quality settings – 100%. Crops – 300×200 px

Scene preview

Original target image (printed in horizontal orientation on 10cm X 15cm glossy photo paper)

Test results

Long-distance resolution test

Testing methods description

  • Target: cityscape
  • Distance: > 200 meters to center focus point
  • Camera: Sony A7II (24mpx, full-frame, tripod, remote control). M-mode, ISO fixed, WB fixed, SteadyShot – OFF. The focus point is on the center only.
  • RAW processing: Capture One, default settings. All quality settings – 100%. Crops – 300×200 px

Scene preview

Test results

Sony 35mm 1:2.8 FE aberrations

Vignetting

Geometric distortion

Coma aberrations

Chromatic aberrations

Short-distance bokeh

Test conditions: lens was focused on minimal distance 0.3m, plants are in 2m distance from the camera

Long-distance bokeh

Test conditions: the lens was focused on 1m, buildings are on “infinity”-distance

Light bubbles bokeh

Test conditions: lens was focused 0.3m, diodes were fixed in 2m distance

Light bubbles bokeh

The lens is on the minimal focusing distance 0.3m, lights are on infinity (cityscape)

Other resources with reviews:

Demo Photos dedicated article

Some the examples:

Sony 35mm 1:2.8 Carl Zeiss FE ZA Sonnar T* – overall conclusion:

There is not a secret that this lens is very contradictory because of its price. It has good sharpness and low aberrations, but nothing extra against other competitors with the same focal distance and light speed. It is small, lightweight and well-built, but can be easily scratched or damaged: look at photos please, I don’t know who designed thin notches on the focus ring.

The lens is labeled as ‘Carl Zeiss’ and created in 2013 but Minolta from 1983 gives us the same result on photos. Even the auto-focus option isn’t unique, because one Korean manufacturer produces the lens with the same characteristics and for half price. And it doesn’t have a lux-aura like Leica or Carl Zeiss optics, because everyone knows that this is not ‘true’ Zeiss.

Sounds like nit-picking? Maybe. But the market price says to us that this lens is top. And it should be not just very sharp, well built, etc., it should be sharpest, built as rock, etc. As a result: a really nice lens with only one disadvantage – at such price and with this label, expectations from this lens are higher than reality. But grab it with no doubt if you can afford it – this lens is a great performer.


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