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Back in December of 2017 I was sent the ZEISS 1.4/35mm lens by Sony Electronics and had some time to try this out. Prior to this I owned the ZEISS 2.8/35mm lens. Needless to say after trying the 1.4 I ended up purchasing it two weeks later.
Many may remember I originally bought the 2.8 version for it’s light and compact form factor and did mention I would eventually purchase the 1.4. That time came a bit faster than originally anticipated. With this new lens in that means I have a new lens review to share with you.
ZEISS 35mm Specs & Images
Sony E-Mount (FE - Full Frame lens)
DISTAGON Optical Lens Design
Aperture Range: f/1.4-f/16
Physical Aperture Ring & De-click Switch
ZEISS T* Anti-Reflective Coating
72mm Diameter Filter Thread
Metal Construction with Dust & Weather Seals
63 degrees - Angle of View
11.81′ inches (30cm) Minimum Focus Distance
1.39lb (630g) - Weight
This is a lens used quite often for my people images, but for it’s range it’s quite a universal lens to use, but I make all of my lenses universal in their uses anyways. The f/1.4 aperture adds such a stunning bokeh to images, to really make your subject standout from the background.
Along with such a fast aperture prime is of course it’s great performance in low light situations, such as the Worship services I photograph at various churches. I’m able to photograph at low ISO ranges, which lead to much cleaner images.
35mm is a very versatile range that’s not too wide or tight and can be a lens that receives a lot of use among other camera lenses you may have in your bag. As you keep reading you’ll see various examples of just what this lens is capable of capturing.
Something to note is that this lens is a Full Frame (FE) lens for Sony’s Mirrorless E-Mount cameras, but it can be used on the cropped APS-C cameras, which will give you a 35mm equivalent focal length of 52.5mm.
What I think about the 35mm
Superior. That’s the only way I can think to describe it. It’s a solid piece of glass that offers exceptional image quality. This is one of the most well built lenses for the Sony E-Mount line.
What I really love about this lens is the on lens aperture ring. Why? Because I’m able to quickly adjust my aperture on the fly and quickly with the aperture being adjustable outside of the cameras operation control. Adjusting the aperture in camera can be slightly delayed and having that instant change is quite useful, especially when you have the de-click turned on. The de-click is useful for video filming, for smooth aperture changes.
I’ve been a big advocate for ZEISS Sonnar lens designs (for their astounding contrast and clarity), but the Distagon design is becoming a tied design for me these days. All of the ZEISS lenses after those I own that I really love are Distagon’s, such as the ZEISS Batis 2/25mm and ZEISS Milvus 1.4/50mm.
What makes the 35mm great?
Aperture Ring - As mentioned earlier I like having the aperture control at my hand for instant transitions without the delay of the in camera aperture control.
De-Click Switch - This is great for video filming in having smooth aperture adjustments during recordings.
Image Quality - It’s a razor sharp lens with impressive color reproduction. Even at it’s widest aperture you’ll still obtain edge to edge sharpness from this lens, which is expected from a lens with the ZEISS nameplate on it.
Build - You're getting an all metal design lens that’s weather sealed, making this a great lens to have out in the elements.
Aperture - Having an f/1.4 lens is something many photographers look forward to, for the capabilities in depth of field and low light performance, making this a flexible lens choice regardless if your primary genre is portraits or landscapes.
Focusing - This is a very snappy lens and it’s speed seems very equal to the ZEISS 50mm f/1.4 Planar lens, that I’ve used along side this lens before. Among the Sony/ZEISS line of lenses this ranks among the top ones for focusing for sure, with no situations of missing focus in my frame. There are times if you’re trying to focus very closely where it may not register however, when wide open at f/1.4. 1.4 lenses and faster are always harder to focus, but knowing how to set your cameras focusing is highly recommended for such lenses.
Focus Ring - Very noticeable is the giant focusing ring on this lens. Unlike the 2.8 version, which had a much smaller footprint and meant a small focus ring this one offers a lot of room for people with various size hands, making it very easy to manually focus this lens when you need to.
Color - You’re always certain to obtain great colored images with any ZEISS lens and this is no exception to that. Many say ZEISS lenses have a 3D looking effect to them and you do feel that way with this lens and the poppy colors it offers.
T* Coating - ZEISS lenses are popular for this coating, which reduces lens flare drastically and enhances overall performance of the lens. Whether it’s a filter or lens with this coating you’ll notice the difference from having it vs a lens or filter that doesn’t.
What makes the 35mm not so great?
Optical Steady Shot - There isn’t any stabilization with this lens, but if you have any of the newer Sony Mirrorless cameras then you’ll gain stabilization from the camera bodies themselves. At such a wide focal length you can get away without needing it, but it does increase the usability of this lens in low light situations that may result in a low shutter speed.
Weight - If you’re wanting a lightweight kit then this lens may not fit the bill for you. At over 600 grams this is far from light. For most the quality of this lens will outweigh the con of its weight, just as it did for me.
Why the ZEISS 1.4/35mm over ZEISS 2.8/35mm?
My decision was based solely on one thing, the f/1.4 Aperture. For landscape and architecture photographers this isn’t a major issue, but those photographing people or in low light will benefit from the added stops of light the 1.4 offers and not to mention the more buttery looking bokeh than the f/2.8 lens.
Seeing that my ambitions were to begin photographing more people again and returning more into Worship again as well I wanted a lens that offered a bit more than what I had. The f/2.8 was incredible, but the f/1.4 brought that same level of quality with the added bonus of an f/1.4.
How is the 35mm for filming?
Of all of the 5 lenses I currently own, this one if my leading filming lens choice. It has a very perfect focal length and the f/1.4 aperture just makes it look amazing for any subject in your video to standout with the amazing bokeh it offers. It’s sometimes a bit too amazing with the bokeh that you have to stop it down a bit to maybe an f/2 if you don’t want the bokeh to be so extensive or having such a narrow window in terms of focus.
This is also a lens I highly recommend to my followers from the Beauty & Style Community, such as one of my best friends, Alaha Karimi, who has taken my Beauty Workshop and switched to filming with this lens. It really shows you how good this lens is from her video (Also check out a video I filmed entirely with this lens as well, on my unboxing of the brand new Sony RX0).
Conclusion: Who is/isn’t this for?
If you’re wanting a no compromise kind of lens then you won’t find a better 35mm lens than this one. Point blank! For the superior image quality and the build of this lens brings about a lens you’re destined to have around for many years. Having that “no compromise” does come at a hefty price, however. At $1,598 USD this lens is going to be an expensive investment for most. If you’re a working professional then such a purchase can be justified, but those who are hobbyists maybe not so much.
Don’t forget this lens is also a massive difference in size and weight to it’s f/2.8 counterpart. If you don’t want a heavy kit then this won’t be a lens you care to use very much. For a lens that doesn’t sacrifice quality, but comes at the convenience of size and weight and most importantly a bigger price savings then the ZEISS 35mm f/2.8 Sonnar will be the lens you’d be more interested in (Click here to read my full review on this lens).