Sony 50mm 1.4 lens review

A 50mm lenses is an essential piece of every photographer's kit, offering a versatile focal length, typically with a wide aperture that offers both excellent clarity and low light performance.

We take a look at Sony’s f/1.4 50mm prime lens (or Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 Zeiss PLANAR T* to give it its full name!). It’s designed for their alpha range, using the E-Mount. It’s been on the market since 2016, but remains as sharp as ever. We’ve used a lot of 50mm lenses before, yet this is one of our favourites. Read on to find out why…

Sony G Master 50mm lens review

Beautiful Bokeh

As Gareth enthusiastically points out in our video, this lens really is a ‘bokeh machine’. Shooting at a wide aperture will give out of focus rear or foreground elements that help you isolate your subject.

This bokeh effect can be seen to great effect with fairy lights in the background – they render smoothly, with a distinctively smooth, circular finish. This is thanks to the 50mm’s 11 rounded aperture blades. ‘Creamy’ indeed.

Ron Timehin portrait by Ashley Laurence

Image Quality

Our overriding take-away from using this lens was how happy we were with the images. In the image below, you can see we were shooting in low light, in the rain, with variable lighting conditions. In a nutshell, we had no problems capturing our subjects and making them pop from the background.

The contrast and punch is great – an area strongly associated with Sony mirrorless cameras, and this lens continues that tradition.

Shooting wide open

This isn’t the cheapest option for a 50mm Sony E-Mount lens – they do a f/1.8 version that is more in line with traditional ‘nifty fifty’ prices. But of course, the extra weight and cost of this lens goes hand in hand with a wide aperture of f/1.4, as well as premium design, lens coating and mechanics.

It’s nice and sharp – some lenses struggle with clarity in the corners when shooting wide open, but we were happy with the sharpness across the frame.

If you’re using this lens on a new generation Sony alpha (we’ve tried it on the a7III, a7RIII and the a9), then this lens will show off the full repertoire of Sony’s advanced AF systems. It’s super quick, and combine it with the Eye-AF feature, and you’re on to a winner.

Shooting at f/1.4, it’s not uncommon for some lenses to hunt (thanks to the narrow focal plane).  But not here. And this makes it incredibly versatile – capturing intimate moments when shooting portraits is possible thanks to the speedy focus. Ditto - we felt very comfortable using this lens for street photography – it would equally translate as a great ‘travel’ lens.

How does the Sony 50mm handle?

We touched on the size already – it’s not the smallest, but it handles fantastically – we’d expect nothing less when the Zeiss logo adorns the side. It’s weather sealed, and the manual focus ring is so smooth that making manual adjustments is a breeze.

We're always a fan of an aperture ring on a lens - adjusting exposure becomes easy. The Sony offers a satisfying click when you shift, allowing you to know you've stopped up/down. This means you can concentrate on judging your exposure with live view. Given Sony's popularity with videographers, it's great to see you can switch the aperture ring 'click' off too.

Using the 50mm for video

Speaking of which - the manual focus ring comes into its own when shooting video – smooth traction means there are no unwanted movements while pulling focus. The wide aperture also means that you’ll capture clear footage in dark conditions.

If you’re looking for the perfect partner for your Sony alpha then this offers a lot – great for portraits, street and travel photography, with fantastic build quality. And of course, beautiful bokeh.

You can read the full product specification on our website, and if you’d like to try it for yourself, you can pop into either our Burgess Hill or London store to get hands on.

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See some of Ron's great Cityscape shots from around the world in our interview.

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