Zeiss Loxia 85/2.4 vs Zeiss Batis 85/1.8 vs Sony FE 85/1.4 GM vs Sony SAL 85/1.4 ZA. Battle of 85mm lenses for Sony E Mount – Comparative Lens Review
Sample Gallery and Conclusion
In the sample gallery, you should find portraits made on the comparative purpose. The intention wasn’t to check the sharpness or amount of the bokeh, but to try to get most out of each lens. Most of the shots were taken wide open, even if in the real life, I will rather used aperture stopped down to at least f/2.8. For larger files please visit Flickr Album
All four tested lenses are superb, especially for their main intended purpose – portrait. Sharpness should be for once deeply buried at the end of the preference list, since there is little to ask for. Nevertheless, there are many other relevant differences that should be taken into consideration. My impressions and recommendations are as follows.
Sony FE 85/1.4 GM
Superb portrait lens with slightly lower micro and global contrast (which might be a good thing for portrait), very smooth out of focus rendering, high quality plastic coat on metal framing, that seems to be very durable and is lighter and more pleasing to hold than metal. This lens comes at the premium price, but you can enjoy all benefits of advanced Sony AF features, such as eye AF (very useful for arranged portraits). It is big and rather heavy though, so if you are shooting portraits casually, you should consider some more compact solution. While in my testing, Sony FE 85/1.4 GM wasn’t sharpest of the bunch (could be sample variation?) it was always more than sharp enough. Color accuracy was very good and at right WB setting, skin tones were pleasing. Auto focusing is fast enough for portraits, but not for sport or fast action, where massive optical elements are limiting its speed. Lens has least mechanical vignetting which results in nice regular circular highlights toward image borders. There is some focus breathing though that might be a problem for video creators. All in all, this is lens for advanced, demanding photographers, who are looking for both – speed and beautifully balanced rendering for portraits. Highly recommended if you can afford it.
Sony Planar T* 85/1.4 ZA with LA-EA4
This is today, sort of budget option, if you go with second-hand market. If you have adapter, lens itself can be found in good condition for around 900 EUR. That is great bang for the buck, because Planar has plenty of sharpness and character to deliver. Beside cumbersome adapter, which also limits most of the advanced AF features, its main “problem” is purple fringing. Otherwise it is surprisingly sharp already at f/1.4 and it has very smooth bokeh with least focus breathing problem. Without adapter it is much more compact than Sony FE and also somewhat lighter. More compact size for transport (with the adapter packed separately), can be very important sometimes. Color accuracy is however shifted toward warm tones. Flare resistance is exceptional. I can recommend this lens (I own it myself) for everyone who wants high quality optics at great speed and reasonable price. There are some limitations as listed above, but sharpness is explicit and overall character rather unique.
Zeiss Batis 85/1.8
AFAIK the only AF portrait lens from Zeiss. Contemporary design made of light metal, lot of glass and soft rubber, makes this lens outstanding in appearance. Batis is fastest auto focusing lens in this test, suitable not only for static but also for medium speed moving subjects. It has somewhat more pronounced vignetting and traces of pincushion distortion, but it is very sharp up to the corners, with great contrast and accurate color rendition. It features slightly slower aperture at f/1.8, but it’s ability to isolate subjects is not affected. Batis is a great choice for every photo enthusiast especially for Zeiss lens lovers. New Sony FE 85/1.8 might come close in optical performance ,but with Zeiss you have guarantee that your lens was individually inspected to fulfill most rigorous production demand, that colors will be matched not only within same product line, but across all older, recent and hopefully future product lines and that you will always get great product support if needed. This would be my lens of choice for the family portraits.
Zeiss Loxia 85/2.4
Loxia is unique lens in many regards. It is made for those of us who enjoy manual focusing at its best. It is clearly addressing video makers, offering attributes of a great importance – compact size, superb build quality, ensuring longevity, greatly dampened focusing , Zeiss geared rings accessory , de-clicking of the aperture ring, full exif recording. Loxia is bitingly sharp from its widest aperture with great contrast, color accuracy and flare resistance. It does show some vignetting though and I would like to see improved grip for mounting the lens (whole body is focus ring which rotates when you try to mount the lens) but those are very minor issues. Loxia is also very compact, it is made to be carried and used instead of displayed on the shelf. It fits Sony A7 series so greatly that you simply don’t want to put other lenses instead. I own Loxia 21/2.8 and 35/2. Loxia 85/2.4 is out if my budget recently, but I have no doubts that it will find the way to my bag sooner or later. Loxia 85/2.4 alone, or as part of the Loxia collection is a superb lens for travel photography.
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