Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA – Review


Characteristics


  • Lens Mount: FE (Full frame or APSC)
  • Type: Prime lens
  • Focusing: Automatic or Manual (In camera setting)
  • Construction:
    • Lens Groups: 5
    • Lens Element: 7
    • Aperture Blades: 7
      • Rounded
  • Min. Aperture: 2.8
  • Max Aperture: 22
  • Min. Focal distance: 0.35 m
  • Filter Size: 49 mm
  • Length: 42 mm
  • Weight: 120 gr
  • Hood: Yes, included in the retail package.
    • Length: 14.7 mm
    • Weight: 12.3 gr
  • Price (new): USD 798 / Oct - 2020
  • Price (used): USD 375 - USD 650 / Oct - 2020

Introduction


The Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA was launched with the original α7 cameras in 2013 as one of the main option for a “fast” wide angle lens and remains a very good choice for fulfilling the promised compactness of mirrorless cameras. Being a Zeiss lens, the image quality it’s top notch but with some caveats. The Sonnar (T*) branding is refers to the coating in this lens and with that, flare is well managed and the lens behave spectacular in direct sources of light. Being that the lens is from 2014, does it hold well 6 years later?.

  • All the photos in this review are from a Sony α7 II camera.
    • 24mp full frame sensor.
    • On body stabilization.

Update:
December 20 of 2020.

  • Added sharpness test.

February 28 of 2021

  • Minor fixes.
  • Added reference image for sharpness test.

Construction


This lens is very well constructed and overall gives a sturdy feeling when you manipulate it. There’s a chromed metal mount and plastic around the lens, the focusing ring is made of aluminum as well as the front barrel. According to different sites, the internals are made of plastic and the lightweight of the lens seems to indicate this.

  • The included hood it’s made of an strong plastic, but it’s lightweight enough.
  • The markings on the lens are engraved.
  • The focus is by wire, internally activated.
  • There’s a claimed dust and moisture resistant design.
    • But there’s no weather sealing gasket in the lens mount.
  • The ZEISS T* anti-reflective coating minimizes the flare.
    • And it really seem to do the trick

Handling


To handle the lens it is necessary to interact with it through the camera. All the main functions are configurable thru it.

Auto Focus

The auto focus is reliable and fast, I recon that with newer cameras will be more reliable that with my Sony α7 II camera. Although when the light is low, it hunts a little bit more and has some trouble nailing it.

Manual Focus

The focus by wire mechanism works quite well, turning the focus ring turns the focus assist mechanism on to assist. It is important how fast the ring is turned, it is possible to go from the minimum focus (35 cm) to infinity in a fast turn, but at the same time by doing it slowly it is possible to be more precise in focus.

Bokeh


At f/2.8 there’s bokeh and blur in the background, but you have to be relatively close to your subject. However, at 35 cm of minimum it’s possible to do so and you get some nice rendering and not so distracting bokeh. Therefore emphasizing a “dreamy” atmosphere.

ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/2.8 - 1/1000sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/3.2 - 1/800sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/3.5 - 1/640sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/4 - 1/500sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/4.5 - 1/400sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/5 - 1/320sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/5.6 - 1/250sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/6.3 - 1/200sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/7.1 - 1/160sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/8 - 1/125sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/9 - 1/100sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/10 - 1/80sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/11 - 1/60sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/13 - 1/50sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/14 - 1/40sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/16 - 1/30sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/18 - 1/25sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/20 - 1/20sec - ISO-100 - 35mm
ILCE-7M2 - Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA - f/22 - 1/15sec - ISO-100 - 35mm

RAW photos are developed in Lightroom with the default profile for Sony FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA

Distortion


This lens has a strong falloff in the borders. In other words, the image it’s more darker at maximum aperture. This improves as the lens is stopped down. There’s a noticeable improvement when the bundled profile “Sony FE 35mm F2.8 ZA” it’s applied in Lightroom.

Before: No profile. / After: Profile applied.

Sharpness


  • As expected, in f/2.8 the center is tack sharp but the corners not.
  • From f/5.6 overall image is sharp, although in some case extreme corners tend to suffer a bit.
  • At f/8 all the image is sharp (as far as I can check), no major aberrations or distortion.
  • At f/11, image is still tack sharp but lower than that diffraction start to creep in.
  • At f/22 the loss of contrast and detail is noticeable.

Full image at f/2.8

Gallery


Photos are processed in Lightroom, primarily are color corrected and adjusted for personal preference. There’s no extra sharpening, added texture or clarity on them.

Conclusions


You can’t go wrong with a compact lens in a compact body. There’s a inner joy in handling a low weight / compact camera and be able to carry it in a a pocket jacket or around the neck with out hurting you. In addition to that, if the quality of the images that you get it’s superb you get a nice combo in your hands.
The image quality is superb at f/2.8 but doesn’t improve that much when you stop down the aperture. At f/8 corner to corner quality and sharpness is excellent although at f/16 some dispersion start to creep in in the corners. The construction it’s amazing, no doubt about it but nevertheless, if you drop it or bang it would hurt a lot more than a cheaper lens. The included hood is a must for this reason and to help a little bit with reflections, but the coatings do indeed do a marvelous work in avoiding this.
With that apart, I found it to be a very boring lens. I had a Rokinon/Samyang 35mm f/2.8 that I sold to switch to this and certainly the build quality is far superior, but the image quality it’s leveled between both lenses. In addition to that the AF performance is a little bit better in this lens than the Rokinon, but if your not relying on it there’s hardly any justification for the switch.
Don’t get me wrong, if this is your fist lens and you like to use AF this would be an excellent choice, but I would buy it used. There’s no justification for the price tag of this lens at this stage of the Sony mirrorless life. There’s other options that would produce the same image and that’s what matter the most.

Alternatives.

  • Samyang/Rokinon 35mm f / 2.8
    • Review (soon)
  • Buy: Amazon * / Ebay *
    • * : Affiliate Link