USER REPORT: Sony G Master 85mm f/1.4 Review
by Romeo Bravo – HIS WEBSITE IS HERE
A little background on me, and my style of shooting:
I love photographing beauty (close portraits), and I like the drama that comes with a narrow depth-of-field (DOF). The type of lens required to attain these two things falls in the 75-90mm range, and must be relatively fast (f1.8 or faster).
I love the Sony a7R II because I can adapt almost any lens ever made, and over this past year, I’ve given a good go at trying ALL of them ;)
All of the images below were shot wide open.
The first portrait lens I had for the a7r II was an adapted Canon 85mm f1.8 that my wife, Kelly Williams, gave to me. It rendered very beautiful images, but since it was adapted, the AF was slow, and it was very prone to purple fringing. Since I like to shoot backlit, this compounded both of these problems.
Canon 85 1.8
I then purchased a cheap Russian copy of the Carl Zeiss Sonnar – the Jupiter 9 85mm f2. It is a manual lens, and It’s built like a hand grenade. It also rendered beautiful images, but it was manual focus, and fairly slow at f2.
Then came the Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8. It is SHARP. It is also comparatively light, looks great (IMO), and had fast AF. However, I found the bokeh to be a harsher than I wanted. Also, out-of-focus highlights rendered as “cat-eyes” vs round balls.
Zeiss 85 Batis
Since when are water droplets shaped like footballs? Come on Zeiss!
Enter the Leica 75mm Summilux f1.4. It is the fastest lens of the bunch, and has a reputation of being the best portrait lens ever made. I love the construction of Leica lenses, and I really like their natural colors. However, as much as I wanted to love this lens, the bokeh was harsh in certain situations. It is also big, heavy, expensive, manual focus, and the contrast plummeted in backlit situations.
Leica 75 Lux
I also tried a friend’s Canon 85mm f1.2 L II. The AF (especially adapted), was so slow that it would probably be faster to manual focus. This lens is also prone to purple fringing, and I really didn’t like the over-correction seen just at of the DOF – Seen on the subject’s right cheek (camera left) below.
When Sony announced the G Master line of lenses, I took a lot of their claims with a grain of salt – as I always do. I tried to reason with myself that I bought into a mirrorless system for size and weight, and the Zeiss Batis made much more sense in that regard. However, Gear-Aquisition-Syndrome (GAS) was in full effect and weeks of fighting with myself couldn’t keep my longing for the potential “unicorn of lenses” at bay.
I contacted one of my wife’s favorite models and asked if she wanted to test. We found a great location, and picked up some nice clothes – it was finally time to test out the new Sony 85mm GM f1.4!
My first impressions BEFORE seeing the images were:
- It’s BIG! I knew this going in – but I LOVE my Sony/Zeiss 35mm f1.4, which I also thought was BIG – so I was willing to give the 85mm a chance.
- It’s heavy! It feels quite a bit heavier than the 35mm f1.4.
- The AF does make noise (unlike the silent Batis), but it isn’t as bad as some are claiming. I didn’t notice the noise when actually shooting. I thought the AF was terrible. I’m not sure what was going on when I was shooting, but it was more difficult to get that green AF confirmation than I was used to. Just after the shoot concluded, I was expecting about half of my shots would be soft.
- I’m sending this lens back
Impressions after loading the images:
- To my surprise, at least 90% of my shots were in focus (again, I’m not sure why I wasn’t getting the focus confirmation).
- The pictures are beautiful, sharp, and contrasty.
- The bokeh is beautiful.
- I’m keeping this Lens!