USER REPORT: A7RII + Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon FE: A weekend in Connecticut by Jesse Hsu

USER REPORT: A7RII + Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon FE: A weekend in Connecticut

by Jesse Hsu

Hi Steve,

After falling in love with the A7s and using it extensively for the past year, I was curious about the A7RII’s low-light capabilities as well as its stabilization to see if it was worth the purchase. ​ Borrowed the A7RII for a weekend trip to Connecticut to assess its performance. I only used the Zeiss 35 1.4 Distagon FE lens.

This shot was taken in the backseat of a car going 75mph on the highway. I wanted to test out the 5-axis stabilization and took a quick snap of the biker in the lane next to us. Not the sharpest obviously, but not bad for a handheld shot.

1 - Biker

Went out to the backyard and snapped this photo. After opening it up in Photoshop later, I was blown away by the clarity and level of detail. Leaves and tree trunks were sharp and I was able to recover some shadow with ease. Note: No additional sharpening in post.

2 - trees

Went grocery shopping at a local farm for dinner and snapped a sheep who was patiently posing for me. Again, impressed by the clarity of the blades of grass as well as the wool of the sheep when zoomed in.

3 - sheep

As night fell, my friends were getting the grill hot and ready on the porch outside. A great opportunity to test the low light capabilities. There was one light source, an overhead lamp but the sensor performed with no issues as it captured the flames in action and preserved the details of the charcoal piled high in the chimney starter.

4 - grill

I took the next shot as the branzino began to crisp. Notice the criss-cross pattern of the fish scales as well as the powdery soot all over the grill.

5 - fish

Cornish game hens slathered in miso and gochujang were next on the grill.

6 - hens

The next morning we heard some chirping and found some baby birds camped out in the backyard gazebo. The wonderful minimum focusing distance of the 35mm 1.4 allowed me to get pretty close to the subjects and shoot wide open at 1.4 for a heaping of creamy bokeh.

7 - birds

Few friends came by for a dip and the fast boot up time of the camera allowed me to quickly freeze a moment in time. Note the cascading water droplets as clear as day.

8 - swim

Water-skiing in the late afternoon meant another great opportunity to test stabilization. All of the shots were taken on a boat going pretty fast and I was happy that there wasn’t much blur. No tripod used, all handheld. I shot some 4k video but haven’t had a chance to check out the footage in Adobe Premiere.

9 - lake

Conclusion: After putting the A7RII through its paces, I was happy with the results. It preserved amazing detail in low-light scenes and situations where there was considerable movement. I will be ordering the A7RII soon!

More photos (mix of A7, A7s, A7rII) here:


  1. Hi. Thanks for the info. I was ordering the Batis 85 and have been hearing about the 25. I think I am moving towards the 35F1.4 now- lol. It has speed, AF and MF and quality looks amazing.

  2. Nice photos! I need a 35mm lens for my Sony A7S and was almost decided to get the Zeiss Loxia- but seeing how the Sony Zeiss FE Distagon 35 F 1.4 performs and previous posts- it’s tempting. It’s the sharpest 35 apparently.
    My wallet cant stretch to get both lens for now. Is the size of the lens a problem? Is it too big to carry around?
    Guess AF and faster lens would be handy. I need something for street. So now sigh- 3 choices for a native 35 eh? The tiny Sony-Zeiss 35F2.8; Loxia 35F2 and “the beast of a lens” Sony-Zeiss 35F1.4. I have kind of narrowed it down to between Loxia or Distagon. Any advice??
    (I have a compact Leica ‘Cron C40mmF2 that I use on the Sony- that is very compact. 🙂 But I want a lens I can focus faster and with exif- so taking plunge to add a larger 35!)

    • Hi Satya,

      Sorry for the late reply, I just saw that this post went up.

      I use AF so can’t comment on the loxia but I really like the 35mm/1.4. The size and weight needs some getting used to but for me, the quality and pop of the pictures justify the extra ounces in weight.

      However, sounds like you are primarily focused on street photography and the 1.4 lens definitely sticks out more bc ppl see it and immediately assume “Pro photog!”….the 35mm/2.8 is much lighter and more inconspicuous which allows you to get more candid shots without setting off alarm bells.

      Another lens to consider is the 25mm Batis which I’ve enjoyed using for the past week. Definitely lighter and smaller than the 35mm/1/4. Th 25mm view is great and allows me to capture more in a street setting. Not sure if i’m keeping it vs the 35mm/1.4. Time will tell.

      • I shoot with Olympus EM1 and Panasonic/Leica 25mm f1.4 (50mm equ.) which is very unobtrusive particularly when you fold down the rear LCD so you can shoot from your waist.
        Food Photographer and author

  3. Well I often ask myself similar questions about Leica gear. But that camera is nice to hold and use. I can’t afford one for sure. I print from Oly EM1 and Oly lens to 13 x 19 and can’t imagine what 4x in gear costs could possibly add?? Love the Epson P600 orinter.

  4. Very nice and all. But I do wonder why so many people are buying these very expensive cameras and lenses just to take photos of rudimentary personal subjects. At the end of the day, these same photos can be made by much lesser gear, and real world image quality would not be that much worse, except maybe when it comes to very large prints. But how many of these photos are even being printed at all?

    Just my opinion of course.

  5. nice shots! An amazing lens, camera combination. The color and contrast look very natural, the green tones are perfect! This lens and this camera makes photography possible to almost absolute technical perfection.
    For sure its not the equipments fault when pictures don’t turn out great, hehe

    35mm is my favourite focal lenght. I have the FE 35 2.8 and love it as a walkaround lens. I really dont know if i can justify the price and size of this beauty of a lens. What do you think? Did you try the 35 2.8 before? Is it worth it in a great low loght camera like this? For landcapes for sure not, portraits and street for sure?

    • Hi Hans,

      Sorry for the late reply, I just saw that this post went up. I started with the 35mm/2.8 and shot with it on my A7 and A7s. A great lightweight lens in a compact size makes it a smart choice for travel photography. Good for landscapes, portraits, street photography (since it doesn’t attract as much attention as the larger 35mm/1.4)

      I bought the 35mm/1.4 because I shoot a lot of pics in low-light so the 1.4 aperture helps suck in as much light as possible. The 35mm/2.8 takes longer to hunt in the dark and the quality is just not as good.

      Overall the image quality of the 35mm/1.4 is clearer with nice pop compared to the 2.8 but the tradeoff is the larger size and weight which takes a toll if you’re carrying it around for days during a trip.

      I use AF so can’t comment on the loxia but I just got the 25mm Batis which I’ve enjoyed using for the past week. Definitely lighter and smaller than the 35mm/1/4.

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