The Sony 135 f/1.8 G Master Experience Review. The Money Lens.
By Steve Huff
My Video Review is Below!
The Sony G Master is the 9th G master lens from Sony and the 31st FE full frame lens for E mount. Wow, how time has flown. I remember when Sony came to my house to introduce the NEX-7 system, and they had 2-3 lenses. Today hey have a slew of lenses and almost any focal length one could ask for.
This new 135mm is pure G Master and follows the tradition of their previous G master lenses. Beautiful in build, larger in size and the best quality one can get from a lens. That is not hype, it is reality. I am not even a 135mm kind of guy but as I reviewed the images from this lens I was thinking “this is a lens that may get some to switch to Sony”. It’s that special.
I have all the specs but this lens has 4 Linear motors for AF, which makes it fast and silent as a mouse. In fact, unlike the Canon lenses, you could put your ear up to this Sony and not hear the AF motors. It’s silent. The aperture ring can be de-clicked. The lens has two programmable buttons on it. The lens XA and Super ED elements. It has an 11 blade aperture and some of the nicest bokeh I have ever witnessed in a lens. It has floating focus to improve on close up focus, and let me tell ya, close focus is superb. Minimum focus distance is 2.3 feet and max magnification is 0.25X.
The lens is dust and moisture resistant just as all G Master lenses are. Comes in at 33.5 ounces and it has a linear response manual focus. What does this mean? It means it will feel super close to a real manual lens when using manual focus.
This is a true G Master lens and IMO one of the best they have made to date.
Headed to Brooklyn
Sony invited me and a few others to Brooklyn, New York to test this lens for a day, shooting a few different scenarios. They even had a basketball game going for 4 hours that they urged us to shoot with the 135 as they were confident in the AF speed and tracking abilities of the lens when used with a Sony A9 or A7RIII.
When I was shooting with the lens I kept thinking…Sony is making it too easy. I mean, with an A9 and this lens? Anyone can take an amazing professional quality image.
The Sony A9 with the new 135 f/1.8 G Master. Can you say butter? This lens is as smooth as a lens can get. It can not get any silkier than this. You must click these to see the real versions, in better quality.
When I was in Brooklyn Sony of course showed us MTF charts and graphs comparing this new lens to others like the Sigma 135 and others. The Sony charts were of course better than the others but this is a G Master so I would expect nothing less. In the case of these pro lenses from Sony, they are cost no object spare no expense designs mean to be the best that can be made today.
I will admit here right now that I have been using Canon for a while now, due to the fact that I love a few of their lenses. Lenses like the 24 1.4 II, the 50 1.2 and even the 16-35 f/4L. But I have been eyeballing the classic Canon 135 f/1.8 L lens. It’s been well reviewed and raved about and when I shoot live shows in bars and clubs I often find myself wanting a longer lens. I was thinking of buying an 85 or even the 135. But…
The Sony A9 with the new upcoming firmware (which I also was able to test and enjoy) was amazing. It was just so fast, so “out of the way”. It is my favorite Sony camera made to date.
As for this lens, it could be a powerhouse tool that sets images apart from the rest of the pack.
The awesome Brain Smith shooting the new 135 f/1.8 G Master
This lens is STUNNING
I have mentioned this over the last year but lately Photo gear has been boring me. Everything is so good these days, it is more personal preference to what gear we buy. Only 3-4 products in the last year have excited me. I almost feel like in the near future we will get less and less camera bodies and more and more firmware updates (that we have to pay for if we want the improvements) to improve the bodies we have (others I have spoken with feel the same). A body like the A9 for example, has all one could need inside of it. Sony was able to bring some amazing improvements to the A9 via the upcoming 2019 firmware update. I can see this happening for 2-3 more years before that body is upgraded with a new body.
But this 135 1.8 GM is a stunner. It makes anything you point it at look good. Even something as mundane as an old reel to reel tape machine.
The Money Lens
This is the kind of lens that will put a damper on medium format bodies as it gives us a medium format vibe with color, detail and rendering. Below is a full sized image, click it to see the amazing detail. Keep in mind this is a JPEG saved as a 9 in Photoshop.
I call this lens the “Money Lens” as it’s a lens that can help make you money. Are you a wedding pro? Are you a portrait pro? Do you shoot faces? If so, this lens can help you up your game and deliver results that are as good as you can get in the 35mm space. Heck, this lens on a Sony A7RIII can probably outperform most medium format cameras right now that are in the 50MP range.
Sony is kicking butt and taking names. I mean, it seems they just keep upping the game, upping the quality and I have a feeling, a strong feeling … that the best is yet to come, THIS YEAR from them.
Every image I shot during my few hours were wide open, where this lens was meant to excel. Click the images for better versions. All were shot on the Sony A9.
Cons of this lens?
Well, if I had to come up with a con or two…I am not sure that I could. Yes, it’s large but its smaller than the Canon 28-70 f/2 I recently took a look at, and as good as that Canon is, this lens is just as good, if not a bit better. It’s a prime after all. But it is not small, nor is it featherweight like the 24 G Master.
It’s not cheap but we do get what we pay for with glass today. We now have companies like Sony and Canon bringing out lenses that perform as good or better than some Leica glass at a fraction of the cost, though again, larger in size.
There is no way around it, if you want all out image quality, color, contrast and build…a true pro lens with auto focus, it can not give you all of this and be small. Sony makes small lenses for those who want small size over top quality but at least they give us a choice between those and the G Master Line.
This lens focuses fast, doesn’t vignette, has gorgeous bokeh, is sharp as you would ever need even wide open at f/1.8, devours juicy color and snappy contrast right out of camera. It’s a pro lens and full of PROS. It’s a G Master.
This lens will start shipping in April 2019 for $1,900 USA and $2,600 Canadian. You can pre-order it at B&H Photo HERE.
Lenses do not get any better than this in the 135mm focal length. They just don’t. If you want the best quality 135mm you can get, and shoot Sony, then this is your lens. It’s going to be getting many raves and I am excited to see what others do with this lens. It’s an artists lens for sure as it will deliver the look and feel that a creative eye can exploit and do so with ease. All you need is the cash to buy it, and the eye to bring out the best in it.
The Sony G Master 135 1.8 is the real deal.
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Great review and awesome photography. I like it.
– differences in bokeh withstanding, this post/these images remind me of the images you posted in you Oly 75mm review
It’s the crazy sharpness, detail and pop
…similar focal length contributing I’m sure
Steve, you slayed it with these images. Bravo!
I got to try out this lens last week at WPPI. Really impressive! Super sharp, amazing bokeh, and very fast focusing. The two things I didn’t like about it: the size and the weight. If only Sony could shrink the size and drop the weight by about half, I’d consider buying it. As great as this lens appears to be, I’ll stick to using my Leica lenses. At least those are proportional to the size and weight of the Sony bodies!
Is cateye bokeh a desired thing now? I think this is a total defect as it makes the background more distracting.
That’s like saying round bokeh is defective. Who said bokeh has to be perfectly round? I find this shape to be beautiful, and it’s unique. Perfectly round bokeh balls is not on my personal list of must haves in a lens. Also, I doubt Sony would offer up a “defective’ lens. It’s one of the best lenses I have shot with but most high end glass today is, as they are all superb. No one today but a pixel peeper photo guy is going to look at a gorgeous image taken with this lens and say “Oh, that image sucks as the bokeh ball is not perfectly round”. If a cats eye bokeh is distracting then round should as well. It’s only distracting to those who feel it should look like basketballs. ; ) Thanks.
I don’t like cat-eye shaped lights either. An impressive lenses but no reason to worship it.
I’ve revisited this post a few times now. I am just so taken by what I see.
I don’t have anything to mount this on right now but it makes me start perusing the B&H site.
There are 1 or 2 comments here about the bokeh caracteristics and I think Steve answers it well. The bokeh is really beautiful..my opinion
135gm Bokeh is harsh and not soft as 85GM and A-mount 135mm f1.8. very disappointed on this lens as it is not as good as the A mount 135mm f1.8 in term of bokeh. I rather get a sigma then this gm.
looks like a real gem. Excellent photos as always Steve!
Steve have you ever tried the Leica 135mm APO Telyt? I wonder how it the Sony compares in colour reproduction and overall look, the Leica always blows me away when I use it.
Have a nice day 🙂
Ive tried the 135 Leica long ago on an M9. Didn’t like it as that focal length on an M is not the greatest to shoot. I like M’s with the standard 28-90 lengths. I do not think the Leica is any better, in fact I would say this lens beats the Leica. The Leica is an f3.4 if I remember correctly.
Do I see cats eye bokeh??? Don’t like that.
Did you notice that the Canon 135mm also has cats-eyes? in fact just about all 135mm primes have it if I’m not mistaken.
Thanks for the review Steve. I had the 135 ZA before, but sold it with my A-mount gear. A special lens, just like thiis one it seems..
Looking at your pictures taken with it, it’s a must have…
Pre-ordered one and receiving it next saturday! Can’t wait! Together with tge firmware update, must me an awesome combo.
Steve, another great review! Would love to hear your take on this lens versus the Oly 75mm f1.8.
Some photos lack definitely in DOF, when you look at them in full resolution.
Great composition of images! Colors and sharpness however I think out of focus areas are not as uninteresting as the other lenses being compared to.
I do apologize for the grammatical errors.
The color and sharpness I think are impeccable! I found that the out of focus background less magical as the Canon lense posted
Nice work. Very nice. This Sony malarkey is getting very expensive though I must say.
Great pictures Steve. The 135mm focal length is great for portraits or as a short tele. If anyone hasn’t seen her work, Elena Shumilova’s photos of children are other worldly and use this focal length a lot.
Is the first time I hear about Elena Shumilova. I checked… Wowww… Astonishing. Thanks for this.
David…Elena is the first person that came to mind when I saw “135mm”!! She is the one that sold me on the 135mm focal length, and this lens looks like it will certainly deliver!!
Steve, great photos…the one of the bride next to the flowers is incredible…wow, the sharpness and shallow DOF is killer.
You must have been gobsmacked to see how blisteringly sharp your images were wide open without having to crank up the in-camera sharpening 😉 Btw, this set is phenomenal, very nice work and class leading for the event … MORE MORE! 🙂
Thank you Charles.
i’m trying to understand why sony changed the placement of the focus hold button, on the STF and GM 24(the only two I’ve owned) the button was on the left.
It IS on the left.
Lens hood seems to droop!!
Noticed that too lol. Guessing it’s pincushion distortion? Which is a bit of a shame but fixable in post. Images look great nontheless.
Correction, I believe it’s just the phone booth window causing that distortion I hope.
or, more likely, it’s an optical illusion given the shadow of the hand holding he lens makes it look like the lines of the hood are not parallel.
“When I was shooting with the lens I kept thinking…Sony is making it too easy. I mean, with an A9 and this lens? Anyone can take an amazing professional quality image.”
So this gear will come up with the concept, hire the models, do their make up and wardrobe, manage the lighting, set the composition and time the moment? Wow!
Who said you have to shoot models with this lens?
Simply looking at this from a cost benefit perspective, you could buy a Canon RP (which would include an EF to RP adapter) AND the Canon 135 f2 L lens for about $200 more than this lens alone will cost.
Obviously if you own only Sony maybe this $1900 lens would be a good deal. However, if you’re someone stepping up to mirrorless there are (maybe) better options than this lens.
This lens is for Sony shooters. Not Canon shooters.
True, but then I’d be forced to use an inferior Canon body and ageing lens.
I don’t care for the Canikon FF MILCs recently introduced, except for how they feel in hand, I’m unimpressed an uninspired. Both are at least two generations away from having my interest as an A7R III shooter. That said, I love that they exist because they are pushing Sony to achieve even higher levels of excellence as evidenced by this latest G Master lens. Sony is on FIRE!!
Steve! First off, these are the best shots I’ve seen from the event – beautiful work. You can tell that this lens inspired you.
If you’ve never shot the Sony Zeiss ZA 135/1.8 for A-Mount you may not have realized how special that lens and focal length were at the time. To this day it remains one of my all time favorite lenses but unfortunately it never adapted well to E-mount. I’ve been patiently waiting for this new version to be released and am happy to see your positive feelings.
This is THE LENS!
Expect a request to post my thoughts and images in the near future!!!
Thank you Chad! I have not shot with the A mount but this lens is indeed special. Quite amazing really.