Sony Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm F2.8 Review And Sample Photos
The Sony version of the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 35mm is a excellent addition to the Sony A7, A7r and A7s. With the Sony E mount full frame camera this lens will give you a 35mm viewing angle. On the APS-C cameras like the NEX-7, you'll see something more like 50mm. Great in both occasions.
Note: Many of the photos on this review get compressed for load time purposes. Click to view full size on Smugmug.
4 Things To Love About The Zeiss Sonnar 35mm
1. Sharpness Is Amazing
It's very very sharp in the center and only falls off slightly towards the edges which I believe contributes to that signature Zeiss 3D pop.
The colors that come through this lens also give images a really great look that I've never had with my Canon lenses. It is almost like any image I take with this lens needs no post processing or color enhancement. The image it puts on the sensor is stunning every time.
View on Smugmug at 100%. Or download the original. I've set the sharpness to 0 in Lightroom on this shot.
2. Build Quality Is Great
The only negative reviews I really see on the forums with regards to the Sony Zeiss Sonnar 35mm is the build quality. Some say it feels cheap. I think it feels light, not cheap.
There is a difference and I think people get confused about this. It's light, and solid. I don't have any concerns about the build quality, and I have a lot of lenses.
The only exception is the lens hood that will fall apart on you after a month as it's held together by two pieces of double sided tape. Double side tape! Seriously? Unfortunately yes and there are not a lot of 3rd party lens hoods out there yet. However super glue works.
3. Amazing Bokeh
Although this lens is only an f2.8, on the full frame sensors of the Sony A7, A7r A7s, the shallow depth of field is vary narrow giving you a focus fallout that is very soft yet vibrant, leaving you with an incredibly pleasant Bokeh.
My crazy niece enjoying the California sun.
4. Weather Sealed
The Sony FE 35mm is also weather sealed. But understanding how weather sealing works, this doesn't mean a whole lot and it shouldn't effect your opinion about a lens, it usually just means there is a piece of tape covering a screw somewhere inside.
But still, it's nice to know that a little water or dust will have a harder time making its way into your lens. And I even took it out that one time it rained in Southern California with no consequences.
Norther Arizona - It was very windy and sandy here and my lens was fine. No sand in the focus ring like with my Canon lenses.
DXOMark Scores As The Second Best 35mm They've Ever Tested
3 Things I Don't Like About This Lens
It would be awesome to say this lens is perfect. But it does have its flaws. After all, it's a Zeiss for under a grand.
1. Bad Vignetting
I'm a landscape and travel photographer mostly. One of the problems with this lens is it has got a nasty vignette which never really goes away. Even at f/11. Not the end of the world, but not great either. You'll lose a little detail in the edges when trying to correct for this. See the chart below.
2. Color Shifting Ring Pattern
The Ziess Sonnar 35mm also has a strange color shifting that occurs in a ring like pattern.
You won't notice this unless your doing some heavy color and contrast work or shooting solids. Like I'll get a little banding when shooting clear blue skies. And it's not fun to fix.
You can see it here here with saturation and vibrance maxed.
I went and tested this with all my other lenses and none of them had problems like this. I did get some color shifts but not with the ring like pattern of the Sony Zeiss 35mm.
Sample Of Banding In The Sky
I'm mostly now seeing this banding only in the skies. It can be fixed with a little Photoshop work.
3. Bad Diffraction At High Apertures
This lens has its sweet spots.
It's great at f5.6 and even to f9 but starts to lose quality quickly by f11 making this not such a great landscape lens if you like shooting above f11. Which on a lens as wide as 35mm, it's not really necessary to stop down more than f11 anyway.
Big Island Hawaii on the Sony A7r @ f9.5
I hope in the future Sony would make a 35mm lens that was slightly faster. Although that's by no means a con for this lens because this lens is what it is and I review it based on that.
A faster lens would be bigger and heavier which would introduce other unwanted features. I always think it's funny seeing people bash lenses by saying "It's not fast."
That's like saying, "I don't like the Ford Mustang because it's not a Motorcycles." Buy a faster lens if you want a faster lens. And on a full frame sensor like the Sony A7r, the depth of field is as shallow as what you get on a Fuji X100T @ f2, which is APS-C even though that's a "faster lens."
What Filter Sizes Should You Get For The Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm F2.8?
If you're searching for the correct size filter to get you might see two different sizes floating around out there. This is because it takes two sizes. You can screw a filter directly onto the lens which has a filter size of 49mm. Great for a UV filter.
You can also screw filters directly onto the lens hood. The filter size for this is 40.5mm. This is really handy because it allows you to quickly take on and off your filters if not needed for a particular shot. I use this for my polarizers.
49mm Filters That Screw Directly Onto The Lens.
B+W 49mm Clear UV Haze with Multi-Resistant Coating - (Amazon) - Good quality UV filter, you can mount this one directly to the lens itself and always have that safety piece of glass for protection.
Filters For The Lens Hood
Vivitar 3-Piece UV/CPL/ND8 40.5mm Filter Kit - (Amazon) - I currently use these. Good, not great. But they work and are cheap. Gives you a UV, Polarizer, and ND8. Nice to have if you like shooting video and the polarizer is good enough for landscape photography. I personally don't use a UV on this lens and you do get a bit of reflection from the cheap coatings of these cheap filters.
Sony 35mm F2.8 Review Conclusions
All in all this is a really great lens, and is really fun to shoot with. It has it's place in my kit and I really enjoy it for everyday walk around use. It's also a lot of fun to use for video. It is my #1 lens for all occasions now. I really hope we see a 14mm and 24mm prime with the same quality from Sony.
Sony FE 35mm F2.8 Sample Images
You can see the full size images and EXIF data on smugmug that you can get to by clicking the image.