Another day, another 35mm prime lens. This time, it’s Sony that has birthed a 35mm option. The Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM. There’s no doubt about it, photographers who use E mount cameras are seriously spoiled for choice when it comes to this focal length.
I have spent the last week with the Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM along with a Sony a7R IV. This lens is going to join a very competitive segment. Sony users already have the Sony 35mm f/1.8, the Sony Zeiss Planar T 35mm f/1.4, the Sigma 35mm f/1.2, the Sigma 35mm f/1.4, and many, many others to choose from. So, should you choose the new 35mm f/1.4 GM over the others? Let’s find out in our full review.
- Solid autofocus performance
- Great build quality
- Weather sealing
- Ridiculously sharp
- Image characteristics that some will love
- Dedicated aperture ring
- Image characteristics that some will scoff at
- Pricey compared to other options
Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM — Technical specifications
All of the technical specifications have been taken directly from the listing at B&H Photo:
- Two XA elements, one ED element
- Dual XD linear AF motors, internal focus
- Physical aperture ring; De-Click switch
- Rounded 11-blade diaphragm, 14 elements in 10 groups
- Nano AR II and Fluorine coatings
- Dust and moisture-resistant construction
- Angle of view: 63 degrees
- Minimum focus distance: 9.8-inches / 25 cm
- Weight: 1.2 lb / 524 g
Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM — Handling and build quality
It should come as no surprise that the Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM is incredibly well built. The lens is a mixture of composite plastics and metal and it feels nice and tough. There’s also a healthy amount of weather sealing. I got caught in a brief rain shower and the lens just kept on chugging along without any issues. The Sony 35mnm f/1.4 GM is not large (3-by-3.8 inches / 76-by-96 mm) and it’s not heavy (1.2 lbs). It balanced well on a Sony a7R IV.
The aperture ring sits close to the lens mount, and the large manual focus ring sits toward the front. There’s an auto/manual focus switch and a customizable control button on the left. On the right, you’ll see the click/de-click switch for the aperture dial. The front element takes 67mm filters. Overall, the Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM is a nice lens ergonomically. It’s built tough and feels nice in the hand.
Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM — In the field
The Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM is a very easy lens to pick up and use. It’s light enough to be carried around for long periods. This means it will not become a burden during long events and weddings for instance. There’s no stabilization built into the lens. Still, with the IBIS in the Sony a7R IV, I was able to handhold down to 1/4s without issues.
The manual focus ring is nice and smooth. The aperture ring is also great. The ring isn’t so stiff that it’s hard to turn yet it’s not so loose that it will be bumped out of place easily. It clicks into place nicely. Of course, you can choose to de-click the aperture ring. This will delight videographers.
Overall, the Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM is a joy to use. If the idea of an aperture ring puts you off, you can set the ring to A and control the aperture via the camera body. This lens is plug-and-play all the way.
Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM — Autofocus performance
The Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM is very fast and accurate in all lighting situations. In single focus, the lens is rapid and silent. The 35mm f/1.4 GM also does a fine job when used in wide, zone, and tracking settings when in continuous autofocus. I had no problems capturing stationary and fast-moving subjects. As you’d imagine, the lens also plays nice with Sony’s Real-Time eye tracking. In all, you’ll have no issues with the autofocus performance.
The Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM — Characteristics
The Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM is the first Sony lens I have used in a long time that has some character. Now, I know that what I see as “character” can be seen as flaws by some. This is why lens characteristics made it into both the pros and cons list.
When you shoot wide-open at f/1.4, you’re going to see significant vignetting (see images above). In fact, the vignetting stays with you until you stop down past f/5.6. For me, this is fine. I usually like to add a slight vignette during post. Just keep this in mind if you don’t like vignetting, though. Still, it’s easy to fix. You just have to enable profile corrections.
Flares, chromatic aberration and barrel distortion
I love that you can get this lens to flare. It’s not crazy or out of control, it’s just the right amount for you to be creative with. When shooting into the sun, there’s some ghosting, but again, you can use this to your creative advantage. You also do not lose much in terms of contrast. The sun stars this lens produces are also very pleasing.
When it comes to chromatic aberrations, Sony has done a nice job. I only saw green fringing once during my time with the lens. In terms of barrel distortion, there’s none to worry about. Lines remain straight, and there’s no weird warping at the edges of the frame.
Bonkers is the word I would use to describe the levels of sharpness you’ll experience with this lens. Images are beyond razor-sharp, even when shooting wide-open at f/1.4. This is good because if you buy a lens with an aperture of f/1.4 you want to use it. Trust me when I say you’ll have nothing to worry about when it comes to sharpness.
Overall, the Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM is a fantastic lens when it comes to characteristics. I am thrilled that this lens doesn’t look as sterile as most other Sony lenses.
The bokeh the Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM produces is nice. At times, the bokeh can be silky smooth. However, if your background is a little busier, then out-of-focus renderings can be a little more chaotic. Of course, at f/1.4 and the minimum focusing distance of 9.8 inches, you can create nice out-of-focus areas.
The bokeh balls produced are not perfectly round. Still, they look fine. The only people who will complain are bokeh snobs. Everyone else will be pleased.
The colors the Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM produces are nice and neutral. Colors are not overly saturated and they don’t lean toward being too warm or too cool. The colors you see in all of the image samples are straight out of the camera. While general exposure changes were made to the images, the colors were not touched. As you can see, the colors are quite pleasing.
Is the Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM right for you?
The Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM is a fantastic fast prime that will help many photographers nail the shot in the lowest of light. The lens features fast autofocus motors, incredibly sharp optics, and it even has some character! Combine this with the exceptional build quality and you have a great lens.
However, this lens is not cheap. It’s $500 more than the slightly larger and slightly heavier Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG DN. The lens is double the cost of the brilliant Sony 35mm f/1.8. It’s also just $100 less than the Sigma 35mm f1.2 DG DN.
At the end of the day, the Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM is a fantastic lens that wedding, event, portrait and street photographers will love. However, if you just want a lens for general purpose photography and photo walks, I’d suggest looking at the Sony 35mm f/1.8 and the Sigma 35mm f/2. If you’re a professional looking for a top-tier tool, you’ll need to weigh up if the price premium between it and the Sigma 35mm f1.4 DG DN is worth it to you. They’re both great lenses.
Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM
The Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM is a fast, lightweight prime that offers incredible optics in a well-constructed body. The versatile focal length and fast aperture make it ideal for professional event, wedding, and portrait photographers. The lens has just the right amount of character that will help you create stunning images in-camera.