A Versatile Workhorse

Courtesy Sony

The Sony FE 35mm F1.4 GM is superb. It’s an ideal first single focal length prime lens for Sony E mount camera users. On full-frame cameras, 35mm is a moderate wide-angle focal length. As a result, the field of view is wide enough for everything from fast-moving events to environmental portraits and basic, distortion-free architectural photography. I tested it on a full-frame Sony a7R IV. The moderate wide-angle field of view and eight f-stop range, combined with edge-to-edge sharpness and unobtrusive bokeh characteristics, make it useful for a variety of situations and subjects in environments ranging from low light to broad daylight.  

The optical path consists of 14 elements in 10 groups with an 11-bladed aperture. As with most modern autofocus lenses, manual focus uses the focus by wire method, with linear servomotors driving the swift, sure, and virtually silent autofocus system. In manual focus mode, the minimum focusing distance is 9.84 inches; in autofocus mode, the close focusing distance increases to 10.68 inches. At the nearest focusing distance, subject magnification is 0.23x for autofocus and 0.26x for manual focus.

©Ellis Vener

At near focusing distances when manually focusing, I saw some slight focus shift between focusing with the lens wide open and then stopping down to f/2 and beyond. So, whether you’re using manual or autofocus, set the lens to the working aperture if you’re not shooting at f/1.4. In manual focus mode, the lens stops down and stays at the working aperture. In autofocus mode, even when using an f-stop smaller than f/2, the lens will briefly open to f/2 while focusing. I appreciate the inclusion of an aperture control ring on the lens. Photographers can switch between clicks at one-third stop increments or—primarily for videographers—set for clickless operation. 

On the 60-megapixel Sony a7R IV, the Sony FE 35mm F1.4 is sharp when wide open for general low-light hand-held work, though peak sharpness across the frame is reached in the f/4 to f/8 range. At larger and smaller apertures, diffraction becomes a distraction. This may not be noticeable with a lower-resolution camera.

©Ellis Vener

As befits a workhorse, the construction of the FE 35mm F1.4 GM is robust, and the size is surprisingly compact. At 18.5 ounces, it weighs five ounces—less than two-thirds the heft of its closest competitor, the Sigma 35mm F1.4 DG HSM Art lens. Moreover, the two lenses are virtually the same size, and both are threaded for 67mm filters. 

I found the design of the lens hood interesting. Sony bucked the trend for scalloped lens hoods and went with a more retro round opening. The front edge is a matte finish synthetic rubber. Presumably, this material does a better job of protecting the lens against bumps and scrapes. 

All in all, the Sony FE 35mm F1.4 GM is a fine lens, good for everything from event and photojournalism to environmental portraits, even for some product photography. If you’re a Sony shooter, I recommend this lens without hesitation for still and video work.  

Contributing Editor Ellis Vener is a commercial photographer in Atlanta, Georgia. 

©Ellis Vener

Tags: lenses  sony