Sony FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Lens Review

Sony FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Lens

The FE 50mm F1.4 GM effectively replaces the Sony FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Lens, but this was a lens that did not seem to need an upgrade. The FE 50mm F1.4 ZA produces great image quality and the ultra-popular 50mm and wide f/1.4 aperture combination makes the lens especially useful.

  • Incredible portrait lens, great general-purpose utility
  • Ultra-wide aperture
  • Excellent image quality
  • General-purpose utility
  • Aperture ring
  • Mid-sized
  • Moderately heavy
  • Affordable
  • Strong color blur at wide apertures
  • Strong focus breathing
  • No aperture ring lock
  • 0.15x maximum magnification
In-Depth Review

How does extremely sharp image quality at f/1.4 from a well-built lens in the ultra-popular 50mm focal length sound? Right, it sounds awesome. The Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens is that lens.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Angle View

Focal Length

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When selecting the ideal lens for a particular use, the focal length always becomes a primary consideration. The focal length determines the angle of view, which determines the subject distance required for the desired framing, and the distance from the subject determines the perspective.

On a full-frame body, a 50mm focal length provides an angle of view that seems natural, and that aspect brings great general-purpose usefulness. So useful, and thus, so popular, is this focal length that 50mm (or similar) focal length prime lenses are found in all major brand lens lineups, with some brands having numerous options. Sony has three FE 50mm prime lenses at review time, plus a 55mm option for those who need a little more.

Fifty mm lenses are frequently used for fashion, portraiture, weddings, documentary, street, lifestyle, sports, architecture, landscape, commercial, around-the-home, and general studio photography applications, including product photography. As you likely noted, a number of useful applications for this lens include people as subjects. While a 50mm lens used (on a full-frame body) has a modestly too wide angle of view for tightly framed headshot portraits (a too-close perspective is required), but it is excellent for wider portrait framing.

Having a 50mm focal length and f/1.4 aperture available opens many artistic opportunities, including those found in nature.

To visualize where 50mm fits among other common focal lengths, I'll borrow a focal length range example from a zoom lens review.

Focal Length Range Example

24mm | 35mm | 50mm | 70mm | 85mm | 105mm

On an ASP-C/1.5x sensor format body, the 50mm focal length provides an angle of view similar to a 75mm lens on a full-frame sensor format body. Uses for this angle of view coincide with most uses of the 50mm focal length, with modestly tighter framing or modestly longer perspective for the same framing being the difference.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Front View

Max Aperture

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When you buy a prime lens instead of a zoom, you expect at least one strong advantage to offset the zoom range versatility loss. Common prime lens advantages include smaller size, lighter weight, lower price, better image quality, and/or a wider aperture. The lens includes that last advantage.

With only a few exceptions, the FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens's f/1.4 max aperture is as wide as interchangeable camera lenses get. The basic concept is, the wider the aperture, the more light that can reach the imaging sensor. Allowing more light to reach the sensor permits a faster shutter speed to be used for freezing action, including handholding the camera in lower light levels and the use of lower, less noisy ISO settings. This wide aperture is especially valuable after the sun sets, in the shade, and when shooting indoors, including indoors using only ambient light. An increased amount of light reaching the imaging sensor improves low light AF performance.

One of my favorite features of a wide aperture lens is the strong background blur they can create. Increasing the aperture opening reduces the depth of field, thus creating a stronger background blur at equivalent focal lengths.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Aperture Comparison Example

The shallow f/1.4 depth of field must be acceptable to you for the scenario at hand, but shallow depth of field can make a subject pop, isolated from a strongly blurred, non-distracting background, drawing the viewer's attention to the subject.

This lens's maximum background blur is illustrated below.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Maximum Blur Example

If you are shooting under a full sun at f/1.4, expect to need a 1/8000 sec shutter speed at ISO 100 to keep the exposure dark enough. Positive is that there is little action that a 1/8000 sec shutter speed cannot stop, but if the subject has bright or reflective colors, even a 1/8000 sec shutter speed might not be fast enough to avoid blown highlights. Some cameras have an extended ISO setting down to 50 that can be used in this situation (though the dynamic range may be impacted). Some cameras have shutter speeds faster than 1/8000 available. Using a neutral density filter is a good solution to retaining the use of f/1.4 under direct sunlight when the camera's shutter limitation is exceeded, and this is an especially good option for cameras with 1/4000 sec. maximum speeds. Stopping down (narrowing) the aperture is always an option for preventing an image from getting too bright, though stopping down negates the need for the wide f/1.4 aperture, and the subject-isolating shallow depth of field is lost.

Many Sony prime lenses, including this one, feature an aperture ring that enables a manually-selected aperture. With the ring in the A (Auto) position, the camera controls the aperture setting. All other settings electronically force the aperture to the chosen opening. A 2-position switch on the bottom right side of the lens toggles the aperture ring between 1/3 stop clicks and smooth, quiet, non-clicked adjustments, ideal for video recording.

Aside from a slightly more complicated design, an aperture ring's primary disadvantage is that inadvertent aperture changes can easily be made. Especially after mounting the lens, I often find the aperture ring moved from the A setting, making me wish a lock was provided.

Incorporating wide apertures requires large lens elements, which correspond to a larger size, heavier weight, and higher price. For most photographers, the benefits of a wide max aperture prime lens far outweigh the drawbacks. Usually, no flash is required.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Side View

Image Stabilization

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The Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens is not optically stabilized. Still, Sony takes care of that omission with Steady Shot or IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization) in their mirrorless cameras. In addition to reducing camera shake, the stabilized imaging sensor provides a still viewfinder image, enabling precise composition. Also, sensor-based AF takes advantage of the stabilized view for improved accuracy.

With no IS switch on the lens, the camera menu must be used to enable or disable IBIS, a slight impediment to working quickly, going from tripod to handholding, for example.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Top View

Image Quality

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Going into the Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens review, my initial thought was that Sony should have a G Master (GM) lens version of such a popular focal length and aperture combination by now. After seeing the Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens image quality, I understand why the GM version was not a priority. The FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens is a impressive performer.

This lens is remarkably sharp at f/1.4, including into the full-frame corners, and razor-sharp at f/2. Only minor image quality improvement is seen at f/4, and none is needed. Again, this is impressive performance

Below you will find sets of 100% resolution center of the frame crops captured in uncompressed RAW format using a Sony a7R III. The images were processed in Capture One using the Natural Clarity method with the sharpening amount set to only "30" on a 0-1000 scale. Note that images from most cameras require some level of sharpening, but too-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the deficiencies of a lens.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Sharpness Comparison Example

The depth of field at f/1.4 is shallow, so be sure to find details in the plane of sharp focus for your evaluations.

Focus shift, the plane of sharp focus moving forward or backward as the aperture is narrowed (residual spherical aberration or RSA), is not an issue with this lens (many modern lenses automatically correct for it).

Next, we'll look at a comparison showing 100% extreme-bottom-left-corner crops captured and processed identically to the above center-of-the-frame images. The lens was manually focused in the corner of the frame to capture these images.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Corner Sharpness Comparison Example

Samples taken from the outer extreme of the image circle, full-frame corners, can be counted on to show the worst performance a lens is capable of. The performance seen here is again impressive.

You may have recognized the tree trunk theme in these examples. On one of few clear days of this winter, heavy winds put nearly all other subjects with detail into motion, making comparisons especially challenging to create.

Does corner sharpness matter? Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't. Landscape and architecture photography are two photographic disciplines that have frequent scenarios requiring sharp corners. I'd always prefer to have sharp corners available, and this lens provides that feature.

When used on a camera that utilizes a lens's entire image circle, peripheral shading can be expected at the widest aperture settings. Ultra-wide aperture lenses tend to show strong peripheral shading wide open, and the about-3-stops of f/1.4 shading are going to be noticeable in most images. Nearly half of the shading absolves by f/2, and just-over 1-stop remains at f/2.8. The about 1-stop of shading at f/4 is what you will see through the balance of the aperture range.

APS-C format cameras using lenses projecting a full-frame-sized image circle avoid most vignetting problems. In this case, the just-over one-stop of shading showing at f/1.4 may be visible in some image corners, especially images with a solid color (such as a blue sky) showing in the corners.

One-stop of shading is often used as the visibility number, though subject details provide a widely varying amount of vignetting discernibility. Vignetting is correctable during post-processing with increased noise in the brightened areas being the penalty, or it can be embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame. Study the pattern showing in our vignetting test tool to determine how your images will be affected.

The effect of different colors of the spectrum being magnified differently is referred to as lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration). Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the most significant amount as this is where the most significant difference in the magnification of wavelengths typically exists.

With the right lens profile and software, lateral CA is often easily correctable (often in the camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide. However, it is always better not to have this aberration in the first place. Color misalignment can easily be seen in the site's image quality tool, but let's also look at a worst-case example. This 100% crop is from the extreme top left corner of an ultra-high-resolution a7R III frame showing diagonal black and white lines.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Lateral Chromatic Aberration Example

There should only be black and white colors in this image, with the additional colors indicating the presence of lateral CA. I would call this amount of color modest but not low for a prime lens.

A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light. More simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to observe. Axial CA remains somewhat persistent when stopping down, with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing. The spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused, and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.

In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation, with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures.

The examples below look at the defocused specular highlights' fringing colors in the foreground vs. the background. The lens has introduced any fringing color differences from the neutrally-colored subjects.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Spherical and Axial Aberration Example

The strong color separation showing at f/1.4 diminishes greatly by f/2, and further reductions are seen at narrower apertures.

Bright light reflecting off of lens elements' surfaces may cause flare and ghosting, resulting in reduced contrast and sometimes-interesting, usually destructive artifacts. The shape, intensity, and position of the flare in an image is variable. It depends on the position and nature of the light source (or sources) and on the selected aperture, shape of the aperture blades, and quality of the lens elements and their coatings. With a relatively low element count (12 in 9 groups) and Zeiss T* coating, this lens is just beginning to show flare effects in our standard sun in the corner of the frame flare test when stopped down to f/16.

Flare effects can be embraced or avoided, or removal can be attempted. Removal is sometimes challenging.

Two lens aberrations are particularly evident when shooting images of stars, mainly because bright points of light against a dark background make them easier to see. Coma occurs when light rays from a point of light spread out from that point instead of being refocused as a point on the sensor. Coma is absent in the center of the frame, gets worse toward the edges/corners, and generally appears as a comet-like or triangular tail of light which can be oriented either away from the center of the frame (external coma) or toward the center of the frame (internal coma). Coma clears as the aperture is narrowed. Astigmatism is seen as points of light spreading into a line, either sagittal (radiating from the center of the image) or meridional (tangential, perpendicular to sagittal). Remember that Lateral CA is another aberration apparent in the corners.

The image below is a 100% crop taken from the top-right corner of an a7R III frame.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Coma

From a relative basis, these stars look good.

This lens has modest barrel distortion that may be apparent in images with straight lines running along the edge of the frame. Most modern lenses have lens correction profiles available (including in-camera), and distortion can easily be removed using these. Still, geometric distortion correction requires stretching which is detrimental to image quality.

As seen earlier in the review, the amount of blur a lens can produce is easy to show, and a wide-aperture standard lens is advantaged in this regard. Assessing the quality is more challenging due to the infinite number of variables present among all available scenes. Following are stopped-down examples showing diaphragm blade interaction.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Bokeh Example

The first example shows defocused highlights rendered round (except for a small section of the circle) for the 5-stop-narrowed aperture. The concentric rings around the borders are a bit strong, as is the outer transition. The full scene, reduced-size image appears nice.

Except for a small number of specialty lenses, the wide aperture bokeh in the frame's corner does not produce round defocused highlights, with these effects taking on a cat's eye shape due to a form of mechanical vignetting. If you look through a tube at an angle, similar to the light reaching the frame's corner, the shape is not round, and that is the shape seen here.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Cat's Eye Bokeh Example

As the aperture narrows, the entrance pupil size is reduced, and the mechanical vignetting absolves with the shapes becoming rounder.

With an 11-blade count diaphragm, point light sources captured with a narrow aperture setting and showing a sunstar effect will have 22 points. In general, the more a lens is stopped down, the larger and better-shaped the sunstars tend to be. Wide aperture lenses tend to have an advantage in this regard, and this lens is capable of producing good star shapes.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Sunstar Effect Example

That these points alternate strong and weak is interesting.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Design

"Breathtaking resolution and contrast: A refined double-gauss design incorporating two aspherical elements, including one precision AA (advanced aspherical) element, works with an ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass element to suppress field curvature and distortion while maintaining outstanding image-wide resolution and contrast from the widest aperture at any focusing distance." [Sony]

What that design creates is impressively sharp image quality.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens on Tripod


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The Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens features RDSSM powering AF. "Focus drive is handled by an RDSSM (Ring Drive Super Sonic wave Motor) system that is capable of positioning the heavy focus group required by large-aperture lenses with speed and precision." [Sony]

The lens internally focuses quickly, though cameras including the Sony a7R IV defocus the image slightly before final focusing in AF-S mode even if the subject was initially in focus, adding significantly to the focus lock time. Autofocus speed is noticeably faster in AF-C mode. Clicks and, especially during long focus distance adjustments, an easily audible "shhhhh" provide the sound signature of this AF system.

This lens is able to focus in extremely low light levels, though autofocusing is slow as usual.

AF accuracy is of utmost importance, and this lens has performed well in this regard.

Normal is for the scene to change size in the frame (sometimes significantly) as focus is pulled from one extent to the other, referred to as focus breathing, a change in focal length resulting from a change in focus distance. Focus breathing negatively impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus, and anyone critically framing while adjusting focus.

This lens shows a noticeable change in subject size as full extent focus adjustments are made.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Focus Magnification Example

FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported via Sony's DMF (Direct Manual Focus) AF mode. This lens has an AF/MF switch, allowing this common camera setting to be changed without diving into the menu system.

The fine-sharp-ribbed (not rubberized) focus ring is large in size, making it easy to find. This ring is smooth, has a nice amount of resistance, and the 160° of MF rotation linearly adjusts focusing at an ideal rate, allowing precise manual focusing even at close distances.

With a minimum focus distance of 17.7" (450mm), this lens has a 0.15x maximum magnification spec. That number will excite few photographers, but 0.15x is adequate for most typical uses of this lens, including people photography, where the low maximum magnification assists in avoiding awkward too-close perspectives.

ModelMin Focus Distance "(mm)Max Magnification
Canon RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens15.7(400)0.19x
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens17.7(450)0.15x
Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM Lens11.8(300)0.25x
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S Lens18.0(457)0.15x
Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S Lens15.7(400)0.15x
Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens15.7(400)0.15x
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens15.7(400)0.18x
Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens17.7(450)0.15x
Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 Lens17.7(450)0.14x
Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens6.3(160)1.00x
Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Lens19.7(500)0.14x
Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens11.4(290)0.29x
Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Milvus Lens17.7(450)0.15x
Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus Lens19.7(500)0.14x

A subject measuring approximately 6.3 x 4.2" (160 x 107mm) fills the imaging sensor of a full-frame camera at the minimum focus distance. This cat was photographed at this lens's minimum focus distance.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Maximum Magnification Example

He is not happy with me, but even at the minimum focus distance, this lens continues to produce high-quality imagery.

Need a shorter minimum focus distance and higher magnification? An extension tube mounted behind this lens should provide a significant decrease and increase, respectively. Extension tubes are hollow lens barrels that shift a lens farther from the camera, allowing shorter focusing distances at the expense of long-distance focusing. Electronic connections in extension tubes permit the lens and camera to communicate and otherwise function as normal. As of review time, Sony does not publish extension tube specs, nor do they manufacture these items, but third-party Sony compatible extension tubes are available.

This lens is not compatible with Sony teleconverters.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Angle View with Hood

Build Quality & Features

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Like many other Sony FE ZA lens models, the Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens features an attractive semi-gloss black barrel exterior with etched focal length and other markings, including the Zeiss name that shows the partnership behind this model. This partnership is also represented by the ZA in the name. This lens feels well built, and the metal on the exterior lens barrel aids in providing a cold, solid quality feel.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Product Images

MFD |    w/ Hood:  MFD |    Rotated        Compare »

After a significant diameter increase just forward of the lens mount, this lens maintains a consistent diameter, making it comfortable to use. That is, comfortable to use aside from the diameter transition edge impacting my grip finger joints when used on a7R III, a7R IV, and similar cameras.

The MF and Click switches are flush-mounted with a firm pressure required to make changes. Just enough raised switch is provided for use with gloves.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Mount

Sony indicates that this lens has a "Dust and moisture-resistant design." That said, the lens mount does not have a gasket, a seemingly significant omission in this regard. Use a rain cover if in a dusty or wet environment.

The FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA is a mid-sized, medium-weight lens that will remind you it is in your hand or bag. That said, this lens weighs and measures in line with other similar-grade lenses in its class.

ModelWeight oz(g)Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)FilterYear 
Canon RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens33.5(950)3.5 x 4.3(89.8 x 108.0)772018
Canon EF 50mm f/1.4 USM Lens10.2(290)2.9 x 2.0(74.0 x 51.0)581993
Canon RF 50mm F1.8 STM Lens5.6(160)2.7 x 1.6(69.2 x 40.5)432020
Nikon 50mm f/1.4G AF-S Lens9.9(280)2.9 x 2.1(73.5 x 54.2)582008
Nikon Z 50mm f/1.8 S Lens14.6(415)3.0 x 3.4(76.0 x 86.5)622018
Sigma 40mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens42.4(1200)3.5 x 5.2(87.8 x 131)822018
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens28.8(815)3.4 x 3.9(85.4 x 99.9)772014
Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens27.5(778)3.3 x 4.3(83.5 x 108)722016
Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 Lens6.6(186)2.7 x 2.3(68.6 x 59.5)492016
Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens8.3(236)2.8 x 2.8(70.8 x 71.0)552016
Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Lens9.9(281)2.5 x 2.8(64.4 x 70.5)492013
Tamron 45mm f/1.8 Di VC USD Lens19.2(544)3.2 x 3.6(80.4 x 91.4)672015
Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Milvus Lens32.5(922)3.2 x 3.8(82.5 x 97.5)672015
Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus Lens36.4(1030)3.6 x 5.7(92.4 x 144.0)772013

For many more comparisons, review the complete Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.

Here is a visual comparison:

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Compared to Similar Lenses

Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:

Zeiss 50mm f/1.4 Milvus Lens
Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens
Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens
Canon RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens
Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus Lens

The same lenses are shown below with their hoods in place.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Compared to Similar Lenses with Hoods

Have you used the site's product image comparison tool? Use that page to visually compare the Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens to other lenses. The shared link is loaded with another interesting comparison.

The FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA accepts 72mm threaded filters. These filters are common, medium-sized, and mid-priced.

The Sony ALC-SH143 Lens Hood is included in the box. This slightly flared semi-rigid plastic hood has a matte interior for reflection avoidance. Though it lacks a release button, this hood smoothly rotates until clicking into position. I find petal-shaped hoods easier to align for installation than round variants (align a small petal to the top), but this shape is less stable when standing the lens on the hood. This hood offers good protection from both impact and bright light. Always use it.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Case

Sony includes a felt-lined vinyl drawstring pouch with a padded bottom in the box. The sides of this pouch will protect from scratches and dust, and the bottom will additionally protect from mild impact.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Cap

Price, Value, Compatibility

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The Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens has an upper-mid-tier price, but that price is in line with the performance of the lens.

This Lens is compatible with all Sony E-mount cameras, including both full-frame and APS-C sensor format models. Sony provides a 1-year limited warranty.

The reviewed Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens was online-retail sourced.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Side View with Hood


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Determining a small set of lenses to compare to the FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA in detail is a challenge.

Let's start with its successor, the Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens.

In the image quality comparison, the two lenses perform similarly, with the ZA lens showing a slight advantage in the periphery. The GM lens shows better flare resistance, and the ZA lens has less geometric distortion.

The Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM Lens vs. Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens comparison shows the GM lens is considerably smaller and lighter. The smaller lens uses smaller filters, 67mm vs. 72mm. The GM lens features Dual XD Linear AF vs. RDSSM and has an aperture lock switch. Most other aspects in that comparison show similarity, aside from the price for which the ZA lens holds favor. I recommend going with the 7-year-younger GM lens.

Let's select another Sony ZA lens for comparison next, the FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Lens.

Obviously, the 55mm f/1.8 lens is slightly longer in focal length and noticeably narrower in aperture. In the image quality comparison at f/1.6 vs. f/1.8, the 50mm lens is sharper across the frame and especially so in the center. At f/4, the 55mm lens catches the 50mm lens in the center, but it needs f/5.6 to equalize the periphery image quality comparison. The 55mm lens has less geometric distortion. Wide-open, the two lenses have similar amounts of vignetting, but the 50mm lens has the stopped-down advantage at equivalent apertures until about f/5.6.

The Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens vs. Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA Lens comparison shows the 55mm lens considerably smaller and dramatically lighter. The 55mm lens has 11 diaphragm blades vs. 9 and uses larger, but common, 72mm filters vs. smaller, less-common 49mm filters. The 55mm lens price tag is about 2/3 as high as the 50mm lens price tag.

Let's pick another 55mm variant for the next comparison, the venerable and extremely expensive Zeiss 55mm f/1.4 Otus Lens.

In the image quality comparison, the Sony lens would be my easy choice. While the two lenses perform similarly in the periphery, the Sony lens is noticeably sharper in the center of the frame. If shooting at f/2 or narrower, the two lenses are similarly amazing performers. The Zeiss lens has slight barrel distortion, while the Sony lens has modest pincushion distortion. At narrow apertures, the Zeiss lens has slightly less peripheral shading than the Sony lens.

The Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens vs. Zeiss Otus 55mm f/1.4 Lens comparison shows the Zeiss lens considerably larger and heavier. The Sony lens has 11 diaphragm blades vs. 9 and uses smaller 72mm filters vs. 77mm. The Zeiss lens is built like a tank with a buttery-smooth focus ring. The Otus lens is manual focus only, a differentiator that will knock it out of the comparison for many.

The Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens is an interesting lens to compare. In the image quality comparison, the Sony lens outperforms the Sigma lens, especially in the periphery. This comparison equalizes at around f/4. The Sigma lens has less geometric distortion and less peripheral shading.

The Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens vs. Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens comparison shows the two lenses measuring and weighing similarly. The Sigma lens requires a Mount Converter MC-11 to mount on a Sony camera, and the adapter adds a small amount of weight and length to the comparison. The Sony lens has 11 diaphragm blades vs. 9 and uses smaller 72mm filters vs. 77mm. The Sigma lens has a modestly higher maximum magnification (0.18x vs. 0.15x). The Sigma lens costs about 2/3 as much as the Sony lens, but the adapter erodes a chunk of that difference.

Next, we will compare the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 Lens, a model from a much different lens class. In the image quality comparison, we see why the f/1.4 lens costs considerably more. Even at f/1.4, the ZA lens is considerably sharper than the little f/1.8 model at the significantly narrower f/1.8 aperture. The f/1.8 lens eventually catches up, but not until f/8. The f/1.8 has less geometric distortion and more peripheral shading at equivalent wide apertures.

The Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens vs. Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 Lens comparison shows the considerably smaller f/1.8 lens weighing a fraction as much as the f/1.4 lens. The ZA lens has 11 diaphragm blades vs. 7 and uses larger 72mm filters vs. 49mm. The f/1.8 lens extends modestly during focusing and uses a DC Motor vs. RDSSM for AF. One could buy many f/1.8 lenses for the price of a single f/1.4 lens.

For those comparing across camera systems, the Canon RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens, featuring a wider aperture, is a great option. In the image quality comparison at f/1.4, the two lenses appear similar. Note that the Sony camera creates a slightly sharper image than the Canon camera, but increased moiré (the false color) is the downside (influenced by the Capture One software conversion). The Canon lens has essentially no geometric distortion vs. modest barrel distortion. The Sony lens has slightly less peripheral shading.

The Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens vs. Canon RF 50mm F1.2 L USM Lens comparison shows the Canon lens slightly wider and modestly heavier. The Sony lens has 11 diaphragm blades vs. 10, with sunstars having 22 points vs. 10. The Sony lens uses smaller 72mm filters vs. 77mm. The Canon lens has a higher maximum magnification (0.19x vs. 0.15x), has a focus limiter switch, appears to have better weather sealing, and has a considerably higher price.

Use the site's comparison tools to create additional comparisons.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens Top View with Hood


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As I said in the review intro, how does extremely sharp image quality at f/1.4 from a well-built lens in the ultra-popular 50mm focal length sound? Right, it sounds fantastic. The Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens is that lens.

Now I know why the Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Lens was a low priority for Sony's premium G Master lens build-out. The FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA performance leaves only a small margin for improvements.

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Sony FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Lens
Sony FE 50mm F1.4 ZA Lens
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