Sony FE 85mm F1.4 GM Review

By Yvonne

Sony FE85mm F1.4 GM, a short telephoto lens that is absolutely amazing for portraiture. The lens blurs background with ease and produces sharp results.

Sony FE 85mm F1.4 GM Review

Sony FE 85mm F1.4 GM

The pros

  • At f/1.4, it is impressively sharp from edge-to-edge.
  • No distortion.
  • Resistant to dust and splash.
  • A physical aperture ring
  • Function: Focus.
  • Very bright design.


  • Dimmed corners at f/1.4.
  • Optical stabilization is not available.
  • Expensive.

The Sony FE85mm F1.4 GM ($1,799.99), is part of the G Master lenses series. It was designed to match the resolution requirements of both today's camera and future models. The FE85mm was tested with a 42MP digital camera.

It produces stunning portraits and has incredible sharpness, even at f/1.4. The Zeiss Batis 85/1.8 (Amazon: $1,119.00) is a better competitor to the FE 85mm in the Sony mirrorless camera system. It's less expensive, not as bright, and still a great performer. The Editors Choice winner is both the G Master85mm and Batis.

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The FE85mm lens ($1,798.00 on Amazon) is a large lens. It measures 4.2x3.5inches (HD) and requires the use of 77mm front filter. The FE 85mm is also quite heavy, weighing in at 1.8 pounds. However, it balances very well with a Alpha 7 II ($1,398.00 Amazon) full-frame mirrorless camera. Although the Batis lens isn't small, it is smaller than most at 3.6x3.2inches with a front element measuring 67mm and weighs in at 1.1 lbs.

Polycarbonate is used to make the lens barrel. Internal seals keep it dry and protected from moisture and dust, which matches the weather-sealed nature of full-frame Sony Mirrorless cameras. There's a physical ring to control aperture—it can be set to A for automatic or camera-based control, or set manually from f/1.4 through f/16 in third-stop increments. If you're a video shooter you can set the Click toggle switch to the Off position and the ring will turn freely for smooth aperture control—a must for adjusting the f-stop during a video.

Another control on the lens is a Focus Hold button that pauses autofocus operations and an AF/MF toggle switch that switches focus mode. The knurled rubber covers both the aperture and manual focus rings.

Focuses to just 2.6 feet (8.8 meters) so it's not recommended to be used for macro subjects. It projects objects up to 1:8.3 onto the image sensor of your camera. For extreme close focus, the Sony FE90mm F2.8 Macro (Amazon: $11,098.00) is a better choice. The 85mm's 2.6 foot working distance is sufficient for portraiture.

The FE 85mm does not have optical stabilization. That isn't a big deal if you've got a camera with in-body stabilization—all of the Alpha 7 II models and the APS-C Alpha 6500 have this feature. But if you are still using an original Alpha 7 or another model without stabilization built in, the Zeiss Batis may be a better fit. Although it is not an f/1.4 lens but does offer optical stabilization.

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Image quality

The FE 85mm was tested with the 42MP Alpha 7R II at Dell for $1,799.99. This camera is compatible with all lenses and boasts the highest resolution. This is also the model I used to test the 85mm Zeiss Batis lens and manual focus Zeiss Loxia Loxia 2.4/85.

The FE85mm scored 4,040 lines per picture on a centerweighted Imatest sharpness test. It also has excellent image quality through the frames' edges, which display 3,900 lines. This is better than what we expect to see from high-resolution systems like the Alpha 7R II. You'll be able to print large prints and crop heavily, if necessary.

The FE 85mm is a great option if you are looking to save $500. It has f/1.8 (2918 lines) which gives it a significantly higher resolution. The Batis is defended by the fact that it records sharp images from every edge.

The FE 85mm's sharpest setting is f/2.8, which captures 4,329 lines at f/2. This lens can resolve approximately the same resolution as any other when it is paired with an A7R II. Resolution settles in at around 4,400 lines at narrower apertures through f/8—4,379 lines at f/4, 4,400 lines at f/5.6, and 4,429 lines at f/8. The resolution drops to f/11 (with 4,200 lines), and f/16 (3.826 lines).

The Batis' sharpest aperture is f/11. It shows approximately 3,565 lines. Although the manual focus Loxia has a maximum aperture of f/2.4, it's not as sharp as either Batis or the FE85mm, but is extremely sharp. The compact lens notches 4,185 lines when shot at its maximum aperture and peaks at 4,575 lines at f/5.6—not that far off from what the FE 85mm is capable of resolving.

It doesn't matter what distortion you are referring to. When shooting with wider apertures, corners are darker than the centers. The periphery of the frame is at f/1.4 by 1.5 f-stops, which equals -1.5EV. However, this deficit can be reduced to -1.1EV with f/2 or -0.9EV when using f/2.8.

We consider the issue minor in field conditions if it is less than -1EV. It's easy enough to brighten corners in software—Lightroom ($9.99/Month at Adobe) has a lens profile for the 85mm GM that delivers a one-click correction—but some portrait photographers may appreciate the vignette effect to better separate the subject from the background.

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Sony owners who are looking for classic portrait lenses can choose from a variety of options. Each has its advantages and drawbacks. Although the Zeiss Loxia 85 lens is extremely sharp and has the manual focus feeling that so many photographers desire, it does not have image stabilization or autofocus. It also doesn't produce as much depth of field at f/2.4 as lenses with a larger aperture. The clickless aperture control option is a great feature for videographers.

Batis 85mm, which is the cheapest of all three, supports autofocus. However, unlike other Sony mirrorless autofocus lenses, it doesn't provide the same tactile feedback that a traditional mechanical focus ring. Although it isn't as sharp as either the Loxia 85mm or FE 85mm lenses, it still has enough resolution to produce large prints and has a beautiful character for portraiture. If your camera does not have optical stabilization built in, it also has that option.

The FE 85mm is another option. Sony claims that the FE 85mm is a G Master lens and was designed to work with cameras beyond the 42MP chips it tested. However, these are not yet available in the market so we cannot verify any of those claims. It captures incredible detail even at f/1.4, which is exactly what you would expect from the Alpha 7R II sensor.

Although the FE 85mm lens is the most costly, f/1.4 lenses can be found for a lot less. This lens performs at the same level as Zeiss Otus85/1.4 (Amazon: $4,490.00) which is a manual-focus SLR lens with no compromises. It can be difficult to decide between three lenses that are native system as excellent as the Loxia and Batis. The FE 85mm model is an Editors' choice and the best option for bright apertures and high resolution.