As it’s not a G Master lens the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 may seem something of a ‘second fiddle’ to the Sony FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS announced at the same time, but at a round a third of the cost it’s likely to be a more common purchase.
Naturally it lacks some of the refinement of the 100mm optic, but it has a 9-blade aperture to give smooth bokeh and a double linear autofocus motor that keeps focusing fast and quiet. There’s also an ED (extra-low dispersion) glass element to reduce aberration and boost contrast across the frame.
At 371g, the 85mm optic is close to half the weight of the 700g 100mm f/2.8 lens, but it feels nicely made and it looks perfectly at home on the diminutive Sony A7R II. It also has an aluminium barrel and seals around the controls and rings to ensure it’s dust- and moisture-proof.
Sony FE 85mm F1.8 review: Performance
It may not be a G Master lens but the new FE 85mm F1.8 is certainly capable of recording an impressive level of sharp detail.
Comparing images from the FE 85mm F1.8 with those from the FE 100mm F2.8 STF GM OSS reveals a significant difference in the out of focus areas. Out of focus highlights have a familiar circular shape rather than the smoother blur that’s seen in the images from the 100mm lens.
Beauty is in the beholder and while many will appreciate that out of focus areas from the 100mm lens are less distracting, some may prefer the more clearly visible circular form of the bokeh in images form the 85mm optic.
In the low light of some of the shooting scenarios that Sony provided, the Sony A7R II was sometimes a little slow to focus with the FE 85mm F1.8 mounted, but its was generally fast enough for shooting hand held portraits. Unsurprisingly, the smoke around a vaping model presented a challenge I got a few soft images, but generally the camera and lens coped quite well. It’s not the fastest focusing combination in the world, but it’s not bad.
I’m looking forward to shooting more with the FE 85mm F1.8 for our full review.