The Good. The Sony 85mm F1.4 G Master was designed to be the ultimate portrait lens, and they’ve more than succeeded. This prime offers users 11 aperture blades with the widest at F1.4, giving them plenty of portraiture options as well as weather sealing, the Sony Nano AR coating to prevent ghosting and flare, excellent balance, and fast autofocus. It also produces incredible color rendition and three ED glass elements to help eliminate chromatic aberration even at its widest aperture so users can have their stunning bokeh without having to put up with annoying color fringing. For nifty little extras, Sony has slapped on its body an aperture ring, a focus hold button and a focus mode switch for convenience.
The Bad. It’s hard to find fault with a lens that yields amazing photos and offers easy handling, but it is certainly not perfect. It’s a bit heavy at 28.92 oz, and at 89.5 x 107.5 mm, it’s a little on the bigger side. But it didn’t feel awkward and tiring in our hands or too big on the Sony A7R III we tested it with. Its only real downside is its price tag. At $1,798, which is only $200 cheaper than an A7 III, it is a luxury buy that not everyone can afford.
The Bottom Line. The Sony 85mm F1.4 G Master is near perfection. It’s got all the elements, both internally and externally, to yield incredible portraits with beautiful colors, stunning bokeh, and sharp details. So much so that if you get a crappy portrait with this glass, then you must be the world’s worst photographer and you should probably consider a different hobby. Yet near-perfection does come at a price, literally; and a hefty one at that.
Pick This Up If… you’re a portrait, wedding and event photographer that needs to invest in the ultimate portrait lens. Of if you’ve got some extra dough lying around because we’d be lying if we didn’t say we wouldn’t buy this lens if we had the money.
(F2, 1/640, ISO 100)
Let’s get straight to the point: once you’ve taken the Sony 85mm F1.4 G Master out for a spin, it’ll feel like a struggle to use another portrait prime or any other lens for that matter.
This amazing, weather-resistant glass runs like butter, delivering amazingly sharp images, the softest bokeh and sexy colors that result in the most captivating portraits we’ve ever taken. That might sound like a marketing copy, but ask around and you’ll most likely get the same response.
Is it a lens every photographer must have in his or her arsenal? If you’ve got the cash and you shoot a lot of portraits, then definitely. Otherwise, with a $1,798 price tag, it’s a major investment for those without deep pockets. Still, it’s such an incredible portrait performing lens, you’re gonna want to save up to add it to your kit.
Let’s delve right in to find out why.
(F4, 1/2500, ISO 100)
We do want to thank Sony for letting us test this baby with their amazing full-frame beauty, the Sony A7R III, whose equally impressive performance fit so well with the 85mm F1.4 G Master’s, they’re basically the mirrorless dream team for portrait photography. Check out our full review of the camera by clicking HERE.
- Model: SEL85F14GM
- Fits: A-mount and E-mount full frame and APS-C cameras
- Focal Length: 85mm
- Maximum Aperture: F1.4
- Minimum Aperture: F16
- Angle of View (diagonal): 29° (full-frame), 19° (APS-C)
- Lens Construction: 11 elements in 8 groups
- Minimum Focus Distance: AF 2.79 ft, MF 2.62 ft
- Maximum. Magnification Ratio: 0.12 x
- Filter Size: 77 mm
- Length: 89.5 x 107.5 mm
- Weight: 28.92 oz
- Aperture Blades: 11 (circular)
- Standard Accessories: Hood, front cap, rear cap, case
For some reason, there’s nothing on the lens’ and the G Master series’ landing pages that reveal what material the barrel is made of. What we do know is that the Sony 85mm F1.4 G Master does feel very solid in its construction, with a lovely feel. Its ribbed rubber focus ring seems to attract dust and lint, which is sorta annoying, but it’s an easy clean.
We appreciate that, in addition to Sony’s normal dust and moisture sealing features, the manufacturer has added additional weather resistance at the lens mount itself. We spent plenty of time with this camera in the great outdoors, and we’re happy to report that it stayed pristine.
(F2, 1/6400, ISO 100)
(F2, 1/5000, ISO 100)
In addition, Sony has added three extra-low dispersion glass elements to prevent chromatic aberration as well as the nano AR coating technology coating that essentially eliminates ghosting and flare. This way, users are really getting excellent photos in every aperture and lighting situations.
(F2, 1/8000, ISO 100)
At 28.92 ounces at 89.5 x 107.5 mm, this G Master lens might be heavier and bigger than many Sony primes, but it wasn’t particularly bulky or heavy to the point of fatiguing. In fact, it’s well-balanced glass that fits wonderfully with the A7R III. We haven’t tested it with the smaller bodies, but we’re pretty sure it won’t feel too big on those either.
(F2.8, 1/1000, ISO 100)
Adding the aperture ring was a great move. It’s not only great for more experienced and manual shooters, but also offers a lot of convenience for newbies looking to venture away from auto mode and into aperture-priority.
(F2.8, 1/3200, ISO 100)
This aperture ring also offers a nice and strangely satisfying tactile feedback. It’s firm enough to prevent accidental turning, and it’s got enough tactile feedback that it’s noticeable when it happens. Plus, users can turn it off with the clever aperture click switch for a smoother, quiet operation.
The focus mode switch and focus hold button add even more convenience, although users probably don’t get a lot of use out of them. What is particularly useful is its hood lock mechanism with a hold release button, as it makes sure that the hood stays on unless users actually want it off.
SPEED & FOCUS
It’s kind of hard to properly gauge the Sony 85mm F1.4’s autofocus performance as we tested it with the A7R III, which has top-notch autofocus accuracy and speed. However, it is worth noting that Sony supposedly slapped on a dual sensor system on the lens to support its high res capability when used with full-frame bodies. This two-sensor system is supposed to improve both its accuracy and speed.
During our tests, it performed beautifully; homing in quickly on the areas we want to focus — a person’s eyes or their fingers, for example — and rendering those with extremely sharp detail so that they’re still super crisp when zoomed in.
(F2, 1/640, ISO 100)
(F1.4, 1/8000, ISO 1000)
(F2.8, 1/1000, ISO 100)
The Sony 85mm F1.4 GM features an extreme aspherical element with 0.01 micron surface precision, coupled with 11 aperture blades to render beautifully dissolving backgrounds. This lens in practically made for bokeh heaven. It’s the stunning bokeh — smooth, beautifully round, dreamily soft—that really help make this glass an amazing portrait lens, even at F4.
(F2, 1/4000, ISO 100)
Like we said earlier, it’s hard to get a bad portrait with this lens. On top of the gorgeous bokeh, the Sony 85mm F1.4 GM also produces incredible and accurate color rendering, nice contrast so that images are less flat and more dynamic-looking, and super sharp details. We have noticed that does get a tad softer at F1.4, but that’s not surprising and even useful in some creative instances. If users don’t like the softness, they can just dial it even one stop down to F2 and it’s perfectly sharp.
(F1.4, 1/8000, ISO 1000)
Even at the widest aperture at midday, we saw no signs of chromatic aberration, which an absolute plus. Granted, we only had this lens on a short loan, and due to the weather, we didn’t really get many chances to shoot in super high contrast situations.
(F1.4, 1/8000, ISO 100)
While we only tested it on a full frame so we cannot really speak for APS-C cameras, signs of barrel distortion are barely noticeable, and any obvious ones somehow only make the shots more appealing.
(F1.8, 1/4000, ISO 100)
We also didn’t see any signs of vignetting—especially while testing it alongside the 16-35mm F2.8 GM, which showed it immediately. Some people have reported some shading, but we personally didn’t notice any in our tests.
- Gorgeous bokeh
- Super sharp, dynamic images
- Fast and accurate AF
- Accurate color rendition
- Weather sealing
- Little to zero chromatic aberration and vignetting
- Great handling
- Aperture ring is a nice touch
- Little to zero ghosting and flare
- Clever aperture click switch
(F2, 1/1600, ISO 100)
Loaded with features to capture captivating images, including 11 aperture blades, extreme aspheric element, and Nano AR coating, the Sony 85mm F1.4 G Master might just be the most amazing portrait prime in the market today. It yields images with outstanding colors, bokeh, and sharpness, as well as little to no chromatic aberration, vignetting, or barreling. And it has weather sealing as well as an aperture ring, which are always nice to have.
(F2, 1/3200, ISO 100)
Unfortunately, it does come with a hefty price tag and that might turn off some potential users. We get it; $1,798 for a lens, it has to be a worthy investment… unless of course, you just happen to have some extra cash lying around. But to be really honest, this is definitely a lens we’ll be saving up money for.
The Sony 85mm F1.4 G Master prime is the stuff portrait lens legends are made of with its gorgeous bokeh, extreme sharpness and beautiful color rendition. It's hard to compete with its performance, although there is that thing with the price.