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Thursday, 14 January 2021


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If it's tagged GM: beware! Don't let the environmentalists get hold of it. :-)

Who makes the Sony branded lenses?

[Good question. I don't actually know. --Mike]

Dear Mike, curious about your comment: "Historically this is a large lens for the spec and the format and none too light. Nothing wrong with that, but please don't go all Trump on me and try to make me believe that square is round and up is down just by insisting on it over and over again."

Looking at the new Sony's 35mm F/1.4 autofocusing contemporaries
(by weight, length, filter size):

Zeiss ZA: 630g, 112mm, ø72mm
Sigma Art (FE): 755g, 121mm, ø67mm
Samyang (FE): 645g, 115mm, ø67mm
Tamron F045 (Canon EF): 815g, 105mm, ø72mm
Canon EF L II: 760g, 105mm, ø72mm
Nikon AF-S G: 600g, 90mm, ø67mm
Sony 35/1.4 GM: 524g, 96mm, ø67mm

The new Sony GM indeed seems to be the lightest among its contemporaries, as well as notably shorter. That doesn't seem to be fake news to me.

Sounds like their new 7 foot power forward is more agile than their previous 7'2" power forward.

Okay now, the difference between $1400 and $1600, for a lot of ‘regular’ folks....well it just ain’t much. Sure, can see some folks going for smaller and lighter lens but $200 more isn’t going to sway someone who can spend $1400. They will buy what they want for whatever reasons decided on. Hobbyists like myself, that $200 would probably be the whole budget ( or close) for a wide angle lens.

Well hold on just a sec dear editor; you state that “ Historically this is a large lens for the spec and the format and none too light.” What spec are we talking about here? I believe it should be full frame autofocus. If that assumption holds, then this lens is the opposite of what you state and is actually the smallest and lightest of any autofocus full frame 35mm f/1.4 lens in production.

Sony GM 35/1.4 524g
Canon 35/1.4 L II 760g
Nikon Nikkor 35/1.4G 600g
Rokinon 35/1.4 (for Sony E) 645g
Sigma 35/1.4 Art (for Leica L) 755g
Samyang 35/1.4 (for Canon) 710g
Tamaron 35/1.4 (for Nikon) 805g

The only semi-modern full frame autofocus lens I could find that was lighter than the new GM is the Sony 35mm f1.4 G lens for A-mount, but that lens has no internal focusing motor and weighs in at 510g

I was lucky to get my hands on the lens last weekend and it is an absolute firecracker, no hyperbole. I’m sure the measurements nerds will be all over it soon but I can already tell you this thing is out resolving every other 35mm in class while maintaining a very attractive bokeh.

Doesn't that bring to eight the number of FF AF 35mm primes available for Sony's system? Plus a few MF options. Popular focal length, I guess!

The simplest answer might actually be some questions.

Doesn’t Sony pay a lot of money for if not “The Mind of Minolta” maybe a few of Minolta’s brains and assorted intellectual property including a few filing cabinets of Leitz IP?

Doesn’t Sony also own a big chunk of Tamron and Bronica IP?

Doesn’t Zeiss charge a lot for their branding and IP?

Are there zombie armies ready to burst out of the ground to fight the Zeiss/Pentax look vs Leitz/Minolta look wars?


What is your take on the weight of a lens (prime or zoom) which would put it on either light or heavy?

For example, I consider a lens above the weight of a Fuji-X 35/1.4 as heavy.

Dan K.

And photographers repeatedly tell me that they can’t understand how I shoot film because it’s too expensive.

Maybe they went all Trump on you and showed you those MTF graphs at those frequencies because at the Zeiss frequencies.... oh nevermind....

Incremental improvements can be alluring--but not always important. Back when I was an impoverished grad student I faced a daunting expense: a set of tires for my rusty Datsun B210. By careful shopping I worked my way up in small dollar increments to tires that not only represented a substantial fraction of my pitiful wages as a teaching assistant but would have outlasted the car by about forty thousand miles. That was close.

Now we have a somewhat different problem here, for any of the choices in the Sony 35mm lens world can be justified. It's not just cost, but size, weight and performance--and, for me, the experience of using the lens.

Personally, I'd love to have the new Sony, but I'd have to struggle with the question of whether or not to keep my daily companion, the Zeiss ZM 35/1.4. The new lens would certainly be sharper in the corners (the otherwise excellent rangefinder lens doesn't play well with the Sony filter stack at wider apertures), it's autofocus, and it's not that much heavier--but I truly enjoy using the manual focus Zeiss lens on my A7R III. Accordingly, I might instead purchase the smaller new Sigma 35mm/2.0, which is more in line with my overall preferences and not so overwhelmingly expensive or "better" that it would allow me to justify continuing to enjoy my favorite lens.

I've been with Fuji X for 2013, and their adorable 35mm f/1.4, which I bought in that year with the original X-E1, is like a fifth of the size of this thing and it's got a secret lookbetterium alloy in the recipe; its bokeh is unimpeachable. Different sensor size, granted, but something doesn’t feel quite right here.

At $1,300 I'll pass on this new Sony lens. I'm good with Sony's compact 35mm f/2.8 and my Samyang 35mm f/1.8.

Apparently the Zeiss lens is not as great as the price would lead you to think.


Weight: 18.5 oz. Whew! I can't imagine lugging that beast around on the street or indoors.

My FE 2,8/35 ZA checks in at 4.3 oz.


Fortunately I don't need f/1.4!


"it has defeatable aperture clicks, for one thing, which is something no still photographer ever cared about in the entire history of the medium.”

Ha. That made me laugh. My almost non-existent interest in making films, um, I mean videos marks me a an old man and a guy not trying to make a living as a working pro…

Seems a great film maker, or even a good one never actually operates the equipment or so it seems and they are sure as heck not doing it with a Sony A7 and GM lenses, but I guess it makes sense to make the clicks defeatable for the working pro who doesnt have the budget or clients willing to pay for the Reds and Blacks with slew of cine len$es.

I’m trying to think of still phographers that work well in film or vice versa and I’m coming up blank. Maybe some other readers can name a few...

Hi Mike, I'm baffled by your perspective on this one; here's my take.

BTW, I'm a Sony shooter with an A7R3, 24mm f1.4 GM, 35mm f2.8 (Zony) + couple other lenses. I like the 35mm focal length. I also binge-watched a half-dozen reviews last night ;-)

Sony had two native 35mm lenses: the little f2.8 and the fast f1.4. The f2.8 really is small and it's optically ok but a bit pricey. The f1.4 was big, expensive and meh.

Then came the Sony f1.8. From the reviews, a very good mid-tier lens.

Now -- as one could predict and I did when the 24mm f1.4 came out -- Sony have released an excellent f1.4 35mm.

As for the existing Zony f1.4? Who cares if Sony wants to run with two f1.4 lenses ... so long as they now have a top-shelf 35mm f1.4. The recent crop of reviews indicate the bokeh of the new f1.4 is better than the old f1.4 ... in fact, the new 1.4 is optically better in every way.

The only downside to the new 35mm f1.4 is the focus breathing ... which apparently the 35mm f1.8 keeps under control.

So, with the recent f1.8 and the new f1.4, Sony has any serious video or stills photographer covered (at the 35mm FL).

As for the "compact" description of the new f1.4 ... 500g isn't compact, unless you are comparing it to the other existing fast f35mm lens on the market. It's fair to say it's a smaller + lighter than the others. I'd only describe the Zony 35mm f2.8 or the Sony 28mm f2 as "compact".

Well, it is actually not that big. The old Minolta G 1.4/35 was 3” long, weighs 16.6oz though it had a much smaller 55mm filter. 10 elements in 8 groups, one aspherical. Add an adapter and it is longer and heavier than the new Sony, though probably still smaller and lighter than the Zeiss. ( For some reason, Zeiss and Leica have seemed to lose their past ability to make small lenses. )

The pricing is reversed in the UK.

New 35mm f1.4 - $1398
Old 35mm f1.4 - $1598

New 35mm f1.4 - £1499
Old 35mm f1.4 - £1299

Germany, Calumet:
New 35mm f1.4 - unlisted
Old 35mm f1.4 - E1499

Perhaps these are pre-launch prices. Incidentally, the Canon 35mm f1.4 II is heavier than both at 760g, but, from experience is a superb lens, optically and mechanically. If you asked me which I would carry in extreme situations, it would be the Canon every time.

The GM may be historically large but the high end new lenses do tend to be bigger and heavier and arguably better too than their older DSLR and SLR lens ancestors.

If we compare the GM against its modern competition we may begin to see that it's possibly on the small side for a high end high performance modern lens.

Someone who goes by the name of Impulses at DPR has done the Googling and compared the stats...

"People here underestimate DPR writers IMO, when they highlight something it tends to be for a reason, and I'm bored waiting on the mechanic so here we go (in no particular order):

Sigma Art 35/1.4 - 755g
Canon 35/1.4L II - 760g
Tamron 35/1.4 SP - 815g
Sony/Zeiss 35/1.4 - 630g
Samyang 35/1.4 - 645g
Nikon 35/1.4G - 600g

Sony 35/1.4 GM - 525g

I'm not gonna bother listing the likes of the Milvus or Sigma's f1.2, but if you take the rest and draw an average, the GM ends up being some 25% lighter than said average. If you only compare it against the two other options native to mirrorless then it's still 18% lighter..."

I might buy one at some point but at the moment I have the Sony 35mm f2.8 because it's very compact and makes for a very compact camera and lens package, the Sony f1.8 because it goes to f1.8 and is handy for close focusing detail shots and the E mount Voigtlander 35mm f1.4 because it's a lovely thing :D Buying the GM would mean that something would have to go, probably the f1.8.

“… more silent …”? A bit like “very unique”? Um, no.

[It was intended a bit sardonically.... --Mike]

I assume it is a case that Sony used Zeiss to get out some good or goodish lenses early on, before their Konica/Minolta designs had come on line. Zeiss are simply contract lens makers and have been for decades. Sony now, understandably, want to replace the earlier Zeiss lenses with their own lenses, for a better profit margin. Completely understandable, but, as you say, it makes it difficult for potential purchasers to know which to buy. I also agree with you, my first thought at looking at the new lens was not that it is small.

That MTF chart is scary. Is this lens diffraction limited at f/8? Is it limited in any sense? I like sharp lenses but really?!

"tizziness". Gonna use it from now on.

And good on you for skepticism. One of the reasons I visit every day. Now, if I could only figure out how to get my Amazon and B&H accounts linked to you on their sites, w/o my 64 y.o. brain having to remember to have to visit here before I order something....if you know how, let's hear it!

Interesting that a photographer like Sally Mann looks for vintage lenses that have character, and as an art photographer she's not all about perfection, but embraces the imperfections, in fact seeks them out.

These lenses seem so sharp as to be the exact opposite. I wonder if after shooting a photo, the photographer with these lenses will then dirty it up in post to make it look more like film. Because there's a lot of talk about not having photos look too clinically sharp.

A famous photographer once wrote this: https://theonlinephotographer.typepad.com/the_online_photographer/2019/09/open-mike-sharper-does-not-equal-better.html and stated

"Here are a few things I believe:
Excessive sharpness can be visually unpleasant.
As many pictures are spoiled by being too sharp as are spoiled by not being sharp enough."

YOU may not be susceptible, but if the marketers/propagandists tell you enough times and loud enough that the lens is light, compact, and has gorgeous bokeh, soon you will be seeing "reviews" from various people who repeat exactly those terms. The key to success in the Big Lie is to keep repeating it over and over and double up on the claims. It clearly works in the USA.

Well OK, size and weight are important fact sheet figures. And most modern pro and semi pro lenses are so sharp you need a tripod to ripe the full benefits.

So for me the decisive question is: How does the lens balance with the camera and how does it fit my hands? Batis lenses are perfect in these respects. The Sony 35mm 1.4 is "Batis size" but a bit heavier. The Sony 1,8 20mm, which I have, is lighter. And I do not need (and cannot afford) 1.4 lenses.

On the other hand, I sold my 35mm 2.8 Sony because it was. . . . too small.

Not that I was in the market for this, but I’ll stick with my EOS M2 and 22mm. One stop slower, sharp from wide open, a quarter the price and the same weight as the GM alone. Not to mention probably a quarter the size of the lens with a camera attached. Apples to oranges I guess.

@Fred Mueller

I assume you're talking about directing when you say "still photographers who work well in film". The best known crossers-over are probably Stanley Kubrick, Agnes Varda, and Ken Russell. Jim Jarmusch apprenticed as a photographer and his photographs helped him get into film school.

Meanwhile, Abbas Kiarostami, Wim Wenders, David Lynch, Andrei Tarkovsky, Spike Jonze, Gordon Parks and William Klein are among those who go/went back and forth, seemingly comfortably and fluently.

And those are just directors. I'm sure there are many more examples among cinematographers. Greats like Raoul Coutard, Sergei Urusevsky, etc. Roger Deakins studied photography before and after he was rejected by the UK's National Film School (spoiler: he got in eventually).

Many of these people are/were also painters, musicians, writers... In fact, I suspect that most of the people I listed above could have been successful artists in a number of mediums, and more than a few began with a passion or interest in other arts before concentrating on photography and cinema.

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