Sony FE 35mm f1.8 Lens Review

Sony FE 35mm f1.8 Lens Review:

The 35mm lens is super popular among photographers because if you think about it, it’s a very versatile focal length.  It’s great for street photography, cityscape, landscape, documentary, and environmental portraiture just to name a few.  The 50mm might be my favorite focal length but if I were going on vacation, for example, and I only had the option of bringing one lens, it’d probably be the 35mm.  So, this leads me to what I’m going to talk about now, the Sony FE 35mm f1.8 lens.  When it was first announced, this was a highly anticipated lens for good reason.  It’s the right focal length, it’s compact, and promised fast autofocus, and good optics.  Plus, at f1.8, it has a large maximum aperture.  Let’s take a closer look.

Sony FE 35mm f1.8 Lens Build Quality:

Let’s start off talking about the overall build, and in terms of that, the Sony FE 35mm f1.8 lens does not disappoint.  The lens is very solid, and definitely feels like a high quality product.  The overall design is clean, and straight to the point, which is what I like.  There’s a big focus ring, an AF-MF switch, and a customizable focus hold button that can be set for other functions like Eye AF.  The 35mm f1.8 is also dust and moisture sealed, which definitely comes in handy when you’re out there in the elements.  I wasn’t caught in any major storms but I did get rained on, and the lens continued to work great.

↑ The Sony A7 III with the FE 35mm f1.8 lens attached.

It’s also worth nothing that the 35mm f1.8 is light and compact.  It weighs just 280 g, and as you can see in the photos, it’s not something that is huge and conspicuous.  The front element isn’t large either; the lens uses a 55mm filter thread.  The dimensions and weight are just about perfect to me given that this lens also has a rather fast maximum aperture.  The 35mm produces fantastic images as well, which I’ll talk about more below.

If you ask me, this is exactly what you want from a 35mm lens.  First off, the Sony FE 35mm f1.8 lens balances perfectly on the A7 bodies.  Definitely no complaints here.  Also, a 35mm lens is something versatile enough in terms of function that for some, it’s all the lens they need; it’s their everyday lens.  Therefore, it’s something that should be easy to carry around all day, and not something that should make you exhausted or feel cumbersome.  It’s something that should also be compact for the sake of discreetness as well for those times when you want to do some street shooting.

The Sony FE 35mm f1.8 lens also comes with a lens hood.  It’s not too big, and it matches the 35mm f1.8 very well.  I didn’t use it much during my testing because I didn’t feel I really needed it.  I generally prefer to use my lenses without a hoods, if I can get away with it.  I usually use a filter for protection.

↑ The FE 35mm f1.8 does come with a lens hood.

Sony FE 35mm f1.8 Lens Autofocus:

Let’s talk about the autofocus now.  The FE 35mm f1.8 employs a linear motor for its autofocus system, and let’s just say it is extremely fast.  I tested this lens on the Sony A7 III, which is the most current of that model (at the time that I’m writing this), and I have no complaints with the autofocus.  I am impressed.  It is incredibly efficient.  It locks on to the subject almost instantaneously.  It’s also accurate, and practically noiseless.  Lastly, it can focus as close as 0.73 ft (0.22 m).

Sony FE 35mm f1.8 Lens Image Quality:

I’m happy to also report that the Sony FE 35mm f1.8 lens impresses further with its image quality.  Yes, it’s well made, it’s compact, and the autofocus is fantastic.  In addition, you’re going to get some really amazing shots with this lens.

↑ This was taken at f8 and 250 ISO.

↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above.

↑ This was taken at f5.6 using 160 ISO.

↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above.

For one, the FE 35mm f1.8 is impressively sharp.  Even at f1.8, sharpness is excellent.  Stopping down just a bit increases the sharpness a little, and around f4, the corners are a bit better but in real world, I doubt you would even notice that much of a difference, since the lens is already so good at f1.8.  In other words, you can pretty much shoot this lens throughout the entire aperture range, and get great shots.

↑ This was taken at f1.8 with 100 ISO.

↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above.

↑ This was taken at f4 with 100 ISO.

↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above.

↑ I love this big sky window at the Fulton Street Subway Station.  This was taken at f5.6 with 200 ISO.

↑ Here’s a 100% crop of the photo above.

Other characteristics of this lens include great color and contrast.  Images are just so crisp, and nice looking.  I haven’t reviewed a ton of Sony lenses yet but thinking of the ones that I have reviewed already, this is my favorite so far, and that’s saying a lot because I actually don’t like using the 35mm focal length.  I did notice some purple fringing at higher contrast areas but to me, it’s not a huge deal.  It doesn’t usually bother me.  Also, this lens does vignette some but stopping down to around f4, does diminish it significantly.  Still, you will see a little at smaller aperture settings but in real world shooting, I think most wouldn’t find this to be a problem.  I sure didn’t.  As for flare, I found the Sony FE 35mm f1.8 lens to be highly resistant to it during my testing.  I rarely experienced any under normal usage.

↑ Here’s another example taken at f1.8.  I used 100 ISO here.

↑ This was taken at f8.  I used 125 ISO here.

↑ This was taken at f1.8.  100 ISO was used.

Sony FE 35mm f1.8 Lens Bokeh:

Given that the Sony FE 35mm f1.8 lens has a maximum aperture of f1.8, it will produce a decent shallow depth of field when you need it.  Bokeh can be so subjective at times but at least in my eyes, the lens’ nine-blade circular diaphragm produces smooth and inviting bokeh.  I generally like to shoot my 35mm’s stopped down, so a fast 35mm is pretty much wasted on me haha but for the times I did use f1.8, I was very happy with the results.  I love how the subject looks so three dimensional, and how it pops out of the photo (thanks in part to how sharp it is at f1.8).  Then you see that really nice transition to the buttery smooth background that this lens produces.

↑ Here’s a shot taken wide open at 100 ISO.

↑ Here’s another taken at 100 ISO shot wide open.

↑ This shot was also take at 100 ISO wide open.

Sony FE 35mm f1.8 Lens Pros and Cons:

Sony FE 35mm f1.8 Lens Pros:

  • Construction is excellent.
  • Weather sealing.
  • Compact and light: balances nicely on an A7 body.
  • Comes with a lens hood.
  • Autofocus is blazingly fast and accurate.
  • Image quality overall is excellent.
  • This lens is incredibly sharp, especially at f1.8.
  • Nice, smooth bokeh.
  • Extremely versatile overall: focal length, build, size, autofocus, and image quality make this a “must-have” for some.

Sony FE 35mm f1.8 Lens Cons:

  • Some purple fringing can be produced in higher contrast areas.
  • Vignetting.

Sony FE 35mm f1.8 Lens Verdict:

I think when it comes to a lens like a 35mm, so much has to go into designing one.  Yes, you want the lens to be great optically.  Who doesn’t, right?  But at the same time, something like a 35mm is such a versatile focal length that it also needs to be pretty much perfect in other areas as well.  It’s a lens that will probably see a lot of use, generally speaking.  It’s not going to just be one of those speciality lenses you take out only on those rare occasions.  With all that said, I think Sony did a fantastic job with the new FE 35mm f1.8, and I’m sure this will be a dream lens for most Sony users.

↑ This was taken at f5.6.  I used 100 ISO.

↑ This was taken at f8, 200 ISO.  Black and white conversion done in Camera Raw in Photoshop CC.

The Sony FE 35mm f1.8 lens really does make the perfect all around lens.  For starters, you have the right focal length.  Then there’s the excellent build and weather sealed design.  The 35mm f1.8 is also very compact, and light yet at the same time, it does have a large maximum aperture.  It balances beautifully on an A7 body or even one of the APS-C cameras.  The autofocus is also blazingly fast, and lastly, the lens’ optics are excellent.

↑ This shot was taken at f1.8.  100 ISO was also used here.

Of course, nothing is perfect including this lens.  There is some chromatic aberration here, and there in higher contrast areas, and the vignetting never fully goes away.  Plus, at the current price of $748, it isn’t the cheapest lens out there.  But as I just said earlier, nothing is absolutely perfect, and to me, these are definitely not deal breakers.

↑ This was taken at f11, 1250 ISO.

↑ This was taken at f8, 200 ISO.

The point is overall, the Sony FE 35mm f1.8 lens is definitely hard to beat.  When you factor in the build, size, weight, handling, and performance, it has all the right ingredients that should make pretty much anyone looking for a fast 35mm extremely happy.  If you’re a Sony user, I’d highly recommend checking this one out.  This is definitely a lens that should not missed.

Thanks for taking the time to read my review!  If you’re considering purchasing the FE 35mm f1.8, and my review helped you decide, please help support this site by purchasing from the links below or any mentioned in this review.  It will not cost you anything extra.  Thank you for your support!

Sony FE 35mm f1.8 lens at B&H Photo

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