Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 ( SEL85F18 ) - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Sony Alpha (Full Format)
Article Index

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published December 2017


Recently we reviewed the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 - as it turned out it's quite an awesome lens. However, the Zeiss lens isn't alone in its quest - it has a couple of Sony mates. There's the insanely expensive 85mm f/1.4 GM and a more mainstream option which we'll discuss here - the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. Some readers may not be too excited about it but as you will see later on it has its merits. Technically, an 85mm f/1.8 is a sweet spot in lens design. It is neither fast nor long enough yet to run into difficult optical correction issues. The Sony lens also avoids the complexities that come with an image stabilizer thus the design is very simple ... and simple is often beautiful (...). Priced at around 600USD/EUR it is unusually affordable by Sony standards so this time we'll not complain about it. ;-)

One of the positive aspects of the "sane" speed is the resulting compact size - unlike e.g. the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM it doesn't feel alien on tiny mirrorless cameras. However, it is worth pointing out that it isn't any smaller nor more light-weight than its DSLR counterparts. In terms of construction, the lens surprises us with a quite impressive build quality. It's an all-metal body including the smoothly operating focus ring. The physical length remains constant throughout the focus range. Interestingly, Sony also incorporated a dust- and moisture-resistant sealing. A focus-hold button can be customized to a variety of functions. A barrel-shaped lens hood is also part of the package.

A question circles around the actual focal length of the lens. We tested the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 and the Sony lens side-by-side and the tele effect is clearly more pronounced on the Zeiss lens. Thus the Zeiss lens is either longer than 85mm or the Sony is shorter - we weren't able to determine that. That being said it doesn't really matter in the real world.

The Sony lens uses a Direct Drive SSM (a double linear motor) for auto-focusing. It is silent, fast and fairly smooth so that it is also feasible for getting used during movies (albeit most will prefer manual focusing in this case). Manual focusing works "by wire" thus you drive the focusing motor by turning the focus ring. The manual focus precision is good.

Optical construction9 elements in 8 groups inc. 1x ED element
Number of aperture blades9 (circular)
min. focus distance0.8m (1:7.7)
Filter size67mm
Hoodsupplied, barrel-style, bayonet mount
Other featuresDust- and moisture resistent, focus-hold button