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REVIEW: Sony FE 35mm f1.4 GM lens

SONY FE 35MM F/1.4 GM: A compact, moderately wide-angle lens with comprehensive weatherproof sealing, sophisticated autofocusing and an 11-blade iris diaphragm that creates creamy background bokeh. Excellent overall performance, and a good choice for photographers who enjoy low-light shooting with excellent depth of field control.
RRP: $2449
The combination of a sophisticated optical design and intelligent focusing technology in a small, lightweight unit makes the FE 35mm f/1.4 GM lens a good choice for both stills shooters and most videographers. The versatile 35mm focal length covers a natural-looking perspective with minimal distortion at close perspectives. Although this lens is not stabilised, it can take advantage of the IBIS in many of Sony’s α7 and α9 cameras to allow it to be used with shutter speeds as slow as ½ second. This offers potential for creative applications in low light levels,

Constructed mainly from magnesium alloy, the FE 35mm f/1.4 GM lens is just 96mm long, with a maximum diameter of 76mm and a weight of 524 grams. Build quality is excellent and the lens is supplied with a short, cylindrical lens hood that includes a locking button. It accepts 67mm filters. The de-clickable aperture and fast linear AF plus the linear response manual focus make this lens well suited to videography.

The double linear motor and Direct Drive SSM actuator combine to ensure fast, precise and quiet autofocusing, making this lens ideal for shooting stills. However, it suffers from slight focus breathing, which may impact photographers who want to shoot video with the lens as it will restrict focus pulling. It could also affect those using the lens for focus stacking.

Overall performance was excellent, with the highest resolution in the central part of the frame exceeding expectations with measurements between f2.2 and f5.0. There was some loss of sharpness towards the edges of the frame, although it was not always obvious in actual photographs. Lateral chromatic aberration in uncorrected files was close to negligible at all aperture settings. Both vignetting and distortion were barely visible and effectively corrected in JPEG files. Bokeh was generally smooth at wide aperture settings, although circular highlights tended to become slightly oval-shaped towards the corners of the frame and we found occasional diffuse outlining around bright highlights in some shots. Bokeh fringing, a common characteristic with fast lenses, was not detected.

Purchasing Points:
1. Physically, this lens is an ideal match to Sony’s ‘full frame’ mirrorless cameras. Smaller and lighter than the Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA, it offers better autofocusing, thanks to a dual linear motor drive system, which offers fast response times and precision while minimising vibration and noise
2. The FE 35mm f/1.4 GM provides professional-level physical controls that are positioned to be easily accessed. These include an aperture ring with switchable click stops and a focus mode switch as well as a programmable focus hold button that can be set to control a range of functions, including focus mode selection, AF area selection and Eye AF lock.

The FE 35mm f/1.4 GM lens is equally well suited to shooting stills and video. (Source: Sony.)

3. This lens is ideal for genres as diverse as street shooting, landscape and documentary subjects, and can also be used for mid-body and group portraits. The fast maximum aperture provides plenty of scope for shooting in low light and controlling depth of field.
4. This lens boasts extensive dust- and moisture-resistant sealing and has a fluorine coating on the front element to repel moisture and grease. The easy to operate physical design can benefit both photography and cine users.
5. As part of Sony’s G Master series, this lens is designed to deliver high resolution and sharpness through comprehensive correction of common aberrations. The optical design consists of 14 elements in 10 groups and includes two XA (extreme aspherical) elements that take advantage of the short flange-back distance to deliver high contrast and resolution in a compact lens design. An ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass element suppresses chromatic aberration.
6. The AF/MF switch lies flush with the outer barrel, which can help to prevent inadvertent readjustments but will require more effort to adjust when wearing gloves.
7. The supplied cylindrical lens hood is made from robust polycarbonate. It is 35mm long with internal flock lining to prevent reflections plus a locking button on the outer side of the bayonet mount. It can be reversed over the lens barrel for transport and storage.
8. As an FE lens, the FE 35mm f/1.4 GM Lens is compatible with all Sony E-mount cameras, including APS-C sensor format models, where the crop factor covers an angle of view similar to a 52.5mm lens on a full-frame camera body.

Distributor: Sony Australia; 1300 720 071; www.sony.com.au.

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