Sony ZEISS 135mm f/1.8 on Sony A7

Sony ZEISS 135mm f/1.8 on Sony A7

This lens is a serious piece of metal and glass, but is it worth the price?

When picking up the ZEISS 135mm f/1.8, my first impression was it was heavy, but solid. It has that cold quality feel of metal, precision, and fine optics. The hood is mostly metal, and it feels amazing to hold. Just don’t drop it on your foot.

The lens is big and heavy, weighing in at 1 kilogram, it is a beast. It has 9 aperture blades making a circle at large apertures, and a short for the class (Canon or Nikon 135mm f/2) minimum focus distance of 0.72 m, providing a maximum magnification of 0.25x. It has a 11 elements in 8 groups, with 2 ED elements. It has standard large aperture zoom 77mm filter threads.

SAM_0303 SAM_0300
SAM_0313 SAM_0312

Optical Performance

SAL135f18z_A7_files001
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DSC02520_135 mm_0.6 sec at f - 8.0_YBR50_18_multi_cpp
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Please click on the tab you want to view. Only 1 tab may be active at a time. MTF, Distortion, and Lat CA data acquired using Imatest
MTF20 Chart maxes at vertical resolution of the sensor which is 4912 LW/PH for A7R. Anything above that is meaningless. The MTF50 chart is set at the value where the best lenses perform in the center, or about 3850 LW/PH on the A7.
Note: 4k video is 2160 LW/PH
Note: HD video is 1080 LW/PH

Comments on the Results

The lens has excellent resolution and sharpness besides f/1.8, where it is “only” very good. The corner at f/8 is getting a little weak, but is probably in part to the focus.

Distortion is pretty minor at 0.3% pincushion.

Lateral CA is minor. Longitudinal CA is pretty strong at large apertures, leading to some purple fringing as well.

Flare resistance: Haven’t checked.

Measured Focal length is 135mm at 1:35 magnification

Pros and Cons

Effective Resolution

The colors are selected based on overall MP, don’t compare the colors between systems. So relative to max sensor resolution a lens doesn’t do as well on the A7R as it would on the A7 relative to its (lower) sensor resolution, but it still resolves more detail on the A7R then it does on the A7.

Aperture Weighted Center Partway Corner
f/1.8
17.4 MP
18.6 MP
16.2 MP
16.5 MP
f/2.8
21.5 MP
24+ MP
19.6 MP
17.5 MP
f/8
21.5 MP
23.2 MP
20.8 MP
14.7 MP

Bottom Line

The lens has superb image quality. Amazing, really. However, its focus is screw drive so it is fairly loud, and it can actually be slow at times where the camera doesn’t quite know what it wants to do (on A99 or LA-EA4). It is fast if it doesn’t hunt, but if it hunts, and it does a lot, you miss the shot.

Trying to manually focus on my chart was a bit of a nightmare, so I wouldn’t be surprised if the slightly worse f/1.8 results and corner results are a result of me not nailing the focus on the chart. AF was out of the question as the PDAF isn’t very precise, and the manual focus jumps past the critical focus point with the tiniest movement.

It might sound like I don’t like this lens, but that is not the case. The optics are absolutely amazing. I would say it is like the Pentax FA limited lenses, great optics, but the focus can be a bit awkward, screw drive and loud, but man are they worth putting up with any of the complaints for the stellar performance.

Consider donating, it is about $50 a lens to rent.





Photos are all © Eric Tastad, 2013-2014. and may only be used for personal evaluation of the lenses. Download full sizes by clicking on image which will take you to Zenfolio. Hover over the image, in the upper left of the image click on the menu, Download, and Original (or all available).

Eric Tastad: Sony ZEISS 135mm f/1.8 &emdash;

Eric Tastad: Sony ZEISS 135mm f/1.8 &emdash;

Eric Tastad: Frost Wedding &emdash;

Eric Tastad: Frost Wedding &emdash;

Eric Tastad: Frost Wedding &emdash;

Eric Tastad: Frost Wedding &emdash;

9 Comments

  1. tomme says:

    Great reviews, really great info.

    You dont happen to have the konica hexanon 50 f1.7, they says Its one of the sharpest 50mm.

  2. jsvfoto says:

    Hi,
    Thanks for this short-review. Could you comment on the AF speed? Is it snappy or slow? Would you consider it fast enough to capture moving kids? I look forward to your reply.
    Cheers,
    jsv

  3. admin says:

    I would say capturing moving kids is more about practice, but it will do it. As long as the light is good. I would say it’s medium focus speed not really slow, but not very fast either. I think 70-200mm is faster, but haven’t used it yet. Also, which camera?

  4. ady says:

    Hi

    For a general use for every day, with walk around photography, is the auto focus is usable?
    You wrote that its not very precise, but for daily use, is it ok on the a7?

    Thanks

    Ady

  5. admin says:

    Yes, perfectly usable AF for those situations. Only a bit slow for moving subjects in low light. I find center point most accurate too.

  6. ady says:

    I am having hard time to decide between this lens and the zeiss 135 f2 apo…
    I don’t want to invest in sony za lens, with adapter, and in the end to work with manual focus… I want it to night photography, and if this will not work with the SAL lens, maybe the best is to go with a lens that design to work with manual focus. What do you think?

    Thanks again.

  7. admin says:

    What kind of night shots? Like street at night, or clubs, or star shots?

    AF is plenty good in most reasonable shooting conditions, only some for wedding, or maybe low light action, where it would be a problem.

    MF is not good at all with Sony ZA lens, because very shallow depth of field and the adjustment is pretty twitchy. I would buy the manual focus lens if you are doing mostly manual focus work.

    You might rent both from Lens Rentals (or similar) for the weekend and see which you like better. Or another option is you could rent the Sony ZA and see if it will do what you want and if you like it you can buy it, or if not just buy the manual ZEISS.

  8. ady says:

    Night street shots, mostly people in the streets.

    Like this for example
    http://d-spot.co.il/forum/index.php?app=core&module=attach&section=attach&attach_rel_module=post&attach_id=505958

    and this
    http://d-spot.co.il/forum/index.php?app=core&module=attach&section=attach&attach_rel_module=post&attach_id=506631

    and this
    http://d-spot.co.il/forum/index.php?app=core&module=attach&section=attach&attach_rel_module=post&attach_id=506629

    Photos take with GX7 + 75 1.8.
    After buying the A7R its hard to get back to the GX7…

    I don’t have where to rent the APO or the SAL, I am not from the US.
    What I can try to rent is the ZEISS 100 macro, but no SAL at all.

    Thanks,
    Ady.

  9. Gerald says:

    This lens reminds me a lot of the A*135/1.8, both in terms of physical appearance/construction and performance (based on your review). It would be interesting to compare the two directly.

    I am also tempted to get an A7R to pair with my modest collection of old but still decent Pentax (full frame) glass. I might just do that unless Pentax makes that announcement we’ve all been patiently waiting for within the next 6 months.

    Anyways, thanks for the reviews.