on January 16, 2014
I have had this lens for less than 24 hours, but have taken quite few photos with it in that time. I can report that this lens is better than good, and better than excellent. It is tack sharp throughout its f-stop range, has little or no flare, and no chromatic aberration that I can detect. The IQ of the lens is pleasant and realistic, with good and clear rendering of colors and detail. Contrast is excellent. The autofocus works well and works quickly on my Sony A7R body under all but the dimmest of light conditions. There is, unfortunately, no hard stop for the lens at infinity (the lens focus ring will go past infinity when manually focusing). I like this lens more than the Sony 35mm 2.8 Zeiss lens. Bokeh at f/1.8 is surprisingly good and smooth for isolating subjects. I also have a Leica M camera and lenses, including the latest version of the 50mm Summilux f/1.4 lens. In comparison to that lens, the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 is not nearly as well built, and does not render as nicely. But at one-fifth of the cost, the Sony/Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 lens comes surprisingly close to the mark in terms of the images it produces, and is an outstanding lens in its own right. Also, and unlike the Summilux, it's an autofocus lens that focuses quickly and accurately. I would definitely buy this lens again. For $1,000 this is a whole lot of lens. I would even go so far as to say that this lens is a steal at $1,000.
Update: None of the above opinions have changed after using this lens for several weeks. This is a superb lens.
on August 24, 2015
With a review of any single camera lens, one must take into account not only price and picture quality, but also what other lenses are on offer, and what constitutes an all-round package of lenses for shooting in different conditions (few people use just one lens). These are discussed below.
This is one of the highest rated lenses on the market, Sony or otherwise.
Won't get much better with any other lens (as at August 215), and for a similar price (around $US900).
Therefore, if you are going to get just one very good, general purpose, Sony E mount, full frame FF lens for around $US900, this is a very good choice.
Other options, in the full frame series, are the Sony 35mm/2.8 FF (~US$600), and the 35mm/1.4 FF (~US$1600). I got the 55mm/1.8 over the 35mm/2.8 due to the lower fstop, meaning brighter and better pictures in lower light, including a desire for milky way shots with a tripod at night. (and the 35mm/1.4 is also much more expensive).
At 55mm, it's very good for portraits, general street photography, indoor use, and can also be useful for some architecture and landscapes. At fstop 1.8 is also very good for night/astronomy photos, with the help of a tripod.
It’s a full frame (FF) lens, which are designed for full frame Sony A7 series cameras; however you can use it on NEX series Sony cameras but it’s not really worth it, as you pay way more for this lens which won’t give you any better quality on those NEX series cameras than other, cheaper lenses which are specifically made for the NEX cameras.
OTHER LENSES/PACAKGES IN THE SONY E MOUNT RANGE
After much searching and looking to minimise costs (at August 2015) I use these lenses for my Sony A7 full frame (FF) camera:
• Sony 55mm/1.8 lens FF (~$900US), (general street use, portrait, indoor, some macro at 0.5m)
• Sony 55-210mm lens APS-C (~$US250) , (wildlife, distal objects, some portrait and street photography)
• Sony 28-70mm lens FF (~$400US/$200 with A7 kit) (landscapes at ~28mm, general use, some portrait, indoor and street photography)
• Sony 30mm/3.5 macro APS-C (45mm equivalent on full frame sensor) (~$250US) (macro use; some portrait, indoor, street and landscape)
MY TOTAL LENS PACKAGE (with mix of FF and APS-C lenses) COST ABOUT US$1600-1800.
Here are some alternatives:
• Sony 24-240mm FF (~US$1000) for wildlife, street and distant objects, and some landscape
• Sony 16-35mm FF (~US$1200) for landscapes and architecture, some portait
• Sony 90mm FF macro (~US$1000), macro, portrait, street use
• Sony 35mm/2.8 FF (~US$600), general street use, portrait, some landscape
• Or /Sony 35mm/ 1.4 FF (~US$1600) general street use, portrait, some landscape
TOTAL LENS FF PACKAGE COST ABOUT ~$US3800-$4800.
So there is significant differences between lens prices/packages, so perhaps a mix for those on a budget, but with at least 1-2 full frame (FF) lenses, is not a bad, cheaper alternative, as I have done.
The Sony 55-210mm APS-C lens performs surprisingly well in wildlife shots, except in very low light (I took it to Africa and it was fine), even though it isn’t a full frame lens, and so is a reasonable cheaper alternative to the Sony 24-240mm FF lens.
SONY A MOUNT LENSES ON E MOUNT/VICE VERSA CAMERAS
Can be done, but you need a convertor, and the availability/quality isn’t much different from the A series to the E series, so I don’t think it’s really worth it.
NIKONS/CANON/SIGMA FOR SONY LENSES, AND OTHER BRANDS.
These lenses are not specific to Sony and many do not for example include autofocus, except for the Sigma for Sony lenses. The Sigmas for Sony: 19/30/60mm are fine and relatively cheap, but as yet there are no full frame lenses in this Sigma series, so these are only really worth it for the NEX series cameras.
There are some Rokinon/Samyung ultra wide angles (e.g. 14mm/f2.8, for landscape, indoor, architecture, and astrophotography) which are full frame and quite ok for the price (around US$300 or so), but dont expect quite the same sharpness you get with other full frame lenses, when one uses ultra wide angle lenses.
The Sigma 19mm tests I did on the Sony A7 full frame camera were ok but of lower quality than what the Sony 28-70mm kit lens achieved. The Sony 55m was better in all respects than both the Sigma 19mm and the28-70mm kit lens, especially in lower light.
The advantage of fixed focal length lenses is they give a better, more even and sharper picture (both in the middle and also across the frame) for that focal length, compared to zoom lenses. So the detail in the corners will be similar to the middle when so desired, but they can also give more ‘bokeh’ or ‘blurred background’ when you want to blur out unwanted details in the background, which is common, for example, in portrait work.
The Sony 55mm/1.8 lens is an excellent, full frame lens for Sony A7 series cameras. It doesn’t have image stabilisation, however I’m told this is only really an issue in very low light and without a tripod, and perhaps also with some hand-held video contexts.
You need to pair it with other lenses in a package to decide whether you really need it, taking into account price and what kind of pictures you want to take, for what situations. It’s particularly good for portrait work and general street photography, but can also be used in other contexts including some landscape photography and night/ low light work as well as some macro it’s ok, so it makes a good all-round, high quality lens. It gets only 4 stars due to price and lack of image stabilisation with video.
on April 10, 2014
Having been a photographer for nearly 30 years, I have had my share of love affairs with glass, and I won't claim to have abandoned every other lens, but I can say that when I want RAZOR sharp focus and detail that actually challenges my a7R sensor, this gem is a beast. It's small, light, VERY fast (don't let the 1.8 fool you; the light throughput on this lens beats most all Canikon 1.4s and gives the 1.2s a run for the money speed wise, and blows them ALL away resolution wise ), and has that peculiar Zeiss depth and separation, producing a very noticeable "3D" quality, visible even on the LCD.
Larger prints seriously make you feel like you could literally reach into them. The clarity and very controllable resolution, perfect color and believable contrast sell enough EXTRA prints that it will have paid for itself in another week or two, so the admittedly sky-high price is, in the end, pretty easy to swallow. The performance, dollar for dollar, is a steal.
It's not cheap by any means, but as much as I hate to constantly repeat myself, you get what you pay for. In this particular case, you get AT LEAST what you pay for, and if you generate income with your camera, this is an unusually solid investment that yields returns very quickly.
If you own the a7R and DON'T have this lens, shame on you.
There is ONE *auguably* sharper lens on the planet, but it isn't autofocus and costs 4-6 times the price of this. Once the sticker shock abates, it really is a no-brainer.
on February 25, 2015
I don't own this lens (yet!), but I rented one for a portrait shoot recently. Paired with the Sony A7II, it was an absolute dream. The lens is strikingly small if you're used to shooting with DSLR full frame lenses, but still retains excellent build quality and, as I got to experience, even better image quality. In the sample images I attached (from that portrait shoot), you can see how effective the circular aperture blades are at keeping bokeh highlights ultra smooth. The optics are very, very sharp, even wide open. I got some soft images for sure, but it was my fault every time! If you only get ONE lens for your Sony A7 series camera, this ought to be the one. Will be purchasing later this year!