Hands-on: Sony announces new compact and portable FE 50mm F1.4 GM standard prime


posted Tuesday, February 21, 2023 at 11:00 AM EDT

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Sony is quickly approaching the big "5-0," or their 50th full-frame mirrorless lens for the Alpha series cameras, thanks to the debut of the new G Master lens, the FE 50mm F1.4 GM. Their 72nd overall E-mount lens, and their 49th full-frame mirrorless one, this new high-end standard prime joins (but does not replace) their other top-of-the-line 50mm F1.2 GM as a new pro-tier offering for photographers and video creators looking for the ultimate fast standard prime lens in a smaller, lighter and a bit more affordable package than the F1.2 prime.

Long-time Sony fans might be thinking, "Hey, wait a second, doesn't Sony already have a full-frame 50mm F1.4 lens?" And indeed, they do. The existing Sony FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA Zeiss Planar lens was released about eight years ago, during the Sony Alpha mirrorless cameras' early days. However, since that time, Sony's imaging tech has progressed significantly, both in terms of their cameras' sensors, processing and overall capabilities but also in their lens's optical designs and performance. As such, Sony's decided to add a newer, smaller, lighter and better 50mm F1.4 to their lineup.


Stepping back a bit to look at the lens landscape for the full-frame mirrorless market, we see surprisingly few 50mm F1.4 lenses currently available. There are several 50mm F1.8 lenses and some 50mm F1.2 lenses for various mounts and camera systems. But there are not that many 50mm F1.4 lenses for mirrorless cameras. A 50mm F1.4 lens was an incredibly popular workhorse lens for DSLR systems for many years, as it offered a good balance of size and a bright aperture. Sony is aiming to continue that legacy with its new 50mm F1.4 lens.

In terms of Sony's ever-expanding lens lineup, the new Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM will not be replacing the existing 50mm F1.4 Zeiss lens, nor is it replacing the FE 50mm F1.2 GM lens. The F1.2 is a unique lens with incredible shallow depth-of-field performance, and while older, Sony says that the Zeiss 50mm lens has dedicated fans and a certain quality to the way it renders images. Both lenses will remain in their lineup. But, as Sony's cameras have progressed in image quality and performance, so has the need for a sharper 50mm F1.4 lens with modern performance. That's where the 50mm F1.4 GM lens comes in. Offering Sony's top-of-the-line G Master build quality and optical features, as well as the latest high-speed focusing technology and several video-centric amenities, this new 50mm F1.4 is a versatile and surprisingly small full-frame prime lens that's ideal for street photography, portraits, travel, video and everything in between.

Key Features & Specs

  • Full-frame standard prime lens for Sony E-mount
  • 50mm focal length (75mm eq on APS-C)
  • F1.4-F16 aperture range with 11-bladed circular aperture
  • 14 elements in 11 groups, including 2 XA elements, 1 ED element and Nano AR II Coating
  • 2x XD Linear Motor AF system
  • Minimum focusing distance: 0.41m (16 in.) with AF / 0.38m (15 in.) with MF
  • Maximum magnification: 0.16x (AF), 0.18x (MF)
  • Linear response focusing ring
  • Dedicated aperture ring with lock switch and de-click toggle
  • 2 custom function buttons
  • Dust- and moisture-resistant construction; fluorine coating on front
  • Dimensions (L x D): 96mm x 80.6mm (3.7 in. X 3.1 in.)
  • Weight: 516g (18.2oz)
  • Price: $1299 USD / $1799 CAD

Design & Handling

As you can see from the photos, the new Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM shares a similar design to other recent Sony FE lenses, especially the previous 24mm F1.4 and 35mm F1.4 G Master lenses. It's a sleek, matte black lens with a small but still reasonably-sized focusing ring, manual aperture ring and several buttons and toggle switches. In fact, the new 50mm F1.4 GM lens is nearly identical in both size and weight to the existing FE 24mm F1.4 GM and FE 35mm F1.4 GM lenses, which is purposefully helpful and convenient -- especially for video creators who use balance-critical rigs, such as gimbals. It lets you easily swap lenses around without having to spend a lot of time re-balancing things and adjust follow-focus gears or other accessories of that nature.

In terms of specifics, the FE 50mm F1.4 GM lens weighs just 516g (18.2oz), which puts it in between the FE 35mm F1.4 GM and 24mm F1.4 GM lenses. The 35mm is just a bit heavier, while the 24mm is slightly lighter. Size-wise, the lenses are even more closely matched, with the 50mm lens having the same length as the 35mm lens, at just 96mm (3.78 in.) long. The 24mm lens is a few millimeters shorter. The 50mm F1.4 lens has a slightly thicker diameter at 80.6mm (3.1 in.), whereas the 35mm F1.4 is 76mm (2.9 in.) in diameter and the 24mm F1.4 is 75.4mm (2.97 in.). Despite that, all three lenses use the same 67mm filter size.


As mentioned, the 50mm F1.4 GM shares a similar overall design to the earlier 24 and 35mm GM primes, though this new lens adds a couple more external features -- ones that we've also seen on other more recent Sony lenses, such as the FE 20-70mm. The 50mm F1.4 GM lens adds a locking switch for the manual aperture ring that, well, locks the ring in the Auto (A) position to help prevent accidental aperture adjustments. There's also an additional customizable function to the top of the lens, whereas the 24mm and 35mm just had a single one on the left side of the barrel.

The lens also features a de-click slider switch for the manual aperture ring, allowing for for smooth, controlled iris adjustments -- a nice feature for video shooters. There's also an AF/MF focus mode switch on the left side of the lens.

In terms of handling, the Sony 50mm F1.4 GM feels wonderful in the hand. The balance is excellent with the A7R IV I used, and the manual aperture ring feels nice and solid with pleasing clicks as you make adjustments. The lens overall has that pleasingly light but solid feel I've come to expect from the several G Master prime lenses I've tried over the years. The exterior of the lens does appear to be made of a plastic material, but that is by no means a dig towards the lens and its construction. The build quality is excellent. The materials feel robust and solid, while the use of polycarbonate material helps keep the weight down. The lens does have a metal lens mount, and there is full weather-sealing throughout the lens, like with other G Master lenses, with silicone rubber gaskets sealing up the buttons, switches and around the lens mount.


The focusing ring, like other Sony E-mount lenses, is electronically controlled; there's no mechanical linkage between the focus ring and the focusing mechanism inside the lens. As such, the ring rotates freely in either direction, and even in MF mode, it will rotate indefinitely with no hard or soft stops to indicate focusing limits. The ring does rotate extremely smoothly, and the linear response design of the ring allows for nice, precise manual focusing behavior. There aren't any focus markings, like focusing distance on the lens itself, unfortunately, so you'll need to rely on focusing visually or using an on-screen aid such as focus peaking or the digital focusing distance scale.

Sony touts the FE 50mm F1.4 GM's lighter design and excellent mobility, and that does feel true in and of itself. The 50mm F1.4 lens isn't all that large nor heavy on its own. It's fairly light, but still has a nice quality heft to it; it's definitely not a "heavy lens." But I wouldn't consider this a remarkably compact lens, especially in terms of the broader array of other 50mm F1.4 lenses for full-frame cameras. The lens is definitely smaller and lighter than the existing FE 50mm F1.4 Zeiss lens, but compared to the Canon EF 50mm F1.4 or Nikon 50mm F1.4G lenses, for instance, the Sony lens is much larger and heavier. That being said, the Sony lens is a much more modern lens, with a more sophisticated optical design, a better focusing system, and more physical features, plus a weather-sealed construction.

Optics & Image Quality

In terms of the FE 50mm F1.4 GM's optical design, the new Sony prime uses a total of 14 elements arranged into 11 groups, and it includes a pair of Sony's specialized XA (extreme aspherical) elements and a single ED (extra-low dispersion) elements. The ED glass helps suppress chromatic aberrations, as does the two XA elements. The XA elements help further minimize other aberrations as well as help ensure high resolving power and sharpness, plus excellent bokeh performance thanks to these elements' amazingly smooth surface precision. In addition, the lens's 11-bladed circular aperture further helps create smooth, pleasing out-of-focus areas. Also, the lens features Sony's latest Nano AR II coating to help reduce ghosting and glare.

A7R IV: 50mm, F2.2, 1/3200, ISO 100

As mentioned, this new 50mm F1.4 GM is said to offer improved image quality performance over the existing 50mm F1.4 Zeiss prime. According to Sony, the GM lens offers better sharpness at both the center and out in the corners than this older Zeiss lens, with much better resolving power and less vignetting. Though we've not had a chance to review the 50mm Zeiss lens, the lens does get high scores and ratings, with users noting its excellent center sharpness and natural colors.

A7R IV: 50mm, F1.4, 1/6400, ISO 100

Unfortunately, I didn't have a 50mm F1.4 Zeiss to use side-by-side, so I can't personally vouch for any optical differences one way or the other. Nonetheless, based on some real-world shooting, the new FE 50mm F1.4 GM lens is indeed incredibly sharp both wide open and stopped down. Center sharpness is incredible, with excellent fine detail and contrast, even at F1.4. Stopping down I don't see much if any noticeable increase in sharpness; it's already that good. However, as you stop down further to the narrower apertures, such as F11-F16, you can see the slight drop in fine detail thanks to some diffraction-related softening. You really have to pixel-peep to see it or compared images side-by-side to notice, but it's quite mild softening overall. Although, as expected, diffraction is the most noticeable overall at F16.

A7R IV: 50mm, F1.4, 1/4000, ISO 100, -0.7EV
100% JPEG crop

And moving out into the corners, I was pleasantly surprised at how sharp the images were still. The centers at F1.4 were tack-sharp already, and while the corners are a little softer, the overall level of detail is still excellent. Stopping down some will help sharpen things up if you want top-notch sharpness across the frame, with somewhere around F5.6-F8 being the ideal sweet sport for the sharpness detail in the far, far corners.

F1.4 - A7R IV: 50mm, F1.4, 1/8000, ISO 100
Center - 100% JPEG crop
Corner - 100% JPEG crop

All in all, though, as with other Sony G Master lenses, the new 50mm F1.4 GM does not disappoint when it comes to sharpness and resolving power, even when shooting wide-open.

In other areas, the 50mm F1.4 lens excelled, as well. Chromatic aberration is extremely minimal. I did spot the occasional hint of longitudinal chromatic aberration or "bokeh fringing" when shooting at F1.4. However, this was very minor and not all that uncommon to see on lenses like this. I also noticed a tiny little bit of purple fringing on some high-contrast edges, but again this was extremely mild, and I really had to pixel-peep in order to see it. The in-camera image processing with the Sony A7R IV cleaned up the hints of purple fringing, so I had to examine the raw files to even fine examples of it in the first place. All in all, though, it's minor, and if it does appear, it's easy to correct in post-processing.

A7R IV: 50mm, F5.6, 1/640, ISO 100

Vignetting was also noticeable at F1.4, but to my eye, it was quite mild and not very distracting. It's easy to correct in editing, if desired, or by stopping the lens down even slightly. Personally, I don't mind some vignetting when shooting with bright prime lenses, but it is easy to avoid or fix if you come across it.

A7R IV: 50mm, F1.4, 1/8000, ISO 100
A7R IV: 50mm, F1.4, 1/800, ISO 100


Like most of Sony's latest G Master lenses, the new FE 50mm F1.4 GM lens uses an XD Linear Motor-based focusing system. This lens uses a dual XD Linear Motor design to smoothly and quickly drive a singular larger focusing group. The XD Linear Motors combines the thrust and power, like older rotational focusing motors, to move heavier focusing groups but also has the speed and precision of linear motors. The result is incredibly fast autofocusing performance, along with excellent tracking and continuous AF performance.

A7R IV: 50mm, F1.4, 1/8000, ISO 100

In use, the Sony 50mm F1.4 GM's AF was so impressive that I barely even thought about it. I just focused (no pun intended) on shooting and compositions. Single-shot focus felt nearly instantaneous, especially with short focusing adjustments. In fact, there were a few times when I was in single-shot AF, but noticed a moving subject I wanted to capture. I didn't have time to change the focus mode of the camera to C-AF, but the 50 F1.4 was fast enough to focus and capture a single frame of the moving subject.

In low-light and with some lower-contrast subjects, AF speed can slow a little bit, but most of the time, the focusing performance was fast and precise.

The minimum focusing distance is pretty good, but it's certainly no macro lens. There were a few times when I found myself too close to a subject and had to back up in order to focus. Minimum focusing distance with autofocus is 0.41m (16 in.). You can focus a little bit closer with manual focus, down to 0.38m (15 in.). The maximum magnification is 0.16x (AF), or 0.18x with MF.

A7R IV: 50mm, F1.4, 1/8000, ISO 100

Pricing & Availability

Overall, the new Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM is shaping up to be another fantastic addition to Sony's impressive lens lineup. As mentioned, the FE 50mm F1.4 Zeiss is remaining in the lineup, and while nothing has been announced yet, we do expect to see some price reduction on the Zeiss version once the G Master version hits store shelves.

The Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM lens is set to go on sale for pre-order on Feb 22, 2023, for an MSRP of $1299 USD ($1799 CAD). Actual availability in stores has not yet been announced.

Sony FE 50mm F1.4 GM Gallery