jerome's reviews

  • Sony 35mm f/1.4 G SAL-35F14G

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    nice bokeh, no coma
    chromatic aberrations, resolution is lower in mid-field than in the corners

    Seeing the SLRGear test of this lens, I had to post a review of my own.

    First things first: this lens only make sense on a full frame camera. If you have an APS-C camera, get something else.

    This is a lens for which an optical test will not tell the whole story. I certainly agree with the test from SLRGear, but one has to put the tests into perspective.

    There aren't that many f/1.4 35mm lenses on the market. There is one from Canon (quite good), there is one from Nikon (old, plagued with coma as it is a spherical design and manual focus only) and there is one from Leica (excellent, at a price).

    When this lens was designed, the other 35mm f/1.4 were all spherical designs, meaning they suffered from coma (which looks horrible in night photography, the reason this lens was built for). This lens improved considerably on that, while retaining the "look" produced by spherical aberrations: relatively low contrast full open, but with a good level of detail.

    This is a lens with character. The optical defects, while real, actually improve the look of the pictures in actual use. The low contrast (spherical aberrations) give a "glow" effect for night pictures and mask small skin blemishes. The bokeh and the transition from sharp ot unsharp are very nice.

    Personally, this is one of my best lenses BECAUSE of its optical imperfections. The only real annoyance is color fringing, but one can correct that in post.

    Edit: to understand better how this lens works full open, download the VFA target samples. You will notice that the resolution is actually excellent (you can count very tiny lines in the targets, especially in the extreme corners), it is the contrast which is lacking. This is the effect of uncorrected spherical aberration ("veiling"). In night pictures (what you bought a f/1.4 lens for), this is actually often a plus because the contrast of the scene is often too high anyway and because it makes highlights "glow". In any case it responds very well to sharpening in post, because the fine details are still there. One should also keep in mind that in real f/1.4 use, the subject is not flat and the depth of field is tiny: bokeh is more important than pure sharpness for an f/1.4 lens.

    Stopped down a bit, contrast improves markedly.

    Interestingly, the VFA target shows that the resolution is lower in mid-field than in the corners, but the 3-D curves published by SLRgear or the MTF from Sony do not. The reason, again, is the low contrast of the lens and the way the curves are computed. A good example that MTF curves do not tell the full story about a lens...

    reviewed July 26th, 2010 (purchased for $1,100)