Sony FE 35 F/1.8 Preview

Sony FE 35 F/1.8

The new Sony FE 35 F/1.8 prime lens is perhaps the most requested lens for Sony to add to its lens lineup by the Alpha Community. The wait is over. I am pleased that Sony have decided to make this a small, light and affordable lens. This will most probably join the FE 85 F/1.8 as one of the ‘must have’ primes that will fit the needs of those Alpha photographers who like to travel light.

Minimum Focussing Distance and Focus Hold Button

One of the most notable features on this lens is its minimum focussing distance of just 0.22 M. This will be of importance for photographers looking to achieve maximum figure/ground separation by placing the foreground subject very close to the lens. It is not surprising that Sony have also decided to place a Focus Hold button on the lens. The Zeiss designed F/1.4 and F/2.8 35mm options do not have this useful feature.

A7III and FE 35 F/1.8
A7III and FE 35 F/1.8

Size and Weight

The size and weight of this lens (280 g or 9.9 oz.) will be one of its most attractive features. Many photographers prefer to work with two or three prime lenses over a standard zoom such as the 24-70 or 24-105. The 35 mm F/1.8 has a noticeable advantage over the Zeiss designed Sony FE 35 mm F/1.4 ZA (which weighs in at 630g or 22.3oz.), which is almost the same weight as the FE 24-105 which weighs in at 663g. The Zeiss designed FE 35 F/2.8 is lighter and smaller but its F/2.8 aperture does not offer any EV advantage over Sony’s F/2.8 Zoom. Sony is also advertising this lens as having “Fast, precise, quiet AF operation and reliable AF tracking make it suitable for shooting videos as well as stills.”

Sony’s excellent FE 85mm F/1.8 (371g or 13.1 oz.) set the bench mark for what we could expect from an f/1.8 prime, i.e. a lens that is small, light, fast focusing, sharp wide open and delivers great bokeh. Let’s hope it’s 35mm sibling does not disappoint.

Suitability for APS-C (A6K) cameras

Sony also advertises this as being suitable for owners of APS-C cameras due to its light weight. It will almost certainly deliver superior performance, in terms of Image Quality, when compared to the E 35 F/1.8 but the new FE 35 F/1.8 does not have OSS (Optical SteadyShot) built into the lens. The specifications do not feature the letters OSS and Stabilisation is listed as ‘Body-integrated’. So this may be less attractive proposition unless you own the A6500 which features In-Body Image Stabilisation (IBIS) or ‘SteadyShot Inside’. Having said that there will be fewer opportunities where SteadyShot is required, when compared to a zoom, because of its bright F/1.8 aperture.

A6400 and FE 35 mm F/1.8

Prime or Zoom?

For photographers who need to change focal length quickly, and often don’t have the opportunity to zoom with their feet, I recommend either the FE 24-105 F/4 G or FE 24-70 F/2.8 GM (the latter choice for photographers who want maximum figure/ground separation or background bokeh from a zoom). For photographers who have a little bit more time up their sleeve to change lenses and also have the opportunity to zoom with their feet (adjust their distance from their subject without having to zoom the lens) I personally recommend choosing two or three primes from the following list

  • FE 24 F/1.4 GM
  • FE 28 F/2
  • FE 35 F/1.8
  • FE 55 F/1.8 ZA
  • FE 85 F/1.8

Choosing three of these primes from the above options may mean carrying a little bit more weight (a little but not a lot) in the camera bag but, more importantly, less in the hand. You will gain more than one stop advantage over the F/2.8 lens, sacrifice nothing in image sharpness and probably have spent less than the GM zoom (so long as you have not chosen the 24 GM as one of your three primes).

Sample Image captured with the FE F/1.8 GM
Sony FE 35 F/1.8 at F/1.8 (click on image to view full size)

FE 35 F/1.8 Specifications

  • MINIMUM FOCUS DISTANCE: 0.22 m(0.73 ft)
  • WEIGHT: 280 g (9.9 oz.)
  • MINIMUM FOCUS DISTANCE: 0.22 m(0.73 ft)