Andy Westlake tries out Sony's latest premium fast prime designed for Alpha 7 users, the Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA
Sony Planar T* FE 50mm f/1.4 ZA review – Image quality
If you’re going to be spending £1,500 on a lens, clearly you’ll have pretty high hopes in terms of image quality. But even so, you may not be quite prepared for the beauties in store when you first come to look at images from this Sony 50mm. It achieves a barely believable combination of cross-frame sharpness with gorgeous-looking out-of-focus blur, essentially regardless of aperture or focus distance. Indeed, few lenses come close to resolving as much detail across the frame from corner to corner when used at f/1.4.
Lateral chromatic aberration is exceptionally low, with just a hint of red and cyan fringing at the corners of the frame if you turn off in-camera compensation and then go searching for it. However, raw files contain profile information for correcting this, which is automatically applied by both Adobe’s and Sony’s own software. More impressively, there’s barely any colour fringing in out-of-focus regions due to longitudinal chromatic aberration, which is much harder to suppress in post-processing. Combined with the accurate autofocus, this means that images consistently come out looking near-perfectly clean and sharp.
Rectilinear distortion is, to all intents and purposes, invisible, even in uncorrected raw files. Indeed, the closest thing the lens has to a technical flaw is vignetting at large apertures, but you’ll get that with any f/1.4 prime. Personally, I find it adds character to most shots, and is key to the distinctive aesthetic of selective-focus shooting. But it’s easy enough to remove in post-processing if you don’t like it.
All this optical excellence means that the lens’s images are highly amenable to further manipulation – for example, they can be heavily cropped without losing integrity. The stunning sharpness also helps when shooting at high ISO sensitivities, as noise-reduction systems have more real detail to work with. Sony’s claims that the lens will hold up to sensors with even higher resolutions also appear to be well founded.