Sony FE 85mm F1.8 Review

Just purchased your Sony a7 series camera and are now looking for a nice portrait lens that won’t break the bank?

Consider the Sony FE 85mm F1.8. On paper, it offers a wide aperture, tight focal length, and a price that’s cheaper than any competing Sigma or higher end Sony lens.

So, how does it stack up in real world use? Is it worth picking up for yourself? Let’s dive in.

Looking for just a quick summary before jumping in?

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Sony FE 85mm F1.8 (Summary)
1,238 Reviews
Sony FE 85mm F1.8 (Summary)
- Sharp centers w/ falloff near corners
- Nice bokeh rendering
- Autofocus is reliable & fast
- Solid build quality
- Amazing value for portrait lens
Telephoto portrait of a woman in a red dress.

Build Quality

Size & Weight

Size wise, the Sony FE 85mm F1.8 is actually reasonably compact for such a bright full-frame lens. It’s a rather conservative 3.2 inches (8.2cm) long and weighs about 13.1oz (370g).

While not the smallest lens out there, it’s not terribly huge like some higher end and more expensive lenses.

It balanced quite well and felt natural on my Sony a7, even with the rather large included lens hood.

Side view of the Sony FE 85mm F1.8, showcasing the custom button and switches.

Is the lens well built?

Although not quite hitting premium levels of build quality, the Sony FE 85mm F1.8 is a well built and sturdy little lens.

The barrel is primarily made out of aluminum with a rather large and ribbed focus ring. It doesn’t feel the most premium, but I certainly won’t say the build quality is poor by any means.

The included lens hood is large and well built. It does the job of protecting the front element from both bumps and flaring.

Additionally, it’s reversible for easy storage, allowing the lens to fit easily into pretty much any camera bag.

The lens is also weather sealed through the inclusion of a rubber gasket around the lens mount, which is nice to see when looking at a more “budget” full-frame lens.

Overall, I certainly do think the Sony FE 85mm F1.8 is built to last. Again, build quality doesn’t reach luxury levels, but it’s robust, weather sealed, and feels quite durable in the hand.

A portrait of a woman in an old west themed place.

Aesthetics & Ergonomics

While some may think the aesthetics of a lens is a rather minor point, I do think they matter to a degree.

This lens offers quite a minimalist appearance thanks in part to the sleek black material that contrasts well with the rather sparse white engraved text.

The Sony FE 85mm F1.8 mounted on a Sony a7ii.

A large focus ring adorns the front of the lens barrel, while a nice customizable button and AF/MF switch break up the sleek design. It’s not the most beautiful lens in the world, but I’ve always liked the look of Sony’s full-frame lineup.

As for ergonomics, I like it. As mentioned prior, the lens balances extremely well on a Sony a7 series camera.

The large focusing ring makes for a nice gripping point, and the overall weight distribution of the lens/body made for great long term comfort when out shooting.

A close-up telephoto portrait of a beared man.

Image Quality

Sharpness

When considering a portrait lens, especially on a full-frame body, you want sharpness, and the Sony FE 85mm F1.8 certainly delivers.

Even wide open at F1.8, the lens is razor sharp in the centers. Unsurprisingly, the image tends to get moderately softer as you move towards the corners.

It’s worth noting that this type of corner sharpness rarely matters when wide open, considering the edges will be a blurry mess of bokeh anyways.

Stopping down doesn’t make a huge difference, causing virtually no change in the center sharpness, and allowing the corners to only catch up slightly.

Again, it’s worth remembering that this is a portrait lens, thus corner sharpness isn’t as big of a deal as it would be on say, a wide-angle. Center sharpness is exceptional and that’s really what matters.

Already interested in buying?

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Sony FE 85mm F1.8
1,238 Reviews
Sony FE 85mm F1.8
The Sony FE 85mm F1.8 offers nearly unmatched sharpness for the price.
A portrait of a man showcasing strong bokeh.
Notice the cat’s-eye bokeh.

Bokeh

When we’re looking at a full frame portrait lens, we want spectacular bokeh. The Sony FE 85mm F1.8 renders out-of-focus highlights in a fairly pleasant manner, but it’s not perfect.

When wide open, bokeh near the centers looks fine, they turn into more of a cat’s-eye shape near the corners of the frame. Stopping down evens it out a bit, providing mostly bubbly and circular bokeh, but it’s still not flawless.

This is fairly common even with more expensive competitors (such as the Zeiss 85mm F1.8), but I figured it was worth mentioning. It’s also worth noting that bokeh is subjective. The cat’s-eye look is very minor, usually not noticeable, and I honestly don’t mind it myself.

Optical Quirks & Flaws

The Sony FE 85mm F1.8 is largely free of any major optical flaws. There is moderate vignetting, but nothing that can’t be easily fixed by either stopping down or in post-processing.

Chromatic aberrations are extremely well controlled, distortion is minimal, and there were no issues with flaring.

A woman on a building overlooking the city.

Focusing System

Autofocus

Next up, let’s talk about autofocus. There’s not a lot to say, if I’m honest. It’s quick, reliable, and rarely had any issues with hunting, even in low light.

EyeAF performed exceptionally well, really sealing in this len’s position as being an incredible piece of glass for portraiture. Additionally, subject tracking (AF-C) worked quite reliably.

The lens, as I mentioned earlier, offers a “focus hold” button. This allows you to hold focus as you re-compose the frame. This button, however, is entirely reprogrammable, which is a feature I really liked.

The autofocus motor is silent, allowing for quiet and clean video work. That being said, the lens doesn’t offer OSS, but that shouldn’t be a problem for most videographers since the vast majority of Sony full frame bodies now offer IBIS.

Manual Focus

Although manual focus usually disappoints on modern autofocus lenses, I actually found it to be quite pleasant on the Sony FE 85mm F1.8.

The lens is still focus-by-wire, but turning the large, ribbed focusing ring provides decent and realistic feedback.

The ring is well dampened and weighted, allowing for decently accurate and quick focus, especially when combined with features such as focus peaking.

A man in a field of pink flowers.

My Final Thoughts

Alternatives

As with many full frame lenses, the Sony FE 85mm F1.8 has plenty of direct competition.

The competition, however, is expensive. The Zeiss 85mm F1.8 and the Sony 85mm F1.4 GM will of course blow this lens away, but they’re also between two to three times more expensive.

Value for Money

In terms of pure value for money, the Sony FE 85mm F1.8 is arguably the best bang for your buck with it comes to buying a full-frame portrait lens.

Nothing else, for the price, comes close to the optical quality, autofocus performance, and solid build that this lens can offer.

If you’re interested in making the leap and picking up one of these for yourself, I’ll include purchase links below.

I hope you enjoy the lens, thank you for reading. 🙂

Sale
Sony FE 85mm F1.8
1,238 Reviews
Sony FE 85mm F1.8
Despite being a budget option, the Sony FE 85mm F1.8 delivers nearly unparalleled performance for the price.
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