And here's something for all you photo heros who spend all your time trampling through the rainy jungles and alternately trudging through desert sand storms with your lens held out in front of you like a beacon: This lens has been designed to be WEATHER PROOF. That's right. Now when you're at the art festival you don't have to worry about accidentally spilling your Coca Cola on the lens while you are grappling with your turkey leg or corn dog on a stick...
Why am I being so testy? Because I'm pissed that Sony and Carl Zeiss have the big corporate balls to charge a whopping $1500 for a 50mm lens. I think only madmen, Leica owners and madmen rationalize $1500 expenditures for lenses in a class where the 1970's Nikon 50mm 1.1.2 lens might still be the IQ front runner in the field. I guess it will all be okay if Sony also release a Sony branded 50mm 1.4 that's only $750. Maybe I'd buy one of those. But let's get rational for a second.
How much better than the Sigma 50mm 1.4 lens can this one really be and how many of us are going to go through the necessary steps to get the kind of performance that this lens promises in the real world? For the most part this kind of lens is designed to be a great lens for low light reportage (already an issue for a number of Sony DLST models....) and that kind of shooting is mostly done quickly and handheld. Yes, you'll be holding this impressive monster in your shaky, quaking, vibrating hands and praying to the photo gods that Sony was right about getting three stops of Image Stabilization out of their latest camera bodies.
You may have paid for 180 line pairs of resolution but unless you stick that Bugatti of a lens on a set of sticks I think you'll be tooling along with the rest of us in the lane that gets about 45 line pairs of res from their 50mm lenses.
I'm sure that, at this price, this lens will knock it out of the ball park wide open. But even though I own and have owned BMW's worth of fast lenses over the years, and I always have the intention to shoot them at the bleeding edge of 1.4, those pesky clients inevitably decide they'd like just a bit more than one lip in focus and we end up using these marvelous optics at f-stops like 2 and 2.8. But when you get to 2.8 you'll have to look hard to find just about any modern 50mm 1.4 variant that's not performing at least up to your ability to hand hold.
So, who is this lens really made for? The people who claim to only want the finest in life. And the finest in their camera bags. But wait, aren't they already shooting with Leicas (large or small)?
Will I buy this instant status symbol and wear it around on the end of my Sony a99 like a Mercedes hood ornament on a gold chain? Not unless Sony rings me up and offers me one for permanent testing (and hey! Sony! if you do that I'll wear it everywhere until I wear it out!!!). It's not that I don't crave, desire and lust after pretty glass that promises instant photographic genius but hey! everyone's got to have limits to their excess somewhere.
What's my game plan? Well, when I compare the pure performance (not the amenities) of the Sony lenses I own with the two Rokinon Cine lenses that I've recently acquired I'm pretty comfortable saying that I'll stick with my old, used Sony 50 1.4 lens (re-badged Minolta lens) right up until the moment I see the Rokinon (or other Samyang variant) 50mm 1.1.2 Super high speed Cine lens hit the market. And if it's priced like history says it might be, and I'm having high roller hallucinations I'll just take the $1500 I might have spent on the Zeiss (in my craziest dreams) and buy four or five of the Rokinons instead.
I'm not putting any links in for the new Sony Zeiss lens. If you can swing that one (and rationalize it to yourself) you probably have someone on staff who can research the best deal for you. Just check in with your house manager, I'm sure they're on top of it.
Important note: As per my track record of consistency in the last four years of blogging I reserve the right to change my mind and run out and get one of these uber-ninja lenses as soon as next week and not even notice the irony....... You've been warned.