6.11.2016

Choosing a 50mm lens for the Sony A7 series.


I've written many times about my admiration for the 50mm focal length on a full frame camera. It's a chameleon of a focal length, straddling both wide angle and telephoto camps when used correctly. After years and years of experience with the 50mm, in so many varied circumstances, it just seems natural to me for my photography. But here I am with no real 50mm lens to use on the two bodies I'm using. Well, I do have an adapter and an ancient 50mm Nikon f1.4 that predates the whole concept of auto indexing lenses but I think that one wasn't really computed to do justice to the high density sensors in today's camera. That, and the adapter makes for a bulky set up.

Since my slate is clean right now I am considering all options.

The ones I have identified as possibilities are:

The (cheap) Sony 50mm 1.8 FE that just hit the market. About $ 249

The Zeiss Loxia (current frontrunner in my popularity contest of lenses) 50mm f2.0. This is an electronically coupled lens but it is manual focus only and the MF is a mechanical one with a hard stop at infinity (+). About $ 950.

The Zeiss Batis ( fun and sexy looking) 50mm f1.8, which is probably very similar to the Loxia but with the addition of autofocus and a cool, disco read-out of f-stop and distance in an LCD panel on the lens...  Around the same price as the Loxia.

The Sony 55mm f1.8 OSS super lens that features optical image stabilization in lens. Fully autofocus and reputed to be exquisitely sharp by some reviewers; also around $ 900.

The Rokinon or Samyang (identical) 50mm f1.4 at $ 399. (manual everything). Reputed to be sharp, with nice out of focus rendering.

And then there are legions of 50mm lenses made for older cameras that can be adapted for use with the mirrorless A7 bodies. But which one to choose?  I've always been partial to Olympus 50mm lenses for the OM system; they are sharp, small, light and usually available pretty inexpensively....

Are there any of you out there who might have an informed opinion about any of the options listed above? I'd love to hear them....

Thanks.


22 comments:

Ken said...

Kirk, when I shot with Olympus OM cameras in the 70's my 50mm of choice was the f/3.5 macro. Served the obvious dual purposes of the standard focal length along with great close-up capabilities. As you know, the Zuiko lenses have an amazing quality. However, though I currently use mirrorless cameras, I've never adapted any Zuikos to them. I'd like to see the results if you go in this direction.

Rollin Banderob said...

You must have a special pipeline with Zeiss, as I have not seen a Batis 50mm, yet ;-)

Have not tried the Loxia, but the Sony 55mm is a very nice size and feel. I love the eye-track on my Sony's so the native AF is a plus. Have not read your blog for long enough to know if you prefer a lens with character - some say the 55 is so sharp it is sterile. Are you a Sony Imaging PRO Support member? - call them and give it a try for free.

If you want some character take a look at the Minolta 40mm f/2 M-Rokkor. I don't have it, but do have the Minolta 90mm f/4 M-Rokkor and enjoy it. Stay away from the 28mm in that RF series as it has it has a spotting issue, unless you have it restored. Larger size and character; Minolta 58mm f/1.2 and Olympus FF 50mm's.

TMJ said...

I have the Sony 55mm f1.8 OSS and it is a very pleasing lens, plus very sharp too.

Also, I have three OM 50 f1.8s, small neat, excellent (interesting how some versions are favoured over others, all mine are slightly different).

And I have the Olympus Zuiko 55mm f1.2, exquisite, lovely looking lens and produces images with a great look too.

Joe V said...

I use Minolta MD lenses with my micro-4/3...when I'm not using them on my old X700 camera, that is. The 50-1.7 is rather nice.

Hugh said...

OM Zuiko 50mm 1.8 or 1.4 for a clean, modern look.
Also the 24mm/2.8 and 21mm/3.5 Zuikos.

Pentax 50mm 1.4 Super-Multi-coated Takumar for something rather special for portraits.

Anonymous said...

One to add to your list is the contax G 45mm f2.0 with deo tech autofocus adapter. Lens runs around $400 used excellent condition, adapter $250-$300. Get the 90 f2.8 for $300.
I love both on A7rii. Autofocus is decent, probably as good as screw drive can be. I have not tried the 35mm f2, said to be weaker but still a great lens. The 28 and 21 don't play nice with digital sensor due to ray angle, find reviews and sample images before considering either. You could also look at contax c/y 50mm options - more zeiss glass at reasonable prices, but c/y is all manual focus. When considering legacy lenses I have found flickriver.com (a flickr interface) valuable as it allows you to search for groups or images using e.g. contax g 45mm, and find real world images, though there are false positives and scanned prints so you have to be a little careful evaluating what you find. Can be a time sink, but has saved me from buying a couple lenses I would have regretted....

ajcarr said...

Kirk: I've previously suggested getting an old (not the new version, which is priced almost up there with the current Zeiss ZM 1.5/50 Sonnar) Soviet Jupiter 3 1.5/50 (basically a 1940s Zeiss Sonnar) in Zorki (M39) mount plus an M39 (LTM) adapter to micro-4/3 as a portrait lens for that sensor. Since you've got rid of your micro-4/3 bodies, still consider getting the lens with a Sony adaptor, and produce ethereal photos or (stopped down) sharp images.

Mohammad Shafik said...

I haven't seen the Zeiss FE 55 1.8 mentioned. There is also no 50mm Batis.

My humble suggestion would be the Zeiss 55. It can be found almost all year long for $699 as a grey import. I bought mine for that price. Even though, I find this is an expensive price for a 50/1.8 kind of lens. But I haven't regreted my decision. It is very sharp, and most importantly, it makes delicious mush out of the backgrounds when you want it to. If you want sharpness, color and contrast, it is there as well. No wonder it is called a mini-Otus.

It also has auto-focus which is useful in many situations. If you're going to spend near a grand for a lens that doesn't have a really fast aperture, you might as well get the auto focus. It ships with a nice leather pouch and a reversible lens hood.

I have a Canon 55/1.2 that I use on the A7II for the times when I want to get different results. Soft glowy portraits, abnormal looking OOF backgrounds, manual focus, etc... But for business, I use the Zeiss.

Let us know how it turns out for you.

Daniel Walker said...

I have used the Ziess 55 on my Sony a7II, very, very nice and is well balanced. My only concern is the extra 5 mm seems pushing me to want to carry a second camera with a 35mm.. I am sure it's all in my head.

Bill Danby said...

I admit that I have both the 55mm f/1.8 Sony/Zeiss and the Zeiss Loxia 50mm f/2.0. And, it really is a bit of extravagant redundancy on my part.

The Loxia is glued to my camera on a day to day basis (it's just a joy). But when there's a task (I'm not a professional), then it's the Sony/Zeiss for its autofocus and aperture link to the exposure system.

If this is to be a "work" lens for you, the 55mm is auto, super sharp, a bit faster, and less expensive.

One option that you didn't mention is the Sigma 50mm f/1.4 "Art" lens using Sigma's MC-11 mount converter. I think the Sony/Zeiss is the much better choice -- except for a photographer who also uses the Canon system. Then, it's a bargain.

Dave Jenkins said...

Count me in for the OM Zuiko fan club. I used them for years with my Oly OM cameras, did what I consider to be my best work with them, and still consider the OM system my all-time favorite. Nowadays I'm building a small collection of Zuiko lenses for the Sony A7xx I'm saving my Amazon gift cards for.

Morgan Walker said...

Hey Kirk,

I specifically bought in to the A7 in order to mount OM lenses. So far, I can only highly recommend it. The adapter is surprisingly chunky and slightly takes away from the svelte package. Regardless, the rendering is different, and there is nothing like using the old manual focus glass! Currently using the 50mm 1.4, love it!

Anonymous said...

Forgot to mention that adapted autofocus, though good for stills, is much further behind native lenses for video. I have done so little video with the Contax lenses that I can't really comment other than to say if video is important you need to do some research on any non-native option including the la-ea adapters....

EdPledger said...

The autofocus 55 Sony. For work.

For play, the multitude of vintage 50-60mm lenses, of which you have experience with many. You have the Nikkor 1.4, the Oly 60, and you can fool around with, literally, hundreds of others. Guess I have over 50 various nifty fifties, last acquisition being a Mamiya-Sekor 58mm from the 60s with 9 aperture blades for nice OOF highlights when stopped down a smidge, sharp, and very well controlled CA. They say the Pentax M42 55 1.8 is exceptional, silky focus, sharp, great colors, and very cheap. My OM 50 1.8s have a bit more CA than I like. My favorite OM is the 100 2.8.

Anonymous said...

I use the 55mm 1.8 on the a7s11, for low light auto focus, Nikkor 1.2
ais, micro Nikkor 55mm 2.8, the Sony ziess is as sharp as the micro Nikkor, a complement to both, I like an old canon 70-210 macro zoom at f4, and feel the 55mm is an easy go to lens for mid distance in the night woods.

Murray Davidson said...

Kirk, I have no proposals to make other than to suggest taking a peek at Phillip Reeve's rather nice and down to earth site at http://phillipreeve.net/blog/ where he tries out a lot of (mostly older) lenses for Sony A7 cameras. I find it worth a look.
Murray

Penfan2010 said...

I've been using my OM Zuiko 50mm F1.4 on the A7ii with both a regular adapter (which makes it a little too long for my taste) as well as the new Artech Leica M AF converter with OM mounting. Works pretty well, and I love seeing the old OM lenses come to life again with the Sony sensor. Since reading your posts about the Pen F 60, have ordered a Pen F adapter as well, and can't wait to try my 38mm and 70mm lenses on the A7.

Anonymous said...

The autofocus on the $249 Sony 50mm f/1.8 is pretty bad.

The Sony 55mm f/1.8 is an all-round beast - can't go wrong with that lens.

texascbx said...

I have the Sony 55mm f/1.8. The Zeiss branded one. It is not stabilized.

Ravi Bindra said...

I too love the 50mm and have several to choose from as I also have a couple of mirrorless outfits. If i had a Sony full frame, I would choose the Sony 55.

For adapted lenses, from my Leica R collection I love the 50/2 Summicron which has a similar optical layout to the Leica M Summicron of the same era. The advantage of the M is it is smaller but the R is cheaper. From my M collection, I love to bits my 50/1.4 pre-aspherical. The 50/1.4 aspherical is also known as the hysterical as its out of focus is that. The MS Optical 50/1.1 is too soft at 1.1 but lovely at 1.4, and is smaller than any Summiluxes. the Noctilux 1.0 has lots of character but is big and heavy.

Do I have a problem? :).

The Olympus 50/1.4 is a small sharp lens.

DOug Chadwick said...

I liked the 50mm 1.4 Nikkor (pre multi-coating) well enough that I bought an almost unused late AI version and use it a lot.

Be very careful that your adapter is well enough light baffled to control flare. Mine was not and I had to add flocking from a telescope supply house to solve the problem. Send me a mailing address and I can mail you enough to do your adapters, I had to buy a huge amount.

Once the mount was flocked the AI lens was great. My 50mm Summicron might be better, but I use the Nikkor.

Well I use my 40mm Summicron much more, but you were asking about 50s.

edshots said...

I think you're thinking of the older E-mount Sony 50mm 1.8 OSS which indeed an excellent lens for the price and up there with similar sharpness in the centre to the FE 55mm 1.8 SonyZeiss lens.