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Sony 85mm F2.8 SAM Prime Lens Review by KurtMunger

2010-12-02 05:59 | Source
On August 23 2010, Sony announced the new 14.2 Megapixels Alpha DSLR-A560 as well as three new prime lenses: 

  • Carl ZeissĀ® Distagon T* 24mm F2 ZA SSM (model SAL24F20Z) - The 24mm (36mm APS-c sensor equivalent) is built for speed and durability. It features an all-metal polished barrel and features Zeiss' Distagon design. It's capable of focusing on objects as close as .19 meters away, and uses a solid nine-blade aperture. The lens costs about $1,250.

  • DT 35mm F1.8 SAM (model SAL35F18) - This super fast prime weighs in at just six ounces despite its fast, f/1.8 maximum aperture. Capable of focusing on subjects as close as .8 feet, the 35mm has the shortest minimum focus of any lens in its class. It also features Sony's Smooth Autofocus Motor ensuring a pleasurable and snappy operation. The lens costs about $200. 

  • 85mm F2.8 SAM (model SAL85F28) - The 85mm (127.5mm APS-c equivalent) f/2.8 lens has a sonar-type optical design and makes for a solid mid-range telephoto when used on an APS-c sensor camera. Like the 35mm, it features a Smooth Autofocus Motor to ensure easy focus and has a minimum focusing distance of just two feet. The lens costs about $250. 

The 85mm F2.8 SAM prime lens is currently selling at around $224, via Amazon.com. Here's the summary of review by Kurt Munger:

"This inexpensive full-frame compatible lens (made in China) features a relatively fast aperture of F/2.8 with a good fit and finish, although it has a plastic mount instead of the usual metal.  Sony calls the 85mm F/2.8 an "easy choice lens," which means cheap price but excellent optical qualities. This lens will work great on your Sony full-frame digital camera, as it was designed for a full-frame camera.  It can also be used on an APS-C camera, and becomes a somewhat long 127.5mm focal length. The focusing ring is at the front of the lens, and does turn during auto-focusing, so watch your fingers.  The filter ring does not turn, so your grads and polarizers will work fine.  Manual focusing takes just over 1/2 turn from Close-in to infinity, and adds 3/4" or 20mm in length to the lens at close focus.  With over half a turn of focus ring rotation, it's pretty easy to achieve acurate focusing using the manual ring.  There's a tiny bit of slop on the focus ring if you wiggle it by hand when engaged, or disengaged, this doesn't affect AF operation though.  Auto-focusing is quite loud when running from one end to the other, and not whisper quiet like the real Supersonic wave motors (SSM) on some of Sony's other lenses.  Unfortunately, that's the nature of Sony's SAM or 'Smooth Auto-focus Motor.'

Sony comes up with another winner in their high performance, low cost 'easy choice' lens series.  This time it's a medium telephoto prime with a relatively fast F/2.8 aperture. The little Sony 85mm F/2.8 SAM lens turned in a great performance, and is very similar to the Sony DT 35mm F/1.8 "easy choice" lens, also reviewed here.  The good points are; small and light-weight, center sharpness is very high, and can excite aliases at F/2.8!  The mid-sections and corners sharpen up almost to match the centers at F/5.6-8, so it would make a great landscape lens.  Distortion and light fall-off are very low on both APS-C and full-frame cameras.  However, color fringing is a little high for a prime lens, but is not noticeable in the centers at apertures smaller than F/3.5, or along the image sides unless viewed at very large sizes. If you're a Sony user in the market for a lens in this focal length, the Sony 85mm F/2.8 offers a superb value.  Also, since this lens is small and light-weight, you might put it in your pocket so you'll have it for those shots that require a little more "reach" if you normally just carry a wide-angle lens. The Sony 85mm F/2.8 would make a good portrait lens, and is a low-cost alternative to the super expensive, but two stop faster Sony CZ 85mm F/1.4."

Lens sample photos from flickr:


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