Sony 35mm 1.8 Review

Sony has been dominating the hybrid mirrorless market for a while. If you are a photographer looking to shoot video on the same device, Sony is probably the best solution at the moment.

Video shooters often use zooms for practicality. But the most impressive images you can get with a shallow depth of field are often achieved with prime lenses.

That’s why the Sony FE 35mm 1.8 is one of the most popular lenses on the market. Especially with Video Maker. We’ll see in this article why this lens is so popular and if you should choose it.

Why using a 35mm focal length?

Leica 35mm Summilux ASPH

Standard lenses have always been considered 50mm on a full frame. This is the lens that offers the most natural look in terms of perspective. That’s why Henri Cartier-Bresson used it exclusively.

But 50mm for video is slightly tight, especially in interiors. The 35mm focal length is perhaps one of the best balanced and polyvalent lenses.

For video, having a wider field of view is often needed since you’ll often have more than one subject and environment to show to tell the story. This lens is a little wider than 50mm but still has a decent perspective.

Why not just use a zoom instead?

That’s a fair question. I think zooms are overall more polyvalent than primes. It all depends on your style of shooting. If you are a run-and-gun shooter and you like to have a lightweight setup and a shallower depth of field, this lens is for you.

If you need to be able to switch between focal lengths without switching lenses, then zooms are a better solution. It’s handy for documentary work. I believe that you should have both in your arsenal while still keep a lightweight setup.

What are the other options ?

Since 35mm is a popular lens, there are tons of competitors, but since video relies so much on autofocus, we’ll only compare it to the other native lenses from Sony.

Review of the Sony FE 35mm 1.4 GM by Gerald Undone

The Sony 35mm 1.4 GM is obviously the best performing lens especially when it comes to photography. This lens has a huge issue though, it breath like crazy. It’s perhaps the lens that breath the most which is very distracting. Not to mention but the lens is quite expensive a heavier as well as the 1.8.

Jacques Crafford using the Sony Zeiss 35mm 1.4

The Sony Zeiss Distagon T* FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA is perhaps one of the best choice for video. The lens is not as sharp as the GM but about perfect for video where you don’t want to see all the ports in the skin of your subject. It has this dreamy and soft feel to it when combine with a black mist filter. I would definitely be open for a trade with this lens which is just a bit more expensive.

Why choosing the Sony FE 35mm 1.8 ?

The Sony FE 35mm 1.8

This lens is the least expensive and lightest of the bunch. In terms of performance, it’s on par with the Zeiss Distagon. Perhaps it doesn’t have as much blur and less of a dreamy look, but on the other hand, this lens doesn’t exhibit any sign of focus breathing.

Brandon Li with the Sony FE 35mm 1.8

It’s probably one of the most used lenses by Brandon Li or Gerald Undone. It’s not that affordable; it’s still sold for around 700 euros brand new. But you can still find it for 500 euros with ease.

Even if this lens is not 1.8, it fits perfectly between my two other primes, which are the 85mm 1.8 and the 14mm 1.8 GM.

My experience using this lens

Sony A7S III with 35mm 1.8 mounted

This lens is as simple as it gets. There is no aperture ring or lock switch. I have never used those anyway, but I still understand that I might need to use them at some point, especially the aperture ring.

I’ve always used a 50mm 1.4 as a photographer, and I’m slowly switching to a 50mm 2.0 for weight and to work more on composition.

For me, 1.8 is a good middle ground between shallow and deep depths of field. Obviously, it doesn’t have this dreamy look that 1.4 will give you. So if you have the money, perhaps you should go for the Zeiss instead.

Photo taken with Sony A7S III and 35mm 1.8 at f/1.8

I have to admit that for portrait, I would rather have a 50mm, and a 1.2 would actually be handy. So 1.8, unless you are very close to your subject, is not quite blurry enough at times.

For video, it’s still enough to get this 3-dimensional effect and focus attention on the subject, but you’ll not be able to make the background disappear unless you are very close to the subject.

Portrait of my wife in Tay Ho Hanoi

As you can see, the focal length is quite handy for all-purpose use, such as taking pictures of food or of people in an environment.

This is perhaps the best focal length if you want to take an interior portrait or simply take a picture while eating in a restaurant. It’s also one of the most used focal length for street photography, even though I like 50mm better for this particular activity.

Picture taken with the Sony FE 35mm 1.8 at 1.8

The issue, as previously mentioned, is that the blur is simply not sufficient for these types of shots. You’ll have to get closer to your subject and perhaps introduce a bit of perspective distortion.

At the end of the day, I feel like 35mm is a focal length that only works with a certain amount of blur, and at 1.8, the level of blur is not enough at certain distances.

This lens still exhibits some chromatic aberration, which for this price is quite disappointing, but when it comes to flare, this lens performs better than the Zeiss.


8.0 out of 10.

This lens by Sony is quite expensive for what it is. It has decent performance, but it’s a bit underwhelming when it comes to features and aperture.

The lens still does its job, especially in the video department, but I feel like for a bit more money, you can actually get the Zeiss Distagon ZA and get some gorgeous footage.

First tests shot exclusively using the Sony FE 35mm 1.8

I am probably going to try to sell or exchange it myself. If this lens performs well and can produce decent pictures, it has nothing special about it, and it’s still sold for around 700 euros new.

It’s also quite an old design when it comes to features. For this price, I would definitely get a used version of the Zeiss lens as a videographer.


Sony FE 35mm 1.8

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What do you think?

Written by dudeoi

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