Shootout Shootout: Sony FE 55mm Sonnar, Zeiss Loxia 50mm Planar, Leica 50mm Summilux-M Compared

-et-

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Personally, I have been very happy with the Sony 50mm f:1.8.

I find the image quality very acceptable, and I consider the lens an extremely good value at the price they charge. I often wonder if the reason this lens does not get more attention is that the price is so reasonable that people assume that it must not be very good. That has NOT been my experience.

Here is an image shot at f:2.8 with this lens. Just a family photo, with no attempt at fine art, but it did what I wanted.

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- Tom -
 

Andromeda143

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This is a great review and the subsequent discussion is interesting. I only have a lowly Minolta 50mm F/1.4, but I would love to know how it rates against the Sony or the Loxia, if anyone has any experience. Thanks.
 

SamSS

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This is a great review and the subsequent discussion is interesting. I only have a lowly Minolta 50mm F/1.4, but I would love to know how it rates against the Sony or the Loxia, if anyone has any experience. Thanks.
I can't speak for the Minolta 50mm f1.4 but I do have a Sony A-mount 50mm f1.4 which I don't like (SAL50F14).
IMO and speaking frankly, at f1.4, f1.6 is useless as too much CA and too soft.
 

Jefenator

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I like the FE55 for wide open usability, soft BOKEH and convenience (AF and EXIF data). Also, flare resistance, contrast and colors.
That said, IME only the weakest of legacy 50mm lenses are incapable of getting some very technically impressive captures. (And those are sometimes coveted for their "character"!)
Among the various legacy systems I've sampled, the "lowly" Minolta brand actually fares very well, optically speaking.
 

NickCyprus

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This is a great review and the subsequent discussion is interesting. I only have a lowly Minolta 50mm F/1.4, but I would love to know how it rates against the Sony or the Loxia, if anyone has any experience. Thanks.
I'm also in a similar dilemma so a comparison woulb be great.

I'm between buying the 55mm 1.8 or the 16-35mm 4 but since I already have a legacy 50mm 1.4 (the Minolta MD), I dont know if its worth getting the 55 because on the other hand the UWA is something I'm totally missing even in a MF lens...
 

Andromeda143

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It is understandably difficult finding one person with the time and the equipment and all the different lenses to do such comparisons. One possibility would be if several different members who each had the same camera could volunteer to set up a standardised test on a particular lens, photographing a printed test sheet at specified f/numbers, shutter speeds and iso values. Then the unprocessed shots could be circulated (uploaded?) to allow access for each participant. I guess the difficulty would be the lighting conditions. They would have to be somehow standardised.
 

chalkdust

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Clive, I need to think about your suggestion. Obviously there are plenty of ways for it not to work, but possibly we could come up with a way to do it...

50+/-5 mm is my favorite focal length, even on the 1.3X crop sensor of the Leica M8.2. My two favorite legacy lenses are the CV Heliar and ZM Sonnar. In fact the ability to reliably focus the ZM Sonnar at f/1.5 is one of the major reasons I purchased the A7ii.

When considering what lenses to get with the A7ii, I read Amin's review many times. Did it makes sense to get the Sonnar 55 when I already had that focal length covered with favorite legacy lenses. I finally decided that the Sony 55mm gave me two things that the legacy glass did not: amazing full frame resolution at widest aperture, and autofocus (so other people, even strangers, can capture an image). So I purchased the Sony 55 f/1.8 and it has fulfilled its potential for me.

I possibility I did not expect to need, but am now delighted to have, is making a image with the razor-sharp subject on the edge looking into a field of nice wide aperture bokeh.

In retrospect, I could have been nearly as well served by skipping the 55mm Sonnar and using the 25mm Batis with post-process cropping. I would still have had about 6MP images, great resolution, nearly the same aperture, and autofocus.

But who wants to be served "nearly as well"?
 

quezra

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I think a DIY test scene is usually not too hard to put up. Just have to make sure you're shooting at low ISO on a tripod so you can ensure it's only lens properties you're looking at. Put interesting/detailed objects in the corners and sides. And then people can examine for themselves. Of course, the downfall is that once you buy the FE 55/1.8, no legacy 50 is ever going to seem that attractive any longer so you will stop looking. :p

Personally, having both the 16-35 and 55, I can't say which one I like better. The 16-35 is immensely fun, especially in cityscapes (and indisputably good for landscapes generally). But the 55 is so much much better for shooting people, which is primarily what I shoot (and of course AF allows other people to snap your camera, while the huge and heavy 16-35 can put people off when they realize how heavy your camera is). Looking at Nick's lens lineup, I think the 16-35 will add more to his current kit, but if all he shoots is people, the 55/1.8 is really going to get a lot more mileage (and arguably, wide angle needs the AF less).
 

Jefenator

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...In retrospect, I could have been nearly as well served by skipping the 55mm Sonnar and using the 25mm Batis with post-process cropping. I would still have had about 6MP images, great resolution, nearly the same aperture, and autofocus.

But who wants to be served "nearly as well"?
IMHO 35mm might make a better starting point for cropping a "normal" frame. That happens from time to time with me and on an APS-C body, 35mm actually is a 50mm equivalent frame. Here's a 35/2, shot wide open on my NEX-7:
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Works not too bad. (This is actually one of my all-time personal favorite shots of this type.) Using almost any 50mm on the A7 would tap a greater reserve of IQ and subject isolation, though in this case I don't really feel as though either is lacking. (That Leica Summicron-R 35/2 lens is a beauty, except it is so big and heavy, the A7 w/ 50mm is actually more portable!)
 

Andromeda143

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Great shot, Jeff. I shoot mostly full frame and up till recently my favourite lengths were 24mm and 35mm. Just lately I have started using my 50mm F/1.4 Minolta and realising just how good this length is. However, although there are a few reviews and discussions which say this lens is good, there do not seem to be many actual comparisons between old Minolta lenses and the modern rivals. In my case the Minoltas I have are mostly what I can afford (or justify buying to my wife!). I know that it is not just a case of sharpness or resolution. However, it would be good to see just how these old and cheap lenses compare to the newer and much more expensive equipment. Contrast, bokeh, tones, sharpness, weight, speed etc .. all these things go to make a lens what the photographer likes to use. In the final analysis it comes down to individual preferences as well. Vive la difference.
 

SpaceManSpiff

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Thanks for the test, Amin!

Love the wide open rendering from the Sonnar (and the handy AF)...and three-dimensionality and the stepped down performance from the Planar.
The Summilux isn't quite my cup of tea.

@Andromeda143:
This is a great review and the subsequent discussion is interesting. I only have a lowly Minolta 50mm F/1.4, but I would love to know how it rates against the Sony or the Loxia, if anyone has any experience. Thanks.
Great shot, Jeff. I shoot mostly full frame and up till recently my favourite lengths were 24mm and 35mm. Just lately I have started using my 50mm F/1.4 Minolta and realising just how good this length is. However, although there are a few reviews and discussions which say this lens is good, there do not seem to be many actual comparisons between old Minolta lenses and the modern rivals. In my case the Minoltas I have are mostly what I can afford (or justify buying to my wife!). I know that it is not just a case of sharpness or resolution. However, it would be good to see just how these old and cheap lenses compare to the newer and much more expensive equipment. Contrast, bokeh, tones, sharpness, weight, speed etc .. all these things go to make a lens what the photographer likes to use. In the final analysis it comes down to individual preferences as well. Vive la difference.
Philip Reeve tests several Minolta lenses on his website, including the Minolta 50 1.4
Minolta MD Rokkor 50mm 1:1.4 - phillipreeve.net

Verybiglobo compared the FE55 to the Canon 50 1.2L here:
Sony FE 55mm f/1.8 Z vs Canon FD 50mm f/1.2 L | Viktor's photo blog

In my experience, on a APS-C sensored NEX-6, the SEL50f18 was much sharper wide open (and near wide open) than any of my many (too many? Nah!) legacy 50s. Coatings have improved greatly and the SEL50 was more resistant to flare. At landscape apertures, there was nothing in it between a legacy 50 and the SEL50. I preferred using a legacy 50 most of the time because of the manual focus experience.
 
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Andromeda143

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Eric, thanks for those two url's. They are very useful and, although they do not refer to my Minolta AF 50mm f/1.4, they are interesting. They give me motivation to make more use of my legacy lenses. As one of the reviewers (Victor Pavlovic) writes, 'Both lenses are much better than I will ever be as photographer, and both will make their owners feeling special and rewarded with some signature images.'
This is definitely pertinent to my situation.
 

tomO2013

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As one of the commentators said for Viktor pavlovic' review - the A7 will likely be the bottleneck in demonstrating the differences in optical improvements with the Sonnar. An a7rii or A7r body that is pixel peeped at 2:1 would likely demonstrate/exaggerate the optical differences better. I've shot both lenses (used to have a 50 1.2 L) and the Sonnar is a sharper optic and the technically better optic by far on the higher resolution A7r(ii).
That being said, at this level of quality you are comparing a modern ferrari with an Aston Martin DB5. Both are very fast and can easily exceed legal road speeds. The Ferrari will go around the Nurburgring much faster but you may actually enjoy driving the older Aston Martin more!
 

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