Sharpness Tests of the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8

Sony released the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8  lens a while ago, and while it’s the kind of lens I generally love, we just now got enough time freed up to test it and present the results. As with most brands, and 85mm f/1.8 lens gives a lot of the advantages of a fast prime while saving a lot of money over the f/1.4 or f/1.2 versions. That’s true in this case with the f/1.8 being priced at about $600, compared to $1800 for the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens, and still about half the price of the Zeiss 85mm f/1.8 Batis lens. Options are always good.

Sony 85mm f/1.8 MTF Testing Results

As always, this is not a review, just the results of MTF tests on ten copies of the lens in question, along with my usual disclaimers and perhaps a comment or two.

MTF Results

For those of you collecting the full set of MTF charts, here are the results from the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2017

This is a nice MTF set, no massive astigmatism-like separation in the sagittal and tangential, staying elevated out to the edge of the image. I’ll give you some comparisons in a minute.

Sample Variation

This was always a question with early Sony primes, but the range here is good, one of the more consistent Sony lenses. As always, our variance process measures the copy to copy of ten different lenses, to ensure that we didn’t just get a really good copy or lemon throughout our testing.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2017


A Few Comparisons

I mostly limit my comparisons to things that might be an actual buying choice or reasonable comparison. Not that it stops someone from cutting graphs and showing something ever-so-meaningful – like the Nikon 200mm f/2.0 is sharper than the Canon 11-24mm f/4.

Let’s start with the Sony vs. Sony comparison

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM and Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 

While opposite ends of the price range a lot of people would love to save some money on an 85mm prime and put it toward another lens if performance is similar. Remember, we have an aperture difference here; the 85mm f/1.4 would have higher resolution at f/1.8.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2017

To make it clear, the 85mm f/1.4 is a bit better; don’t mistake the higher red line in the graph (10 line pairs/mm) of the f/1.8 as being better. Realize that the f/1.4 would raise to at least that level at a f/1.8 aperture and the higher resolutions (blue and purple lines) are already better away from the center. Still, the difference isn’t huge, and the f/1.8 would certainly be plenty good for most people, and probably at f/2.8, the two would be close to identical for those that are shooting there.

Zeiss 85mm f/1.8 Batis and Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 

This one is a more fair comparison since both lenses are tested at f/1.8. From an MTF standpoint, the Batis is clearly better both in the center and off-axis. But at twice the price it is supposed to be.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2017


Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art and Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 

I put this up, not because a ton of people will be deciding between these two (although some are), but simply because the Sigma is the benchmark for how good a reasonably-priced 85mm prime can be.

Olaf Optical Testing, 2017



<insert usual stuff about this was just MTF test and not lens review>

So was this exciting or what? I’m sure the answer to that question is dependent on who you are and if you appreciate nerding out to MTF charts. We have a reasonable performance 85mm f/1.8 lens at a fairly reasonable price in FE mount now. It isn’t cool, or sexy, or going to change the way you do photography and see the world around you. But it’s a useful option to have, and I bet it finds its way into a lot of camera bags.


Roger Cicala and Aaron Closz

June 2017


Author: Roger Cicala

I’m Roger and I am the founder of Hailed as one of the optic nerds here, I enjoy shooting collimated light through 30X microscope objectives in my spare time. When I do take real pictures I like using something different: a Medium format, or Pentax K1, or a Sony RX1R.

Posted in Equipment
  • Looks like a nice sharp lens that mostly keeps up with the big brothers. Thanks for the MTFs

  • Y.A.

    Great stuff. This lens is a killer value. Glad Sony didn’t try and weasel out with an F/2.8 like they did on A mount.

  • Don Farra

    Once again thank you.

  • joel richards

    Yes, but never featured in a title. So I believe it shows up in the post about the Batis 25mm and again in a comparison of all the (then current) Sony lenses. The Tamron is probably the most interesting comparison given the similar feature set and price point.

  • Matt

    Understandable. I’m just greedy and was hoping I’d be able to compare the variance of the two lenses.

  • Brandon Dube

    This lists every variance blog post,

  • Matt, I’m not sure. It’s possible they haven’t. We don’t have time to post everything we do.

  • Matt

    Were the MTF charts for the Batis 85 ever posted on here before? When I saw them, I thought there may have been a blog post on that lens that I missed, but searching through the blog posts hasn’t turned one up.

  • DrJon

    Thanks – that Tamron graph is really interesting – looks like they are doing something different to everyone else. I wonder if it’s just this lens?

  • Omesh Singh

    Thank you soooo much. I’d noticed weird test chart images on TDP which showed that the Tamron possibly might be sharper in the corners than in the center of frame. The Tamron has some interestingly “flatish” curves which look to dip a bit in the center of frame. Anyway much appreciated.

  • Justin

    Good! OLAF and Roger get a long weekend hopefully.

  • And for the record, that’s it. I’m going home for a long weekend and won’t have access to Olaf computers so I can’t make any more comparison graphs.

  • Omesh Singh

    “How does the Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 VC compare?” – enquired Mr Squeaky-Wheel.

  • Justin

    Excellent. I look forward to that. Thanks

  • Justin, it’s on my list to get to, but probably a week or two away.

  • Justin

    Thanks Roger. It WAS exciting! I was reviewing a new set of photos I took with my Batis (day one purchase) last night and was very pleased. Still, I’ve been wondering about the Sony 1.8 for awhile. I don’t know what I would do today if I had the choice, but I’ve been very happy with my copy of the Batis and the rendering is just special. Sure occasionally I get swirly bokeh, but even then it’s not a deal breaker.

    Good to know this 1.8 is a good option for many.

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