35mm Showdown

Here’s a casual comparison of a few 35mm lenses on the Sony Alpha NEX-5!


From left to right: Samyang 35mm F1.4 ED AS UMC ED AS UMC, Sony 35mm F1.4G, SLR Magic 35mm F1.7, Sony 35mm F1.8 DT SAM DT SAM, Carl Zeiss Biogon T* 35mm F2.0 ZM with Kipon M-mount to E-mount adapter.

All shots at 1/60s ISO200 in Manual Exposure on the Sony Alpha NEX-5 with the Sony LA-EA1 A-mount to E-mount adapter, or the Kipon M-mount to E-mount adapter, where appropriate. The aperture was adjusted from wide open, to F2.0, and then F2.8. I intentionally did not change the shutter speed, but changed the exposure in RAW (for example, an exposure at F1.4 has an EV of 0 while an exposure at F1.8 is compensated by +0.7EV and F1.7, +0.5EV.)

All RAWs were processed in DxO Optics Pro Elite 7.0 with DxO Lighting turned off and a fixed WB of 4628 Kelvin, +6 Magenta compensation. You may notice some differences in exposure – whether this is down to F1.4 being not exactly 1 stop brighter than F2.0, or DxO not linearly adding +1 EV, I do not know.

The other difference may be in the white balance, since this was shot in flourescent light. Thus pay no attention to variances in white balance unless all samples from the same lens, have a certain color cast.

The objective of this test was to compare bokeh, originally, but you might also be able to judge light transmission, color and contrast. Sharpness is variable as I focused on the chair (without realizing there was chipped paint that I could’ve used as a focus reference point.)

All images are clickable for a full-size image. EXIF data is also included in both full-size images and thumbnails (if you can call these thumbnails.)


Samyang 35mm F1.4 ED AS UMC at F1.4


Samyang 35mm F1.4 ED AS UMC at F2.0


Samyang 35mm F1.4 ED AS UMC at F2.8


Sony 35mm F1.4G at F1.4


Sony 35mm F1.4G at F2.0


Sony 35mm F1.4G at F2.8


Sony 35mm F1.8 DT SAM at F1.8 (+0.7EV)


Sony 35mm F1.8 DT SAM at F2.0


Sony 35mm F1.8 DT SAM at F2.8


Carl Zeiss Biogon T* 35mm F2.0 ZM at F2.0


Carl Zeiss Biogon T* 35mm F2.0 ZM at F2.8


SLR Magic 35mm F1.7 at F1.7 (+0.5EV)


SLR Magic 35mm F1.7 at F2.0 (may not be exact due to stiff aperture ring)


SLR Magic 35mm F1.7 at F2.8 (may not be exact due to stiff aperture ring)

A casual verdict:
The Sony 35mm F1.4G’s trademark spherical aberration is always there – a portrait-ful haze of softness around out-of-focus areas. The bokeh may vignette at F1.4 and be somewhat of a circle with a side cut away, but at least they remain circular and not a cats-eye shape (on APS-C at least as tested here). It retains that Minolta color. Unfortunately I misfocused so please ignore the sharpness aspect of this lens. I love this lens for its bokeh, really, and how it renders, but it’s not everybody’s cup of tea.

The Sony 35mm F1.8 DT SAM is contrasty wide open, especially in the out-of-focus areas. I can’t say this helps, really, as it makes the background contrasty and distracting. Zeiss lenses tend to look that way too. It also ‘paints’ out-of-focus with less distracting harsh edges (brightline bokeh) compared to the SLR Magic 35mm F1.7. It does not render softly wide open. The out-of-focus areas also pull out somewhat. Fortunately, it doesn’t seem to vignette out-of-focus areas.

I can’t say I like the colors from the SLR Magic 35mm F1.7. At F1.7 it has that pleasant portrait softness.

The Carl Zeiss Biogon T* 35mm F2.0 ZM does not disappoint – it’s a Zeiss and that means it’s sharp and contrasty wide open. Some lenses have great bokeh but this is not one of them – you can see some brightline bokeh here.

And finally, the Samyang 35mm F1.4 ED AS UMC – bokeh isn’t great, a bit distracting, and sharpness gets better at F2.0 (could be misfocus, though) and much better at F2.8.

More reading:
Not Through The Leica

4 thoughts on “35mm Showdown

  1. flysheep Post author

    A very informative post.

    I cannot understand what is classified as distracting bokeh, can you educate me please? 🙂

    I was comparing Samyang and Sony F1.4G at f/1.4. the bokeh at left side yellow circle and the orange seats look almost the same… orz

    Reply
  2. Albert Ng Post author

    flysheep: Distracting bokeh is an out-of-focus area that is ‘sharp’ and stands out, from the out-of-focus area, when it should not be.

    Yeah they both seem to exhibit the rectangular-cut bokeh at the bottom.

    Reply

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