The Sony 85mm f/1.8 lens is pretty much perfect for portrait photographers. As a wedding photographer, I’m always using it for portraits of my couples and storytelling throughout the day.
I use this Sony lens during the wedding ceremony and for reception events such as speeches. When paired with a wide-angle lens, the Sony 85mm f/1.8 makes a strong teammate.
While I often appreciate versatile gear, this is the type of lens you choose for its speciality as a low aperture 85mm. As you’ll learn over the coming sections, it’s a compact yet powerful lens that has earned its place in my photography kit.
Essentially, the Sony 85mm f/1.8 is great for anyone who shoots in low light and wants subject compression with the background. It’s also one of the best lenses for the Sony a7III.
85mm is a classic focal length popular for portraiture, and this lens in particular is both sharp and able to deliver beautiful bokeh.
Sony 85mm f/1.8 Lens Specs
- Excellent image quality
- Great for portraits
- Fast aperture
- No weather sealing
- Mostly plastic build
- Sony E-Mount/Full Frame Lens
- Aperture Range: f/1.8 – f/22
- Minimum Focus Distance: 2.6′ / 80 cm
- Weight: 13 oz / 371 g
- Length: 3.2″ / 82 mm
- Diameter: 3.1″ / 78 mm
- Filter size: 67mm
Build & Ergonomics
Let’s talk about the build and ergonomics of the Sony 85mm f/1.8. It feels sturdy without being overweight. The nice compact size of this lens balances well with the small size of mirrorless cameras.
Size and weight are always a factor in my gear choices as I’m on the go and need gear that doesn’t slow me down. That’s one of the big reasons I love shooting Sony cameras. They provide an excellent punch even in small packages.
The lens feels grippy in the hands which is useful for small lenses as you don’t want to drop them. Overall this lens is very well built and reliable.
As far as ergonomics go, the lens feels great to use. The focus hold button is easy to reach and it can be programmed to eye AF which is an added bonus.
Additionally, the AF/MF switch is handy for locking focus, making it great for shooting video interviews.
A few other design details worth mentioning relate to accessories. The lens takes a 67mm filter size which is common among other lenses. Additionally, the lens hood provides nice coverage to prevent washed-out images in bright sun.
When it comes to focus performance, the Sony 85mm f/1.8 is both responsive and accurate. It tracks subjects well, especially with the latest autofocus on the Sony a7IV.
The fast aperture makes focusing on dimly lit scenes a breeze, again, especially with the Sony a7IV.
Combining the Sony 85mm f/1.8 with the Sony a7IV, you can comfortably shoot at ISO 6400. This is an awesome result for low-light shooters.
Sometimes on a wedding day, I need to be able to shoot a moving subject in low light and I don’t have a lot of chances. The low aperture combined with this excellent focus performance makes such things possible. This lens has made my expectations of what I am capable of shooting very high.
The lens also has generally excellent AF performance.
This is a solid lens even though it’s not a G or GM lens. G or GM are Sony lens designations for a higher level of quality. For example, G-Master lenses are lenses with the “Gold Master” designation.
G-Master lenses are designed to focus quickly in keeping pace with Sony’s impressive fast focus technology, another big reason I love shooting Sony. Again, despite the fact that this lens doesn’t achieve that designation, it has great focus performance.
As far as image quality goes, once again this lens performs very well earning its spot in my bag.
As I previously mentioned, the bokeh at f/1.8 is beautiful. Bokeh really helps isolate the subject and draws attention to the sharp area of the image, which is great for portraits.
The look gets even better with point sources of light in the background. I’ve learned to play with this lens in a variety of lighting conditions from low light to ambient light to golden hour sunset light. This lens does not disappoint.
This brings us to the sharpness. Because it’s a modern prime, it is very sharp, as expected.
Chromatic aberration and flare are well controlled with the Sony 85mm f/1.8. And because it’s a longer focal length, distortion is also minimal.
Overall, the image quality of the Sony 85mm f/1.8 is excellent. It creates beautiful bokeh, achieves cool compression, and combined with its focus quality, it makes great images even in low light.
Here are some sample images which were taken with the Sony 85mm f/1.8, using a Sony a7 III (reviewed here).
Alternatives to Sony 85mm f/1.8
There are quite a few alternatives to the Sony 85mm f/1.8 – but only a handful of them are really worth considering. I’ll list a few to compare it with as well as a few that might not be worth your time considering the value of this lens.
The Samyang 85mm f/1.4 comes in at a similar price point. It’s a half-stop brighter which allows for more bokeh. However, it’s heavier and non-native to Sony which just means it won’t hold its value as well.
The Sony 85mm f/1.4 on the other hand is much more expensive at around $1,800. However, this lens does get the G-Master quality rating.
Again, this lens is also much bigger and heavier which may or may not be a concern depending on how weight factors into your gear list.
Sigma and Tokina also make versions of 85mm at various price points but they’re probably not worth consideration since the Sony 85mm f/1.8 is so good. It strikes an excellent balance of size, quality, price, and features. This brings me to the ever-important question of value.
Value for Money
At around US$600, the Sony 85mm f/1.8 is excellent value.
As I mentioned, the lens offers impressive quality and performance at a good price that won’t break the bank. It hits a lot of the points on what I’m looking for in my gear and I don’t feel like I’m making any sacrifices.
If you’re a professional portrait or wedding photographer the Sony 85mm f/1.8 is very affordable and will quickly earn its price tag.
And even better, if you decide you don’t like it, it will hold its value.
I really don’t have anything bad to say about this lens and thus it will be staying in my standard kit for the foreseeable future.
Sony 85mm f/1.8 Lens Review | Conclusion
As an event photographer, I find myself using this lens on every shoot, especially in low light.
In fact, I could shoot a whole wedding with the Sony 85mm f/1.8 and the Sony 35mm f/1.8 or the Sony 16-35mm f/2.8. The only times I would need something more is if I couldn’t get close enough with the 85mm and needed more zoom or compression from a lens such as the 70-200mm.
I also use this lens for portrait sessions where I’m looking for that sharp, high-quality image with bokeh. It’s a flattering focal length on faces and reliable to shoot with.
If you’re a Sony shooter and you’re looking for a sharp lens for creating nice portraits or a fast lens for low-light situations, this is your go-to. It’s a durable lens and if I ever have any issues (lost, stolen, dropped, etc), I wouldn’t hesitate to buy it again.
I highly recommend the Sony 85mm f/1.8, and with its lightweight and compact size, I rarely hesitate to pack it in my bag.