Sony is expanding its line-up of over 30 A-mount lenses with new models that will appeal to seasoned photographers and those new to DSLR cameras alike – a 35mm f/1.8 DT (APS-C) SAM, an 85mm f/2.8 full frame SAM, and the long-awaited 24mm f/2 Carl Zeiss Distagon T* 24mm f/2 for full frame with SSM ultrasonic focusing. In the interests of getting this report on line, it’s mainly Sony words, with a few added comments and edits.
The Distagon T* 24mm F2 ZA SSM (SAL24F20Z) features Carl Zeiss Distagon design and rounds out the existing Planar (SAL85F14Z) and Sonnar (SAL135F18Z) models also developed in conjunction with Carl Zeiss. It is intended to appeal to experienced photographers looking for a large-aperture wide-angle lens of real distinction.
The DT 35mm F1.8 SAM (SAL35F18) adds the important 35mm focal length to what Sony now calls the ‘Easy Choice’ series. ‘Easy Choice’ is intended to provide great value, compact and lightweight lenses that are attractive to entry-level and advanced photographers alike. Each lens in the series is selected for a specific purpose, for example portraiture or macro. – Sony definition.
The 85mm F2.8 SAM (SAL85F28) is another ‘Easy Choice’ lens, this time offering the 85mm focal length considered the standard for portraiture because of the natural perspective it provides. True to type it is extremely compact and light, weighing just 175g.
The Distagon T* 24mm F2 SSM (SAL24F20Z)
The Distagon T* 24mm F2 SSM (SAL24F20Z) functions as a wide-angle 24mm lens on full-frame cameras with 35mm sensors, or as a 36mm equivalent lens ideal for general use on cameras with APS-C sensors. Jointly developed with Carl Zeiss, it features the highly-regarded Carl Zeiss Distagon retrofocus lens configuration.
This lens is distinguished by its fast response focus and extremely quiet, very smooth operation thanks to its built-in SSM (Super Sonic wave Motor). It offers a focusing range from 0.19m (0.29X scale) to infinity, and a nine-blade circular aperture along with a large f/2 maximum aperture contributes to smooth, natural bokeh effects. The design uses 9 elements in 7 groups, with two aspherical and two ED glass (so it’s a modern Distagon derivative, nothing like a classic Distagon).
The all-metal lens barrel has been ‘finished to a very high standard resulting in a visibly high-quality appearance’. It takes 72mm filters, weighs 555g, is 78 x 76mm in overall size, and comes with a lenshood, case, front and rear caps.
The DT 35mm F1.8 SAM (SAL35F18)
The DT 35mm F1.8 SAM (SAL35F18) weighs just 170g. It can be added to a lens kit system and carried without noticeably increasing the weight of the bag.
With an approximately 50mm (35mm equivalent) focal length on an APS-C sensor, this lens is ideal for snapshots and portraits under a wide range of shooting conditions. The high-speed f/1.8 maximum aperture is particularly advantageous for hand held shooting in low light.
At just 0.23 metres (0.25X scale, so actually less good for close-ups than the 24mm, oddly), the DT 35mm F1.8 SAM (SAL35F18) has ‘the shortest minimum focus in its class, making it an excellent choice for dramatic close-ups too’. The internal Smooth Autofocus Motor (SAM) drives the focusing group directly and may, if all goes well, turn out to be compatible in future with continuous AF during video shooting.
It uses 6 elements in 5 groups, takes 55mm filters, is 70mm x 52mm in size, and comes with hood and caps.
The 85mm F2.8 SAM (SAL85F28)
This is the first full-frame lens in the ‘Easy Choice’ range, so its launch represents an important development of the line-up as a whole. The 85mm focal length is a standard for portraiture because of the natural perspective that it provides. On an APS-C sensor camera the 85mm F2.8 SAM (SAL85F28) functions as a 127.5mm (35mm equivalent) telephoto lens – and features a Sonnar-type optical design that is considered ideal for mid-range telephoto lenses.
The lens is sharp center to corner, and features smooth defocusing thanks to its f/2.8 maximum aperture and circular aperture design. At 0.6 metres (0.20X, so not as good for close-ups as either the 24mm or 35mm!), the minimum focusing distance is the shortest in its class, and SAM motor technology ensures smooth autofocus operation (see above, but bear in mind that SAM is basically a cheaper alternative to ring-type SSM).
‘The quality optical and mechanical features of the lens mean it is suitable for serious photography and should more than satisfy intermediate to advanced users’, add Sony.
It has 5 elements in 4 groups, takes 55mm filters, is 70 x 52mm in size and weighs only 175g; it comes with hood and caps. Maybe the classic MD 85mm f/2 would have been nicer to see in SAM form, but f/2.8 is plenty these days.