Zeiss Planar T* 85mm f/1.4 ZA ( Sony SAL-85F14Z ) - Full Format Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Sony Alpha (Full Format)

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published September 2010

Special thanks to Dieter Scherk for providing this lens for testing!

Introduction

The Zeiss Planar T* 85mm f/1.4 ZA (Sony SAL-85F14Z) is of of the key lenses in the Sony Alpha lens lineup. It may not be the most popular lens in the lineup but from a marketing perspective it is surely more than helpful to take advantage of the Zeiss legend. The design of the Zeiss 85mm f/1.4 has seen many incarnations over time starting in the ancient Contax C/Y era via the also gone Contax N-system and now for Sony and Nikon (Zeiss ZF). Each has seen slight optical variations due to the different lens mount characteristics and/or the requirements regarding the focus group and naturally design improvements. Nonetheless they're all based on the symmetrical Planar design originally invented by Zeiss in 1896(!). "Planar" originates in the German word plan ("plane" in English) and refers to the flat reproduction characteristic (minimal field curvature). The ZA 85mm f/1.4 has been designed by Zeiss but it is manufactured by Sony under Zeiss quality control.

The build quality of the Zeiss lens is excellent also thanks to an all metal construction. The focus ring is decoupled from the AF gear so it does not rotate in AF mode. In manual focusing mode it operates very smooth but there is a little play when changing the focus direction - a characteristic shared with the ZA 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 and ZA 135mm f/1.8. The lens features an extension system for focusing so it extends a bit towards closer focus distances.

It isn't necessarily a bad thing but the AF system of the Zeiss does still rely on the classic focusing system driven by the camera (via a slotted drive screw) rather than Sony's modern SSM (supersonic motor) and SAM. Consequently the AF produces a moderate degree of noise during operations. Due to the heavy weight of the lens system the AF speed is Okay but it's nothing rave about.

Specifications
Optical construction8 elements in 7 groups
Number of aperture blades9
min. focus distance0.85 m (max. magnification ratio 1:7.7)
Dimensions82 x 73 mm
Weight640 g
Filter size72 mm(non-rotating)
Hoodmetal, barrel-shaped, snap-on-type, supplied
Other featuresfocus stop button




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