Sony is filling the gaps in its lens line-up with a very high quality output of marvelous pieces of glass. Many consider the 90mm2.8 a hybrid portrait and macro lens, and often compare it to the Zeiss 85mm Batis. I saw many debating in social media groups, about whether they should get Zeiss’ or Sony’s iteration. And if you care about money, then you might also consider buying only one of both of these high standard lenses. Even if this is not an article meant to compare both lenses, I hope that it will help you make your choice a little easier.
HANDS ON EXPERIENCE
The first thing I wish to say about this lens is that, mounted on Sony A7 series cameras that have the A7R II form factor, this lens feels very well balanced. As an example: It feels way better than the 16-35 in terms of weight-shifting balance. When I hold the A7R2 with a smaller lens in my hand, then the weight is carried by the lower muscles of my hand around the pinky. When I hold the A7R2 with a bigger lens in my hand, then the weight is carried by the upper muscles of my hand around the thumb and the index finger. That said, considering the above mentioned form factor, I actually prefer holding a bigger lens like this one on the A7RII, even though I dislike big and heavy camera gear.
There is not much to say about the sturdiness of this lens. It is of a typical Sony high-end lens quality like the Zeiss branded Sony lenses.
Well-placed buttons complement the experience on the lens itself. The button under the “G” logo is a focus hold button. There is a switch to change the focusing range that has 3 positions:
– full range
The last button is the On/Off switch for the Optical Steady Shot.
Last but not least, the focus ring of this moisture and dust resistant lens is sliding. Which means that you can, by sliding the ring back and forth, select between auto and manual focus.
As you might already know from other reviews and the DXO test results…this lens is sharp. Very sharp, especially mounted on a Sony A7R II.
The Sony 90mm2.8 renders high details in macro mode (at close focusing distances) and in other applications, like portraits etc. I’d say, see for yourself in the Sample Images section below.
I find that the color rendition is very similar to Sony/Zeiss branded Sony lenses. All in all, I find it quite sterile, which is something that you may like, dislike or whatever comes in-between.
When shooting RAW, you have to push the colors way more in post, then let’s say on a Mitakon 50mm f/0.95. I personally prefer the warmth and overall rendition of the Mitakon, but as I am a pixel peeping slave to detail and sharpness, I would (as I have) choose Sony’s and Zeiss’ lenses over other ones. BUT, would the Mitakon have been a light-weight auto focusing lens, then it could have been be a whole other story. Then I would consider buying these instead of the typical Sony lens line up.
FOCUS (LET THE HUNTING BEGIN)
All in all, it does not focus as well as the other lenses I own. To elaborate a little more: In many situations, even when there was good light and the subject wasn’t at the closest focus distance (but let’s say a few meters away), it hunted all the way up and down the focus range and couldn’t get a grip on anything until I:
1. let the focus button go the re-press it a few times.
2. switched to manual focus using the slide on the lens itself and back to auto focus.
Switching between different focusing distance limits with the on-lens switch did not change that fact.
The focusing is not bad, but just not as good as in the other FE lenses.
As you can see in the image samples below, when testing a running subject running towards the cam from a greater distance (about 30m to 3) and in good light, the focus worked well. And the last thing to add, is that when you create a close head shot then be aware of the depth of field. When shooting at 2.8 then only the tip of the eyelash will be in focus. It won’t even be enough to get the iris in the DOF.
I like the Bokeh very much. It is as expected at 2.8 and 90mm, which is not that much of a background blur at “normal” distances but in macro mode it is fabulous. Very creamy and almost eatable.
As you can see on the sample images below (I haven’t touched any fringing/chroma setting in post, and no lens profile has been loaded). As you can see, it is handled pretty well, even wide-open.
QUICK PERSONAL NOTE
Here’s a quick personal note, before getting to the image samples below. Here is what I would choose, when I would have to choose between the Batis 85 or the 90mm2.8:
1. Want to shoot macro? Buy the 90mm2.8.
2. Want to shoot portraits and other family “memory keeping” photos? Buy the Batis and NOT the 90mm2.8.
This is not my lens, and I will probably not buy it. But would I be a portrait shooter then I would SO not choose the 90f2.8. I am happy that this is now very clear to me after having tested it.
– It is only 2.8 in terms of light gathering.
– The focus is not that great.
– It is bigger and heavier than the Batis.
– The background is not blurred enough for my taste for “normal” photos (which are not shot at close focusing distance / macro).
To me, it’s a great macro lens, but not that awesome in other regards (not bad either, but not great enough if you don’t have the money to buy every lens that comes around).
As always, thank you for reading!