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Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon: Another Bad Sample with Skew / Asymmetry (A7R II)

Get Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon at B&H Photo.

Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA

Back in April of this year I showed “bad sample” examples with Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Distagon ZA, on the Sony A7R.

Now along comes another brand-new sample of the Sony FE 35/1.4 and this one behaves exactly the same way, this time tested on the Sony A7R II.

Examples: Bad Sample Lens #2, Skew/Asymmetry (A7R II)

The images are shown in part as an aid to understanding the asymmetric blur that can result from a lens that is “off”—a “bad sample”. Except that it seems that many samples have this skew/asymmetry issue, judging by reader feedback.

Six examples are shown, with sizes up to 6048 wide included for examination (24 megapixels).

See also: Left/Right Zone of Focus Skew: Not Always the Lens, the Sensor and Lens Mount Might not be Plane-Parallel.

f1.4 @ 0.4 sec, ISO 100; 2015-08-13 20:14:09
Sony A7R II + Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 ZA

[low-res image for bot]

Note: at least one nitwit in an online forum has looked at the greatly reduced size here, not read the article , and dismissed it as an issue. Rationalizations can do wonders for false cognitive committments.

James K writes:

Your results are the same as mine. I think that the auto focus mechanism has something to do with the asymmetry. I sometimes get a shot with the right side upper corner sharp at 1.4. I had one test shot with the upper left and the lower right side in focus and sharp- a diagonal zone of sharpness. The lenses are sub par and should not be on the market with a Zeiss badge. Zeiss needs to step up here and make something happen.

I would really like to find a symmetric copy of this lens.

Your photo with the seated hiker shows the problem very clearly.

DIGLLOYD: With skew, a change in focus can make the skew look really bad. If the focus "balances" the skew, it may not look so bad. It depends on distance and focus... do a focus bracketing and the skew can look awful, or mild. In this case, the lens is sharp at right ,but not where it ought to be.

I don't think that AF has anything to do with it, as can be seen by focusing manually. Try a test: focus manually for 3 frames at 12.5X: at left, at center, at right. A lens with skew will show interesting results!

Yes, I too would like a top notch specimen. It is a very nice design, weak at f/1.4 at distance in particular, but with lovely rendering and very sharp stopped down (setting aside skew).

Ram E writes:

As a subscriber of Mirrorless, I do enjoy the articles and test results and benefit from your research work.

The articles about skewness of either lenses or camera drew my attention and after the receipt of a A7R II, I started testing for skewness with what I thought was my best lens, the FE 55mm F/1.8.

Tripod mount, steady shot off, ISO 100, selftimer, manual focus series and AFs series F/1.8 through F/9.

- Several brick walls were shot with adjusted level and measured perpendicular placement.
- Outdoor field shots of steady objects in the same focal plane, on tripod.

It was a disillusion when I observed the results from shots F/1.8 through F/9. All shots were blurred on the left side from top to bottom regardless of camera distance to the wall, varying from 3 to 7 meters or field shots over 20 meters.

As I had never much used this lens before I assumed it to be of close to stellar performance since it has the Zeiss name on it and had bought it new a few months ago. My premature conclusion was to blame the camera and I exchanged it for a second brand new Sony A7RII.

To my astonishment the results were similar. To be certain I got hold on a third A7RII for testing with exactly the same outcome.

Yesterday I sent the lens to the authorized Sony service center in the Netherlands, which happens to be the same center which handles all Canon CPS products as well, so I know it will be in professional hands.

Beside your findings with a 35mm lens, there seems to be at least one FE 55mm F/1.8 with skew behavior.

DIGLLOYD: The 55/1.8 has been prone to issues also, but I have lucked out and gotten a good one. But I’ve also received reports of skew with the 55/1.8. Most lenses (including non-Otus Zeiss) are not perfect—I’m not suggesting they are and mild asymmetries are to be expected over the focusing or zoom range—but when a subject at uniform distance cannot show similar sharpness left and right, that is a real problem for many shooting situations: buildings, groups of people, etc. Stopping well down can mask the issue, but when f/5.6 or f/8 is required to mask the skew, it gets ridiculous.

James H writes:

Unfortunately your findings with the Skewed FE lenses matches my past experience with the Sony/Zeiss lenses. I went through three different Sony/Zeiss 35mm f2.8's before I found one that wasn't as bad as the rest. All showed weakness on the left side of the frame. The current one I have cannot ever get it as sharp as the right side at far distance. The 16-35 fe I have is more consistent across the frame compared to the 35 f2.8.

I'm holding off on buying the 35mm 1.4 for these very issues you are reporting. I'm really upset about this as 35mm is my favorite focal length. Hopefully you'll show better results with the Batis lenses and I hope Zeiss will offer a 35mm Batis.

This is all very frustrating because in my opinion Sony is so close to really nailing it! We may have to wait for the next generation.

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