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

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published March 2008

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


Sony is currently busy beefing up their professional-grade lens lineup for the Alpha system and the Zeiss Planar T* 85mm f/1.4 ZA (Sony SAL-85F14Z) at the forefront of their ambitions here.

The principal 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 in 1896(!). "Planar" originates in the German word plan ("plane" in English) and refers to the flat reproduction characteristic (minimal field curvature). The 85mm f/1.4 has been designed by Zeiss but it is manufactured by Sony under Zeiss quality control.

Typical applications for this lens are portrait- and available-light photography. On APS-C DSLRs the field-of-view is equivalent to about 128mm so it doesn't leave its primary scope here.

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. The lens uses an extension system for focusing so it extends a bit towards closer focus distances.

It isn't necessarily something bad 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). Consequently the AF produces a moderate degree of noise during operations. Due to the heavy weight of the lens system the AF speed is fine but not great.

Equiv. focal length127.5 mm (full format equivalent)
Equiv. aperturef/2.1 (full format equivalent, in terms of depth-of-field)
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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