One of the biggest moans we’ve had with Sony’s mirrorless cameras is the lack of lenses available compared to some other systems.
But that's becoming less of an issue as Sony continues to release more glass, and last week the Japanese manufacturer introduced the 20th and 21st additions to its FE lens family in the shape of the FE 100mm f/2.8 STF G-Master OSS and FE 85mm f/1.8.
Both lenses are specialized for portraiture photography, though very differently priced for professional and amateur photographers. We got a chance to take both of Sony’s latest lenses for a spin – in the very different settings of New York and an English Country House – so let’s take a look at how they perform.
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The FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS is officially the fourth lens in Sony’s G-Master line, the company’s series of pro lenses. It comes sporting a new advanced optical structure, an 11-bladed circular aperture and an apodization filter to help it render truly creamy bokeh – more on this in a bit.
Externally, the FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS features a few additional controls over your everyday Sony lens. On the side there’s a custom function button, along with two switches to toggle manual focusing and image stabilization.
What is an APD element?
The Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS does things a little differently. The STF (Smooth Trans Focus) designation means that while it's an f/2.8 geometrically (i.e. in depth of field terms), it's maximum T (transmissive) value is f/5.6, thanks to its built-in apodization (APD) element.
This apodization filter is essentially an ND-filter with a ring-shaped gradient pattern. Think of the element as a piece of glass with a smoked ring that's clearer towards its center which gives it its unique bokeh.
This apodization filter or APD element helps to feather the out-of-focus areas in the frame. However, as a consequence the lens losses two stops of light from the get-go – thus resulting in the lens starting at t/5.6 when wide open.
You may be asking why in the world would you give up a stop of light for this apodization filter? The reason is for smooth, creamy bokeh.
Normally, light entering a lens can cut off on the edge of the sensor, causing the out-of-focus areas to become like cat's eyes. The APD element prevents this from happening by decreasing the amount of light streaming through on the edges. This results in rounder bokeh balls, and focus areas that better hold their shape without distortion.
On top of creating nearly perfect bokeh, the Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS looks like it could be one of the sharpest lenses we’ve used. We shot the lens with a Sony Alpha A7R II, and as the images show you can capture plenty of detail from the center of the frame to the corners.
The Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS can also be used to capture extreme close-up images with a minimum focusing distance of 0.57m (1.87-feet). Rather than having a focus range limiter switch, users will have to turn a ring behind the aperture ring to enable macro mode. From there, the lens offers a 0.25x magnification to capture the finest of detail.
The Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS will be available by the end of March, priced at $1,499 / £1,699 (Australia pricing tbc).
For amateur and enthusiast photographers, Sony also introduced a new FE 85mm f/1.8. Although it doesn’t feature an APD element or macro mode, it offers a great focal length to shoot portraits.
The lens also includes nine aperture blades, and an extra-low-dispersion element to help reduce chromatic aberration.
Without an APD element, oval-shaped bokeh balls are extremely evident in images shot with the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. However, in certain cases we actually prefer this effect; combined with the barrel distortion, it makes the background look like it’s almost swirling around our model in the shot above.
Without an APD element, the FE 85mm f/1.8 also gains over three more stops of light than Sony’s latest G-Master lens, which will come in handy for low-light shooting.
The Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 is also due to arrive March, and for a much more approachable $599 / £549 – again, Australia pricing tbc.