Sony 35mm f/1.4 GM Review – the best fast prime lens for wedding photographer?
So here we have it. Sony kicks off 2021 with a bang, announcing their newest GM prime lens – 35mm f/1.4 GM. To be honest, I wasn’t expecting that lens to come out, Sony already has 3 full frame lenses with this focal length – Sony Zeiss Distagon 35/1.4, Sony 35/1.8 and Sony Zeiss Sonnar 35/2.8. Plus you can get at least 3 or 4 more native lenses from other manufacturers like Sigma, Tamron or Samyang. So you could say they have it covered. But still – 35GM lens, with fast 1.4 aperture and small, compact size just like 24GM was my dream lens to come and Sony nailed it again. I truly can’t believe how is that possible, that they were able to make that happen… but yeah – let’s start from the beginning.
This is my favourite part about this lens. 35GM has nearly identical build to Sony 24mm 1.4 GM lens, which makes it the smallest 35/1.4 lens with autofocus for Sony.
Sony 35/1.4 GM vs Sony Zeiss 35/1.4
Comparing this lens to Zeiss 35/1.4 we get a smaller (L: 96mm vs 112mm) and lighter lens (weight: 524g vs 630g) and filter diameter is down from 72mm to 67mm. The lens feels much smaller in the hands, and due to the materials used in it, it feels less bulky. Zeiss has fully metal exterior, which scratches very easily, while GM is built out of some hybrid metal and plastic material, that is very durable and light. In both lenses we do get the aperture ring, which comes as a standard for Sony GM prime lenses, but with GM lens with get more resistance using the ring, especially when switching from A (Auto) to f/16. I personally don’t use aperture ring, so I keep it in Auto all the time and with Zeiss I had it accidentally switched numerous times while taking lens out of the bag or just having it on a strap. With GM we don’t have this problem at all, the ring is more sturdy and doesn’t just change without our intention. In both lenses we also get AF/MF switch and de-click switch allowing for smooth aperture change for video, and GM also have additional focus hold button on the side, which can be customised from the menu. Both lenses have weather sealing.
Sony 35/1.4 GM vs Sony 24/1.4 GM
The new 35mm lens does feel like 24GM bigger brother, having almost the same size (L: 96mm vs 92,4mm) but being a little bit heavier (524g vs 445g). It’s also a tiny bit bigger in overall diameter of the exterior tube, but the filter diameter is the same for both of the lenses – 67mm. Other than the size differences the lenses are identical, having the same AF/MF switch, de-click switch, focus hold button and aperture and focus ring.
Sony 35mm 1.4 GM – Image quality and bokeh
Ok, so here it comes. 35mm f/1.4 GM has outstanding image quality. It’s extremely sharp wide open, even on the current highest megapixel Sony camera – A7R IV, which leads me to the conclusion that Sony is making lenses ready for way higher megapixel count. It’s quite remarkable what they can achieve in such a compact size, maintaining extraordinary resolution from corner to corner. I tested this lens out in two real life couple shoots. First of them was a sunrise winter session, when I wanted to see how this lens will perform backlit and also to check out the overall look of the images and bokeh. I was shooting mainly at f/1.4 and I’m actually shocked with the results. The sharpness, even with such a small depth of field is literally crazy. It’s when you think that you know what sharpness means, until you see something even sharper. This is the case. It’s sharper then probably every single lens I’ve had. The contrast and colours are very nice and stay consistent even shooting backlit.
I’d say compared to the Zeiss Distagon, this lens would go a little bit more towards purple tint, while Distagon would be more green. But GM is way sharper and have a little different compression on the edges. It seems like the Zeiss 35 lens is tiny bit wider. Also GM has much more smooth bokeh balls without the “onion rings” effect.
The second couple shoot I did was an evening shoot, purely to test out the bokeh capabilities of GM lens. Throughout the entire shoot I was looking for light in the background to see how it will look, and I’m very pleased with the results. The bokeh is very smooth and nice. Personally I miss those old not corrected lenses that have much more aggressive bokeh character, but these days stuff like that is considered as a flaw in the image quality, so all the manufacturers are trying to avoid that and look for more smooth background rendering. The same goes with flare capabilities. Due to the special coating on the lens, which is minimising internal reflections it’s very hard to get 35GM to flare even under strong backlighting. I managed to get one tiny flare out of it… #RIPflare
Sony 35/1.4 GM Autofocus performance
I don’t think I have tried any modern lens from Sony that wouldn’t be good in terms of AF system performance. And this lens is no different. The AF system is blazing fast. It uses two XD Linear Motors known from the newest Sony lenses and it works like a charm. I tried this lens with both A7R IV and A7R III and I don’t have a single photo out of focus. But also the responsiveness of AF system is ridiculously fast. I’m actually really curious how it would perform with top of the line A9 mark II, but I’m pretty sure it’s gonna be crazy fast.
Final verdict – is 35mm f/1.4 GM the best fast prime lens for Sony
In my opinion 35 GM lens is a total beast. And taking into account that it is taking the Distagon place in the same price range it makes it extremely good deal, cause it’s just overall a better lens – lighter, sharper, better built and better image quality. So for shooters using 35 prime lens as their go-to lens I cannot imagine better option. Especially that all the other 35/1.4 lenses are bigger. The only consideration would be for photographers who don’t necessary need f/1.4 aperture as they can still get a very good Sony 35/1.8 lens. I’m going all in for 35GM and I’m looking forward for shooting at 1.4 again and add this little bad boy to my collection. Let’s just hope there’s gonna be something to shoot this year!