|Maybe it’s not everyone’s choice for a ‘landscape’ lens, but I like using the 85mm focal length for just about anything.
Sony a7R II | ISO 100 | 1/320 sec | F8
There are times when I find myself dreaming of a make-believe world where I don’t worry much about camera gear. A world where I’ve simplified, and simplified, until I’m down to the bare minimum of what I think I need to accomplish the sort of photographic work that I like to do.
Obviously, that is not the world that I live in.
Nonetheless, in that carefree fantasy land of plentiful-yet-lucrative corporate jobs, wedding ceremonies and endless travel assignments, I skip like a child with a balloon from gig to gig with two interchangeable lens cameras, and a single lens for each; a fast wide-angle for one camera, and a fast 85mm for the other.
The FE 85mm F1.8 is exactly the sort of 85mm lens I’ve been looking for in Sony’s system since I started at DPReview.
|I find the compression and reach of the 85mm focal length – neither of which are too extreme – make it a great contrast for 28mm and 35mm lenses, even just for walking around the city. Also, notice the roundness of those out-of-focus highlights, even at F4.
Sony a7R II | ISO 100 | 1/3200 sec | F4
The Sony FE 85mm F1.8 is an affordable, sharp and lightweight lens for Sony’s full frame E-mount cameras. No, you don’t have to just pick two of those.
On an a7-series camera, the 85mm F1.8 balances beautifully, focuses quickly and is more than sharp enough for the 42MP of the a7R II (or a7R III, for that matter). In Sony’s lens lineup, it sits below the FE 85mm F1.4 GM which is a great lens in its own right, but focuses slower and is far bigger and heavier.
And that’s really the kicker for me with this lens. Sony’s a7-series bodies are usefully more compact than full-frame DSLRs, but often, the lenses can be large and unwieldy. With the 85mm F1.8, you’ve got yourself a truly compact kit.
|Though this verbiage is always to be taken with a grain of salt (a flake of snow?) the Sony FE 85mm F1.8 has some degree of weather-sealing.
Sony a7R II | ISO 800 | 1/60 sec | F2.8
So, why 85? In general, I find the 85mm focal length a great complement to 28mm and 35mm lenses. Historically, my most-used gear for shooting events were two Nikon D700s, a 35mm F2D and 85mm F1.8D. I first fell in love with this lens combination on a six-week trip to Nepal during college, photographing endless portraits, landscapes and urban life, and was never left wanting.
With longer lenses, like a 105mm or 135mm, I always feel like I’m backing myself into a corner. And yet, I consistently found that a fast 50 was way too close to 28/35mm to be truly useful as far as getting some variety.
|Focusing close to your subject with a wide aperture gives you a nice, dreamy look on the FE 85mm F1.8, while maintaining sharpness at your point of focus.
Sony a7R II | ISO 100 | 1/400 sec | F1.8
But with 85mm, you can move in for a tight head-and-shoulders shot or a decor detail, back up to get a candid of a group interacting, and even with some distance, you can still get background separation if you shoot at a wide enough aperture. Speaking of wide apertures, I rarely use 70-200mm F2.8 zooms because of both their weight, and because I often am shooting at F2 or wider as the lights go down and the reception warms up.
I’ve said this before, but I’m a big fan of gear that ‘gets out of your way.’ For me, the FE 85mm F1.8 does just that. It’s straightforward and has a solid feel. I’ve never felt it’s too heavy, or focuses too slowly, and I can just concentrate on what I’m seeing through the viewfinder. If I were considering a new kit to start out with, a couple of Sony a7-series cameras with the FE 28mm F2 and FE 85mm F1.8 would be on my short list to check out.
Sony a7R III | ISO 800 | 30 sec | F2
Sony FE 85mm F1.8 Sample gallery
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