Sony 135mm f/1.8 Zeiss Lens Review

My Sony 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Lens Review | Real World Perspective

92
Pro Grade A-mount Prime Telephoto Lens

In this highly detailed review of the Sony A-Mount 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* telephoto lens (SAL135f18z), I will go over everything you need to know using real world photography and of course Lab testing πŸ˜‰

I took hundreds of sample photos in all sorts of situations, so I really think all your answers will be covered in this Sony lens review.

For the camera body I used my beloved full frame 36mp Sony A7r which is a native E-Mount lens camera, so I also needed the LA-EA4 electronic lens adapter.

The Sony 135mm f/1.8 Zeiss Lens is one of those lenses that has become a legend. The look and image quality that comes off this beast is beyond remarkable and will perhaps change your perception of image quality. The lens is older, a bit slow on the focus compared to modern SSM equipped lenses, but at the end of the day, the steller image quality is really what matters for portraits, and this lens produces like a made man! See for yourself below in the sample video and tons of real world sample photos.

Check out what it looks like all mounted up:

Sony A7r w/ LAEA4 and 135mm f/1.8 CA Lens
Sony A7r w/ LAEA4 and 135mm f/1.8 CA Lens

Key Features:

  • A-Mount Lens/Full-Frame Format
  • Aperture Range: f/1.8 to f/22
  • Two Extra-Low Dispersion Elements
  • Zeiss T* Anti-Reflective Coating
  • Auto Clutch Mechanism
  • Focus Hold Button; Internal Focus
  • Minimum Focus Distance: 2.36′ / 71.93Β cm
  • Nine-Blade Circular Diaphragm
  • Filter Thread = 77mm
  • Weight = 2.31 lbs / 1047.8g
  • Price = $1800 US

SAL135F18Z Lens Elements

SAL135f18zLens Elements
SAL135f18zLens Elements

SAL135F18Z Lens MDF Charts

sal135f18z Lens MDF
sal135f18z Lens MDF

Sony 135mm f/1.8 CZ Lens – Video Version

The video review below is really thorough, but I also wanted to have the high res sample photos available for viewing more closely. I like to watch Youtube reviews on my HD TV in the living room when possible these days πŸ™‚

Sample Photos

I took a ton of sample photos but first how about some quick Lab Test shots…

Lab Testing Sample Photos – Aperture Run

SAL135f18z @ f/1.8, via A7r - No Lens Correction
SAL135f18z @ f/1.8, via A7r – No Lens Correction
SAL135f18z @ f/1.8, via A7r - Lens Profile Lightroom 5
SAL135f18z @ f/1.8, via A7r – Lens Profile Lightroom 5
SAL135f18z @ f/2.2, via A7r
SAL135f18z @ f/2.2, via A7r
SAL135f18z @ f/2.8, via A7r
SAL135f18z @ f/2.8, via A7r
SAL135f18z @ f/4, via A7r
SAL135f18z @ f/4, via A7r
SAL135f18z @ f/5.6, via A7r
SAL135f18z @ f/5.6, via A7r
SAL135f18z @ f/8, via A7r
SAL135f18z @ f/8, via A7r
SAL135f18z @ f/11, via A7r
SAL135f18z @ f/11, via A7r
SAL135f18z @ f/16, via A7r
SAL135f18z @ f/16, via A7r

Real World Sample Photos – Around the House

All shot using Raw Quality and very minor adjustments unless otherwise stated.. Most are straight off the camera as you will see some flat looking colors and contrast respectively.

Be sure to Click the Photos!!

Sony A7r w/ LAEA4 and 135mm f/1.8 CA Lens
Sony A7r w/ LAEA4 and 135mm f/1.8 CA Lens

Real World Sample Photos – Fire Trucks

I came across these really old abandoned looking fire trucks a few months back and just got permission to fire πŸ˜‰ I ran into the owner and he was a super nice dude and said have fun, so I did!

Please click on the photos to view large in a sideshow format.

Sample Photos – Soccer

The Sony 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Lens is not the best lens for sports due to the older slower focus motor, but it still can get the job done and creates killer separation πŸ˜‰ Raw Quality so they may look a bit flat don’t forget and Please Click Photos!

Sample Photos – Random Photos – Please Click!!

Some of these photos were enhanced using Adobe Lightroom, so you can get an idea what a little love in the editing department can do πŸ˜‰

Background Separation Example with “Human Like” Sculpture

Thanks to this cool sculpture courtesy of ZacMax, I was able to simulate the separation you can get with a human in the full body, 3/4, and then head shot poses… I also added a little contrast, vibrancy, clarity, and vignette to these three photos.

Sony 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Lens @ f/1.8, 1/250sec, ISO 100
Sony 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Lens @ f/1.8, 1/250sec, ISO 100
Sony 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Lens @ f/1.8, 1/250sec, ISO 100
Sony 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Lens @ f/1.8, 1/250sec, ISO 100
Sony 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Lens @ f/1.8, 1/640sec, ISO 100
Sony 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Lens @ f/1.8, 1/640sec, ISO 100

Sample Photos – Studio Photography

Using a large soft box as a single light source, I took a few snapshots in the studio downstairs which is just to the left of the “lab scene” btw πŸ˜‰ Using manual mode on the Sony A7r I had it set to f/6.3 and 5.6, 1/160sec, ISO 100 and 200 respectively was used.

Conclusions

The Sony A-Mount 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* telephoto lens is one of the best optical performers I have ever tested. It’s not exactly cheap at ~$1798 US, especially when considering it’s older technology in the auto focus motor department. The only downside is this lens is not good for high speed sports. Portraits and all other types of photography are just jaw dropping awesome though. You totally see where the money is going every time you take a photo, and this lens pumps out a particular look that can’t be duplicated. 

The super fast f/1.8 aperture allows for some extremely shallow depth of fields if desired, even when using a full body in a portrait which requires some distance. Which is one of the main reasons to have a lens like this in my opinion, but as you saw in this review it is capable of much more πŸ˜‰

The super fast f/1.8 aperture allows for some extremely shallow depth of fields if desired, even when using a full body in a portrait which requires some distance. Which is one of the main reasons to have a lens like this in my opinion, but as you saw in this review it is capable of much more πŸ˜‰

I love this lens, but it’s so much money and is lacking the newer SSM focus motor. On top of that it’s an A-Mount lens, so it requires the LA-EA4 lens adapter to use on the newer full frame e-mount mirrorless cameras like my A7r for example. I hope you all got what you were looking for in this review, and please feel free to ask questions or comment below as always….

Update 2019: The Sony FE 135mm f/1.8 GM Lens is now available and appears to be amazing from the initial reviews I’ve been seeing. Check out my breakdown article with some initial reviews on the new Sony FE 135mm F/1.8 GM Lens Here >>

Jay

Support Links:

  1. SAL135F18Z Lens for ~$1798 US @ BHPhoto (Click Here)
  2. Sony Alpha A7r for ~$2098 US @ BHPhoto (Click Here)
  3. Sony LA-EA4 Electronic Lens Adapter (a-Mount to E-Mount) ~$398 US @ BHPhoto (Click Here)
Sony 135mm f/1.8 Zeiss Lens Review
My Sony 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Lens Review | Real World Perspective
Jaw dropping Image quality
The Sony A-Mount 135mm f/1.8 Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* telephoto lens is one of the best optical performers I have ever tested. It's not exactly cheap at ~$1798 US, especially when considering it's older technology in the auto focus motor department. The only downside is this lens is not good for high speed sports. Portraits and all other types of photography are just jaw dropping awesome though. You totally see where the money is going every time you take a photo, and this lens pumps out a particular look that is near impossible to duplicate.
Bang For The Buck
80
Feature Set
85
Build Quality and Design
95
Ergonomics
95
Auto Focus System
85
Image quality
98
Usability
94
Video Quality
95
Optical Quality
98
Low Light Performance
90
Fun Factor
95
Reader Rating0 Votes
0
Pros
top quality optics
excellent build quality
super fast f/1.8 aperture
Cons
Older lens with older autofocus motor technology
expensive
92
Pro Grade A-mount Prime Telephoto Lens

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