The 85mm focal length has traditionally been a favorite of portrait photographers, providing a just-right angle of view and compression. This focal length isn’t just a great option for getting the most flattering images of humans, but also with a bit of creativity, it’s applicable to street photography or even landscapes in the right circumstances.
As this is one of the more popular focal lengths, there are quite a few Sony 85mm lenses available that come from the makers themselves and third party providers. This means if you want one of these fast prime lenses, the features and quality are in abundance and the deciding factor can be down to price alone.
There is the argument that a 70-200mm zoom lens covers the 85mm focal length and is far more versatile. However, an 85mm prime will always have a much faster aperture and if you opt for one of the top-end lenses, they can have just that touch more sharpness and sumptuous quality which you can find from a prime lens.
For convenience on your quest, we’ve gathered together some of the best Sony 85mm lens offerings with examples coming from both Sony and third-party makers.
1. Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 (Overall Winner)
The Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 may not have the fastest aperture on this list or even cost the most, but it’s a great happy medium between quality and price. Plus, it’s Sony’s own brand and there’s nothing like having the same make of lens and camera together.
This lens features an optical arrangement of nine elements in eight groups, with one of these being an extra-low dispersion element. Inside the lens is a nine-blade rounded diaphragm, with the whole arrangement wrapped in a dust and moisture resistant design. The lens barrel has a very simple layout, with an AF/MF switch and a focus hold button, bringing it in at a light weight of 371g.
Images are sharp, even when the aperture is wide-open. The bokeh is, on the whole, lovely and creamy, with a good transition of colors. In general, this lens is a solid little performer and is reasonably priced considering that it comes from Sony.
2. Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM
The Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM comes from Sony’s renowned G Master series, with a fast f/1.4 aperture and top-notch optics. The internals consist of three aspherical elements and an XA (extreme aspherical) lens element. It also features a Nano AR coating to reduce surface reflections, flaring, and ghosting.
The autofocus motor is a linear Super Sonic wave type, with manual override, plus a focus hold button, and an 11-blade rounded diaphragm for superior bokeh effects. There’s also a manual aperture ring with a full-auto setting if you so need it.
This lens is verging on the weighty side at 820g, but you won’t notice the weight so much when you see the image quality. The f/1.4 aperture produces great background blur effects and is a great operator in low-light conditions. The lens is extremely sharp and you cannot fault its overall image quality.
Although this is probably the go-to Sony 85mm lens, it’s the rather high price point which makes it more the reserve of professionals or very serious amateurs.
3. ZEISS Batis 85mm f/1.8
There’s something a little extra special about owning a ZEISS lens, and this sentiment is no different with the ZEISS Batis 85mm f/1.8. This lens is wrapped around an optical arrangement of 11 elements in eight groups, with three anomalous partial dispersion elements, a floating elements system, and the highly regarded ZEISS T* anti-reflective coating.
The lens barrel is fully weather-sealed, with a very simple design, only displaying the rubberized focus ring and an OLED display for showing depth of field and other parameters.
The bokeh from this lens is exceptional and you can’t fault the sharpness levels, even with the aperture wide open. This lens actually comes in cheaper than the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM, which means if you want the street cred of a ZEISS lens with autofocus, this lens is a very good option.
4. Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art
The Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art lens has been winning much praise for its sharp images, fast aperture, and amazing quality for its price. Although it’s not the priciest lens on this list, it still costs over $1000. Fortunately, it’s worth every penny.
The optics are arranged around 14 elements in 12 groups, with two SLD elements, one anomalous partial dispersion element, one aspherical element, plus a Super Multi-Layer coating. The autofocus motor comes in the form of an integrated HSM (Hyper Sonic Motor) version, with a nine-blade rounded diaphragm, and Thermally Stable Composite (TSC) lens barrel.
This lens is quite a weighty number, coming in at 1130g. This can feel quite front heavy on a slimline Sony camera body. However, this lens produces exceptionally sharp images, providing plenty of resolution with a mostly neutral look making the extra weight less of a burden.
The only real downside to this lens is that it can exhibit chromatic aberration at f/1.4, which quickly goes away by f/2. But in all other respects, this is a professional quality 85mm lens which will provide you with years of quality performance.
5. Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 FE (Budget Winner)
The Samyang AF 85mm f/1.4 FE actually costs a touch more than the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8, but it gets the budget winner position simply because Samyang is seen more in this category and the autofocus is noisier on this lens than the Sony.
Optically this lens is made up of 11 elements in eight groups, with an extra-low dispersion element and an Ultra Multi-Coating. The lens barrel feels extremely solid, which is fully weathersealed and only has a focusing ring for external features.
Although the aperture goes as wide as f/1.4, the sharpest results come in from f/2 and upwards, with a slightly warm look to most images. If you need a mid-priced Sony 85mm lens option, with a wider aperture than the native lens, then the Samyang is a possible choice.
Summary of the Best Sony 85mm Lenses
There are other offerings on the market that will fit a Sony camera body in the 85mm focal length which include the Tamron SP 85mm f/1.8 Di VC USD, but, the ones listed above are the most obvious culprits, which balance price with quality.
All of these Sony 85mm lenses have a fast aperture which not only works well in low-light conditions but also produces great bokeh when needed. No matter which one you choose from the above list, they all will provide you with fantastic images, time after time.