You have to hand it to Sony. They’re not just producing great camera bodies, but also a nice lineup of lenses to fit all focal lengths. One of the latest is this short telephoto prime lens, the Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS. If you’re a current Sony camera body owner, then a 100mm focal length may slot nicely into your current lens inventory as a medium portrait prime lens. There are also other goodies which Sony has crammed into the design, which could swing the decision into grabbing one of these lenses.
Firstly, the lens incorporates an Optical apodization (APD) element, which along with a near circular 11-blade diaphragm should give higher than standard smooth bokeh effects or quality background blur. There are also special coatings on the lens in the form of a Nano AR coating to increase clarity. 13 elements in 10 groups with one aspherical and one extra-low dispersion element all provide top quality glass.
The lens is fully dust and moisture resistant wrapped around a simple, aluminum alloy design. Features include Sony’s Optical SteadyShot image stabilization system, a manual focus ring with a locking button, internal focusing and a 72mm filter thread. Aperture range goes from f/2.8-f/22, with the lens barrel includes a stabilization on and off switch, a Focus Range Limiter switch, and one for auto to manual focus. Everything weighs in at 700g and attaches via the Sony E-mount.
Strap this lens onto the likes of a small, lightweight Sony a7R II body and it doesn’t feel like it’s overly heavy or weighty. Considering this is a G series lens and the top of the range, it has a top build quality and the feeling that you could take this lens almost anywhere. The SSM (Super Sonic Motor) is very quiet and smooth and would well suit video recording.
One feature of the Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS that will make the video guys happy is a manual aperture ring set in 1/3EV stops, with a switch that allows the ring to click between aperture stops or rotate smoothly. Sony also likes their image stabilization everywhere possible, which means having it both on the lens and in camera means you can get a good 4 stops extra and really slow shutter speeds when using everything handheld.
Supplied with a quality lens hood and soft case, the whole package feels like a high caliber item with loads of potential.
Using the Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS
When it comes to autofocusing, Sony’s 100mm snaps to its focus point very quickly and does a good job in even low light with very minimal hunting. If you want to go manual, the focus ring continually turns so you will have to be careful when nailing your focus. The lens is quick to snap into gear, and you should have no trouble hitting the focus mark in the correct metering mode for a given scene.
So what about all those distractions which usually take away from a normal lens? Luckily, the majority are either slight or non-existent. Chromatic aberration, or that blue and purple fringing you see on high contrast edges, only starts to appear on the highest of contrast shots. The small amount that is apparent can easily be fixed with editing software. There is some barrel distortion when shooting in RAW, but luckily this is rectified in camera on JPEGs. You can also get pretty close with this lens. Not to the extent of a macro, but it pulls in some nice sharp detail down to 57cm.
One selling point of the Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS is a special coating and 11 rounded aperture blades to produce superior bokeh or background blur. This can be subjective, but on the whole, any highlights or out of focus backgrounds are extremely smooth and color transitions are very pleasing.
As for sharpness, the lens at f/2.8 is a very good, but really gets pin sharp at f/4-f/16. From the center to the edges of an image sharpness is retained and it’s only when you are pixel peeping at the extremes of aperture will you see slight softening. Overall, no complaints about the standard of image quality with lots of detail and contrast in both well lit and low light situations.
How Does It Compare?
At this focal length you have quite a few competitors vying for your money. Different brand lenses are obviously going to need some sort of adapter, so the offerings from Sony are probably the first choice for a Sony user. There are also a few options at around the same price points or cheaper depending on your budget. Zeiss offers a Batis 85mm f/1.8 and a Batis 135mm f/2.8 around the same price point which are made specifically for Sony full-frame E-mounts and have the renowned Zeiss quality.
Sony also has their FE 85mm f/1.4 GM and FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS lenses which are both very high-quality and great for portraits. Another which you may consider at a lower price point is the Samyang Premium MF 85mm f/1.2. Fast, but manual focus and could be a good happy medium.
|Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS||Samyang Premium MF 85mm f/1.2|
|Elements||13 elements/10 groups||10 elements/7 groups|
At this focal length the Sony FE 100mm f/2.8 STF GM OSS will serve as a great portrait lens and all-rounder. The addition of the lens coatings and 11 aperture blades make for some lovely background blur when you need it and when set at f/2.8 images are still pretty sharp throughout the frame. Stopping down does hit ultimate sharpness, but there really aren’t any complaints when wide open or from things like barrel distortion.
For Sony users, this is definitely a high-quality lens that will serve you well for both video and stills and has equally reliable auto to manual features. As a portrait lens, the high-quality bokeh is definitely going to be a winning factor. The linkup of image stabilization on both lens and camera body is going to ensure more keepers on every photo shoot. For Sony people, this could be a great purchase as a high-quality portrait lens.