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Lens review

Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm f/1.8 ZA

27 August 2016
Szymon Starczewski

3. Build quality

Since its 2013 launch the Sonnar 1.8/55 FE has been given two system rivals and in the following chart they are all stacked up against each other. In that group you can also find the Leica and the Tamron 1.8/45, a representative of a new line of standard lenses designed for reflex cameras. Their optical construction differs greatly from typical Sonnars or Planars.

It is clear that, like in the case of the Sonnar 2.8/35 FE, the constructors tried to keep the devices sensibly small. The Zeiss is a handy and shapely lens; when you compare it to reflex camera Planar-type constructions you find it’s notably higher and slimmer. The photo below shows it well, with the tested lens positioned between the Sonny 50 mm f/1.4 and the Canon EF 50 mm f/1.4 USM.

Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm f/1.8 ZA - Build quality

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The tested lens begins with a metal mount surrounding contacts and a plastic window which shelters the inner tube. Looking deeper inside you see a nicely matted and darkened interior and a rear element, 31 mm in diameter, set shallowly inside the casing. The rear element is not circular, though; its edges are truncated so, along its vertical axis its length reaches 22 mm and along the horizontal axis it is as long as 28 mm. There are no slits or electronic parts visible between the edge of the element and the inner tube so the construction seems to be fully sealed. Along the plastic window’s border you find information that the lens was produced in Thailand.

Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm f/1.8 ZA - Build quality


The proper body of the lens starts with an immobile, black, metal ring, 41 mm wide, on which there is an inscription stating the parameters of the instrument (FE 1.8/55) , the Zeiss company logo, a white dot making an alignment with a camera easier, the mount marking (E-mount) and the Sony company logo as well.

A ribbed manual focus ring, 21 mm wide, is the next part of the lens. It features a direct-drive linear stepping motor and is devoid of any scale. Its movements are smooth and well-damped and its range depends on the speed of turning. If you move the ring faster the range amounts to 45 degrees; if you move slower it can reach even 180 degrees, allowing you quite precise settings.

Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm f/1.8 ZA - Build quality


The lens ends with a short, metal ring with a red dot showing the proper place for attaching a hood and an inscription with the minimum focusing distance (0,50m/1,64ft).

The front element is 32 mm in diameter, surrounded by an inscription with the name and the parameters of the lens and its serial number. Round that inscription goes a non-rotating filter thread, 49 mm in diameter.

Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm f/1.8 ZA - Build quality


When it comes to the optical construction it would be difficult to consider it a classic Sonnar system – we wrote that much in the first chapter of this test. You deal here with 7 elements positioned in 5 groups, with as many as three aspherical elements. Inside you can also find a round aperture with nine diaphragm blades which can be closed down to f/22 at the maximum.

Buyers get both caps and a hood in the box.

Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55 mm f/1.8 ZA - Build quality