src="http://www.mirrorlessons.com/wp-content/themes/mirrorlessons Sony 85mm GM 1.4 vs Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8: Portraits with E-mount lenses
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Date: 11/07/2016 | By: Mathieu

Sony 85mm GM 1.4 vs Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8: Portraits with E-mount lenses

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Sony 85mm GM 1.4 vs Zeiss Batis 85mm 1.8: Portraits with E-mount lenses

The interesting thing about the Sony FE system is that you can adapt many third party lenses and you can find a very good selection for portraits. However it is also important to have a choice from the native E-mount catalogue. Between 2015 and this year, the system went from zero to two excellent portrait lenses: the Sony G Master and the Zeiss Batis.

The Sony 85mm f/1.4 was announced in February alongside the FE 24-70mm f/2.8 (our review here) and the FE 70-200mm f/2.8. These three products are part of a new family of professional lenses called G Master. Sony has been insisting a lot on their superior resolution and bokeh aided by a new Extreme Aspherical element.

The Zeiss 85mm is part of the Batis family, which is one of two series designed exclusively for the FE system by the iconic German brand (the other one being the Loxia series). It was also the first native portrait lens released for the system.

As usual, the announcement of a new lens that fits into the same category as another leads us to ask the inevitable question: which one is better?

We had the chance to use the two lenses side-by-side and here is what we found.

sony portrait lenses
A7r II, 1/1000, f/1.4, ISO 100 – 85mm GM
sony portrait lenses
A7r, 1/800, f/1.8, ISO 100 – Batis 85
Main specs

Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM

  • Mount: E-mount
  • Format coverage: 35mm (36×24)
  • Focal length: 85mm
  • Maximum aperture: 1.4
  • Minimum aperture: 16
  • Number of aperture blades: 11 circular aperture blades
  • Angle of view: 29°
  • Closest focusing distance: 80cm
  • Lens configuration: 11 elements / 8 groups
  • Special elements: 3 ED and 1 XA elements
  • Lens surface coating: Yes (Nano AR)
  • Maximum image magnification: 0.12x
  • Optical Image Stabilizer: None
  • Dimensions: ø89.5 x 107.5 mm
  • Filter diamater: ø77mm
  • Weight: 820g

Zeiss Batis 1.8/85

  • Mount: E-mount
  • Format coverage: 35mm (36×24)
  • Focal length: 85mm
  • Maximum aperture: 1.8
  • Minimum aperture: 22
  • Number of aperture blades: 9 circular aperture blades
  • Angle of view: 29°
  • Closest focusing distance: 80cm
  • Lens configuration: 11 elements / 8 groups
  • Special elements: 3 ED elements
  • Lens surface coating: Yes (T coating)
  • Maximum image magnification: 0.12x
  • Optical Image Stabilizer: Yes
  • Dimensions: ø81 x 92 mm
  • Filter diamater: ø67mm
  • Weight: 475g

Comparison video

You can also watch a video version of this comparison published earlier on our Youtube channel.


Design and ease of use

One of the first things you notice right away is the size of the Sony lens compared to the Batis. It doesn’t unbalanced the camera as much as the 24-70mm GM but when you hold the Batis lens, the difference in weight is quite surprising (the Zeiss lens weighs half).

 

Both lenses have a robust design, although I have to say that the Sony lens feels like a tank. It is dust and moisture resistant but not completely weather-sealed unlike the Batis lens.

Concerning the ease of use, the Sony GM lens has a few advantages.

 

There are two aspects I love, the first being the aperture ring: it’s smooth, precise and really nice to use. It moves in 1/3 steps and can also be de-clicked for video use. I wish that more lenses could have a ring like this and it is something I would have expected from Zeiss as well.

Then we have the focus ring. Both lenses have a “focus by wire” focus ring covered with rubber. The one of the Sony G Master lens is more precise to use especially when changing the focus point in video mode. It is easier to make fine adjustments, and smooth and slow transitions as you can see in the video above at minute 2.43.

sony 85mm vs batis 85mm

With the Batis lens I have to turn the focus ring more to achieve the same result and the tactile experience is not as precise as with the Sony lens. You will also notice in the video that the Zeiss 85 has more breathing in comparison to the Sony lens when changing the focus point.

Finally you will find an AF/MF switch and focus hold button on the Sony lens. The latter in particular can be quite useful.

The Batis 85mm lacks buttons, switches and an aperture ring but like its siblings comes with a small OLED screen on top. You can use it to check your focus distance and depth of field. The data can be difficult to see in daylight but it is definitely useful in low light. However as I stated in my standalone review, I find the OLED screen more useful with wide angle lenses such as the 18mm or the 25mm (astrophotography for example).

sony 85mm vs batis 85mm


Optical quality

The first difference between these two lenses concerns the fastest aperture: 1.4 on the Sony lens and 1.8 on the Batis 85mm. Let’s see first how the two lenses perform wide open.

sony 85mm vs batis 85mm
A7r II, 1/100, f/1.4, ISO 100 – 85mm GM
Click to open the full res version
sony 85mm vs batis 85mm
A7r II, 1/60, f/1.8, ISO 100 – Batis 85mm
Click to open the full res version

 

The Zeiss Batis lens is sharper at f/1.8 and also has more contrast.

I performed this test many times to double check my findings but I got the same result every time. With both lenses stopped down to f/2, the results are much more similar but we can still notice a little bit more contrast in the Zeiss version. From f/2.8 the results are basically identical.

sony 85mm vs batis 85mm
A7r II, 1/50, f/2, ISO 100 – 85mm GM
Click to open the full res version
sony 85mm vs batis 85mm
A7r II, 1/50, f/2, ISO 100 – Batis 85mm
Click to open the full res version

 

sony 85mm vs batis 85mm
A7r II, 1/25, f/2.8, ISO 100 – 85mm GM
Click to open the full res version
sony 85mm vs batis 85mm
A7r II, 1/25, f/2.8, ISO 100 – Batis 85mm
Click to open the full res version

 

At f/4 the Sony lens seems to appear slightly sharper although it is really difficult to detect any relevant differences. This can be applied to the other apertures as well.

sony 85mm vs batis 85mm
A7r II, 1/40, f/5.6, ISO 100 – 85mm GM
Click to open the full res version
sony 85mm vs batis 85mm
A7r II, 1/40, f/5.6, ISO 100 – Batis 85mm
Click to open the full res version

When we talk about portrait lenses we inevitably think about bokeh. On a technical note, the Sony lens has an 11 blades iris mechanism versus the 9 blades of the Batis 85mm.

sony 85mm vs batis 85mm

At the fastest apertures, we can notice that the Batis lens produces a swirly effect and cat’s eye shapes near the edges of the frame.

The Sony G Master on the other hand gives you a more precise result. The out of focus circles are more rounded even at the border of the image and the background looks more uniform. The same performance carries on up to f/2.

sony 85mm 1.4 vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/400, f/1.4, ISO 100 – 85mm GM
sony 85mm 1.4 vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/250, f/1.8, ISO 100 – Batis 85mm
sony 85mm 1.4 vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/200, f/2, ISO 100 – 85mm GM
sony 85mm 1.4 vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/200, f/2, ISO 100 – Batis 85mm

 

At f/2.8 the background in the Batis image becomes more uniform. However the bokeh circles are less rounded and start to take on a more hexagonal form. The Sony lens on the other hand retains more rounded circles.

sony 85mm 1.4 vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/80, f/2.8, ISO 100 – 85mm GM
sony 85mm 1.4 vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/125, f/2.8, ISO 100 – Batis 85mm

 

In the third example below you can see a full body shot. This allows us to see how the two lenses perform at longer focus distances in terms of sharpness and their ability to separate the subject from the background.

The fast aperture of f/1.4 gives a shallower depth of field to the full body shot in comparison to the Batis version.

sony 85mm 1.4 gm vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/320, f/1.4, ISO 100 – 85mm GM
sony 85mm 1.4 gm vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/320, f/1.8, ISO 100 – Batis 85mm

 

Concerning sharpness, once again the Zeiss lens has an advantage wide open. From f/2 the performance is almost identical. Perhaps the Sony G Master has a little more sharpness but it’s not easy to detect the difference.

sony 85mm 1.4 gm vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/125, f/2, ISO 100 – 85mm GM
sony 85mm 1.4 gm vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/250, f/2, ISO 100 – Batis 85mm

 

These two lenses are not designed for landscapes primarily but I was curious to see if I would notice any difference in sharpness when focusing at infinity. At f/4, f/5.6 or f/8, they both give identical results.

sony 85mm 1.4 gm vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/125, f/8, ISO 100 – 85mm GM
Click to open the full res version
sony 85mm 1.4 gm vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/125, f/8, ISO 100 – Batis 85mm
Click to open the full res version

One curiosity about these two lenses: despite claiming to have the same focal length of 85mm, they have a slightly different field of view.

As you can see in this example below, the Batis lens has a narrower angle of view. If I disable the lens profile correction in Lightroom, the field of view is more similar but the Zeiss is still a little bit narrower.

 

Both lenses can focus as close as 80cm. The Zeiss lens suffers more from vignetting wide open but in both cases fall-off can easily be fixed once the lens profile is applied in Lightroom (or a similar software).

sony 85mm 1.4 gm vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/2500, f/1.4, ISO 100 – 85mm GM
sony 85mm 1.4 gm vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/1250, f/1.8, ISO 100 – Batis 85mm

Wide open the Sony lens has more longitudinal chromatic aberration and you will need to fix it manually in post-production. The lens performs better from f/2.8. Chromatic aberration on the Batis lens is more contained even at f/1.8.

sony 85mm 1.4 gm vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/8000, f/1.4, ISO 100 – 85mm GM
Click to open the full res version

 

sony 85mm 1.4 gm vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/8000, f/1.8, ISO 100 – Batis 85mm

Finally, when it comes to flare, the Sony lens can produce a streaky effect in direct sunlight while the Batis 85mm produces more ghost flares.

sony 85mm 1.4 gm vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/1250, f/5.6, ISO 100 – 85mm GM
sony 85mm 1.4 gm vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/2500, f/4, ISO 100 – Batis 85mm

Autofocus and stabilisation

Concerning the autofocus, both lenses focus fast in single AF or when using the excellent Eye-AF feature of Sony cameras.

In continuous autofocus both lenses give similar results for stills. Interestingly, the Batis lens is faster for video on the A7r II and a6300 as you can see in our video comparison at minute 7:01.

sony 85mm 1.4 gm vs batis 85mm 1.8
a6000, 1/800, f/1.8, ISO 100 – Batis 85mm

Another relevant difference between these two lenses is image stabilisation.

The Sony 85mm lacks optical stabilisation while the Batis 85mm features it which makes the Zeiss lens a better choice for users who own a first generation A7 or an a6000/a6300 camera.

With the Sony lens mounted on an A7 mark II body, we can take advantage of the 5-axis in-body stabilisation and manage sharp shots down to 1/10s. Using the Batis lens on the A7r II didn’t bring any substantial advantage (it uses 3 axes on the sensor and two axes on the lens) and I got the same result. The optical stabilisation of the Batis alone gave me the same result of 1/10s on the a6300 once again.

sony 85mm 1.4 gm vs batis 85mm 1.8
A7r II, 1/10, f/2.8, ISO 100 – 85mm GM
Click to open the full res version
Batis 85mm on A7r II
Batis 85mm on a6300

Conclusion

The final (and perhaps most important) difference between these two lenses is the price. The Sony 85mm GM costs around $600 more than the Batis 85mm and this aspect will definitely influence the decision of many users.

We’ve seen that the Batis 85mm holds its ground very well concerning sharpness and wide open is actually sharper than the Sony lens. Granted, the Sony 85mm is slightly faster and will give you more shallow depth of field especially when focusing at longer distances (better separation of the subject from the background). However as far as light is concerned the difference between f/1.4 and f/1.8 isn’t even 1 stop.

e-mount portrait lenses
A7r II, 1/250, f/1.4, ISO 100 – 85mm GM

The most relevant difference concerning optical quality is the bokeh rendering. The Sony gives you a more uniform result with perfectly rounded bokeh circles. The Zeiss lens has a different character with a more swirly effect and cat’s eye shapes wide open but that for me becomes more a question of personal taste rather than a matter of which is better. In short, they are just different.

One additional point in favour of the Sony lens is the ease of use: the buttons and switches as well as the aperture ring enhance the usability of the lens. The focus ring is one of the best I’ve tried for manual focus especially in video mode (with less breathing compared to the Batis lens).

The Batis 85mm has optical stabilisation and that is not something to underestimate especially if the camera you intend to use with the lens doesn’t have in-body stabilisation like a first generation A7 or A7r.

e-mount portrait lenses
A7s, 1/100, f/1.8, ISO 100 – Batis 85mm

If you are familiar with DSLR lenses, you will already know that there is usually a big difference in optical quality and price between an f/1.8 and an f/1.4 85mm portrait lens. The 1.8 version is usually the more affordable option ($500/600). The Batis is more expensive but also delivers top class results.

Personally I wouldn’t hesitate to go with the Batis 85mm if I had to choose a portrait lens for my A7r II. The Sony 85mm GM is perhaps the ultimate portrait lens for professional photographer but I would consider it only if I was shooting portraits for clients every single day or if I was doing professional video work on a regular basis. For everything else, the Batis is more than enough.

Choose the Sony 85mm GM lens if:

  • you want a shallower depth of field especially for mid and full body shots
  • better manual focusing for video
  • better ease of use (aperture ring, AF/MF switch, focus hold)
  • more geometrically precise bokeh rendering

Choose the Zeiss Batis 85mm lens if:

  • you want better sharpness and contrast at the fastest aperture
  • you need optical stabilisation
  • if you want to spend less but need a top class portrait lens

Additional read:

What do you think about these two lenses? Which one would you choose?



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About the author: Mathieu Gasquet

Mathieu Gasquet is a professional photographer with French and Italian origins. Besides running his own video and photography studio 3Dit Lab, he is also the official photographer for the National Cinema Museum in Turin. You can follow him on Google+, Twitter or Facebook!

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com Mathieu

    On the a6000, the Batis would give you a similar field of view of a 135mm lens on full frame and that is another popular focal length for portraits.
    Otherwise you have the 50mm 1.8 or even better the 55mm 1.8 which works really well on APS-C for portraits. You can see some examples here:
    http://www.mirrorlessons.com/2015/07/13/portraits-with-sony-e-mount-primes-zeiss-batis-85mm-f1-8-vs-90mm-macro-vs-55mm-f1-8/

  • Claude B.

    You mention for fast action the Bâtis is better for my Sony A6000, but what about for portrait, isn’t better with 50mm or 60mm for portrait (Sony or Sigma)? Sure I would be very happy to own a Zeiss.

  • Alex

    Of Course not. It is just for my Personal Choice !!!!

  • GF

    I did notice a warmer and more saturated color coming from the Zeiss in both my computer and my smartphone (which has better calibration), and just as Zuikocron, I found the Zeiss to be more pleasing.

    On the other hand, I don’t know if the Sony has some focusing problems due to larger aperture, or if it’s the large aperture that grants a slightly less sharp image at f/1.4; in any case, that gives the G Master a smoother face rendering, which some may like better than the sharper rendering of the Zeiss (personally, again I prefer the sharper rendering of the Zeiss).

  • http://www.mirrorlessons.com Mathieu

    Yes but in some situations the light was changing constantly so that’s why you can see some differences. But when the light remained exactly the same, I didn’t notice a relevant difference with colours.

  • Zuikocron

    Have you manually set the white balance? Because there is a noticeable difference color (and the batis one looks much more pleasing to me).

    The Bokeh of the GM looks better to my eye, but that lens is insanely huge! :O :O

  • Keno40

    So we should only speak about Olympus right?
    That’s weired because for a lot of Pros, Sony gives better specifics options now.

  • Alex

    This has nothing to so with mirrorless in my opinion! ( Sorry) still think m43( OLYMPUS) is The best Choice / compromise!!!

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