ZA 85f1.4 vs SAM 85f2.8

Dur­ing the sum­mer of 2005, I had the chance to find a beau­ti­ful sam­ple of the Minolta 85mm f1.4 G non D –and I was really lucky because by that time Konika-Minolta future was a big mys­tery, the D ver­sion of this lens was unavail­able, as well as other gems from the late Minolta era. I paid about 600$ for it and put it on a shelf, using it exclu­sively for por­traits at my home studio.

The fol­low­ing year, Konika-Minolta sold all their assets in the photography(cameras) busi­ness to Sony, who didn’t re-brand the 85mm but intro­duced a Carl Zeiss ver­sion instead. Price tagged in the 1400$. I felt good, because the deal I had and because I rented from the Ado­rama Rentals Depart­ment (it came in the “kit” along the A900; 24-70f2.8; 70-200f2.8 (and the HVL58 flash) and did a quick test between both lenses. My con­clu­sion was that the Minolta was a lit­tle bit warmer and the Zeiss slightly sharper wide open, and had neu­tral color cast.

I didn’t use the 85mm that much, the lens is a lit­tle too big, heavy and I always fear to dam­age it (event pho­tog­ra­phy is not good for equip­ment cos­met­ics…) so I decide to sell it after Christ­mas 2009. I got 900$ for it (I can only tell good things about this lens!) Any­way, since I got the A850 I use the Minolta 100 f2.8 Soft Focus as my main “Portrait Lens”

Last sum­mer (2010) Sony intro­duced a “Easy Choice” SAM 85mm f2.8 for only 250$ and, for that price, I choose to give it a try. I bought the first sam­ple arriv­ing to the Ado­rama store and, after I over­came the first impres­sion about the plas­tic mount, I start car­ry­ing it with me to my event jobs. So far, this lit­tle lens gave me an advan­tage, it doesn’t intim­i­date peo­ple, the way a big­ger lens does. And it is a great com­pan­ion to the ZA 24–70 f2.8 — you can hardly find a dif­fer­ence in image qual­ity between this 2 lenses.

For a last test, I went to the Ado­rama Rental Depart­ment and bor­row the ZA 85f1.4 for a 15 min­utes non sci­en­tific com­par­i­son. It is unnec­es­sary to say the Zeiss is big­ger, heav­ier and over­all con­struc­tion qual­ity is nicer and sturdier.

But, how about the optics? Falloff on the SAM is notice­able at f2.8, while the Zeiss at f2.8 doesn’t show any issue. The SAM focus closer, and that was a sur­prise, but the Zeiss is cor­rected for Macro and you can notice that also. Another notice­able sur­prise was the fact that the SAM focus faster and it is less noisy than the ZA

You can see and down­load the sam­ples (JPG and ARW) here: