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: