I’m keeping on with my detailed articles to help you choose your Sony lenses. I have to admit that switching to a Sony mirrorless camera a few months ago has a lot to do with it, and I now take pleasure to write and recommend lenses, based on hours and days of research and comparisons.
My first article, dedicated to the best 24mm wide-angle lenses for Sony, made me want to write again on more specific subjects. Today, we change to a different type of focal length, and therefore to a different subject. I’m going to talk about the best 85mm lenses for Sony E mount. To go further, you should know that an 85mm focal length is mainly dedicated to portrait photography. Then, as you must now know, depending on the type of sensor you own, the field of view will not be the same in your viewfinder. If you have a Sony APS-C sensor (A6000 to A6600 series), the result will be roughly equivalent to a 130mm focal length. If you want to get the equivalent of an 85mm on a full frame, you’ll have to look in detail at the article about the best Sony 50mm. Conversely, photographers with a full frame body (A7, A9, A1 series) will indeed get the view of an 85mm.
However, you will need to be very careful when choosing your lens. An 85mm is an ideal focal length for portrait photography, especially outdoors, when you can have some distance. This small telephoto lens will allow you to much more isolate your subject and make it stand out from the background, unlike a 35 or 50mm, which will allow you to contextualize the subject in its environment more easily. Anyway, here’s the best 85mm e mount lenses.
As usual, I will write and remind you everything you need to know before buying your 85mm lens. I won’t repeat everything I wrote in the article “How to choose a lens“, but you will still find the essential. Just click on the little scrollbar to see what you need to know and consider.
As usual now since I switched to a Sony mirrorless camera, I’ve decided to propose you what I consider as the 5 best Sony 85mm lenses. You will obviously find some from Sony, but mostly third-party brands offering superb lenses in this focal length range. I’ve tried to take into account all the characteristics I find important when choosing your lens: image quality, compacity, optical defaults, AF, various options, and of course the price, which remains a determining factor for many of us.
By the way, if you are looking for all the lenses dedicated to Sony cameras, we have worked hard to propose several pages summarizing all these elements. Here is the one with all the lenses for Sony APS-C cameras, and one about lenses for Sony full frame cameras.
Here are the 5 best 85mm lenses for a Sony mirrorless camera with autofocus:
- Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art
- Samyang 85mm f/1.4 FE AF
- Sony FE 85mm f/1.8
- Samyang 75mm f/1.8 FE AF
- Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar T*
The main characteristics of the five 85mm Sony lenses mentioned above are listed in the summary table below.
I begin this ranking straight with what I consider currently being the best 85mm e mount for a full frame Sony camera. This lens, having an all-weather construction, is a very nice update of the old Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art (which, although of good quality, was heavy and bulky). Sigma hits hard by offering a very high-end and relatively compact lens: 626g and 96mm long. For the record, this is lighter and shorter than the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM.
This lens, which has a focusing distance of 85cm, enjoys a superb build quality, in the range of the Sony GM. There is a manual focus ring as well as an aperture ring (with or without clicks), suitable for both photography and video. An innovative point is worth noting: a button allowing to set the aperture. Thanks to an 11-blade diaphragm, you’ll be offered beautiful bokeh balls, even when you close the aperture. Finally, also note the presence of two buttons: one AF/MF, and another to lock the focus. The lens has a classic diameter of 77mm. The autofocus has been judged by many as being the best, beyond the GM.
Regarding image quality, we are close to excellence and in what’s best in the 85mm world for Sony. The quality in the center of the image is already superb at full aperture (f/1.4), while the edges/extremes are still very good. Closing to f/2 improves it a bit more, and the produced images are superb. This image quality is said to be much better than on the GM (which yet costs much more!). Note however a strong vignetting at full aperture as well as a significant pincushion distortion. Both optical defects are largely well managed in post-processing. The bokeh is also said to be as one of the best.
In conclusion, Sigma offers here the best 85mm (in my opinion). We have a superb image quality and bokeh, a perfect AF, an unrivaled compacity and interesting options. The highlight of this lens? It costs almost half the price of the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM. If you are looking for what’s best in this category, and without having to break your piggy bank, then this 85mm is for you. The only drawback for the owners of a Sony A1, is that like many third-party lenses, it is not compatible with 30fps, so the burst on this camera will be limited to 15. Of course, this lens is among the best Sigma lenses for Sony mirrorless cameras.
If you’re looking for a Sony 85mm f/1.4 lens, Samyang offers a superb, high-quality alternative: the Samyang 85mm f/1.4 FE AF. This lens has an all-weather construction, is lighter than the Sigma 85mm DG DN Art detailed above (567g), but measures 99mm long.
Its build quality seems to be very good, although it remains below the Sigma and the GM 85mm. However, the overall quality of this lens is excellent. The functions are less numerous than on the Sigma since you only find a manual focus ring, no aperture ring, and no AF/MF button, nor the possibility to lock the focus. Its 9 blades still guarantee a very nice quality bokeh. Regarding autofocus, it has a very good reputation, even if the reviews say that it could have been better.
A closer look at the image quality can only amaze us, mainly thanks to the sharpness offered for a lens of this price. Indeed, it is excellent in the center at full aperture. Closing at f/2, then at f/2.8, further improves the image quality, especially in the corners. The lens went so far as to be even better than the Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM on this point (but slightly below the Sigma 85mm mentioned above). Defaults are globally very well controlled. There is very little vignetting at full aperture and a well-managed pincushion distortion. However, the flare resistance is rather average. The bokeh is known to be really beautiful.
In the end, I think Samyang succeeds, offering a very high-quality lens with few really penalizing flaws, all for an affordable price. It is for me the best value for money of the 5 lenses. By the way, I should even treat myself and get it for Christmas!
Released in February 2017, this tropicalized lens has long been considered as the best price-quality ratio for people looking for an 85mm for a full frame Sony camera, as it was cheaper than the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8, and largely cheaper than the G Master. The arrival of the Samyang 85mm f/1.4 FE AF and other f/1.8 like the Viltrox or the Yongnuo changed the game, hence the third-place ranking.
We are dealing here with a very well-built lens, offered at a light weight (371g) and a small size (82mm long). It is just the most compact 85mm of all the lenses mentioned in this ranking (excluding the Samyang 75mm). You will also find a button to switch between AF and MF, another one to hold focus (which can be programmed for other functions as well) and a manual focus ring. Note that the lens has a classic diameter of 67mm and does not have an aperture ring. Regarding autofocus, it is said to be as good (or almost) as the Sigma 85mm DG DN Art, ranked #1 of these 85mm. It is in any case reputed to be better than the GM’s AF.
Regarding the image quality offered by this Sony FE 85mm, we’re still in a very high level. Below the Sigma 85mm DG DN Art and the Samyang (both mentioned above), the image quality offered by this Sony is almost equal to that of the GM (which costs much more). The quality improves only slightly by closing the aperture. Bokeh is said to be good, even if users of the two f/1.4 lenses mentioned above will prefer them. Optical flaws are generally well controlled, with little vignetting at full aperture, few chromatic aberrations and almost no distortion. The flare resistance is judged as average.
In the end, this Sony FE 85mm f/1.8 is a very good choice for people who aren’t ready yet to buy a third-party lens like Sigma or Samyang. In my opinion, it remains slightly less interesting, especially compared to the Samyang 85mm which has a larger aperture and a better image quality, all for a lower price (100/150€ less). Nevertheless, by buying this lens, you can’t really go wrong.
I’m coming now into the world of 85mm e mount with a smaller aperture (f/1.8). You might be surprised not to see here the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM, which is still an excellent lens. Indeed, I’ve decided to place it in the list of alternative lenses, considering that if you are looking for an 85mm lens with an f/1.4 aperture, it is not the best option to consider. In my opinion, the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art lens and the Samyang 85mm f/1.4 FE AF are better and cheaper.
You might be surprised to see this rather strange prime lens in this ranking of the best 85mm, but I voluntarily wanted to include it. Samyang offers this new 75mm f/1.8 FE AF, which I think is in direct competition with the classic Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. This lens has a superb compact size with only 230g and 69mm long. It is the lightest/shortest lens in this ranking (I’d agree that the focal length being limited to 75mm has something to do with it).
The build quality of this lens is said to be very good, in the same vein as the Samyang 85mm f/1.4 FE AF. It is part of what Samyang calls the “Tiny Series” and now offers more options. You will find a manual focus ring, but above all a customizable button allowing to use 2 modes thanks to the “Lens Station of Samyang” and its associated software. For example, you can use the manual focus ring as an aperture ring (Mode 1) and use Mode 2 to switch from AF to MF. The autofocus is considered overall good and fast.
Nothing to say about image quality, this lens offers superb details in the center, and right from full aperture. The corners are slightly behind, but get improved at f/2.8 to become excellent on the whole image. In terms of image quality, it is more or less the same as the Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM. The bokeh quality is also judged as very good.
To conclude, Samyang makes again a big splash here by offering a high-quality lens for a price more than correct (less than 400€). If you have a small budget and are looking for a quality lens for portrait photography, you can’t be disappointed by this little Samyang. The only hitch? It does not have an all-weather construction. See if this is important to you or not.
I’ll end this ranking of the best 85mm lenses for Sony with the very good Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar T*. Released in 2015, this lens can still be considered an interesting choice for your 85mm purchase – although I have to admit that competition is tough, and my choice would be another lens, considering the price/performance ratio.
This lens, stabilized and all-weather built, offers an average compacity compared to the other ones mentioned above, with a weight of 475g and a length of 105mm. Its build quality is, obviously, as often with Zeiss, excellent. There is also a depth of field scale (thanks to an OLED screen) but no button to switch from AF to MF. The quality of autofocus is known to be overall very good.
The image quality of this Zeiss is remarkable in the center and at full aperture. It appears a little less good on the corners but remains overall very good. You may remark a tiny difference between the lenses, visible to the naked eye, but nothing really important, especially on a full-frame Sony body without a large number of pixels (like my A7III, for example). Regarding optical defaults, there is a strong vignetting at full aperture and a strong pincushion distortion. Both are perfectly correctable in post processing. The bokeh quality is very good, but many prefer the quality provided by the f/1.4 lenses mentioned above.
To conclude, this 85mm from Zeiss remains an excellent lens, very well built and offering a superb image quality. However, choosing this Zeiss lens now given the current competition does not seem to be the best choice, especially when you can get better, brighter, and cheaper (Sigma and Samyang). Nevertheless, you are sure not to make a mistake by choosing this lens, which is still of very high quality.
Here are for me the five most worthwhile lenses if you are looking for an 85mm for your Sony camera. And here is the table summarizing their characteristics.
|Model||Max. aperture||Filter||Dimension (D / L)||Weight||Min. focus distance||Best Price|
|Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art||f/1.4||77mm||83 x 94mm||630g||85cm||Amazon|
|Samyang 85mm f/1.4 FE AF||f/1.4||77mm||88 x 72mm||568g||90cm||Amazon|
|Sony FE 85mm f/1.8||f/1.8||67mm||82 x 78mm||371g||85cm||Amazon|
|Samyang 75mm f/1.8 FE AF||f/1.8||58mm||65 x 69mm||230g||69cm||Amazon|
|Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8 Sonnar T*||f/1.8||67mm||81 x 92mm||452g||80cm||Amazon|
Of course, choices rarely are simple, and even if the lenses I’ve mentioned as the best are relatively affordable and have an excellent quality-price ratio (especially the Samyang), there are indeed other alternatives to consider.
Here are the four alternatives worth considering, in my opinion:
Here are a few words about the alternative lenses mentioned above. On the agenda, three third-party brands and the famous Sony 85mm f/1.4 GM.
Tokina decided to release a new range (ATX) and offers the Tokina 85mm f/1.8 ATX-M FE. This lens has a good build quality (all metal) and allows us to enjoy a very good image quality, almost like the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. The bokeh is however said to be better than the latter, but the AF appears a bit behind. The price is still well below the Sony (about 200€ less). In my opinion, it is a serious lens to recommend for people on a budget looking for an 85mm. However, for almost the same price, I would rather go for the Samyang.
In the same line as the Tokina 85mm mentioned above, there is the Viltrox AF 85mm f/1.8 FE II, which is an almost exact copy of the Tokina – the two brands are apparently working together on some aspects. Its price is however close to 350/400€, which is really acceptable considering the general quality of the lens and the images produced.
I end this tour of 85mm offered by third-party brands with the Yongnuo YN85mm f/1.8S DF DSM, a surprisingly entry-level lens. Its construction is correct without being excellent. Its AF is said to be very good, almost at the same level as the Sony FE 85mm f/1.8. The image quality, although lower at full aperture than all the above-mentioned lenses, is still good. Closing to f/2.8 gives excellent image quality in the center and as good as most of the lenses mentioned. However, corners and edges remain just good, and not excellent. Even if the lens has some optical defects and a lack of sharpness, it is still very interesting, especially for its announced price of 200€. Note that this is the cheapest, lightest, and shortest of all 85mm lenses.
Finally, another very interesting lens to consider would be the Sigma 65mm F2 DG DN Contemporary. Even though it is a shorter focal length than the classic 85mm, this one offers superb image quality, very smooth bokeh, excellent AF, very good compactness and all-weather construction.
Finally, I won’t talk about the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art, which is the old version dedicated to Sony mirrorless cameras, before the release of the famous Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG DN Art (number 1 of this ranking). The lens, although excellent, is heavy/long, and choosing this version over the DG DN version would make no sense today.
As usual on this type of article, I’ll quickly talk about some alternatives with manual focus. There are indeed a few 85mm of this type, some with a good reputation, others less so. Considering the prices of the quality lenses mentioned in this article, I personally will not buy an 85mm with manual focus.
In my case, I mainly use my 85mm to shoot portraits of my kids moving and running around. With an autofocus, it’s still much easier.
Anyway, here are the 85mm manual focus lenses I found:
I’m coming to the end of this article dedicated to 85mm lenses for Sony cameras. I hope you enjoyed reading these tips and that the comments and recommendations will help you choose your next lens. If you enjoyed it, you can go through our affiliate links in this article. It’s a simple way to support our blog and our work, without it costing you more money of course.
In the meantime, if you want to keep looking at detailed articles from Sony, I invite you to read our complete guide to choose your Sony 35mm lens, a perfect focal length for street, everyday or large portrait photography. Did you think choosing the right lens for your digital camera was easy?!
I’ll see you soon,