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My Take – New Sony GM 85mm f1.4 vs Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8 vs Leica Summilux 75mm f1.4 (by Rick Birt)

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[shoplink 48072]Sony 85mm GM f1.4[/shoplink] vs [shoplink 23448 ebay]Leica 75mm Summilux f1.4[/shoplink] vs [shoplink 45791]Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8[/shoplink]

This is a guest post from Rick Birt. To write a guest post follow the instructions on that page. Thanks!

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A little background on me, and my style of shooting:

I love photographing beauty (close portraits), and I like the drama that comes with a narrow depth-of-field (DOF).  The type of lens required to attain these two things falls in the 75-90mm range, and must be relatively fast (f1.8 or faster).

I love the [shoplink 47718]Sony a7R II[/shoplink] because I can adapt almost any lens ever made, and over this past year, I’ve given a good go at trying ALL of them ;)

All of the images below were shot wide open.

The first portrait lens I had for the a7r II was an adapted [shoplink 48745]Canon 85mm f1.8[/shoplink] that my wife, Kelly Williams, gave to me.  It rendered very beautiful images, but since it was adapted, the AF was slow, and it was very prone to purple fringing.  Since I like to shoot backlit, this compounded both of these problems.

Canon 85/1.8
Canon 85/1.8

I then purchased a cheap Russian copy of the Carl Zeiss Sonnar – the [shoplink 48746]Jupiter 9 85mm f2[/shoplink].  It is a manual lens, and It’s built like a hand grenade.  It also rendered beautiful images, but it was manual focus, and fairly slow at f2.

Jupiter 9 f2
Jupiter 9 f2

Then came the [shoplink 45791]Zeiss Batis 85mm f1.8[/shoplink].  It is SHARP.  It is also comparatively light, looks great (IMO), and had fast AF.  However, I found the bokeh to be a harsher than I wanted.  Also, out-of-focus highlights rendered as “cat-eyes” vs round balls.

Zeiss Batis 85/1.8
Zeiss Batis 85/1.8

Since when are water droplets shaped like footballs?  Come on Zeiss!

Zeiss Batis 85/1.8
Zeiss Batis 85/1.8

Enter the [shoplink 23448 ebay]Leica 75mm Summilux f1.4[/shoplink].  It is the fastest lens of the bunch, and has a reputation of being the best portrait lens ever made.  I love the construction of Leica lenses, and I really like their natural colors.  However, as much as I wanted to love this lens, the bokeh was harsh in certain situations.  It is also big, heavy, expensive, manual focus, and the contrast plummeted in backlit situations.

Leica Summilux 75/1.4
Leica Summilux 75/1.4

Notice the over-corrected branches by the model’s right eye (camera left) – I noticed this quite a bit in images shot with the Summilux.

Leica Summilux 75/1.4
Leica Summilux 75/1.4

I had to work with this backlit Summilux shot in post to reduce the glow, and add contrast.

I also tried a friend’s [shoplink 48632]Canon 85mm f1.2 L II[/shoplink].  The AF (especially adapted), was so slow that it would probably be faster to manual focus.  This lens is also prone to purple fringing, and I really didn’t like the over-correction seen just aft of the DOF – Seen on the subject’s right cheek (camera left) below.

Canon 85L 1.2 II
Canon 85L 1.2 II

When Sony announced the G Master line of lenses, I took a lot of their claims with a grain of salt – as I always do.  Ditto for the reviews from Sony Artisans.  I tried to reason with myself that I bought into a mirrorless system for size and weight, and the Zeiss Batis made much more sense in that regard.  However, Gear-Aquisition-Syndrome (GAS) was in full effect and weeks of fighting with myself couldn’t keep my longing for the potential “unicorn of lenses” at bay.

I contacted one of my wife’s favorite models and asked if she wanted to test.  We found a great location, and picked up some nice clothes – it was finally time to test out the new [shoplink 48072]Sony 85mm GM f1.4[/shoplink]!

My first impressions were:

  • It’s BIG!  I knew this going in – but I LOVE my Sony/Zeiss 35mm f1.4, which I also thought was BIG – so I was willing to give the 85mm a chance.
  • It’s heavy!  It feels quite a bit heavier than the 35mm f1.4.
  • The AF does make noise (unlike the silent Batis), but it isn’t as bad as some are claiming.  I didn’t notice the noise when actually shooting.
  • I thought the AF was terrible.  I’m not sure what was going on when I was shooting, but it was more difficult to get that green AF confirmation than I was used to.  Just after the shoot concluded, I was expecting about half of my shots would be soft.
  • I’m sending this lens back

Impressions after loading the images:

  • wow
  • WOW!
  • To my surprise, at least 90% of my shots were in focus (again, I’m not sure why I wasn’t getting the focus confirmation).
  • The pictures are beautiful, sharp, and contrasty.
  • The bokeh is beautiful.
  • I’m keeping this Lens!

So have I found the unicron?  Not quite.  I’m no fan-boy, and I don’t automatically claim something is the greatest just to justify a purchase.  I demand perfection for perfect grades, and this lens isn’t perfect – But it’s the best I’ve used!

Sony GM 85/1.4
Sony GM 85/1.4
Sony GM 85/1.4
Sony GM 85/1.4
Sony GM 85/1.4
Sony GM 85/1.4
Sony GM 85/1.4
Sony GM 85/1.4
Sony GM 85/1.4
Sony GM 85/1.4
Sony GM 85/1.4
Sony GM 85/1.4

Thanks to:

Models – Bradliegh George, Brigitte Robertson, Donny Boaz, Lukas Moffet, Katie Tull, Rob Philips, And Veda Von B

HMU – Meagan D’Von

Styling – Kelly Williams

Posted by Rick Birt of

www.romeobravophoto.com

This is a re-post from a blog I posted on my site:

http://romeobravophoto.zenfolio.com/blog/2016/6/my-take—new-sony-gm-85mm-f1-4-vs-zeiss-batis-85mm-f1-8-vs-leica-summilux-75mm-f1-4

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romeobravophoto

My name is Rick Birt.
I Specialize in Fashion Photography, Portraits, and Fashion Inspired High School Senior Photos. The name Romeo Bravo comes from the phonetic alphabet (used in the military and aviation) for my initials.
As a model, I was always drawn to the classic and dramatic photos created by iconic photographers like Bruce Weber and Ellen Von Unwerth. This is where I developed my creative style. After retiring from the Marines, I started helping my wife, Kelly Williams, in her photography business. I started photographing some of her clients, and received very positive feedback from modeling agencies across the country. I guess being an expert marksman in the Marines developed my shooting eye ;) So, with the guidance of my wife - a 25 year professional photographer- I have been 'shooting' ever since.
A few facts about me:
-Born and raised in Canada
-Modeled in Milan, NY, Miami, Dallas, and Toronto
-Served in the US Marines as a Jet Pilot
-Mentored by my wife Kelly Williams with whom I share a joint production site: www.romeoandkelly.com
-Now living in Dallas, TX

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