Update: Yeah… GAS is still there. Bought it. Anyhoo. I tried to below.
I will say this first. I do see why this lens is a big deal. In today’s full frame mirrorless landscape a full frame 50mm f/1.2 is a must. Canon and Nikon have already released theirs. Sony had to counter, especially after Leica and others theorized about the limitations of Sony’s E mount and AF lens apertures. And as Sony usually does they did not just answer, but did so decisively with the Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM.
I remember when the A7III casually showed up on the scene touting specs that were once reserved for top tier entries clothed in entry level marketing. Years on it is still my favorite camera and there is nothing currently on the market I would trade it for bang for buck.
Recently considered trading my A7III for an A7RIV and I did not. The more MP the better, am I right? But no. There is nothing wrong with the A7RIV. I just could not bring myself to part with the A7III. It is that good. Rinse, repeat with the A7SIII not too long followed by the A1 not long after that. None have shaken me from my A7III.
Same Sony M.O. each time. Let the competition expose themselves by taking their shot at greatness and then retaliate. Same applies here. Not only does this lens hush the lens mount opening diameter shaming naysayers, but it goes on to arguably best the closest competition. According to reviews like this one from Manny Ortiz…
- As small or smaller and lighter than the Canon and Nikon offerings.
- As good or better optically. Pin sharp across the frame wide open with little vignetting.
- Has an aperture ring that is de-clickable by a switch.
- Focuses faster.
- Less expensive.
All good news. So why do I say I am bummed? Nothing having to do with the lens. This is great news for Sony and those looking for such a lens. Even though this should be right up my alley in theory I am good as is. Again, through no fault of the lens. It is just not the lens I was hoping for from Sony. I am not a G Master fellow. While excellent these lenses are typically larger and more expensive than I would like. I am more of a film Nikon humble Series E lens kind of fellow. A Canon STM f/1.8 rather than L kind of fellow. A Sigma Contemporary rather than Art… You get the idea. I will gladly trade top aperture specs for a solid lower tier offering for less spend with a smaller size.
This is what led me to trade my once dubbed “The Precious” FE 70-200mm f/2.8 G Master…
So if this f/1.2 does not do it for me what was I looking for from Sony?
I was hoping for an improved or replacement version II of the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8. I really tried to like this lens. Bought it at least two and perhaps even three times. Made some pictures I like with it.
But it is an inconsistent performer at worst, most often just ok, and occasionally good, not excelling in any category,
- Focus performance did Sony’s otherwise stellar system no favors.
- Alright colors.
- Cheap and hollow feeling in hand after being spoiled by legacy 50mm lenses.
- Not particularly small.
- Not particularly cheap given the bullets above.
Just not what I am looking for in a 50mm lens. By far my favorite focal length. I could see how someone else might get along just fine with it if they were not as particular about 50mm.
Have stated this before in an earlier 50mm post, but I will happily give up a bit of aperture spec for size, weight, and cost savings. But not at the cost of AF performance and IQ. As stated in another post I am willing to, and did, give up a set of f/1.4 aperture lenses for f/1.8 or so. I wanted from Sony what Canon provided with the excellent RF STM 50mm f/1.8. A lens without the top tier aperture specs of the 50mm f/1.2 mirrorless full frame options. But also a lens that asks little in the way of IQ sacrifice to go along with its great reductions in size, weight, and price.
Instead of specs I looked at what I actually needed. With brighter aperture specs came enough additional size and weight that they rarely found their way out of my camera bag. And when I review the images captured with the small and lightweight, but still well built STM f/1.8 I am good. Looks good on paper, but f/1.2 or f/1.4 are not required for my light gathering or bokeh needs. F/1.8 is the sweet spot for me.
As a reminder, while we all have preferences, I am ultimately brand agnostic. I would have much preferred that Sony had made a lens like the 50mm STM f/1.8. If they had I would not own an EOS RP today. Same goes for the 35mm STM f/1.8 and 85mm STM f/2 while we are at it. If Nikon had done this instead I would have looked their way, but their similarly spec’d 50mm is considerably larger and more expensive. After my positive experiences with the EOS EF 50mm f/1.8 STM I was hoping that Canon would come through with an RF variant and they did.
Update: Have since pivoted back to FE mount with the Rokinon/Samyang f/1.8 tiny series. with the release of the 24mm f/1.8.
Bottom line is that if Sony or Nikon had made those lenses they would have gotten my money. The way I am built I would buy these three lenses with hundreds left to put towards a camera body for the same spend as one f/1.2 lens regardless of who had made them.
Ok, so I do not “need” the Sony 50mm f/1.2. Surely I want it though, right?
Here is the surprising part for me. No.
After years of obsessing about lens aperture, even trading for brighter glass as it was released I am over it. Practical outweighs spec pixie dust for once. Similar to my holding on to the A7III instead of “upgrading” to the A7RIV I now want what I need instead of needing to buy what I want.
Why bummed then?
There is a latent GAS sufferer somewhere within me that would have liked to at least take that new f/1.2 out for a spin. He would already be gathering gear to trade towards this f/1.2 and doing the gear value calculations in his head. Would have been fun. I miss that manic so and so even though he wreaks havoc on my bank account and occasionally trades lenses that are repurchased later.
But as he naps I am perfectly happy with what I have. Just as I would not have purchased the Canon RF f/1.2 over the f/1.8 I am still good here. Great lens. Just not what I was looking for.
In a way it keeps life simple for me. If Sony had created that small, well built, inexpensive, excellent performing second generation 50mm f/1.8 I have been wanting (a nearly $1,000 55mm f/1.8 does not count) now that would be a greater temptation. So I am good.
Am I glad they made it?
Yes. Certainly. I am impressed.
Don’t get me wrong. Money tree in hand I would get one. Why not?
It also validates the brand I have chosen. Like 3 series owners are likely glad the BMW 7 series exists. Would anyone have gotten an ES300 over a Camry back in the day if the Lexus LS400 brand halo car did not exist? Doubtful. Closer to home I love that the A7SIII and A1 exist even if I am perfectly happy with the A7III and A7c. And I am happy for those who need or want and can justify a lens like the Sony 50mm f/1.2 G Master. Like Zero Mostel says…
It is great to have options.