Zeiss 85mm f1.4 ZA, LA EA4 and the Sony A7s

Zeiss 85mm f1.4 ZA, LA EA4 and the Sony A7s

Beautiful Andreia, late afternoon with the Sony A7s, the LA EA4 and
the Zeiss 85mm f1.4 ZA at 1.4.

As you know I love my mf Nikkor E series 100mm and the the Takumar 135mm f2.5 vers II. Great lenses, however, on those 1400 clicks/day shoots, manual focus just doesn’t cut it.
more after the break

I had the chance to get a used Zeiss 85mm f1.4 at a good price and went for it.

image above: 1/500, f1.4, ISO 800
Check out the nice green halo around the zipper on the right, at f1.4 you will need to correct for chromatic aberrations in post.

It produces sharp high contrast images already wide open, the main reason for getting one.
The lens doesn’t disappoint. Buttery smooth bokeh, excellent contrast and sufficiently sharp across the field at f1.4, full figure subject separation isn’t a problem and unlike the 135mm (which remains my favorite focal length for this type of work) the model can hear the shutter and the directions without shouting.

As you can see in the shot above, even when shooting full figure, at f1.4 the face is already slightly out of focus.

Field report:
I am not a fan of the LA EA4. It looks and feels like cheap plastic and the focus points are cluttered in the center, pretty much useless when shooting full figure subjects or anything else where the point of interest isn’t centered.
Work around: select AF-C mode with focus tracking. This works very well and seems to expand beyond the area of focus points. Focus speed is slow but more then adequate for portraits and full figure shots.
Despite the weight the lens balances nicely on the A7 with a grip.
Keep in mind this is a high speed portrait lens capable of producing excellent results wide open, if you don’t shoot at f1.4 and/or don’t need af, there are other, cheaper lenses.
For portraits on location I will stick with my lightweight mf lenses.

image above: the 85mm mounted on the A7r

However, if you need super smooth bokeh and af, the 85mm and the Zeiss 135mm f1.8 are the best and only options at the moment. I don’t expect Sony to release updated versions of the 85mm f1.4 and 135mm f1.8 with supersonic motors and E mount anytime soon. I do hope that Sony will release a pro adapter to replace the LA EA4, better built and with with many more af points covering a much larger image area.

Questions, don’t hesitate to ask or share your experience with the this lens. :)

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10 thoughts on “Zeiss 85mm f1.4 ZA, LA EA4 and the Sony A7s

  1. mike.kobal Post author

    Go with the orig Zeiss fe 35mm. Great IQ and you can find it very cheap on eBay. As for 135mm, the just announced samyang 135mm f2 will be your best option

  2. Bobby

    Thanks bud ill keeo that in mind. do you have any recommendations on a 135mm & a 35mm lens for the a7 bodys? wont have a lot to spend but would like something decent. i really do love playing with my 135mm

  3. mike.kobal Post author

    Thanks Bobby! The Loxia 50mm is a beautiful lens. However, you get the same MF behavior with native Zeiss e mount lenses. I went with the 55mm, you can find crazy good deals on eBay and when Sony finally releases a body with superfast af you ll be happy to have AF :)

  4. Bobby

    Hey Mike
    Really loving the blog, i came across your work when looking more into the a7 bodys :D
    im currently selling off my canon gear to switch over to an a7r but im struggling to work out what lens to get first up. i had canon’s 85mm 1.8, 135L & a sigma 35mm art.
    The 35mm only came out when the others where not able to work so im looking for a 85mm or possibly an emount 50mm (had the loxia 2/50 in mond) that wont break the bank (around 1k). any idea’s? im fine with manual focus only as long as bokeh, sharpness & Colour are exceptional.

    Looking forward to hearing your thoughts.

  5. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Ole.eye AF doesn’t work with the adapter. Focus accuracy is really important with this lens, make sure it doesn’t front or back focus and calibrate it if necessary.

  6. Ole

    Hi Mike.
    I have the same lens, and use it with a a7mk2 with the LA EA4 adapter.
    I have not had the lens long, and are still trying to figure out the best way to get accurate focus for portraits. I will try AF-C mode with focus tracking as you suggest.
    I wanted to ask you if you can get the Eye AF function to work with this lens and adapter. I get a message that the function is not valid for this lens.

  7. mike.kobal Post author

    Hi Laurence, no reflectors, no flash, what you see is the sky reflecting. Yes, the cheap, 5 elements Takumar 135mm f2.5 and 100mm Series E show very little CA. The much sharper, version II Takumar, lots of CA, however, the bokeh is a lot smoother on the Zeiss when shooting full figure, for close ups, it doesn’t matter that much since everything gets very blurry very fast.

  8. Laurence Zankowski


    I see catch lights in her eyes, is there a flash unit on the camera or is an assistant behind you with a speed light of some sort.

    Can uncoated old vintage glass reduce the chromic aberrations? It is all a learning thing for me.

    Be well


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