Sony Ambassadors Stefan Liebermann and Dennis Schmelz were amongst the first in the world to try out the new FE 35mm f/1.4 G Master lens, a model that, as it turned out, proved to be equally as inspiring for both stills and video projects.
Offering photographers and videographers a new creative option, the lens’s ultra-wide aperture and natural view combine with exceptional image quality, lightweight build and weather sealing in a package that has something for everyone.
With his background in travel, advertising and music videos, the FE 35mm f/1.4 GM inspired Dennis to create a low-light and cinematic short film with strong tones of Americana.
“I wanted to take advantage of the lens’s new features,” he explains, “and make a story that only it could help me tell. 35mm is a perfect movie focal length for me. It’s so adaptable for different subjects and I love the cinematic feel. It’s not too wide, but still gives a sense of place, and it’s great for capturing shots of people. Maybe best of all, the 1.4 aperture produced beautiful bokeh and let us work with atmospheric lighting.”
The FE 35mm f/1.4 GM uses a physical aperture ring that can be de-clicked via a button on the barrel for movie applications, so it’s ready for either stills or video. “This means you can get almost invisible transitions in aperture, tightening focus or extending it, depending on the narrative you’re creating, and changing the exposure in the same way,” Dennis enthuses. “It helps me as a videographer because there’s no hard jump that can take the viewer out of the moment. It’s just beautifully natural and smooth.”
Working with his α7S III’s Face Detection AF, Dennis was also impressed by the FE 35mm f/1.4 GM’s focusing speed, precision and lack of motor noise. “It uses a frictionless XD Linear Motor,” he explains, “so AF was stunningly quick and accurate. We only did six shots in manual focus. All the others were made with face detection at f/1.4 and it never skipped a beat.”
Creating his short film in dramatic rainy night-time streets, the FE 35mm f/1.4 GM’s weather sealing stood up to the conditions and its lightweight design meant Dennis could move it on a gimbal with complete freedom. “No-one wants a lens that holds them back,” he admits, “but the FE 35mm f/1.4 GM does the opposite. It was raining heavily when we were shooting, and the lens got quite wet, but it just wasn’t a problem at all! The lightness is a huge factor, too. Compared to previous fast aperture 35mm lenses I’ve used, at only 524g, it’s so much more portable.”
As for Stefan, a nature and landscape photographer who specialises in night scenes, the FE 35mm f/1.4 GM was a distinct departure, but one he very quickly warmed to. “I normally use wider lenses,” he explains, “like 16mm or 20mm models, and at first I thought, ‘what can this lens do for me?’, but it was soon pretty clear! I found it brilliant for exploring another view of nature. Normally I’m looking for lots of foreground, but moving to 35mm I was exploring more in the mid ground and the sky, so it gave me a beautifully fresh perspective.”
While the view was new to Stefan, the optical quality was all he’d hope for. The FE 35mm f/1.4 GM uses one ED (extra low dispersion) and two XA (extreme aspherical) elements, a Nano AR II coating and an 11-blade rounded aperture design, for exceptional clarity even in challenging light. “With this lens, you have a lot of sharpness from corner to corner”.
Stefan explains. “It’s amazingly good and wide open at f/1.4 for my night sky images, but I don’t always need that full aperture, especially when I use a star tracker at night, or shoot regular landscapes in twilight or around dawn and dusk. When stopping down to f/2.8 and f/3.5, and you still have no vignetting, no coma, no aberrations at all.”
An experienced maker of panoramic landscapes as well, Stefan also found the lens excelled for these too. With less distortion at 35mm than wide focal lengths, he made several stitches creating images with huge resolution. “When I needed more foreground or a wider view,” he explains, “I just used several 35mm shots to cover the scene, and the new lens’s AF Hold was perfect for that, letting me lock in the sharpness across the exposures.”
Similarly to Dennis, Stefan found the FE 35mm f/1.4 GM’s lightness to be a huge benefit. “What’s amazing is I can pack my α7 III, a 24mm f/1.4 GM and this new lens, and just go on tour with it. I can climb hills and mountains, go with a tent and I won’t struggle. I’ll be shooting a lot more with this lens, I’m sure.”
"It's a very special kind of photography: Not visible to the human eye, but real"
"There is always a story to tell and a fresh perspective to be discovered"