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Alternatives

There are not that many direct alternatives to the Sonnar T* 135mm f/1.8 ZA lens. Sony's own 135mm f/2.8 STF is a specialized lens with defocus capabilities that is somewhat overpriced at $1,200 unless you are specifically looking for this unique capability. Sigma's 105mm f/2.8 EX DG Macro and Sony's 100mm f/2.8 Macro are the only two other choices in the 100mm-135mm range. The only other option is to go for older Minolta lenses, both manual as well as auto-focus. Here, Minolta AF 135mm f/2.8 and Minolta MF 135mm f/2.8 STF could be of potential interest. Another option for those interested in soft-focus capabilities is Minolta AF 100mm f/2.8 Soft. That's pretty much it, unfortunately.

 

Recommendation

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 135mm f/1.8 ZA was my first introduction to the modern Sony system and by far still remains my favorite lens for the Alpha cameras. But without trying to sound sentimental, there's a ton of things to like in this lens. Resolution is absolutely superb throughout the aperture settings, build quality can only be rivaled by other Carl Zeiss lenses (well and maybe Leicas), color rending is excellent, distortion and vignetting are low. Yea, there's an issue with flare, but just use a hood or don't shoot into the sun. The only thing that kind of drives me nuts about this lens is its fairly consistent focus hunting at close distances. Combination of mechanical pin-driven focusing and sub-par focusing detection software in the camera are responsible for the rather iffy results. I have not updated my camera with the latest firmware from Sony as of this writing, but based on the initial reports, focusing accuracy should improve, which would hopefully ease the problem. Bottom line is that Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 135mm f/1.8 ZA is a strong contender to the crown among 135mm lenses. Now go get a copy before they go up in price...

 

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