In this video, portrait photographer Miguel Quiles from New Jersey takes a look at two of the best Sony portrait lenses on the market and try and does an in-depth real-world comparison to try and give us an understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.
If you are a Sony shooter there are plenty of great portrait lenses that you can get or adapt. Even within Sony’s own lineup, you have quite a few options depending on the focal length that you prefer and your budget. In this review, we are going to look at two of the longer prime-portrait lenses that Sony has in its lineup and also two of their more expensive portrait lenses.
There are some obvious differences between the two lenses. The Sony 100mm f/2.8 STF is a much slower lens and that has to do with the STF which means that you actually only get about T5.6 (which means that the amount of light which gets into the lens is significantly less than what you get with a typical f/2.8 lens although the background separation is similar). The 135mm 1.8GM, on the other hand, is more of a “normal” lens and it brings in significantly more light so for any type of shooting where you need that extra low light capability – it will be the obvious choice.
If you want the maximum background separation you will also be a winner with the 135mm 1.8GM, however, for portraits shooting at f/1.8 can be too much and many portrait photographers tend to shoot at f/4 or f/5.6 or even at f/8 or f/11 if they want to get the entire face in focus and not just the eyes and in this case, the 100mm f/2.8 STF will tend to give you a little bit of extra sharpness although when you close down to those apertures (f/5.6-f/8 etc.) the difference is small.
Colors out of the lens seem to be a bit better on the 135mm 1.8GM but since Quiles tests are not lab tests but more of real-world tests outdoor with natural light – it is a bit hard to tell.
Of course, the big selling point of the STF lens is the nice circular bokeh and you can certainly see it in some of Quiles test shots and it looks much nicer than the 135mm 1.8GM oval bokeh balls wide open although to be fair it is possible that the 135mm 1.8GM at f/2.8 would also show rounder bokeh balls.
Finally, we need to look at pricing and the Sony 100mm f/2.8 STF is going to be significantly less expensive at around $1500 compared to around $2100 of the Sony 135mm 1.8GM. It is also worth mentioning here the lower price ($1100) of the superb Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS (which is not only super sharp and has fantastic AF but is also a true macro lens).
As we have mentioned above, there are other options, both more and less expensive (like the Sigma 135mm F1.8 Art DG HSM which is considered fantastic but is also very big and heavy although far less expensive than both of the Sony models).