We all love smooth bokeh don’t we? One of lenses with the smoothest around is the Sony A-mount 135mm f2.8 Smooth Transition Focus (STF) lens, which I am lucky enough to own. That lens has apodisation optics with a very special APD element. This element is similar to a neutral density filter that grows thicker, and therefore stronger towards the edges. This has the effect of producing an extremely creamy looking out of focus areas that give a different feel to a regular ultra-fast lens. Subjects are somehow more three dimenstional and seem to ‘pop’ out of the background. The APD element cuts down the amount of light transmitted through the lens and so the T-stop is reduced to T4.5. The A-mount version dates from the days when Minolta owned the company, and does not have autofocus or an image stabiliser.
Today Sony have announced a bang up to date STF lens in E-mount. The new full-frame G-Master 100mm f2.8 STF lens has a similar apodisation lens element for smooth bokeh. It also has Sony’s Optical Steadishot system as well as autofocus. It is slightly shorter than the 135mm and is therefore more useful for portraits and interviews in many cases. To improve bokeh even further there is a new 11 blade iris. The AF system is a Super Sonic Motor (SSM) system that should work with both contrast and phase detect AF cameras to deliver fast focus. The lens also has a 0.25x close-up capability with a built-in macro switching ring. Manual focus is fly-by-wire system like other recent Sonys, but hopefully being a G-Master it will be more responsive than other lenses.
Sony also claim the lens is dust and moisture resistant. According to Sony the SEL100F28GM will cost approximately €2,000. I’m really keen to see how it compares to the older 135mm STF.
Also new today is a lower priced 85mm f1.8 FE lens. A more traditional design it sits below the more expensive Sony 85mm G-Master, as well as the Zeiss Batis and Loxia 85mm lenses in cost. It covers full frame and has 9-blade iris for smooth bokeh. The styling is similar to the 28mm f2 FE and 50mm f1.8 FE lenses, rather than the premium G-Master offerings. Focus is again fly-by-wire.
The obvious omission from this lens, like the 28mm f2.0 FE, is the OSS stabilisation. Instead you’ll need to pair it with cameras with in-built Steady Shot if you want any form of stabilisation. The SEL85F18 will be priced at a reasonable €650, which makes it considerably cheaper than the other native E-mount 85mm options. I look forward to seeing what it can do.