There is a $1750 difference between the most expensive and least expensive Sony 50mm lens. The most expensive being a 1.2 G master, and the least expensive being a regular old 1.8 nifty fifty. Each of these lenses can produce sharp results, so where does the $1750 difference in the price come from? I’ve been using these two lenses for the past few weeks on my Sony A7SIII and A7IV for shooting video, so let's jump into the differences and I’ll tell you what I think at the end.
First up, build quality. The build quality of the 1.2 G Master is the same premium build you’d expect from a G Master lens. Weather sealing, Focus toggle switch, aperture ring that can be clicked or de-clicked, focus ring, and 2 customizable buttons.
The 50mm 1.8 has no weather sealing and only has a focus ring on the body. The build feels cheap, but this lens is $250 compared to a $2000 dollar G Master lens.
The 1.8 weighs .4lbs or 186 grams, while the G Master weighs 1.7 lbs or 778 grams. The G master is 4.3 by 3.4 inches while the 1.8 is much more compact coming in at 2.7 by 2 and a quarter inches. The G-master better build quality, more glass, more features, but well get into that later.
One of the biggest differences between these lenses is autofocus. The autofocus on the $2000 dollar G-master is driven by four of the newest Sony XD linear motors that allows the lens to focus incredibly fast and accurately even when wide open at f 1.2. When I was using this paired with my A7S3 and A74 I was able to rely on the camera and G Master’s autofocus to snap onto eyes or the touch tracking object and stay there, regardless of what aperture I was using. Shooting wide open at f 1.2 and having the camera perfectly focus on the eye makes for some really dream-like footage.
The autofocus on the Sony 50mm 1.8 is very difficult to use for dynamic video. If you’re locked off on a tripod, you can use it if you won't be changing focus much. The autofocus on the 1.8 uses the older motors that hunt and search for focus. For stills photography, this is less of an issue, but for fast-moving photography or pretty much any video this is a problem. For video, the focus is unnatural and jarring and this is one of the biggest reasons to look at another lens for video. But then again, if your subject isn’t moving much or you are comfortable with Manual focus, a $250 lens can get the job done.
When it comes to noise from the lens while focusing, the 1.2 is silent, while the 1.8 is one of the loudest lenses I’ve ever heard. Very distracting since it uses the older focus motors. It doesn't help that the 1.8 hunts for focus and when it finds focus, it goes past it, then back into focus so the motors are working even harder. If the subject is moving fast enough the 1.8 may not be able to find focus at all.
When it comes to sharpness, both lenses are sharp in the center with vignetting around the edges. Wide-open, each lens is sharp in the center with softer edges. The 1.2 is sharp enough to use, getting sharper around the edges around f 2. The 1.2 looks natural but has a slight warm cast to the image when comparing it to the 1.8. The 1.8 is sharp in the center wide open, but also soft around the edges. The edges sharpen up around f 2.8.
One of my biggest concerns for the G Master was sharpness at f 1.2. Most lenses are so soft when shot wide open that they are almost unusable, but the sharpens of the G Master, is usable and coupled with the fast autofocus motors on modern sony cameras make this a great combination.
When it comes to lens characteristics, the 50mm 1.2 has 11 blades, and handles flaring well but still has some chromatic aberration. The 50mm 1.8 has 7 blades and struggles with lots of flaring and chromatic aberration, still usable in my opinion but not as nice as the 1.2. The G Master lens is just built better overall so this isn’t a huge surprise.
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For minimum focusing distance, these lenses both struggle in my opinion. I shoot a lot of close-up images, so I’m used to minimum focus distances under a foot away. The G Master can focus 15 and a half inches away, while the 1.8 can focus 17 and three-quarters inches away. Both of these lenses seem like the minimum focusing distance is far away, these aren't macro lenses though so I can’t be too harsh on them. The G Master is better but still could improve overall.
When it comes to focus breathing, both the 50mm 1.2 and the 1.8 have focus breathing issues, however, the G Master is compatible with Sony’s new Focus Breathing Compensation feature that crops in slightly but removes all focus breathing. The 1.8 isn’t compatible with the focus breathing compensation, maybe this will be added in a future firmware update but for now, there is no support. At the time of recording only the A7 IV and the Sony FX6 have this feature, and I hope sony rolls this feature out to more cameras with a firmware update in the future.
When it comes to stabilization, both of these lenses don’t have any kind of stabilization. If your camera supports active stabilization, both lenses can use the IBIS of the camera, but there will be no optical stabilization.
So the $1750 question, is what is the difference between the Sony 50mm 1.2 and the 1.8? The difference comes down to a lot of features. The build quality, design, fast, quiet autofocus, and sharpness wide open for video. The separation from 1.2 to 1.8 may not seem like much, but if you want to isolate your subjects at this focal length it doesn’t get much better than the 50mm G Master. The minimum focusing distance for both of these lenses is a little far away for my taste, but these aren’t macro lenses so I can’t be too critical here. I wouldn’t mind if these lenses were both larger to have a closer minimum focusing distance and I’d really love some kind of optical stabilization, but neither has that.
There is clearly a large difference between these two lenses, however - if you’re using these two lenses side-by-side on a stationary subject, you might have a difficult time telling these lenses apart at 1.8.
For beginners, it really doesn’t get any better for learning than the 50mm 1.8 for a very attractive $250 brand new. A fast aperture is great to learn and experiment with, however, once you try to use the lens for dynamic video or photography you’ll quickly notice its shortcomings. That being said, I still recommend this lens to all beginners just because of it’s ability to produce great images in controlled settings, mostly how beginners are learning.
The 50mm G Master truly offers a great image wide open, with some of the best autofocus I’ve ever used thanks to those XD linear motors. I love using the f 1.2 to isolate the subjects, but all of the features together make this lens great to use if you can justify the $2000 price tag.
If you’re looking for more budget sony lenses, check out this video of the Viltrox 24mm, and if you’re looking to build your camera out, check out this build video. Thanks for sticking around until the end, and I’ll see you in the next one.
I'm a designer from Cleveland, Ohio and love to shoot photos & videos. I made my first website in 2004 to show friends photos & videos (before YouTube/Flickr/Instagram were things) and have been shooting and designing ever since! I have a deep passion for making and helping others create.
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