The new Sony FE 85mm f/1.4 GM lens still hasn’t really shipped in volume, and already there are numerous complaints out there about its particularly noisy AF. Now, I normally wouldn’t give a whole lot of credit to such complaints, but the situation took a turn for the worse when some people started noticing what appeared to be scratches on the inner surface of the lens barrel, which led many to assume this was a serious issue that could potentially even damage the lens.
Luckily, the good folks at LensRentals took some time to look at 40+ of these lenses and even disassembled one of them. For the most part, they have good news:
About half of these lenses have some visible lubricant on the inner focusing barrel that looks like scratches but isn’t. It is not scratches. Yes, I know the focusing sounds like scratches. Yes, I know the lubricant looks like scratches. And yes, I am certain that some person somewhere is going to have a lens with real scratches on the inner focusing barrel. Because given enough lenses, there will be one with anything.
So it looks like whatever is causing those marks, it isn’t likely to damage the lens. However:
Does this mean the lens is problem free? Absolutely not. I don’t know if that lubricant might affect images (I doubt it, but it’s possible it could cause some glare when focusing close up). I suspect in a few cases lube will have gotten onto a lens element and caused a streak and that is much more likely to affect images. If you see streaks on a lens element than I’d return yours or send it in to be cleaned.
It might be that 6 months from now we find out that all of these lenses should be absolutely silent when focusing. I’ve looked at lots of them, but they obviously were all early production run lenses. There may be a fix Sony comes up with. I suspect, though, that a firmware fix will be slowing down AF to make it quieter.
In the meantime, optically this is a superb lens and a lot of people are making great images with it.
Food for thought. As impressive as this 85mm GM lens is, I don’t think it is completely safe to buy one now. If you’re considering it, I’d advise waiting until the situation has been clarified by Sony.