Sony E 35mm f/1.8 OSS Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the Sony E 35mm f/1.8 OSS prime lens for Sony NEX cameras.

Posted 14/Nov/2012 - 10:03AM
Handling and features
Performance
Verdict
Specification
Sony Nex 35mm F1 8 Lens 3

A prime lens with that provides an angle of view equivalent to a 52.5mm lens on a 35mm camera and sports a fast f/1.8 maximum aperture, optical image stabilisation and a lightweight, compact design.

Unlike similarly specified lenses for SLRs, this 35mm f/1.8 for NEX cameras will be introduced with a price tag of nearly £400, which may put off budget-conscious photographers. Does the performance of this lens justify the premium? We'll investigate in this review.

Sony Nex 35mm F1 8 Lens 5

Sony E35mm f/1.8 OSS Handling and features

Build and design is typical of Sony's E-Mount lenses, with high quality black plastics that sport a glossy finish used for much of the lens barrel construction and a metal lens mount. Despite the very light weight of only 155g, the lens feels very solidly put together. The low weight makes sure the lens will match up perfectly with even the most compact NEX series camera bodies, and it handles very well on the Sony NEX-6 used for testing.

Auto focus is very fast and accurate as a result at distances over half a metre away, but sometimes the lens can struggle to focus adequately on closer subjects. Applying manual focus adjustments is a pleasure, thanks to the smooth action of the focusing ring, which is perfectly damped. Minimum focus is 30cm from the sensor plane, which is fairly typical for a lens of this type.

As focusing is performed internally, the 49mm filter ring does not rotate, which makes the lens ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters. A deep petal-shaped lens hood is supplied as standard, which attaches to the lens via a bayonet fitting.

For those times when slow shutter speeds are necessary, this lens comes equipped with optical image stabilisation. With care, sharp hand-held images can be taken at shutter speeds as slow as 1/6sec, which is roughly three stops slower than the usual rule of thumb for hand-held photography would allow.

Sony Nex 35mm F1 8 Lens 4

Sony E35mm f/1.8 OSS Performance

At f/1.8 sharpness in the centre of the frame is already very good, and the clarity produced towards the edges isn't too far behind, which is excellent performance for a wide aperture lens like this.

Stopping the aperture down improves clarity across the frame with peak clarity being achieved at f/4, where sharpness is outstanding across the frame.

Resolution at 35mm
Resolution at 35mm
 

How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony NEX-6 using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are very well controlled, barely exceeding half a pixel width at any most apertures. CA's just exceed half a pixel width towards the edges of the frame with the lens stopped down beyond f/5.6. This low level of fringing should pose very few issues, even in large prints, or harsh crops from the edges of the frame.

Chromatic aberration at 35mm
Chromatic aberration at 35mm
 

How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc. to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony NEX-6 using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is quite reasonable for a lens with a f/1.8 maximum aperture. At f/1.8 the corners of the frame are 1.26 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination is achieved with the lens stopped down to f/4 or beyond.

A very mild, but barely noticeable amount of pincushion distortion is present in images taken with this lens. Imatest detected 0.981% pincushion distortion, which will be very difficult to spot in normal images. If, however, you require absolutely straight lines, you'll be glad to know that the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which should make applying correction in image editing software afterwards a doddle.

The supplied lens hood does an excellent job of shielding the lens from extraneous light that may cause issues with flare. Even without the hood this lens is very resistant to flare and retains good contrast, even when shooting into the light.

Sony 35mm f/1.8 OSS Sample Photos

At f/1.8, sharpness is already very good in the centre of the frame | 1/60 sec | f/1.8 | 35.0 mm | ISO 125<br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.magezinepublishing.com/equipment/images/equipment/35mm-f18-OSS-4812/highres/Sony35mmOSS_342_1352797627.jpg">High-Res</a>

At f/1.8, sharpness is already very good in the centre of the frame | 1/60 sec | f/1.8 | 35.0 mm | ISO 125
High-Res

This lens is quite resistant to flare and retains good contrast when shooting into the light | 1/125 sec | f/3.5 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100<br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.magezinepublishing.com/equipment/images/equipment/35mm-f18-OSS-4812/highres/Sony35mmOSS_332_1352797588.jpg">High-Res</a>

This lens is quite resistant to flare and retains good contrast when shooting into the light | 1/125 sec | f/3.5 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100
High-Res

A fast maximum aperture allows backgrounds to be blurred effectively | 1/100 sec | f/2.5 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100<br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.magezinepublishing.com/equipment/images/equipment/35mm-f18-OSS-4812/highres/Sony35mmOSS_328_1352797574.jpg">High-Res</a>

A fast maximum aperture allows backgrounds to be blurred effectively | 1/100 sec | f/2.5 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100
High-Res

Sharpness is outstanding across the frame with the lens stopped down | 1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100<br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.magezinepublishing.com/equipment/images/equipment/35mm-f18-OSS-4812/highres/Sony35mmOSS_348_1352797641.jpg">High-Res</a>

Sharpness is outstanding across the frame with the lens stopped down | 1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100
High-Res

1/100 sec | f/6.3 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100<br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.magezinepublishing.com/equipment/images/equipment/35mm-f18-OSS-4812/highres/Sony35mmOSS_333_1352797604.jpg">High-Res</a>

1/100 sec | f/6.3 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100
High-Res

1/125 sec | f/2.8 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100<br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.magezinepublishing.com/equipment/images/equipment/35mm-f18-OSS-4812/highres/Sony35mmOSS_337_1352797615.jpg">High-Res</a>

1/125 sec | f/2.8 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100
High-Res

1/60 sec | f/3.2 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200<br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.magezinepublishing.com/equipment/images/equipment/35mm-f18-OSS-4812/highres/Sony35mmOSS_350_1352797654.jpg">High-Res</a>

1/60 sec | f/3.2 | 35.0 mm | ISO 200
High-Res

1/60 sec | f/1.8 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100<br /><a target="_blank" href="http://www.magezinepublishing.com/equipment/images/equipment/35mm-f18-OSS-4812/highres/Sony35mmOSS_314_1352797563.jpg">High-Res</a>

1/60 sec | f/1.8 | 35.0 mm | ISO 100
High-Res


Value for Money

Although £400 for a standard prime lens with a maximum aperture of f/1.8 may seem a little steep, especially to owners of SLR cameras, who may compare this lens to a 50mm f/1.8 equivalent, it still represents good value so long as the excellent optical performance of this lens is taken into account. The ace up it's sleeve is the addition of optical image stabilisation. Whether this is truly necessary at this focal length is open to debate, but this feature comes into it's own when longer shutter durations are called for.

As an alternative, Sony NEX system camera owners may also consider Sony's A-mount 35mm f/1.8 SAM lens, which costs around £150 and can be used with a NEX camera with the correct adapter. This route may only suit those who already own a variety of A-mount optics to make the extra cost of the adapter, and extra bulk of the system as a result, worthwhile.

If the fast f/1.8 aperture isn't absolutely necessary for your style of shooting, and you're on a budget, Sigma's 30mm f/2.8 EX DN lens may make a suitable alternative. It's much cheaper too, retailing for around £150.

Sony E35mm f/1.8 OSS Verdict

Although it seems this lens carries a bit of a premium price, the performance it delivers probably makes it worth it, for those who require it. Sharpness is very good from maximum aperture, and can even be considered as outstanding as the lens is stopped down.

Other optical anomalies, such as CAs, falloff and distortion are also kept well in check, plus the light weight and compact dimensions of the lens should make this an ideal addition to any serious NEX camera owners kit bag. The addition of optical stabilisation can only enhance the appeal of this lens.

The Sony E35mm f/1.8 OSS lens offers excellent performance with optical stabilisation a welcome feature.

Sony E35mm f/1.8 OSS Pros

Good build quality
Excellent sharpness
Lightweight
Low CA
Low distortion
Effective optical stabilisation

Sony E35mm f/1.8 OSS Cons

Maybe a touch expensive
Lens can struggle to focus accurately at distances shorter than half a metre

FEATURES  
HANDLING  
PERFORMANCE  
VALUE FOR MONEY  
OVERALL  

Sony 35mm f/1.8 OSS Specifications

ManufacturerSony
General
Lens Mounts
  • Sony E Mount
Lens
Focal Length 35mm
Angle of View 44?
Max Aperture f/1.8
Min Aperture f/22
Filter Size 49mm
35mm equivalent 52.5mm
Internal focusing Yes
Focusing
Min Focus 30cm
Stabilised Yes
Construction
Blades 7
Elements 8
Groups 6
Box Contents
Box Contents Front and rear lens cap, ALC-SH112 petal shaped, bayonet type lens hood
Dimensions
Weight 155g
Height 45mm

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