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Sony SEL50F18 50mm f/1.8 OSS E-mount Prime Lens Review Roundup

2013-04-20 09:50
4/20/2013: Add review by ePhotoZine.
4/15/2012: Add review by PhotoHeadline.

Along with the 24.3 Megpaixels NEX-7 and 16.1 Megapixels NEX-5N mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras announcement, Sony also announces three new E-mount lenses - the new Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA (SEL24F18Z), E 50mm F1.8 OSS (SEL50F18) and Telephoto zoom E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS (SEL55210).

The Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS is the world's fastest interchangeable lens with integrated image stabilisation. Designed as a short telephoto prime for the Sony NEX system the Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS has an angle of view of 32 degrees and a 7-bladed circular aperture diagram for a pleasing rendition of out-of-focus backgrounds. Here's the lens technical specifications:

  • Aperture (Max.) : f/1.8
  • Aperture (Min.) : f/22
  • Filter Diameter : 49mm
  • Lens Groups-Elements : 8 groups, 9 elements
  • Minimum Focus Distance : 15.3" (0.39m)
  • AF for Movie Capture : Yes
  • Angle of View : 32°
  • Aperture Blade : 7 blades (Circular aperture)
  • Dimensions (Max. Diameter x Length) : 2-1/2 x 2- 1/2" (62x62mm)
  • Direct Manual Focus : Yes
  • Exterior Finish : Metal
  • Focal Length (35mm equivalent) : 75mm
  • Internal Motor : Yes (Stepping motor)
  • Lens Weight : 7.25 oz (202g)
  • Low Noise During Movie Capture : Excellent
  • Maximum Magnification : 0.16x (APS-C)
  • Mount Material : Metal
  • Dimensions (Approx.) : 2-1/2 x 2-1/2" (62 x 62mm)
  • Weight (Approx.) : 7.25oz (202g)

The Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS is currently selling at around $299.99, via Amazon.com. Here's the lens review roundup:

ePhotoZine, gave a rating of 4.5 out of 5: "At f/1.8, sharpness in the centre of the frame is already very good, although the clarity towards the edges of the frame falls behind somewhat, only achieving fairly good levels. Stopping down improves sharpness across the frame, although the clarity towards the edges of the frame doesn't achieve good levels until the lens is stopped down to f/4, continuing to f/5.6 results in excellent sharpness towards the edges of the frame with outstanding sharpness in the centre. Chromatic aberrations are more prominent than you may expect from a 50mm lens, especially at fast apertures and towards the edges of the frame. Fringing of 0.94 pixel widths can be seen towards the edges at f/1.8, which will become visible along high contrast edges near the edges of the frame. Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is extremely well controlled for a fast aperture lens. At f/1.8 the corners are 1.08 stops darker than the centre and visually uniform illumination is achieved with the aperture stopped down to f/2.8 or beyond. Moderate levels of pincushion distortion are present, which should pose too many issues during normal picture taking. If absolutely straight lines are of the utmost importance, then the 1.76% pincushion distortion should be relatively easy to correct as the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame. 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 produces good contrast, even when shooting into the light.

Sony have created a belter here with this 50mm lens. It's reasonably priced, produces sharp, contrasty images and has the added luxury of optical stabilisation and a fast maximum aperture. The only fly in the ointment is the high level of CA towards the edges of the frame at fast apertures, still even this flaw is easily overlooked taking into account this lens' positive attributes."... [Source]

PhotoHeadline: "Let me explain what Manual focus override is. When you press the shutter release button "halfway" the camera will autofocus based on the type of autofocus you have set, Center, Flexible Spot, or Multi. If you don't happen to like the spot that if focused on, with Manual Focus Override you can continue to hold the shutter button "halfway" and turn the focusing ring to "refine" the focus to where you want it. When you turn the focusing ring to "refine" the focus the Focus Assist  Mode is activated. This zooms into the center of the frame at 5.9 x. Giving you a closer look, making it easier to focus. In theory the whole process seems a little clunky. In practice, it wasn't that bad. After using it a couple of times to get used to keeping my finger at "half press", I really started to value this function. I find myself using it more and more and it's another one of those "ahh, I really like this idea" moment. There are some minor issues I have. First you have the option to zoom in even closer than 5.9x to 11.7x but you have to press a button on the bottom right of the LCD screen and I found it challenging to "half press" turn the focus ring and use my thumb to press the button to zoom in to 11.7x. All that said, there are many instances where I thought it was invaluable. Getting used to the feature and remembering the turning the focus ring to the right will "refine" the focus closer to you and turning to the left with focus farther really made it faster to use. In the image below of the water drops on the Trellis, the original focus point was on the wood but I knew I was shooting at F1.8 and I wanted to focus on the water drops. I used the Manual Focus Override and it worked out very well. In the image of the leaf the original focus point was farther back on the leaf and I wanted to bring it forward a bit. Thank you Sony for such a great feature.

Shooting only a Close Up test on a lens usually doesn't warrant a decision on whether a lens is worth buying or not, but in this case I feel very comfortable recommending this lens. Here's my thought process. If you happened to be primarily a Close Up shooter, then based on this review you should be running to the store now. If you are portrait shooter then you will love this lens also, I'll have another review on portraits with this lens. But you can make certain logical connections from the test here that would be helpful in  portrait photography. Here are a couple, Manual Focus Override will work well with portraits. Lets say you focus on the face and the focus isn't quite on the eyes you can "Refine" focus to the eyes easily. Bokeh, Portrait shooters love shallow depth of  field and usually pay dearly for it in terms of money. This lens will be good for more causal shooters also. If you take pictures of your kids at soccer, baseball, or at the park this medium telephoto may be a very good fit. Now the best part?? It's under $300.00 dollars. WOW!!! What a great deal!! "and for a limited time you can get two for the price of one!!!"  No, you don't get two but the price is rock solid. It's an amazing value. ***Note*** at the moment it seems like either a lot of people are agreeing with me or Sony has a production problem, but you can't seem to find these lenses anywhere in the USA and closes date for delivery is 4-7 weeks?*** To tell you the truth I've spent more than $300.00 dollars on a lens that did half of what this lens does, even for a toy. Lens baby anyone??? I think Sony has been pretty aggressive on pricing their lenses because they want more people to invest in the good glass (lenses) that they have, so that they will keep "locked in" to the Sony System. To be honest with you if Sony keeps producing high quality lenses such as this one (Sony 50mm F1.8 OSS) and the Carl Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 Wide-Angle Prime Lens, and such great cameras like the Sony NEX-5n and Sony NEX-7, I'd be happy to stick with their system. Keep it up Sony!!"... [Source]

PhotoZone, gave an optical quality rating of 2.5/5: "The Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS is a more than welcome addition to the (rather slim) Sony NEX lens lineup. Technically it is not without flaws. It delivers a very sharp center performance but the corners/borders are soft at large apertures. However, considering the typical applications (e.g. portraits) at such settings this is probably not a show-stopper. The image quality is very impressive if you stop down to f/4-f/8 where the lens is almost capable of exploiting the potential of the 24 megapixel Sony sensor. Lateral CAs are slightly visible but not really an issue. The vignetting could be a little lower at f/1.8 though. A real highlight of the Sony lens is the quality of the bokeh which is among the very best that we've seen in this class so far. Portrait photographers will love this aspect!

Typical for Sony E lenses the build quality is very good thanks to a tightly assembled metal body including a metal focus ring. It is a "true" IF (internal focus) lens so it does not change its physical length during focus operations and the front element doesn't rotate either. The optical image stabilizer of the lens is certainly a sweet feature for low-light photography. At just less than 300EUR/US$ it is not a cheap 50mm lens but considering the whole package, especially the image stabilizer, it's actually a pretty good deal. It will certainly sell like hot cakes!"... [Source]

SteveHuff: "Many shooters stress over the absolute sharpness of a lens. Me, I prefer "character" over sharpness which is why I still love my old Leica glass from the 40's and 50's. When you think about it and look back at old classic photos, not all of them were razor sharp. I also never really care what my photos look like at 100% view on my iMac screen. Why? Well, that is not how people will be viewing my photos! You guys view my review samples no larger than 1800 pixels wide. If I print something these days it is usually not bigger than 8X10. Pixel Peeping has gotten old for me and I just don't do much of it anymore for my personal photos. If a photo is a bit off at 100%, so what! Unless I am shooting for some multi thousand dollar paying project then it's not really that big of a deal. So with that rant I bet you are expecting me to say the 50 is a softer lens right? Well, not really. The lens is somewhat sharp at 1.8 and gets sharper and sharper as you stop down. It never reaches  the razor sharp detail I see with my Leica M9 and always seems to have a slight softness to the files but this is slight. To some, this lens may look razor sharp. I think it is all down to what your expectations are. The lens is also slightly soft on the edges, even at f/2.8 but again, not something most people would even notice.

Basically this lens is a must have for any NEX shooter who wants a medium telephoto with a fast aperture. The lens has great color, has a fast aperture for shallow depth of field or when the lights get low and the lens pumps out great color with rich saturated tones. The lens is sharp but not clinically sharp. On the NEX-7 it is a fantastic performer. It is not perfect though! The lens is a little slow to AF when the lights get dim and the camera will hunt for focus even when using the AF assist light. Overall though, for $299 I can't complain one bit because you are getting a super lens with built in optical steady shot and a nice look and feel as well. The lens is scheduled for release in Jan/Feb 2012 and I expect it will be a huge seller for Sony along with the NEX-7. Sony needed a lens like this and I am happy they finally released this and the Zeiss 24. With these  two lenses, the NEX system is not only maturing, but is becoming a serious contender in the world of mirrrorless cameras."... [Source]

Joseph Eckert Photography: "Using the NEX 5N, autofocus was generally pretty fast and smooth with this lens. It will hunt in low light, but pretty much any lens will.  In manual mode, the big ring turns smoothly, but be warned: you will have to turn it a lot to get from one extreme of focus to the other. This is fantastic for making small adjustments to focus, and not so great if you need to make a big change in a hurry. If you need to quickly make major adjustments in focus, use one of the AF modes. The 50mm focal length works out to 75mm equivalent on the current NEX cameras. 75mm is a strange focal length, and it might not be quite what you are looking for. 50mm on a full frame camera is just about equal to the human eye in terms of angle of view, and this makes them great general purpose workhorses, as well as torso-up portrait lenses. 85mm is considered classic "neck up" portrait focal length. 75mm is in an awkward between zone. It will certainly work as a portrait lens, but it's not really suited to be a general workhorse like a 50mm equivalent lens might be. The minimum focal distance of 15.3 inches isn't spectacular. It gives a max magnification of 0.16x, far from 1:1 but still not terrible. With the resolution of the 5N or the 7N you can still get some nice close ups, but this lens was never intended to be a macro monster. The 30mm macro e-mount lens already exists for that purpose. Really, the main draws of this lens are the f/1.8 max aperture and the OSS.  So, how are those two elements? At f/1.8 the lens is fairly soft, but still usable. It sharpens up as you move up to f/5.6. I would say f/2.5 is very usable even for critical work (that is, something you are or might be paid to shoot). The color reproduction is very good--on par with my better DSLR lenses--and the contrast also appears to be good (significantly better than the 16mm pancake).

This is a solid lens for the NEX system, but thanks to the APS-C crop factor the 75mm effective focal length is a little strange and unwieldy - not 50mm, not 85mm, but in that hazy zone between. The price is pretty good for a lens with this large an aperture, and combined with decent sharpness this can make a good portrait lens. But make sure you know exactly why you are buying this, otherwise it might end up sitting around in your bag. That said, if Sony ever comes out with a full frame NEX camera, this might become the go-to lens that everyone will need to have - a true nifty fifty."... [Source]

ERPhotoReview: "This lens has excellent resolution and sharpness on my NEX 3. It produces nice contrast even wide open at f/1.8, where center sharpness is basically already near peak. The resolution is very good across the frame from f/1.8, even in the corners. My only hesitation with the resolution of the lens is that it seems to be near, but slightly below the nyquist limit of the 14 MP NEX 3, and slightly lower than some other 50mm lenses. I hope this isn't the NEX 3 out resolving the lens, as that would be problematic on the NEX 7 with 24 MP. Without testing this lens on the 7 I can't say for sure, but this is most likely measurement error. If any NEX 7 owners can comment on how the lens performs against their old 50mm primes at f/5.6 it would be appreciated. Distortion is good for the class of lens with about 0.4% pincushion (yes, pincushion), and it might be slightly complex, but is very minor so not very noticeable. Lateral CA is well controlled, but longitudinal CA is fairly noticeable in out of focus regions and is slightly worse than average for this class. The downside with the longitudinal CA is purple fringing is visible at f/1.8. Coma and astigmatism are very minor for this class of lens. Flare is good, minimal flare while pointing towards the sun or with the sun just out of the frame. Contrast is maintained well in contra light. I have only tested at f/4 or so because at f/1.8 ISO 200 and 1/4000 isn't dark enough. Bokeh is fairly smooth, please see samples in the Zenfolio gallery and attached to this post. You will see polygons above f/2.8 or so. The blades are only slightly curved, so Sony marketing is a bit misleading.

Autofocus can be slow in some circumstances, and often fails to lock in low light for still images. If you turn off the focus assist light, there seems to be many fewer instances where it fails to lock or gives the large dashed green box where it isn't sure about the focus. The situation where it will be slowest is where you are focusing near to far or vice versa. The autofocus is completely silent in video mode, and in still mode the camera opens the aperture to focus and then closes it again so you will get a tick-focus(silent)-tick as the aperture opens/closes. The focus in low light for video seems fine (video is lower resolution and not as sensitive to focus). Shake reduction is excellent. I shot my test chart at f/5.6 and 1/100, 1/50, 1/25, 1/13, and 1/6 with 6 shots at each setting. I varied the ISO to keep the aperture (in a previous test I verified that changing ISO keeps the resolution approximately the same as long as I don't apply noise reduction). The camera was held out with my elbows braced in my sides. Basically, all the 1/100, 1/50, 1/25 images were sharp. Resolution dropped a bit at 1/13, but only 1 picture was badly blurred. At 1/6 and ISO 200, the resolution was down to about 1800 LW/PH average (about equivalent to a 5 MP camera), but still only 1 or 2 shots were blurred and unusable."... [Source]

User review by E.J.Tasjad, gave a rating of 5/5: "The lens is about the same size as some of the other NEX lenses like 30mm f/3.5 Macro, and is actually about the same size as an old manual focus 50mm SLR lens adapted to the NEX system. So it isn't compact, but not huge either. I also like that there is a lot of glass in the lens so it feels nicely weighted. Construction is similar to other NEX lenses, with a nice machined aluminum barrel, and this has the better nickel plated brass lens mount (the 16mm has a cheaper feeling aluminum mount, but it is also slightly lighter). The lens comes with a deeply recessed bayonet hood that can be reversed on the lens for storage, and a center pinch lens cap that is a bit finicky to get on and off with the hood since it slips out of my grasp when I try to squeeze the tabs. Auto focus is typical of NEX lenses. Be sure to disable your focus assist light for fastest focus. The light doesn't work well with this lens and actually makes focus less reliable and slower. The auto focus mechanism is completely silent and is also very smooth. The shake reduction is probably good for 3 stops with me. I was able to get almost all shots sharp at 1/25, and 80% at 1/13. By 1/6 I still had 80% of the shots usable, but they weren't as sharp as the 1/13 and up shots. The optical performance of this lens is astounding, the only real drawback is the longitudinal CA (magenta/green fringing in the out of focus areas), which also leads to purple fringing. This effect is most noticeable from f/1.8 to f/2.8 or so. The lens resolves well corner to corner at all apertures, but is just outstanding from f/2.8 on up. To avoid the CA issue for landscapes, shoot at f/4 and up and you will get a very clean image. Lens distortion is very minor for this class of lens, and is slightly pincushion. It might also be slightly complex, a little bit of wave to it, but it is pretty minor.

Overall, I am very impressed by this lens, and there is little reason to shoot older legacy 50mm lenses unless you want to go cheap, just like manual focus, or like the character of a particular older lens. This lens performs significantly better than most of the older lenses. The range finder lenses might still hold some appeal due to the small size, but this lens is comparable to the adapted 50mm SLR lenses, so they don't have any size advantage. Buy one today!"... [Source]

Sample photos from Flickr:



Show full Press Release

SONY'S NEW ULTRA-RESPONSIVE, COMPACT SYSTEM CAMERA BOASTS WORLD'S FASTEST RELEASE TIME LAG AND QUICK, RESPONSIVE AUTOFOCUS

2nd Generation NEX-5N Produces 16.1 megapixels and Full HD 60p video

SAN DIEGO, Aug. 24, 2011 - Sony adds superb responsiveness, image quality, and creative possibilities to its line of E-mount interchangeable lens cameras with the new α NEX-5N model. Housed in a rugged, light magnesium alloy body, with an intuitive touch-screen interface, the camera is just 23.3mm at its slimmest point.

"The NEX-5N camera extends the sleek, minimalist design of the acclaimed NEX-5," said Ernesto Bravo, senior business manager of the alpha group at Sony Electronics. "But it's also a giant step forward from its predecessor in terms of still image and HD video quality, Auto Focus and speed-of-capture performance."

Response is accelerated even further by a release time lag of approximately 20 milliseconds, the fastest of any interchangeable lens digital camera. Combined with an improved autofocus (AF) algorithm and more efficient image processing, this results in an AF that is significantly faster than the current NEX-5 model.

The camera's Exmor™ APS HD CMOS sensor with 16.1 effective megapixel resolution is complemented by a specially-optimized version of the powerful BIONZ® image processing engine, resulting in exceptionally clean, low noise images. Maximum sensitivity is also boosted to ISO 25600, the highest among mirrorless interchangeable lens cameras (as of Aug 2011), allowing for very high-quality handheld shooting in low-light conditions.

The NEX-5N camera shoots smooth AVCHD™ Progressive (Ver2.0) Full HD movies with high-quality stereo sound at 60p - the same resolution and frame rate as Blu-ray Disc™ media, a first for interchangeable lens cameras with an APS-C size sensor. Faster readout from the sensor doubles the maximum frame rate to 60 fps and, when shooting at the 24p setting, movies achieve a beautifully expressive, artistic and cinematic feel. Additionally, continuous auto-focus while recording video has been improved and object Tracking Focus has been added, which allows a target object to be selected and tracked accurately via the touch-screen, even when the subject is moving. 

Photographers can also fully control exposure with Program, Aperture/Shutter Priority and all-Manual modes (P/A/S/M) - just like the most advanced DSLR cameras. Stereo audio quality is improved, with revised circuitry that lowers wind noise levels, especially when shooting quiet scenes.

The NEX-5N is the first E-mount interchangeable lens camera from Sony that features an intuitive new Photo Creativity Touch interface. Background Defocus, Exposure, Picture Effect and other adjustments can be quickly and easily previewed, applied and combined via the LCD touch panel and control dial, with traditional "photo jargon" simplified for beginner shooters.

In Speed Priority Continuous mode, the NEX-5N captures fast-moving action at up to 10 fps (actual speed depends on shooting conditions and memory card performance), the fastest burst speed of any mirrorless interchangeable lens camera (as of Aug 2011).

Recently introduced on the new NEX-C3, Picture Effects simplifies the production of sophisticated artistic effects 'in camera', with no PC or post-processing needed. There are now 11 modes and 15 effects, including new HDR Painting, Soft Focus, Miniature, Rich-Tone Monochrome and Soft High-key. A generous palette of other artistic imaging functions includes 3D Sweep Panorama™ mode, Soft Skin, Auto HDR, Handheld Twilight and Anti Motion Blur Modes.

The camera's 3-inch Xtra Fine LCD™ display can angle up to 80 degrees up or 45 degrees down for easy viewing in any shooting position. TruBlack™ technology assures superb detail and contrast with dramatically reduced on-screen reflections.

Enhanced by the new Photo Creativity Touch interface, the LCD makes composition, shot review and adjustment of camera settings easier and more flexible than ever.

Lenses and Accessories

The growing choice of E-mount lenses compatible with all α E-mount cameras now includes the new Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA (SEL24F18Z), E 50mm F1.8 OSS (SEL50F18) and long-awaited Telephoto zoom E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS (SEL55210).

The world's first mount adaptor with built-in Translucent Mirror Technology™, the optional LA-EA2 Mount Adaptorallows phase-detection AF with the majority of A-mount lenses for both still image and video shooting. The optional Electronic Viewfinder FDA-EV1S, XGA OLED Tru-Finder™ display offers high resolution/contrast and wide viewing angle. With these two unique accessories, user can adapt their NEX-5N cameras to most any shooting situation and environment.

Also new in the range of accessories, the stylish body case (LCS-EB50) and lens jacket (LCS-EL50) help protect the camera and lens from scratches, the shoulder strap (STP-XS3) fits tightly to the body and the soft carrying case (LCS-EMF) holds the E-mount camera body with attached lens as well as an additional lens or other accessories.

Pricing and Availability

The NEX-5N ultra-compact interchangeable lens digital camera will be available this September in black and silver with an 18-55mm kit zoom lens (model SEL1855) for about $700 and as a body-only for about $600.   

The new E-mount Telephoto zoom E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS (SEL55210) will be available this October for about $350.  The new Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA (SEL24F18Z) and the E 50mm F1.8 OSS (SEL50F18) will each be available this December for about $1000 and $300, respectively. 

The new LA-EA2 mount adaptor and FDA-EV1S OLED viewfinder will both be available this November for about $400 and $350, respectively.


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