Review: Sony FE 1.8/50 (SEL50F18F)

Sony_FE_50mmf1p8-6

The new Sony FE 1.8/50 is the second more affordable lens after the FE 2/28 which I liked a lot. Has Sony created another winner?

Sample Images

Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/11 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/11 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony FE 1.8/50
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony_FE_50mmf1.8-17
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution

Specifications

  • Diameter: 68,6mm
  • Length: 59,5mm
  • Weight: 186g
  • Filter Diameter: 49mm
  • Number of aperture blades: 7
  • Close Focusing Distance: 0.45m
  • Mount: Sony E

$248 at amazon.com or B&H photo,  299€ at amazon.de (affiliate links).

Build Quality

The Sony FE 1.8/50 is an all plastic construction but a solid one.  It is probably as solid as Sony’s other all metal lenses but it doesn’t feel as nice as it’s bigger brother the FE 1.8/55 or the affordable  FE 2/28 which both have a metal exterior.

The focusing ring is rubberized and very grippy with a pleasant amount of resistance and no play.

Size, Weight and Handling

Sony_FE_50mmf1p8

The FE 1.8/50 is very light and quite short while the diameter isn’t small. The focusing ring is about 20mm wide and easy to use. So no complaints here.

Lens Hood

The lens hood feels quite cheap and is made from rather thin plastic. I don’t think that it makes much of a difference since the front element is already quite recessed.

Sony_FE_50mmf1p8-3

Autofocus

AF is the Achilles heel of the FE 1.8/50.

My a7’s USB port is broken so I can’t update it to the current firmware and AF is super slow without that update. I felt myself reminded of my Minolta D7d in 2006.

But even with the update and more recent cameras many users have complained about the slow speed of the FE 1.8/50. Others have reported decent AF performance with the a7rII. So AF performance seems to depend a lot on the camera you are using.

Unlike all other E-mount lenses the FE 1.8/50 is not internally focusing but it extends when focused at closer distances.
It also makes an audible noise when it focuses, this noise is certainly a step back compared to other FE lenses but it isn’t as loud as that it would be a big issue.

Manual Focus

Manual focus was a positive suprise, the FE50 doesn’t use Sony’s frustrating non-linear manual focus implementation which makes focusing much more pleasant than with other FE lenses.

Of course it is still focus by wire so there is a very small but still annoying lag but all in all it is easier to focus manually than Sony’s other FE lenses.

Image Quality

Vignetting

Sony_FE_50mmf1p8_vignetting

Vignetting at f/1.8 is quite pronounced and easily visible in images. Stopping down to f/2.8 reduced it a lot but some vignetting remains even at f/8.

Chromatic Aberations

Lateral CA are automatically corrected when the raw file is loaded into LR so I didn’t bother to check it. usually 50mm lenses have very little lateral CA.

LoCA can be a bit bothersome in some situations.

Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony FE 1.8/50
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution

CA

Distortion

There is only a little distortion but it is the more complex moustache style distortion.

Sony FE 1.8/50
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/8 | Sony a7 | full resolution

Sunstars

The good news is that the FE 1.8/50 can produce quite decent sun stars but only when your light source isn’t too bright.

Sony FE 1.8/50
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/11 | Sony a7 | full resolution

If you shoot into the sun directly you get some nasty flare and not very well defined beams.

Sony FE 1.8/50
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/11 | Sony a7 | full resolution

Flare Resistance

Veiling flare is rarely an issue but ghosting can be annoying, Sony’s FE 1.8/55 doesn’t have these issues.

DSC03139
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/2.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony_FE_50mmf1.8-7
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/11 | Sony a7 | full resolution

Bokeh

The bokeh is lovely at very short distances, good at medium distances and it can become somewhat busy at longer distances.

Sony FE 1.8/50
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony FE 1.8/50
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony FE 1.8/50
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony_FE_50mmf1.8-15
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution

The aperture blades are rounded but even so you can see their shape if you stop down enough.

Sony FE 1.8/50
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/8 | Sony a7

Since vignetting is rather strong at f/1.8 so is the cat’s eye effect.

Sony_FE_50mmf1.8-5
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/8 | Sony a7

So far I haven’t seen any onion rings despite the one aspherical element.

All in all bokeh is a bit better than that of most other 50mm lenses but it doesn’t come close to that of the FE55.

Sharpness

Sony_FE_50mmf1p8_infinty

f/1.8: The center is sharp and the midframe region is sharp enough but shorty afterwards there is a significant drop at around r=14mm. The corners are okayish.

f/2.8: The center is excellent now but the rest of the frame hardly improves. Compared to other 50mm lenses there is quite a lot of field curvature and the sharp area of a flat scene is quite a bit smaller.

f/4: Midframe and corner region improve a bit but are still not great.

f/5.6: A significant improvement, the whole image is sharp now

f/8: Micro contrast ist significantly better than at f/5.6. The whole image is very sharp but not as excellent as I am used to from my other 50mm lenses.

So the FE50 is a sharp lens for most applications but it falls a little short of many older and much cheaper manual lenses.

You can find the full resolution test images in my Sony FE 1.8/50 flickr album.

Sample variation

Sample variation has been a serious issue for Sony FE lenses so far. Lensrentals has some data to back this up. They also measured 10 copies of the FE50 and they showed very little variation! This is a great step forward for Sony and makes buying a FE50 less of a game.

Alternatives

Sony FE 1.8/55 ZA: It is a bit bigger and significantly more expensive but it performs great from f/1.8 across the frame, has smoother bokeh at longer distances and feels quite a bit nicer thanks to an all metal hull. Most importantly it focuses fast and noiseless.
Ebay ~670$ used* | Amazon 898$* | 281g | My review

Sony E 1.8/50 OSS: If you want to use the lens on an APS-C camera like the a6000 (and only then) I would certainly recommend to go for Sony’s own 1.8/50 OSS which has much better bokeh, silent AF, OSS and it is also sharper in the corners for less money.
Ebay ~200$ used* | Amazon 248$* | 281g

Minolta MD 2/50:  With adapter it is only a bit bigger and it very affordable. The fully manual Minolta MD 2/50 has much sharper edges from f/2.8 to f/5.6 and even at f/8 it is still a bit sharper. The FE 1.8/50 has nicer bokeh and higher contrast though.

*=Affiliate Link

Conclusion

good

  • Very high contrast from f/1.8
  • Very light
  • Very good sharpness stopped down
  • Price (compared to other FE lenses)
  • Very low copy copy variation
average

  • Bokeh
  • Soft corners at wider apertures
  • Build Quality
  • Flare Resistance
  • Price (Compared to CaNikons 1.8/50 lenses)
not good

  • Slow, somewhat noisy AF (at least on some cameras)

While it’s optical design is anything but revolutionary the Sony FE 1.8/50 is a capable lens optically. While the corners are soft at wider apertures it is sharp in the center from f/1.8 and the contrast very high. Bokeh is great at shorter distances and decent enough at longer distances. All aberrations are corrected well enough and unlike other FE lenses the FE50 would perform well even without software correction.  Ghosting was the only aspect were the FE 1.8/50’s optics disappointed me. So for most applications the FE 1.8/50 will perform very well but of course there are a few scenarios where the three times as expensive FE 1.8/55 will give you more creative freedom because it has sharp corners from f/1.8, better flare resistance and nicer bokeh.

Build quality and handling are good enough. It doesn’t feels like a premium lens because it isn’t but it doesn’t feel cheap either. Since the FE 1.8/50 is very light it won’t weigh you down during travel.

Well and then there is the AF. It is not as quiet as that of other FE lenses but this alone wouldn’t really be an issue. The FE 1.8/50 is by far the slowest focusing FE lens I have used so far though and it’s focusing speed is so annoyingly slow it cost me quite some nerves and made spontaneous pictures all but impossible. The situation might be better with other cameras but reports on the topic are conflicting.

Compared to Sony’s other FE lenses the price is fair, at least in the US where the FE 1.8/50 costs $249, in Europe it is a bit steep at 299€. Only if you compare the FE50’s price with that of the Canon STM 1.8/50 which performs in the same league but costs only $125 it again becomes obvious that Sony’s FE lenses are still quite expensive.

So all in all I think the FE 1.8/50’s annoying AF turns this otherwise solid lens into a flawed lens and I can only recommend to check if the AF is good enough for your needs. Instead I would recommend to save up for a used FE 1.8/55 or go with a much cheaper manual 50mm lens.

$248 at amazon.com or B&H photo,  299€ at amazon.de (affiliate links)

More Sample Images

Sony FE 1.8/50

Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8| Sony a7 | full resolution

Sony FE 1.8/50
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/5.6 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/5.6 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/5.6 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony_FE_50mmf1.8-9
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/8 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony_FE_50mmf1.8
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony_FE_50mmf1.8-2
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/4 | Sony a7 | full resolution
Sony_FE_50mmf1.8-19
Sony FE 1.8/50 | f/1.8 | Sony a7 | full resolution

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I like to be outside with my camera and I am also a gear head with a love for manual lenses.

33 thoughts on “Review: Sony FE 1.8/50 (SEL50F18F)”

  1. ich hab bis jetzt nur einige testbilder gesehn. mir gefällt diese linse sehr gut.
    Erinnert mich an die Canon fd Normallinsen und hat charakter +anscheinend eine etwas modernere Auflösung.

    übrigens:
    “foliage” ist immer ein gutes testmaterial.

    ich freu mich schon auf Eure detaillierteren Betrachtungen.

    Keep up the good Work 🙂

    lg aus Wien
    michael

  2. nice review, now people can understand more on why FE 55/1.8 has such a pricetag for being a 50ish 1.8.

  3. This is a great topic thank you a lot for taking a look. I guess many might be interesting in this lens as it is much cheaper as the FE 55 and has AF compared to legacy lenses.

    For myself I’m interested in the lens but love my Canon FD 50mm 1.4. Just AF could be interesting in certain situations for spontaneous shots or where the subject is not staying still.

    I have one question to the rolling reviews. I read the blog using RSS and get immediate notification and just see the postings sometimes on Facebook. Do I get updates if Rolling Reviews do change?

    Great work, keep it going!

    1. I will try to run a comparison with the nFD 1.4/50 and other 50’S.

      About the RSS updates: I am not sure, I will update the time of the post after the next update, so keeps your eyes open.

      1. I am looking forward to the comparison, as I am planning on purchasing a 50 soon.

        The new samyang 50 1.4 also looks sort of tempting due to it’s autofocus

      2. It would be really cool to see the contax g 45 f2 thrown in also. It has a great reputation , but I haven’t seen a good comparison between it old slr lenses, and newer lenses like the 50 1.8

  4. Thanks Phillip!
    Could you comment on the plastic construction vs the FE 28 F2?
    Also, my thoughts on the prior comment about updating the rolling review – (You may have done this in the past) perhaps you can put a timeline near the top of the post showing what date sections have been completed, which are in process, and which are still TBD.

    1. The FE 2/28 feels nicer.

      I will try to make it clearer which part is finished and which isn’t but I already have tried to make it clear when something still need a closer look.

  5. A landed in your page just today, so I must say that I’m very impressed with the quality of the reviews, but more than anything, with the quality of your photos, in my opinion, you really stand up above any other camera/lenses reviewer I have seen.
    I’m very interested in this lens, I currently use mostly voightlanders 50 1.1 and 35 1.4, the quality is good, I was very happy with the 35mm until I made the mistake of doing a comparison with a sumicron that a friend lent me. Damn, since then I can’t stop seeing how soft are the corners even stoping it down to f2. At the time I had just purchased the 28 2.0, so I also used it in the comparison, it is sharper than both, and is far lighter. Yes, is wider, and is not great for close up portraits, but that’s OK, it seems to be glued to my camera lately, I use it 90% of the time. Then there comes the 50 1.1, it’s nice, but very heavy. Last year I rented the S/Z 55 1.8 for a friend’s wedding. I didn’t have time to update the firmware, I don’t really know if it was updated actually, but I found the autofocus a bit slow even in moderately well lit situations (with my A7), and with artificial light it was noticeably slower than the pentax K5 with a 50 1.4. To be fair, it is sharpissimo, and probably with the latest firmware faster too. Have you updated your camera and tried the 50 1.8? Is it better? In Europe it costs 300€, and you can get a 55 1.8 for 600, do you think the difference is worth it?

  6. So I have been doing my usual battery of test and I agree with most of your comments about the image performance. The AF though in my opinion is bordering on unacceptable. I am debating trying another lens or simply returning it and upgrading to the 55mm. If the Samyang were out I might be tempted by that.

    I am finding that the lens seems to have the worst AF of any FE lens so far from Sony. It hunts, it’s slow, it fails to lock onto things and seems to always have to cycle through the whole process each and every time you want to take an image. The images though look great!

  7. Side note is that I am reminded of using the few Canon lenses that I tried when I first went over to the light side. There was a reason I sold my whole collection of L glass.

  8. hello,thank you for the review. Just one thing,you say distortion is corrected very well.. but i see a nasty ‘mustache’ distortion in your sample which is worrying for a standard 50mm lens don’t you ?
    Regards
    Nicola

  9. Hi Phillip,

    I tried out the 50mm in a shop today and found out that above f9.0 and in AF-C mode, that lens won’t stop focusing at all (even with the new firmware). Could you confirm this?

    Looking forward to your reply.

    Regards,
    Vincent

  10. Hi and thank you for your thorough reviews.

    Regarding the autofocus issues : On the SonyAlphaForums a user reported that a battery removal + Camera Reset would improve the auto focus. The firmware version seems to be unrelated to this issue. Please see:

    http://www.sonyalphaforum.com/topic/4569-sony-fe-50-18-hands-on-first-impressions/#entry23911

    Unfortunately I do not have first hand knowledge and cannot verify this claim myself as I do not own this lens.

    Hope this helps,

    Ben

  11. It should cost $110. The Nikkor 50mm 1.8 D which I have is built a lot better. It does not focus silently, but it is quieter than the Sony.
    It is more solid. Sony can be unreliable to focus, when it does, it goes back and forth for an instant. I worry that it may be an issue to use it for event photography.
    ‘I also have the Sony 50mm OSS, it is built a lot better.

    I am happy I bought this, but I feel I have been overcharged. It feels like 1998 AF not 2016.

    The 28mm f2 is built quite better,

    I have an old Nikkor AI 50mm f 1.4, that is very sharp, but it has a lot of flare and i can not always focus manually zoom in and recompose. SO i wanted a decent AF 50mm for my A7.

  12. Thank you for the review!!

    I just buy a commlite adapter to put a canon 1,8/50 EF buy on ebay. Do you think it’s a good alternative for quality (sharp…etc). The price for adapter and canon is 125 euros , AF is to low but i keep information of aperture.

    Thanks in advance.

  13. Hey Philip, thanks for your review and I love your manual lens guide ( I picked up the Minolta 50 f1.7 just to try manual focusing) . Just wondering if you would know whether Sony’s update on this lens solves some of the problems you had initially with the lens?

      1. It did: update of firmware on camera enabled to use pdaf autofocus which is way faster than contrast. As he mentionned contrast focus is really slow. I have this lens and it’s now fine! Not super fast but definitebly usable

  14. One thing annoys me about that lens.
    I have the Leica R 50mm 2.0 as a manual lens use. Works brilliantly on the A7. Battery life is excellent with that manual focus lens even for street.
    I really appreciate the autofocus in some cases, but
    using the Sony lens, it eats up the battery of the camera.

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