The Sony FE 2/28 is the first affordable Sony FE prime and in this review I share my experience after using my own copy for about a month on my Sony Alpha 7.
|Close Focusing Distance from the sensor||29cm|
|Number of aperture blades||9 (circular)|
The lens has a metal bajonet and the focusing ring and the lower part of the lens hull are made from aluminium.The upper part of the lens (a bit more shiny in the picture) and the filter thread are made from plastics.
In my experience the Sony E 1.8/50 OSS, which is of very similar built quality, gathered scratches quite fast because the aluminium is rather soft and I would have preferred less shiny but more durable high quality plastics in stead.
The focusing ring feels very smooth but it offers enough resistance and it has zero play.
The lens hood is a bit flimsy, rather thin and cheap plastic, it is the same as the one for the old E 3.55.6/18-55 Kit lens. Sony’s ZA lenses have much nicer hoods.
All in all I think the built quality is decent for a modern lens.
Size,Weight and Handling
The lens is very small for a fast 28mm lens, above you see it besides a much bigger and heavier Minolta MC 2/28 and a still bigger Minolta 2.8/28. At 200g the lens is also the lightest 2/28mm lens I know of.
I think handling is quite good overall, the focusing ring is very wide and feels nice, the lens hood is just the right size: it protects the front lens effectively without adding too much bulk.
As mentioned before the focusing ring feels nice nice, what I don’t like too much is the focus by wire implementation.
The problem here is that it matters how fast you turn the focusing ring, so if I turn it by 20 degrees very fast the focus changes from 29cm to infinity. If I turn it slowly it takes more than 360 degrees (one full turn) to change focus from the close focusing distance to infinity. It also feels like there is a small lag between the moment when you turn the focusing ring and when the lens reacts.
I am used to manual lenses where the focusing ring is coupled directly to the focusing helicoid and I am faster and a little more precise with them. So manual focus works okay but it isn’t very enjoyable (says a hardcore manual lens user).
AF worked well and precise, I think it is one of the faster FE lenses. It is quite responsive when there is enough light but it slows down noticeably on my a7 in lower light.
f/2: Contrast is very high from f/2 and sharpness in the center as well.
The midframe area is less sharp but still acceptable. The corners are more or less soft.
I think the lens performs a little worse at it’s shortest focusing distance, than at infinity.
f/2.8: The center improves marginally to excellent levels, the midframe area improves a bit to good levels and the corners improve as well.
f/4: The corners are okay now
f/5.6: The corners improve quite a bit to good to very good levels.
f/8: The corners improve a little bit and the lens shows excellent to very good across the frame sharpness.
f/11: A little softer because of diffraction.
I think this is a very good overall performance, f/2 is fully usable and stopped down it is also a capable landscape lens with very good across the frame sharpness.
Vignetting is a bit hard to judge because LR automatically corrects for it to some degree. I would have to use another raw converter to look deeper into it but so far I don’t see this as an issue so I didn’t invest the time.
In the LR corrected files I see noticeable vignetting at f/2 which goes more or less away at f/2.8. Please don’t use my sample images to judge vignetting from them, I have added vignetting to most of them.
The lens shows pretty severe barrel distortion and is clearly meant to be electronically corrected.
It is not so bad that I have noticed it in my landscape images, but if you shoot raw you will have to correct it for any image with a straight line in it and this will cost some resolution.
| click for full resolution
The lens is not a true 28mm lens, more like a 26mm lens so after distortion correction you have the field of view of a 28mm lens.
The lens is very flare resistant, you have to try really hard to produce flare. Contrast isn’t really affected when a bright light source is in the image.
I think the bokeh is exceptional for a fast wide angle lens.
It is very smooth at short distances and gets a little worse at longer distances, here are three images to illustrate that:
Bokeh fringing is very noticeable at f/2, not a strength of this lens. Under some circumstances one can also see some onion ring like structures in highlights.
Wideangle and Fisheye Conbverter
There are two converters for the SEL28f20, the $248 SEL075UWC (affiliate link) turns it into a 2.8/21 super wide-angle lens and the $299 SEL057FEC (affiliate link) turns it into a 3.5/16 fisheye-lens.
I have not used either converter myself, but because I was asked, here is my take on them:
All the sample images I have seen from the 0.75 converter showed pretty soft corners so I am not really inclined to spend 250€ on it to examine it a bit more carefully.
The fisheye-converter weights more than 400g so together with the 2/28 it would be bigger and heavier than the Sony 4/16-35 ZA OSS and that is already a big lens. If I felt I needed a wideangle lens I would get a manual Minolta 2.8/16, it is a very good and solid lens and it will probably cost less than the converter alone.
Compared to other lenses
The FE 3.5-5.6/28-70 and FE 4/24-70 ZA will perform similar in the center but the FE 2/28 has much better corners.
The FE 2.8/35 ZA is even smaller an lighter but it is also slower, more expensive and I think the FE 2/28 has sharper corners at f/8. The Zeiss has sharper corners at f/2.8 though and it has less distortion. I think the FE 2/28 makes more sense in addition to the FE 1.8/55 ZA , the FE 2.8/35 is a more universal one lens solution.
The newly announced Zeiss Batis 2/25 (affiliate link) is noticeably heavier, a lot bigger and a lot more expensive. Going by the MTF graphs I would expect it to be a little less sharp in the center at f/2 but with noticeably better corners. I think both lenses will perform very similar stopped down, the Batis does have much less distortion though. Bokeh is the big unknown, but extrapolating from the Zeiss Touit line I wouldn’t be surprised if the FE 2/28 outperformed the Zeiss in this aspect, built quality will be better on the Zeiss.
The FE 4/16-35 ZA is a very versatile landscape lens. It has some inward field curvature which is good for some an bad for other subjects. At f/8 both lenses are pretty close. The ZA wins for closer corner detail and the FE for infinity corners detail.
For a comparison with some manual lenses like the Zeiss Distagon 2.8/28 and Minolta MC 2/28 check out my comparison. The Sony outperforms the other lenses in most aspects and is smaller than all of them!
Sample Images in Full Resolution
These images are processed from raw in LR
landscape image at f/2.8 with decent sharpness
More samples in this flickr set: Sony FE 2/28 full resolution samples
I found it to be a very useful lens, at 28mm it is a moderate wideangle lens which does not distort perspective too much, it works very well in a small 28mm/50mm/90mm kit. Because it is a f/2 lens you can still isolate your subject quite a bit.
Optically it is a very good performer. The center is very sharp from f/2 with nice contrast and unusually smooth bokeh.
The bokeh deteriorates a bit at longer distances and LoCA (bokeh fringing) is quite visible but all in all it is a remarkable performance for a 28mm lens,
From f/5.6 the corner performance is very good and at f/8 it is the sharpest 28mm lens which I have used so far and it is also very flare resistant. The only issue I found here is a lot of distortion, you probably won’t notice it if you are a landscape shooter but for architecture you have to correct it.
What I find very remarkable about the lens is it’s size. It is much harder to design a small lens with such a good performance, the lens diagram tells us that Sony used a lot of special glass to achieve it. And of course they also allowed for a high amount of distortion but I think this was a good decision, because any other parameter like lower sharpness or bigger size would have been harder to digest.
The lens is also priced quite competitively, $449 is a very fair price in my opinion and I hope that Sony will produce more lenses in the same price range, how about a small and affordable 2.4/85?
So, all in all I find many things I really like a lot and only a few things I don’t. I think the lens will perform well for almost any kind of photography.
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