Sony FE 2/28 – Review

SEL1635z-6

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.

Sample Images

Sony FE 2/28 - first steps
f/2
besides the street
f/2.2  | vignetting added in postprocessingSony FE 2/28 - first steps

 

f/2

Specifications

Diameter64mm
Length60mm
Filter Thread49mm
Weight200g
Max. Magnification1:6.6
Close Focusing Distance from the sensor29cm
Number of aperture blades9 (circular)
Elements/ Groups9/8
Price: : $448 at amazon.com or B&H photo (affiliate links)

fe28-2 Built Quality

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.

fe28
plastic at the front, metal at the back

 

Size,Weight and Handling

SEL28f20
Minolta MC 2/28 | Minolta MD 2.8/28 | Sony FE 2/28 | Canon nFD 1.4/50

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.

fe28_1
on my Alpha 7

 

Manual Focus

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).

Autofocus

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.

Optical performance

Sharpness

Sony_28mmf2_infinity

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.

Sony Fe 2/28 @f/2
click on the image for the full resolution

the 100% crop shows a very sharp center:f2_100crop

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.

Sony Fe 2/28 | f/8
f/8
f/8 100% center crop: Moire prooves excellent performance
100% center crop: Moire proves excellent performance
100crop_f8_ecke
corner crop shows very good corner performance

 

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

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.

Distortion

The lens shows pretty severe barrel distortion and is clearly meant to be electronically corrected.

Sony FE 2/28 | distortion
raw file straight from LR without any corrections | click for full resolution

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.

Sony FE 2/28 | distortion | corrected | cropped
after distortion correction (+27 in LR). Notice the smaller field of view | click for full 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.

Flare resistance

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.

FE 2/28 | f/8 | flare test
shooting directly into the sun causes only a small drop in contrast

Bokeh

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:

the cementary
great bokeh at a very short distance
the cementary
the bokeh in the center is still very smooth but the corners deteriorate a little
the cementary
At this distance bokeh is good in the very center and okay outside of it

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

FE 2/28 | f/2
f/2 from a tripod shows  very sharp flowers
FE 2/28 | f/2.8
comparing the f/2.8 to the f/2 image the vignetting at f/2 becomes obvious
Sony FE 2/28 | f2 | Nightsky
f/2 | night sky – quite good coma control

Sony FE 2/28 | f/2.8

landscape image at f/2.8 with decent sharpness

Sony FE 2/28 | f/8
f/8
Sony Fe 2/28 @f/8
unprocessed f/8 image with lots of detail across the frame

 

 

Sony FE 2/28 | f/2 | full resolution
f/2 longer distance

 

Sony FE 2/28 | f/8 | full resolution
f/8 landscape

 

More samples in this flickr set: Sony FE 2/28 full resolution samples

Conclusion

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.

objektivschnitt
the lens diagram shows lots of special glass

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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If you plan to buy the lens, please support my work here by buying it through one of my affiliate links, it doesn’t cost you more but it is a great help.

The FE 2/28 at Amazon.com or at B&H photo (affiliate links).

If you live in Germany you can preorder it at Amazon.de (affiliate link).

Paypal donations are also very much appreciated:


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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.

102 thoughts on “Sony FE 2/28 – Review”

  1. Looking forward to read the reviews about this lens.

    In order to justify the investment, it must be at least as sharp as my Minolta MD 35mm f2.8 and with much better flare control and less vignetting WO.

    I do not expect much from the linear UWA adapter in the corners. Those things are a compromise. But even like that, it may be much better than may current UWA (the Minolta MD17mm f4).

    You have a valuable source of information here. Nicely done!

  2. I am really excited to see your review of the FE 28m f/2. My love is hiking and backpacking, and I want one really solid lens for ~f/8 landscape photography. It is between this and the FE 35mm f/2.8. Your review is the final piece of information I need to decide.

  3. Interesting review, thanks.
    However, it’s not possible to compare MTF with Sony-Zeiss 24 because the scale at higher frequency is different (30lp/mm on Sony (and Nikon, by the way) lenses, but 40lp/mm on Sony-Zeiss lenses), so you can only compare the 10lp/mm line.

    1. You are correct to point out the different frequencies plotted but I considered that in my analysis. The 2/24’s 30LP/mm MTF curve will fall between the 20 and 40 LP/mm line plotted in the graph and the Sony’s 40 LP/mm curve will be a bit lower than the 30 LP/mm curve.

      At f/2 the tangential 20 LP/mm line from the Zeiss 24 is close to zero, while the FE’s 30 LP/mm lines are both close to 40. And at f/8 the 40LP/mm line falls like a rock as we approach the corners.

  4. I would love for you to compare this lens to the nikon 28mm 2.8 ais lens as it is regarded as one of the best 28mm lenses ever made but it manual focus only.

  5. Hi Phillip,

    Thank you for your review. If you find the time, could you please compare the FE 28-70@28mm with this little gem? I feel that people wonder if is worth the upgrade…

    Thank you,

    Hendrik

  6. Thanks for your report so far, looking forward for your compairson with the C/Y 28 2.8 . Especially when it comes to landscapeshooting (sharpness across the frame) and flare resistance.

  7. Do you have any idea how this lens performs regarding astrophotography. The big problem is coma for a lot of lenses when used wide open ( here f2.0).
    And also with it’s wide angle converter ( to 21mm). Is it so that the luminosity drops to f2.8 with the converter ?
    Would be nice to have this one for my a7s

    And thanks for this review !!!

        1. took the image and forgot about posting it, I will post it later in the day 😉

          The Batis is very interesting and I am sure that it will have less distortion and a larger sharp area a f/2 but it is also big, hevy and expensive. I would be surprised if it had as nice bokeh.

  8. Thanks for the review!
    I wonder how it compares with the Sigma 30/2.8 EX DN on APS-C cameras like the A6000.
    Are the mid-frame results here reflects the corner results with the smaller format (but with smaller pixels too )?

  9. Hi Philipp,

    do you have the chance to compare the FE28/2 against the SEL24F18 on an APS-C camera?

    Cheers,
    Robert

  10. Just got mine in today and did some tests comparing it to the FE 16-35 lens. I compared them both @ f8 on tripod and manual focus. The 16-35 @28mm is clearly sharper and showing better micro contrast across the whole frame. The FE 28 is very close to the 16-35 in the center of frame. Overall contrast is very nice and on par with the 16-35 and other Zeiss optics I own!!! It’s also sharp in the center wide open @f2. I agree with Phillip that this is a wonderful lens for the price and I plan on keeping it.

          1. thanks for your images. In them the Zeiss shows indeed better microcontrast. But when I look at my own images I see a small advantage for the Sony, not the Zeiss.

          2. Over the years of shooting I have come to expect that every lens has sample variations from one to another. Most of the time it’s small differences from one lens to another, similar to what we are talking about. But sometimes I’ve dealt with bigger variations that have led to ordering as many as 4 of the same lens and cherry picking the best one. In the end I just need to take a deep breath and remember that it’s not the gear that takes good photos!
            Thanks for the review.

      1. Im actually new to sony, made the leap from canon 60D. USing the A6000. I am on the fence on Sony ZA 16-35mm ($950) vs Sony 28 f/2 with a fisheye converter (sum=$750). Mainly for landscape and some close up shots at low light situations. Justifying the weight and price difference. I am not a pro but enjoy the experience.

  11. Thank you Philip for a very good completion of the test. I love the new Sony sharpness flare resistance but vignetting is miserable.
    Comparing 28mm with 16-35mm and gradually the focus is good in both cases, but vignetting on 28mm 🙁 you show the problem of aperture 7 in a different image. Makes almost hurts to see the picture .-)

    1. I never had any issues with vignetting. Most of my sample images have vignetting added for artistic reasons.
      Sure the lens vignettes quite a bit at f/2 but when I use f/2 it’s mostly because I want to focus the viewers attention on the center and vignetting is a means towards that goal.

  12. Excellent review and pictures, as I have come to expect from you Phillip 🙂

    Are you going to review the wide angle converter that turns this into a 21mm 2.8?

  13. Wow, great rolling review of the new 28//2. I keep coming back and finding new additions. When testing sharpness, are you using images with or without lens profile correction? I’m interested to know how the corner and center sharpness of the 28/2 compares to the 35/2.8 AFTER lens profile correction. I am interested because that distortion is really noticeable, and I would probably end up correcting it if I were to use it. Thanks.

    I sure hope you can convince Zeiss to let you borrow the Batis 25/2, as I would be very interested to read a review of that lens from you in the future.

    1. thanks ted. The sharpness test is from uncorrected images.
      I think after correction the 2.8/35 will be a little better in the center and the corners will prbably be similar.

      I will try to get my hands on the Batis lenses

  14. Great review. Could you possibly release a full rez version of the corrected sample of the pic in the “distortion” chapter? it would be great to see the amount of degradation in the corners? Or at least a crop?

      1. Thanks a lot, very useful! I think that the right side (with the grass) is the most significant part of the picture for judging the degradation in sharpness (although it may not be exactly in the focus plan). The amount of degradation seems totally acceptable, to my eyes at least.

  15. The lens has major problems and I know because I have it. When I attach my step-up ring and xume adapter on it, the camera fails to allow me to shoot wider open than f/2.8. This makes the lens useless for any video work or for those who want to use it with nd filters attached unless they are okay with shooting at f/2.8 and above. Anyone know a work around to this? I keep step-up rings on all my lenses and find it ridiculous that I can’t shoot at f/2 with them on.

      1. Yes, the camera does report I’m using a 21mm lens with the step-up ring. I’m not sure what to do – perhaps call Sony. It’s a frustrating problem for my work flow.

          1. Did you manage to solve the problem? I have lots of doubts if I should buy this lens since I would love to shoot some videos with it at some point.

  16. Thanks for the review … I would have liked to see a comparison with/against the obvious vintage contenders, namely the Minolta MD 28mm 1:2.0 and the Canon nFD 28mm 1:2.0.
    Especially in the distortion test these should fare far better. For my personal use I don´t care much about AF on a 28mm lens on a 35mm film/sensor; bout your mileage may vary 🙂

    1. Well I already own too many lenses and I can only test what I have.

      I would expect that the MD 2/28 (49mm filter thread version) will have less smooth bokeh than the MC 2/28 but it will be sharper and smaller. I don’t know much about the Canon but I think it suffers – as many other FD lenses – with not very durable friction bearings, so I wouldn’t buy one.

      I would prefer it as well if the Sony FE 2/28 came without AF and a real focusing ring but there are situations when I am happy to have the AF.

  17. Hey Philip, thanks writing up the review! I’m sure all of us appreciate your time and effort.

    I’m debating between the 2/28 and the 2.8/35. How does the image quality compare between the two when they’re both set at f/2.8? Does the Zeiss wide open suffer compared to the Sony stopped down? Any thoughts would be great. Thanks!

    1. goingy by the little data I have I think that the 2.8/35 is a little sharper than the 2/28 which is most notable in the corners. But they are so close that I probably wouldn’t base my decision on that difference

      1. I really don’t like what I’ve experienced from the 28mm F2, sorry 🙁
        I’m on my second copy, thinking I’d got a dud, but the second one seems the same.

        Specifically: the color, contrast and rendering of this lens compared to any of the Sony/Zeiss lenses is sub-par (and I own all of them and even include the 24-70 as being superior).

        I’ve only tested with the A7s so far but both copies have been a big disappointment.
        The rendering lacks the 3D pop and creaminess of the 35 F2.8 or 55 F1.8 when used with this camera. It looks more like the Sony 35 F1.8 mounted to my A6000, in other words more flat and 2D.

        I’ll try it on the A7 II this weekend, but I am not expecting things to improve.
        I’ll stick with the 35 F2.8 which is still my favorite lens, even compared to the 55 F1.8, which can be a little too sterile for my taste.

        1. The Zeiss lenses might be a tiny little bit more contrasty due to different coatings but I think you overexaggerate it by a lot I think the FE 2/28 has very high contrast and nice colors

  18. Hi, Phillip!
    What can you say about field curvature of FE 28 f/2?
    As far as I can see, field of focus is pretty flat, but want to know your opinion.

  19. Hi Phillip. Quick question for you: a lot of people have said that the sigma 30 mm f2.8 dn works well with the a7 as long as you can accept to crop the remaining vignetting end and remove the plastic baffle. It should translate into a 35mm with 92% coverage 18 million pixel. Supposed to be sharp almost to the edge at f2.8! https://luminous-landscape.com/sony-a7r-wishful-thinking/ere is one source:https://luminous-landscape.com/sony-a7r-wishful-thinking/

    I mean I can find this lens for €80 euros used. For that price I m ok with playing a bit with LR. Any experience with that?

      1. Thanks for your reply! I will give it a try, I could always resell them for not much cheaper. As you pointed out it’s hard to find a good <25mm in legacy lens that is not to pricey and good quality so the 19mm could do the trick

  20. Thanks for another great review (and comparisons) Phillip. I’m tempted to get one too, despite having many other 28mms! Though a similar style 24mm,(that isn’t F/1.4, huge and very expensive), would be more useful, and a 20mm, even more so.

    1. I ahd the chance to buy a FE 4/16-35 for a very decent price and now I am torn between the FE 2/28’s size and speed and the 16-35’s flexibility. I think there are worse problems to have 😉

  21. Hi Phillip,
    Great review. Thank you for confirming what I expected. I just purchased the FE 2/28mm and am very pleased. I love the 28mm point of view. I also have the Ricoh GR for when portability is a priority and it is also wonderful option as well. Speaking of wide angles, now have the 15mm Heliar III (after having the original Heliar) and I must say what a dramatic improvement. It is a really great lens for the A7. Have you tried it?

    1. I habe owned the first version of the Heliar and i used it a lot on the Nex-5n. Now on the a7 15mm are very wide but I would of course like to test it since other photographers liked it a lot. But first I have a rather largd backlog of other lenses 😉

  22. Phillip: Thanks for the review!

    I just received a Sony A7Sii (first Sony I’ve owned, previous Canon 5D owner). I have the 55 1.8 lens. I want one lens for wider-angle street shooting. Something light weight but very effective. (I got the “S” because I shoot in low light a lot: both indoors and outdoors.)

    I’m currently trying to decide between the Sony 28 2 versus the Sony 35 2.8 lens. I want a prime, and light weight, but both of these seem very similar. Focal length aside (I think both focal lengths would be okay for me) which do you think is the superior lens? Since I have an A7Sii low light (and thus 2.8 wide open) won’t really be an issue. I’m just trying to see which one offers the best quality shots. Any advice or insights great welcomed.

      1. Phillip: Thanks for the quick response! I definitely need auto-focus the way I shoot and the conditions under which I sometimes shoot. Based on your response there’s not a whole lot to distinguish the two lenses (except for focal length).

        Are there any noticeable advantages to the 2.8/35 because of lighter weight (120g vs. 200g) and form factor (I think the 35 is shorter/smaller)? My guess is it’s not that big a difference, but I also have never help/seen both in my hands. 🙂

  23. Thanks Phillip for the great reviews and posts you generously share on your blog. I find them very useful!

    Marc

  24. I’m debating getting a Contax Zeiss 28mm 2.8*T Distagon lens – I’m not sure if you can answer this but I’m wondering how this little sony would compare. The Contax will I think be fun to use if thats anything. Contax will be only slightly cheaper.

  25. Hi Phillip, I have the FE standard zoom 28-70 and think i want to buy the FE 28mm f2.
    Do you think the 28mm will outperform the standard lens at F3,5 to f5.6 apertures? So would I get extra speed and better images in the standard zoom lens spectrum?

  26. Hi Philip,
    I bought a copy of FE 28/2 it seems to suffer from flare. Have you experienced any such issues in case of back lit objects.
    Thanks
    Rishi

  27. Bonjour Philip,
    Je pars en voyage en Inde avec un A 7II (photos de paysage, rue, architectures, ambiances). Comme la qualité semble similaire entre le 35 et 28 mm, j’hésite vraiment entre les 2 focales (ou un zoom ?) Y a t-il certaines photos que je ne pourrais pas faire avec le 28 ou 35 ?
    Du coup quelle focale me conseillez-vous d’acheter sans tenir compte du poids, ni du prix.
    Merci
    Pascal

      1. Salut Phillip,
        Merci pour vos renseignements. Du coup, je lorgne également sur le Zeiss Batis 25mm, sur lequel on dit beaucoup de bien. Sera t-il aussi polyvalent que le Sony 28mm, la qualité est-elle supérieure ? Je recherche surtout un beau piqué et de belles couleurs et une image bien contrastée.

        1. At f/2 the Batis and the Sony are pretty close as long as you subject is in the center of the image. As you move away from the center the Batis maintains sharpness and contrast better. Stopped down to f/8 the difference will be minor.

          You need to decide for yourself if the small size and price of the Sony or the better performance of the Batis in some scenarios is more important to you.

      1. That’s my problem. I have both lenses because I also have a film M mount camera, but can’t decide between the two.
        The Sony doesn’t have field curvature, but it has that awful distortion. Probably both are winners, and you give and take with each of them.
        For my next trip I’ll probably go for the Sony because I already have a screw in ND filter for 49mm filter thread.

  28. You compare the size of this Sony lens with other lenses, and in the photo all other lenses have the adaptors on. Please mention it because many people may not see it.

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