Sony AF DT 18-55mm F3.5-5.6 SAM II A-mount lens review by Miranda F

reviewer#11643 date: Jan-30-2014
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 4
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 4.8
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP24MP24 MP36MP36 MP42MP42 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Sony 35mm F1.8 DT SAM
Minolta 28-100mm
Sony 55-200mm f4-5.6 DT SAM
Tamron 28-200mm (early one)
Tamron 28mm f2.8 (adaptall)
Lots of 50mm lenses on 35mm film cameras
price paid:(with kit)
positive:Small, lightweight, usefully same 55mm filter thread as other lenses, and doesn't stick out much on the camera; Well built for plastic lens, fast focussing and surprisingly sharp. No major issues with CA, distortion or vignetting. Excellent flare control.
Quick accurate AF gives no problems.
Very sharp at all apertures and focal lengths
Usable on FF above 20-21mm
negative:Slow for low-light conditions - needs high ISO.
Would have preferred wider angle for APS-C use.
Front element turns (an issue for polarising filters) and is far too lightweight to attach anything heavy to it.
comment:I hadn't expected much from a cheap kit zoom but have been very favourably surprised - okay, astonished at just how good it is. I've since taken many hundreds of pictures with it and rarely get anything that isn't pin-sharp. maybe I've got a particularly good example but I can pick any of these pictures at random (at any focal length and aperture), take a 100% crop ('actual size') on Sony Playmemories, and the chances are high that the crop will still look sharp, clear, and punchy (and I'm talking about pictures as taken, not after photoshopping). I can't say that for many other lenses and no zooms I've ever used.

I bought a new 35mm f1.8 for use at dusk, indoors, etc, as it's nearly 3 stops faster at 35mm; I expected this to be sharper too, but it isn't. Tests showed the zoom is just as sharp at 35mm (both at full aperture). For a plastic lens it's also well built, and feels more solid than the 35mm F1.8.
So its one of my main lenses to use, and definitely a keeper; much better than you'd expect from the number available on e-bay and (if you didn't get one with your camera) really a steal at 50 UKP s/h.
I don't often crop images heavily on this lens but if I am caught out for reach it copes well with digital zoom, giving it an effective reach to at least 100mm without obvious loss of IQ.
I take mainly jpegs and the in-camera corrections are very good. CA is rarely obvious even on 100% crops.
Downsides? The aperture is really quite slow over most of the range, though with excellent Sony high ISO performance and particularly with the EVF of the A58 it isn't usually a problem, but for low light conditions with people, I'd choose the 35mm F1.8 which is basically three stops faster.

Summary: Much better than you'd expect, and one of things that makes the entry-level Sony DSLTs so much better than the opposition.

EDIT: I've been trying it on my Dynax 4 film camera and it's really good - it vignettes in the corners at focal lengths below 21mm with the little lens hood on and about 20mm without, but 18mm is probably usable as a panorama if you crop the top and bottom. And anyway, a 21-55mm FF capable lightweight modern zoom lens is worth having!

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 19
  • sharpness: 4.42
  • color: 4.47
  • build: 3.53
  • distortion: 3.95
  • flare control: 4.26
  • overall: 4.13 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania