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

reviewer#15271 date: Jun-11-2015
sharpness: 4
color: 4
build: 4
distortion: 4
flare control: 4
overall: 4
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 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Sony DT 16-50 F2.8 SSM
Sony E 16-50 PZ OSS
Sony DT 16-80 Vario-Sonnar
Sony DT 16-105
Sigma 17-50 F2.8 EX DC OS HSM
Tamron SP 17-50 F2.8
Sony E 18-55 F3.5-5.6 OSS
Sony DT 18-55 SAM
Sony DT 18-70
Sony DT 18-135 SAM
Canon EF 22-55 USM
Sony FE 28-70 OSS
price paid:Included with A68
positive:Decent image quality
Smooth direct manual controls
Good semi-macro
Little sample variation
negative:Minor focus shifting from slop in the zoom mechanism
Problems on the wide end:
-Significant barrel distortion
-Soft corners
-Heavy purple fringing
comment:The first copy was included with my new SLT-A58K. I won a second used copy for $8 on eBay. The focal length encoder on this second copy was broken but easily fixed. The third copy was purchased used in like-new condition from a large seller. The fourth copy was included with my factory refurbished ILCA-A68K. "Made in Thailand"

This lens has identical optical performance to the older version, but the focus and zoom mechanisms are smoother. This version more closely resembles the 55-300 and 18-135 lenses, while the older version looks similar to the Easy Choice primes and last Konica-Minolta kits with the shiny chrome accent ring.

I like the size, weight and operation of this lens, but I don't use it very often. I often want more range like the 18-135 SAM provides. Other than the widest end it performs quite well--in some ways better than the $1000 Zeiss Vario-Sonnar. It compares well with the 20/2.8, 24/2.8, and 28/2.8 primes as far as image quality. Besides the SAM motor, the design operates similar to the older Minolta kits lenses. The SAM avoids the weak plastic AF gears which often fail in those older kit lenses.

The controls are quite nice to operate especially compared to the overly loose, cheap feeling focus rings on the Easy Choice primes. They also operate smoother than those on older SAM version. The rubber focus grip does rotate with autofocus. There is a noticeable amount of hysteresis in the zoom mechanism. The lens is quite parfocal except for that bit of play in the zoom mechanism which results in a small focus shift when changing zoom directions. If you move the zoom control in just one direction the focus is well maintained.

Aberrations are well controlled at the long end of the zoom range. Corners are sharp at 55 mm with very little purple fringing.

The 18-55 has substantial image quality improvements over the older 18-70 on the long end. It has a bit less raw distortion than the older 18-70 kit lens, and the distortion is well corrected by the in-camera compensation. It has less distortion at 24 mm and above than the other zoom lenses.

The small ALC-SH108 hood was not included neither was a proper rear cap. This hood is identical to the SH0006 hood of the 18-70 and to the those from the plastic Minolta 28-xx zooms. The filter threads rotate during focusing (but not during zoom operation) so a larger petal hood will not work. The hood is so wide and shallow it is probably useless for anything other than protecting the front element. It does greatly improve the appearance of the lens.

Image quality seems to be well corrected for the long end of its range which is good for macro or portraiture. The older 18-70 is mostly inferior though that lens does not suffer from focus shift at 18 mm when stopping down. The larger 18-135 SAM has more center sharpness. The E mount 18-55 OSS has more consistent center sharpness.

This lens actually covers full-frame over much of its focal range from about 24 mm and has decent image quality.

Overall a very good kit lens that is worth the small premium when it is included with a new body purchase. It does a bit of everything pretty well. The significant change in the II version is the smoothness of the zoom and focus mechanisms along with the obvious cosmetic changes. Recommended.

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