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

reviewer#23466 date: Jan-3-2016
sharpness: 4
color: 5
build: 3
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 used to own this lens
compared to:Sony DT 16-50 F2.8 SSM
Sony E 16-50 F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS
Sony DT 16-80 F3.5-4.5 Vario-Sonnar
Sony DT 16-105 F3.5-5.6
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 F3.5-5.6 SAM II
Sony DT 18-70 F3.5-5.6
Sony DT 18-135 F3.5-5.6 SAM
Canon EF 22-55 F4-5.6 USM
Sony FE 28-70 OSS
price paid:28 USD (used)
positive:Good image quality
Best at the long end
Good semi-macro
negative:Zoom mechanism sticks at the long end
Focus shift from slop in the zoom mechanism
Problems on the wide end (18-22 mm):
-Significant barrel distortion
-Very soft corners
-Heavy purple fringing
-Focus shift when stopping down
comment:My first copy of this lens came with a used Sony SLT-A65. The second copy was purchased used off of eBay. A third copy came with the second A65. "Made in Thailand"

This lens is nearly identical in optical performance to the newer SAM II version. The extending lens barrel wobbles a little more, and the zoom mechanism is much more uneven especially past about 40 mm on the long end. I don't know if that is due to a construction change or just wear related. This version more closely resembles the Easy Choice primes while the II version resembles the 55-300.

I like the size and weight of this lens. It is definitely larger than the Minolta kit lenses, but it also covers a broader range of focal lengths along with starting much wider. It performs quite well from 24-55 mm. It does perform poorly at the widest extreme, but not as badly as the longer 18-xxx lenses. It actually compares well with the 28/2.8, and 50/3.5 primes as far as image quality at the same apertures. Besides the SAM motor, the design operates similar to the older 18-70 and Minolta full-frame kits lenses. The SAM avoids the weak plastic gear teeth which often fail in the older kit lenses.

The zoom and focus controls don't operate as smoothly as the newer SAM II version. There is a considerable amount of hysteresis in the zoom mechanism. The lens seems like it might be almost parfocal except for play in the zoom mechanism which results in a focus shift when changing zoom directions. If you move the zoom control in just one direction the focus seems fairly well maintained. Aberrations are best 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 very little distortion at 24 mm and above.

Image quality seems to be optimized for the long end of its range which is good for macro or portraiture. The more expensive Sony DT 16-105 is a better choice for wide angle shots. 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 but also a much more curved focus plane.

Overall the 18-55 is a very good kit lens. The changes in the II version don't seem to be optical or SAM related though perhaps the zoom and focus mechanism were made smoother.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 103
  • sharpness: 4.20
  • color: 4.30
  • build: 3.40
  • distortion: 3.88
  • flare control: 4.14
  • overall: 3.98 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania