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

reviewer#34779 date: Feb-16-2017
sharpness: 3
color: 3
build: 3
distortion: 3
flare control: 4
overall: 3.2
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:Minolta 35-70/4; Minolta 28-85, Minolta 28-80 D; many other mid-range zooms in other mounts. At the edges and corners, this is the worst one I have used, although it is better and more consistent in the centre than the plastic 28-80 D lens or, I think, the pre-IS version of the Canon 18-55 kit lens. At 55mm it is a bit more consistent across the frame than at the short end and middle, which is irritating as finding a lens that is good around 50mm is not exactly difficult.
price paid:came with A37
positive:Small, light and affordable. Decent central sharpness at most focal lengths and apertures; in fact good sharpness across most of the frame, and generally high contrast. I'm almost certain that flare is much less of a problem than with most Minolta zooms. Quite good close-up performance at 55mm. Cameras from the A37 onwards will remove distortion and fringing from JPEGs. The zoom control on mine is reasonably smooth, certainly more so than that of my Minolta 28-80 D.
negative:Mine gives inconsistent performance at the edges: one side is usually less unsharp than the other, and not necessarily the same side each time. Corner sharpness is poor at most focal lengths, even when stopped down several stops. I think that this is probably the very worst landscape lens I've ever used, which is a pity as landscape is my main potential use for it. Even poor lenses can usually be persuaded to give good sharpness across the frame at F11...not this baby!

Native linear distortion at the wide end looks very high unless your A37/57 or later camera is set to correct it, and even with correction enabled, some remains. Am unsure whether this is linked to the unpredictable edge performance.
Colour is a bit weak compared to a good Minolta lens.

The SAM internal AF motor is a bit noisy and probably won't work as long as a properly designed and specified screw drive system (not the one in the 18-70!).
comment:I really very much want to like this lens as I can't really afford/justify anything bigger, heavier and much more expensive, but I don't use it much, because on almost every occasion when I take this out instead of one of my Minoltas, I regret it due to its being unable to deliver consistent sharpness across the frame and into the corners, even when stopped down as far as F10.

My lens seems to suffer from pretty much exactly the type of resolution problems reported with the older 18-70 lens, and which this design was supposed to improve.

I'm assuming that these left the factory (actually factories) with very significant sample variation, as I know some people rate them quite highly and they aren't yet very old. There is always some sample variation, and this is a cheaply-made lens. Its sensor crop coverage may be make the effects of slight decentering more obvious than with full frame lenses.

Mine came with an A37 and was made in Thailand. For uncritical use, it would be fine as it really is quite consistently sharp away from the edges and, particularly, corners.

I'd be interested to try another example, perhaps of the Mark II, if I thought they'd tightened production up or made it a bit tougher, as I am always keen on small, light, sharp and cheap lenses even knowing their imperfections. Looking at other reviews, there are plenty of other complaints about corner sharpness, unfortunately, which is a shame as I know that APS-C kit lenses don't have to give soft corners.

I look forward to trying one which I can rate more highly for sharpness.

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