Sony AF DT 30mm F2.8 Macro SAM A-mount lens review by Miranda F

reviewer#38882 date: Jun-14-2017
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 4
distortion: 5
flare control: 4
overall: 4.6
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 35mm f1.8
Sony 50mm f1.8
Sony 18-55mm SAMII
Minolta 50mm f1.7 (both versions)
Minolta 24-50mm f4
Minolta 35-70mm f4
Tamron 90mm f2.8 macro
Various other lenses (I seemed to have reviewed 24 now. Obviously too much spare time!)
price paid:£70 s/h
positive:Nice focal length
small
compact
sharp
excellent MFD
negative:FL A bit short for a macro lens
Aperture compared with 35mm f1.8
comment:A curious lens in some respects as the 1:1 macro specification is achieved with the subject less than an inch (20mm) from the front of the lens, though not the glass, which is well recessed. The attraction is the combination of a nice focal length, just a bit wider than the ‘standard’ 35mm (equivalent of 50mm on FF) and an ability to focus as close as desired in one range with working AF.
Yes, everyone says the focal length is really too short for a macro, though on APS-C it is equivalent to the Min 50mm f2.8 or 3.5 macro which everyone raves about. Go figure!
I like it. The focal length is just a bit wider than the 35mm f1.8 (which is a great lens) and loses a stop and a bit in aperture, but the close-focus capability makes up for that. It's a good general purpose prime lens to have on your APS-C camera and the ability to focus closely on flowers is worth having. It can also do those ultra-wide DOF images too.

It has a 49mm filter thread which is a bit irritaing if you have acquired filters and fittings for the mostly-55mm dt lenses, though the 50mm f1.8 dt is the same, and it has no bayonet or hood unlike the 35mm dt. It has a small flat front element barely recessed at all, so maybe it could do with a hood?
The lens has three separate groups of elements, a fixed rear and two moving groups, unlike the other two dt primes which are classic all-moving designs. It isn't a real challenger for proper macro (for insects the Tamron 90mm f2.8 macro is best with or without a TC for extra reach) but a small light walk-around lens with a useful close-up & macro capability and reasonable low-light performance (though doesn’t AF as well in the dark as the 35mm f1.8). It can achieve near-macro with background still recognisable if desired, as 30mm focal length and f16 gives a 2mm entrance pupil which will make backgrounds less blurred than usual in macro shots.

Reviews on http://kurtmunger.com/sony_dt_30mm_f_2_8id115.html praise it, and the test chart at http://www.photozone.de/sony-alpha-aps-c-lens-tests/561-sony30f28dt?start=1 shows it to be very good wide open (f2.8) with very low CA, and to have superb sharpness over f4-f8 (best in centre at f4 and at edges at f5.6, so is very useable over f2.8-f4 as well as all the way to f16 when needed.
Kurt Munger says bokeh is better at f4 than f2.8 and lens is good at flare & ghosting, though some light fall-off in corners at f2.8. There is also a very complimentary review at .
DXOmark (https://www.dxomark.com/Lenses/Sony/DT-30mm-f2.8-Macro-SAM-mounted-on-Sony-SLT-Alpha-77-II---Measurements__953) shows the corners to be slightly soft at all apertures with the difference being more marked at f4, f5.6 and f8 best at f2.8!), but it isn’t known at what distance they measured this. Suspect it is better close up. Away from corners the lens is sharp at all apertures to f11.

My own tests show no CA at full aperture on high-contrast tree branches into the corners and edges, but quite significant bowing of horizontals near the screen edges (worse than the 35mm dt). These are corrected in-camera for jpegs but not during live view (EVF or LCD). Take a picture on an EVF camera and watch the picture straighten half a second after taking the picture! I have given it a 5 for distortion because it gets in-camera corrections in jpegs which I use. Without that, it would probably get a 4.

The 30mm f2.8 has a long focussing action (1/2 turn) which works nicely in MF, and this is just as well since AF is quite useless in close-ups, being unreliable, slow, and very inaccurate when it does finds focus. Turn off steadyshot*, put it on MF, use the peaking function to focus and check the histograms carefully in all colours, and it will reward you with sharp and pleasing results. Or you can just half-press the shutter in AF and move yourself to get the subject sharp, though you won’t get peaking to help.

* On the A58 at least, the basic 2-axis steady-shot/IBIS works really well on long teles, but at macro distances it makes things much worse rather than better even hand-held, presumably since the dominant motion is translation rather than angular and the software/hardware can't cope with that. Hadn’t noticed it before getting this lens but a more modern 5-axis SS might work better.

On film, I don't notice any vignetting through the OVF at normal focussing distances though a dark corners can appear in the corners of prints, so I guess if you use FF this would be worth a try for square crops. And why don't Sony give the option for square crops in their cameras?

I have used it quite a bit on the Nex-6 via LA-EA1 adaptor, and I love focal length. It works well up close as you'd expect, but the physical diameter and length are really too much for the Nex - on MF the Cosina/Miranda pk-fit primes are much smaller on a dumb adaptor and quite good optically.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 40
  • sharpness: 4.69
  • color: 4.63
  • build: 3.43
  • distortion: 4.48
  • flare control: 4.50
  • overall: 4.34
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