Sony FE 50mm F1.8 E-mount lens review by Miranda F

reviewer#45799 date: Dec-29-2021
sharpness: 4.5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 4
flare control: 4
overall: 4.5
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:Samyang 12mm f2 MF
Samyang 18mm, 24mm, 35mm f2.8 AF primes
Most of the Sony, Minolta A-mount 50mm primes and a few others.
Sony 30mm f2.8 DT macro
Minolta 50mm f2.8 macro
Tamron 90mm f2.5 and f2.8 macros
Cosina 100mm f3.5 macro
Minolta 30-70mm f4 (a very good near-macro)
Sony 28-70mm FE OSS (the kit one)
Sony 18-135mm E OSS
Sony 16mm f2.8 & PZ16-50mm
Sony 16-50PZ
Sony 18-55mm & 55-210mm E lenses.
Meike 35mm f1.7 MF
Newer 32mm f1.6 MF
MF lenses in 28, 35, 50mm
All the A-mount SAM DT lenses
Lots of other A-mount lenses.
price paid:£125 s/h
positive:Convenient size
Modest cost
Sharp, especially in centre
Reasonable macro with extension tube
Low-geared MF is excellent for tripod work but ...
negative:MF is too slow for casual hand-held work.
AF is slow and unreliable
Edges a little soft
comment:This is a classic Double-Gauss lens design as used in countless film-era SLRs to provide a fast aperture 50mm lens despite the long back-focus distance needed to clear the mirror assembly. This feature is not needed on a mirrorless camera but it's nice to see another classic lens design on FE-mount and I'm happy with the compromises necessary on a 6-element lens.
The lens design is fairly symmetric and in film days these lenses worked well with extension tubes for close-up, or reversed. The Sony 50mm f1.8 FE is not bad at all in near-macro, and fine for flowers and things, especially with a 10mm spacer like the Meike ones. With this, the lens is capable of very sharp results in MF, and MF is good to use with a very low-geared linear fake manual control. AF works in macro but is not always reliable and for critical focus you need either MF with focus peaking or DMF with magnification.
Incidentally the very slow AF on this lens is almost certainly due to the all-moving design but this doesn't excuse the poor AF accuracy. Of course the 50 1.8 isn't as good as a dedicated macro and doesn't have the sharp flat-field macro performance but if you need essentially the centre sharp in close-up it makes a very effective substitute for one at f4 and above. Indeed the first Tamron specialist macro lens (the 90mm f2.5 Adaptall) had the same double-gauss arrangement and like this one works well with extension tubes and TCs, unlike many other lens designs that have fixed rear elements.
Overall it is a nice lens to use and balances well, but the AF is slow by E-mount standards and almost unusable on AF-S, so stick the camera in AF-C and leave it there (AF-A reverts to AF-S most of the time) or else use one of the MF modes.
With an extension tube for near-macro it is usually best to use MF with focus=peaking and move your body, so AF performance ceases to be an issue.
The lens is sharp in the centre wide open though as usual you need f5.6 for good corners. I'm not entirely sure why anyone needs sharp corners wide open on a medium-length prime, but if you do, pick one with more elements.
Bokeh is good most of the time, with excellent front bokeh but some iris shapes visible on back bokeh (behind the plane of focus). Not as good as the superb (in this respect) Minolta 50mm f1.7, which has perfect back bokeh but much more CA, but nowhere near as bad as the onion rings visible on many zooms.
Overall the impression is a convenient-sized 50 which is much like its film-era cousins for good and ill, but won't compare well for ultimate sharpness with more recent designs with more elements, if that matters to you. I know some people leave this lens at f1.8 all the time for maximum DOF and provided you want the background blurred this can work well.
Lens compensation (in-camera or on the PC) takes care of most of the usual faults, except axial CA at full aperture which can very occasionally be objectionable.
I find it makes a good companion to a travel zoom, ideal to stick on for those night pictures where the f1.8 helps and (as I said) works okay as a near-macro lens with a simple extension tube.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 12
  • sharpness: 4.46
  • color: 4.58
  • build: 3.50
  • distortion: 4.75
  • flare control: 4.25
  • overall: 4.31 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania