Sony FE 28mm f/2 SEL28F20
Lab Test Results
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August 25, 2015
by Andrew Alexander
The Sony FE 28mm ƒ/2 was designed with the A7-series camera body in mind, offering a wide-angle field of view with a fast ƒ/2 aperture. The lens was announced in March of 2015 and hit store shelves soon thereafter.
The lens employs the FE mount, and as such is compatible with NEX bodies with a 1.5x crop factor (offering a 42mm field of view) as well as the full-frame Sony A7 series. The lens ships with the ALC-SH112 lens hood and is available now for approximately $450.
The Sony FE 28mm ƒ/2 offers decent results for sharpness when used wide open, but there's a great deal of improvement to be gained by stopping down. Corners are soft at ƒ/2, especially when mounted on an A7 body, but this is dramatically reduced by stopping down to just ƒ/2.8. The lens is better at ƒ/4 and reaches its peak sharpness at ƒ/5.6 - almost but not quite tack-sharp - where it remains until diffraction limiting starts to become a factor at ƒ/11. Sharpness is still good at ƒ/16, but degrades noticeably at the maximum aperture of ƒ/22.
With in-camera CA adjustments enabled, the lens-camera combination does well to keep CA in check; it's prominent when used at wider apertures, but stopping down reduces it significantly. With the in-camera adjustments disabled, CA is quite prominent, appearing as magenta-cyan fringing in areas of high contrast.
When mounted on the sub-frame NEX series of camera, corner shading isn't that much of a big deal - extreme corners are only 2/3 of a stop darker than the enter of the frame. At any other aperture, it's a 1/4 stop darker.
Mounted on the full-frame A7 however, it's a much different story: when shot at ƒ/2, the extreme corners are 1 2/3 stops darker than the center of the frame. In-camera vignetting correction helps significantly with this. Stopping the camera down also reduces corner shading, with there being 1 stop differential at ƒ/2.8, and 3/4 of a stop at ƒ/4; at any other setting, you will see corners that are 2/3 of a stop darker than the center.
Distortion is quite a prominent factor for this lens, at least, with in-camera distortion correction disabled: we expect some level of barrel distortion from a wide-angle lens, but the lens produces some of the widest distortion results we've seen: +1.875% in the corners, when mounted on the A7. In-camera distortion correction is quite effective at curtailing distortion (just check our before & after sample images) and if you need to do it yourself in Photoshop, it's not complicated distortion.
The Sony 28mm FE ƒ/2 offers very fast autofocus performance. While the literature doesn't indicated that it's using the new Direct Drive SSM focusing system, it's said to use an "advanced linear actuator" that allows for quiet focusing. The lens took well under a second to rack from minimum focus distance to infinity. The quiet focusing performance should work very well for video recording.
The large focusing ring is an electronic focus-by-wire system, and switching into manual focus is controlled via the camera body itself since there is not a manual AF/MF switch on the lens. Also lacking on the 28mm ƒ/2, like most of Sony's other FE lenses, is any form of focus distance scale.
The minimum focus distance for the FE 28mm ƒ/2 is just under 12 inches, which is very close a wide-angle lens such as this. It's not designed for macro photography, producing only a 0.13x / 1:7.7 magnification ratio.
Build Quality and Handling
The 28mm ƒ/2 follows the same design aesthetic as Sony's other new lenses, with a sleek, matte black barrel design with modern, sharp edges. The lens barrel is constructed out of sturdy, solid-feeling metal. There are no external markings or features like a focus distance scale or AF/MF switch - the only thing on the lens other than the focusing ring is the lens' denomination - FE 2/28.
The inch-wide focus ring has many fine grooves, which provide an excellent feel and a secure grip. The focus system is all electronic, so the focus ring itself rotates continuously with no stops on either end. The rotational action is very smooth with just the right about of resistance for controllable and precise focus adjustments. Focus adjustments don't rotate the front element of the lens (and thus any attached 49mm filters), and since the lens employs internal focusing, the size of the lens doesn't change.
The ALC-SH112 lens hood ships with the lens - a petal-shaped, bayonet-mounted hood that adds about an inch to the lens' length when attached. It can be reversed and mounted for storage, and the interior is a matte black to help reduce lens flare.
Two adapters are available for the lens to offer extra wide-angle and fisheye capabilities: the SEL075UWC adapter widens the focal length to 21mm, while the SEL057FEC adapter widens the focal length to 16mm and provides a fisheye perspective. We didn't have either of the adapters for testing, but we can only assume that image quality will be slightly degraded when they are used.
Sony FE 35mm ƒ/2.8 Zeiss ~$800
While not exactly the same focal length, this FE-mount 35mm prime is similarly compact, but not as bright as the 28mm with a maximum aperture of f/2.8. Nevertheless, this Zeiss co-branded lens produces slightly sharper images as well as a bit less CA and distortion. However, it's quite a bit more expensive at around $800.
Sony FE 35mm f/1.4 Zeiss ~$1,600
Far from budget-friendly and pocketable, this pro-grade 35mm lens offersa signifcantly brighter f/1.4 aperture for greater low-light shooting and subject isolation. However, stop down to f/2.8, and it shows similar sharpness performance to the 28mm f/2 (corners are still a bit better on the 35/1.4).
Sony's produced a nice optic in the form of the 28mm FE ƒ/2 - it hits a good price point for what you get, if you don't mind paying a slight premium for it. This wide-angle prime is compact, making it a great option for a small walkaround lens, plus the 28mm focal length is a great option for landscape and travel photography. With the bright f/2.0 aperture, the 28mm prime is also a great choice for low-light shooting.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
We've decided to present our sample images with both in-camera corrections ON and OFF.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Sony FE 28mm f/2 SEL28F20
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Sony FE 28mm f/2 SEL28F20 User Reviews
5 out of 10 points and not recommended by cali4nia (12 reviews)sharp @ center, small, light, cheapheavy vignetting, heavy distortion
This is a small and light lens, at 28/2 it could have been a perfect party lens, but unfortunately it's not.reviewed January 8th, 2017 (purchased for $448)
This lens optically poorly designed and relies on software corrections, which come at a cost.
First thing you notice is a huge barrel distortion. Both in-camera jpeg engine and Adobe LightRoom provide automatic correction, both are identical. Unfortunately, this correction only fixes horizontal and vertical lines, but horribly stretches and softens everything at the edges and corners. That leads to more unpleasant distortions than in uncorrected lens. Uncorrected images actually look better. It makes this lens unsuitable for anything that have people or animals off the center of the frame.
Secondly, the lens produces a lot of vignetting, which is also corrected in software. When you shoot in low light at high ISO, this vignetting correction creates a lot of noise off the center.
Due to those fatal flaws I cannot recommend this lens.
Disclaimer, I've used this lens on FF camera, the results will be different on APS-C.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Supersonyc (4 reviews)Sharp, small, lightweight, fast & quiet AFHeavy distortion when shooting RAW
This is a great little lens for a7 series. It's easy to carry anywhere and small enough that it won't attract attention. It's sharp enough for everyday use, and even for professional use.reviewed April 28th, 2016 (purchased for $455)
The distortion is very heavy, fortunately it's easy to correct.
All in all, great lens if you want to carry only one lens and shooting around the street.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by zoro02 (4 reviews)Small, light weight, sharp, value for money and close focusDistortion when shooting in raw
A perfect lens for landscape and street photography for A7. Lightweight and small yet produced a magnificent images. Like everyone who already reviewed this lens, I agree that it can produce sharp image even at wide open. Colour rendition is also very nice. Bokeh is average but smooth especially when taken at the minimum distance.reviewed April 17th, 2015 (purchased for $580)
I have not done extensive test but this lens is indeed a keeper and most likely will stay on my A7 most of the time.
Construction is similar to the E mount lens especially the E 50mm F1.8. Not the highest quality but very good.
Once concern is the glass element is quite exposed and I can only feel I need a UV filter to protect it.
Zoom is generally very fast. Even in low light underexpose condition, I managed to get tack sharp image with external flash (ring flash diffuser).
For the $$, this is the best value for money lens with high quality image.