Sony E 30mm f/3.5 Macro SEL30M35
Lab Test Results
January 17, 2012
by Andrew Alexander
Sony released the fourth lens in its NEX lineup of E-mount lenses in mid-2011: the 30mm ƒ/3.5 Macro. It's impressively small and light, yet offers full 1:1 macro resolution and a very short close-focusing distance.
The lens was designed to fit the NEX E-mount, and will not mount on other Sony cameras. It offers an equivalent field of view of 45mm (taking into account the 1.5x ''crop factor'' of the APS-C sensor in the NEX series camera). It is available now for around $300, takes 49mm filters, and ships with a small lens hood.
The 30mm ƒ/3.5 Macro offers good results for sharpness, though it doesn't get to tack-sharp results no matter how far you stop it down. Wide open at ƒ/3.5 it has a generously sharp central region, marred only by slightly soft corners; stopping down helps a little bit with these, but even by ƒ/8 the corners aren't as sharp as the center - and central sharpness has decreased slightly at this point as well. The break-even point seems to be ƒ/5.6, where the corners are slightly tamed, and the center isn't overly affected. It's worth noting that the differences are very slight, so you probably won't notice in every day shooting, but if you're the type to peep closely at your pixels, you might notice it.
Stopping down past ƒ/8 leads to some generalized softness due to diffraction limiting, which isn't really notable until ƒ/16 and ƒ/22, where images are still somewhat sharp, just not as sharp as wider apertures.
The 30mm macro shows a little bit more chromatic aberration in images produced with it than we would like - normally CA is present more to the extreme corners, and is less prominent as you move closer to the center of the image. In our sample images however you'll note that areas of high contrast (such as the number targets) show tell-tale signs of red-blue fringing, well towards the center of the image. There is no aperture which performs better than another, so it's just something you'll have to live with, or deal with in post, should it be objectionable to you.
There isn't much to write home about when it comes to corner shading - there's just a hint of it at ƒ/3.5, but the corners are just barely more than a quarter-stop darker than the center, so I think you'll be hard-pressed to notice it.
The Sony 30mm ƒ/3.5 macro does an excellent job taming distortion, despite being a fairly wide-angle lens: average distortion is zero, and the corners show just a trace amount of barrel distortion (+0.1%).
The lens takes under a second to focus from close to infinity, and does so silently. Full-time manual focusing is possible, with a helpful 7x and 14x magnification be available to assist. Attached 49mm filters will not rotate during focus operations.
The hallmark of the lens, the 30mm ƒ/3.5 offers full 1:1 (100%) macro reproduction when used at its close-focusing distance of 9.5cm (around 3 3/4''). Taking into account the size of the lens and the distance of the sensor from the mount, this means that the close-focusing distance is around an inch from the front element of the lens. In addition to the slight impact of distortion at this distance, a chief concern will be getting enough light to hit your subject.
|Sony NEX-7, 30mm Macro, ƒ/3.5|
|Sony NEX-7, 30mm Macro, ƒ/5.0|
Build Quality and Handling
The Sony 30mm ƒ/3.5 macro is small and light, around 5 ounces, simple in its design. It is encased in a silvery-metal shell, uses a metal lens mount to attach to the camera body, and offers plastic threads for attaching 49mm filters.
There are no control features on the lens other than the focusing ring: all applicable functions are controlled in the camera body. The ring itself is around 1/2'' wide, composed of fine metal ribs, and will turn forever in either direction.
The lens ships with a small lens hood (model ALC-SH113) which essentially adds an extra quarter-inch to the shroud covering the front element: Sony obviously isn't overly concerned that flare will be a problem for this lens. Filters can be attached directly to the hood.
Given the relatively new state of Sony's E-mount, it's unsurprising that there are few options in this category.
Sony 30mm ƒ/2.8 DT MACRO SAM ~$200
With the aid of the LA-EA1 mount adapter, one can use regular Sony alpha lenses on NEX bodies, and thus one could use this lens on the NEX body. We haven't yet tested this lens, but it also offers 1:1 macro reproduction, albeit with a slightly longer working distance of just over 5 inches.
For a very portable macro experience, the Sony 30mm ƒ/3.5 is one of the few options in the NEX lineup, offering about as much bang as you would expect for its price tag. With good results for sharpness, corner shading and distortion, the only hesitation might be higher-than-desired results for chromatic aberration, but even that is treatable with post-processing.
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.
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 E 30mm f/3.5 Macro SEL30M35
Sony E 30mm f/3.5 Macro SEL30M35 User Reviews
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Perry Rhodan (40 reviews)Good IQ, light, quick, very compact, price is greatFL range not ideal for wildlife (sony make a 60 in black please).
For this money, it's a steal. The FL is not very usefull for bugs. But that is no con for what it is. Sony make us happy with a 60 macro please.reviewed July 4th, 2013 (purchased for $200)