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Review: Sony 10-18mm F4 OSS Wide Angle Lens (Sony NEX)

by Peter Walkowiak on 01/24/2013

Sony 10-18mm F/4 Review

When you have only so many lenses for a camera system, you have got to make the new ones count. In this case I believe Sony has done just that with its new 10-18mm f/4 e-mount lens for the NEX system. Personally, I don’t think I could have asked for a better APS-C companion to my Nikon 16-35mm f/4. If you are looking for that niche super wide lens, this may be the next addition to your kit.

Pros and Cons

Pros:
Solid metal construction
Fast AF acquisition
4-stop image stabilization
Very wide (wider than my Nikon)

Cons:
Small zoom range
There could always be less distortion
Someone would surely like it to be f/2.8, this doesn’t matter to me

Gear Used

Sony NEX-6
Sony 10-18mm f/4

I used this lens exclusively on the Sony NEX-6 while I was reviewing it. The 10-18mm f/4 seldomly left the camera, and when it did, it was only because I wanted to mix up the sample photos for the review.

Tech Specs

Specs courtesty of B&H Photo Video

Performance
Focal Length 10 – 18 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/4
Minimum: f/22
Camera Mount Type Sony (E Mount for NEX)
Format Compatibility DSLR (APS-C Sensor)
Angle of View 109° – 76°
Minimum Focus Distance 9.84″ (24.99 cm)
Magnification 0.1x
Groups/Elements 8/10
Diaphragm Blades 7
Features
Image Stabilization Yes
Autofocus Yes
Tripod Collar No
Physical
Filter Thread Front: 62 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 2.76 x 2.50″ (70 x 63.5 mm)
Weight 7.94 oz (225 g)

Ergonomics

Sony 10-18 F4 Review

The lens has no external switches or dials which means there is no easy way to turn off the stabilization without going into the camera menus but I don’t see a reason to. It is marked by a large focusing ring and a larger zoom ring for the lens’s overall size.

Sony 10-18 F4 Review

The lens ships with a lens hood which easily snaps into place and securely stays put.

Build Quality

Sony 10-18 F4 Review

The lens has a metal body and feels very dense. Due to its construction, it is rather heavy, but it did not feel uneven when paired with the NEX-6. The lens has a fairly wide base compared to the 50mm or kit lens and makes hand holding the camera more comfortable. The tiny grooves on the lens collected a little bit of lint and dirt, but that easy to clean. I’ve read complaints about the grooves before doing so but I did not see this as an issue.

Autofocus

Overall the lens combined the new hybrid AF system in the NEX-6 worked very well most of the time. This lens to me is a landscape lens and in most situations I feel this lens will be used, the AF speed won’t matter too much. The lens did hunt a bit where my Nikon wouldn’t but this is more due to the camera and not lens. The hunting occurred in both dim light and normal lighting but usually random and without reason. These quirks could have been because of my pre-production camera but it only happened during a tenth of the time I used it.

Ease of Use

As most modern lenses come, they combined with great autofocus and are extremely easy to use. For some, this lens may be a bit limited with only the range of 8mms and it is a niche lens for this reason. I found myself wanting a bit more of a reach and I feel that 10-24mm may have made for a more convenient lens, though I’m sure quality would have been compromised.

Sweep Panorama Sample Sweep Panorama Sample

As seen above, not only is a panorama image easy to shoot, but the lens allows you to nearly do 360 degree photos at its widest end.

The 4-stop stabilizer worked very well and combined with a mirrorless camera made it very easy to hand hold in low light. This is the saving grace when you are limited to f/4. Like my Nikon, which also has image stabilization, it works very well in low light when compared to its f/2.8 brother and has the ability to handle a scene just as well.

Image Quality

Sharpness

It nails what matters most and this lens sure is sharp. I only tried it on the 16mp resolution of the NEX-6 but I’m sure if more pixels were tossed in its direction it would say ” thank you ma’am, may I have another!” Lets have a look up close at some of my sample images.

Sony 10-18mm F4 Review

Sony 10-18mm F4 Review

Sony 10-18mm F4 Review Sony 10-18mm F4 Review

Sony 10-18mm F4 Full Image Sony 10-18mm F4 Full Image

The center of the image is definitely the sweet spot but the softer sides do not distract or disappoint. Sharpness increases quickly as the aperture is increases but I expect most users of this lens to be shooting around f/8 or f/10 so it shouldn’t be a problem. In low light situations where I was forced to shoot at f/4 I had no qualms with the resolution that the lens offered at that aperture.

Color Fringing

There was only the slightest occasional color fringing, and when it was there, I could only see it when hunting around at 100%. I would post an image sample but you simply wouldn’t be able to see it without a series of arrows pointing it out at full size.

Distortion

Now this is the worst characteristic of any wide angle lens. Distortion is the curvature that the lens gives an image. This warping can be very easy to miss or obvious depending on what the photographer has decided to place on the far sides of the lens. I have been trained to throw the image a certain way so that it isn’t a distraction from the subject of the photograph. This lens ends up being wider than my Nikon 16-35mm lens and for that reason I reached for it several times over my lens.

Sony 10-18mm F4 Review

Overall, distortion is incredibly well handled and after just scrolling through all of my sample images shot with it, I had trouble finding a bad example of distortion. When a lens starts to become this wide, it gets hard at times to see the difference between that and just a wide field of view. Some objects will naturally wrap around the lens.

Sony 10-18mm F4 Review

Sony 10-18mm F4 Review

As our fearless leader Chris says, these things are just a few clicks away from perfection in our favorite image editing programs. With today’s lens profiles as well as plain old fashion distortion removal tools, these images can be tweaked to provide a more natural field of view. In my opinion, as a wide angle lens shooter, it is controlled very well but there are always tricks to avoid distractions.

Conclusions

At the end of the day as an NEX shooter, you only have a couple wide angle options and even though this is the most expensive of them, it is also the best. It is an AF lens unlike the Samyang lens, and it offers four stops of stabilization. If you need a lens to fill this niche focal length, this is the star that you should be shooting for.

I do wish that it had a bit more of a focal range but if I were to get a NEX camera this lens would be accompanying it most places that I go. With that said I am very happy with its results and I can wholeheartedly recommend it.

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