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First Impressions: Sony 35mm f1.8 OSS (NEX E-Mount)

by Chris Gampat on 02/08/2013

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One of the major complaints about the Sony NEX camera system was that there weren’t enough good lenses. While that has been true for a while, the system now enjoys a very good 24mm f1.8, 50mm f1.8, 30mm f3.5 Macro and the brand spankin’ new 35mm f1.8 OSS. This is the company’s first second prime lens to feature their optical stabilization system, and on the APS-C sized sensor, it renders a 52mm field of view.

We’ve been using it with the NEX 5r for a little while–the successor to the very good 5n. So does it stay up to par with its sisters?

Gear Used

So far, we’ve been using Sony’s 35mm f1.8 OSS with the Sony NEX 5r.

Tech Specs

Specs pulled from the Adorama listing.

Lens Mount Type Sony E-mount
Aperture (Max.) f/1.8
Aperture (Min.) f/22
Focal Length (35mm equivalent) 52.5 mm
Filter Diameter 49mm
Lens Construction 6 Groups / 8 Elements
Minimum Focus Distance 11.88″ (0.3 m)
Angle of View 44° (APS-C)
Aperture Blade 7 blades (Circular aperture)
Image Stabilization Optical SteadyShot
Diameter x Length 2.4 x 1.8″ (62.2 x 45mm)
Weight 5.5 oz (155g)

Ergonomics

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The Sony 35mm f1.8 OSS is not a Zeiss branded lens, but it ought to be–at least in terms of looks. A slippery smooth black exterior covers this lens with very little to it at all. Most of the lens’s small body is dominated by a large manual focus ring.

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The lens has a 49mm filter thread and not a large front element at all. The hood for it is petal shaped and only makes the lens look like a monster about to eat your subject’s face.

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Otherwise, the lens doesn’t have very much else to it. Like Sony’s other NEX primes, it is very simplistic.

Build Quality

The 35mm f1.8 OSS is quite solidly built. If the lens didn’t have OSS motors inside, I wonder how much smaller it could have been made or if they could have made the aperture open to f1.4 instead.

For most people looking for a 50mm field of view, you’ll appreciate this lens’s feel in your hands. However, I personally feel that it should best be paired with one of the NEX cameras that includes a viewfinder.

Autofocus

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (10 of 25)ISO 2001-60 sec at f - 2.0

I’ve so far tested this lens on a friend’s Sony NEX F3 and the 5r. In bright light (outdoors) we found the autofocus to be just as speedy as any other NEX lens (which is still not as instantaneous as Olympus.) As soon as I headed indoors, though, I experienced mixed results. In my bedroom and on my dining table (where many of my product photos are shot), the focus can hunt quite a bit.

All products have the latest firmware.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (18 of 25)ISO 4001-3200 sec at f - 2.8

In conjunction with the NEX 5r, I used the touchscreen to try to nail focus on passers by as they went past the lens’s field of view. And how did the two perform? All photos below were the sequence that happened as I tapped on the moving subject on the Sony NEX 5r’s screen.

To be fair, after talking with Sony’s PR reps, I believe I may have a bit of a faulty unit in terms of screen performance. I’ve seen the screen be much snappier than this when I first played with the camera during the pre-production phase. However, the lens closely nailed some of the photos.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (17 of 25)ISO 4001-2500 sec at f - 2.8 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (19 of 25)ISO 4001-2000 sec at f - 2.8 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (20 of 25)ISO 4001-3200 sec at f - 2.8 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (21 of 25)ISO 4001-2500 sec at f - 2.8 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (22 of 25)ISO 4001-3200 sec at f - 2.8 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (23 of 25)ISO 4001-3200 sec at f - 2.8 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (24 of 25)ISO 4001-3200 sec at f - 2.8 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (25 of 25)ISO 4001-2000 sec at f - 2.8

Ease of Use

As with all NEX lenses, there is very little for the user to fuss about and the design was made very straightforward. Point, shoot, and look at your images in awe–that’s the NEX philosophy.

Want to manually focus? Then enjoy using Sony’s focus peaking system. This is a feature they’ve brought from their video cameras and transferred into the NEX and Alpha SLT line of cameras. It makes manually focusing positively wonderful and photography becomes fun again with modern technology.

Image Samples

These photos are not edited in any way except for resizing for the web. The excellent feature is that this lens’s OSS system lets me shoot at slower shutter speeds and still achieve sharper images due to the stabilization.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (16 of 25)ISO 1001-640 sec at f - 1.8 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (15 of 25)ISO 8001-1250 sec at f - 11 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (14 of 25)ISO 8001-800 sec at f - 2.8 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (13 of 25)ISO 1001-500 sec at f - 1.8 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (12 of 25)ISO 1001-1000 sec at f - 2.2 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (11 of 25)ISO 1001-250 sec at f - 2.2 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (9 of 25)ISO 32001-13 sec at f - 2.0 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (8 of 25)ISO 32001-25 sec at f - 2.0 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (7 of 25)ISO 4001-15 sec at f - 2.0 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (6 of 25)ISO 32001-160 sec at f - 2.0 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (5 of 25)ISO 32001-500 sec at f - 2.0 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (4 of 25)ISO 32001-1000 sec at f - 2.0 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (3 of 25)ISO 32001-500 sec at f - 2.0 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (2 of 25)ISO 32001-80 sec at f - 2.0 Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony NEX 5r first images (1 of 25)ISO 32001-125 sec at f - 2.0

First Impressions

So far, I believe that this lens is quite good but I believe that its best potential might be realized on a higher end NEX camera. The images it renders are very sharp with smooth bokeh. The lens is also very comfortable in my hands though I still personally yearn for the 24mm f1.8 again.

More will come in the full review.

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