Review: Sony 55mm f1.8 (Full Frame E Mount)

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The Sony 55mm f1.8 lens is one of the companies first full-frame offerings for the A7 and A7R. One of the advantages it has over its 35mm f2.8 sibling is that it has a faster aperture. The sheer power of the A7 and the A7R left many wondering why the initial lens offerings aren’t faster, but with time, the lens options will grow. The 55mm f1.8 performs very well when paired with the A7, and it delivers some beautiful bokeh thanks in no small part to its nine aperture blades. And it’s weather sealed, too.

Pros and Cons

Pros

-Sharp images

-Creamy bokeh

-Weather-sealed

-Smooth & large focusing ring

Cons

-Lens hood adds a good amount of length to the front

-No depth of field scale

Gear Used

For this review, we used the Sony 55mm f1.8 with the Sony A7.

Tech Specs

Courtesy of B&H Photo Video’s listing:

Focal Length 55 mm
Comparable APS-C Focal Length: 82.5 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/1.8
Minimum: f/22
Camera Mount Type Sony E (Full-Frame)
Format Compatibility 35mm Film / Full-Frame Digital Sensor
Angle of View 42.9°
Minimum Focus Distance 1.64′ (50 cm)
Magnification 0.14x
Groups/Elements 5/7
Diaphragm Blades 9
Autofocus Yes
Filter Thread Front: 49 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 2.54 x 2.78″ (64.4 x 70.5 mm)
Weight Not Specified By Manufacturer

Ergonomics

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The Sony 55mm f1.8 is the closest option to a standard 50mm that is built for the full-frame E-mount. It has a good amount of weight to it that’ll cause the A7 to dip down when strung around your neck. You’ll save a bit of a space with the hood either off or reversed as the hood adds a substantial amount of length to the front.

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The only control you’ll get with this lens is the large focus ring that sits in front of the Zeiss branding. It moves very smoothly, but given its metal construction, it can get very cold in these bitterly frigid winter months. Aside from the aperture, one of the best features about this lens is the fact that it’s weather-sealed. On some of the rainier days this past month, this lens performed admirably.

Build Quality

The Sony 55mm f1.8 is a strong entry to the FE line both in terms design and optical quality. With a weather-sealed body and nine aperture blades, this lens is dense and sits comfortably in the hand. It does well in various weather conditions, but we urge you to stay inside during more extreme bouts of weather.

Through my travels across Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens, the 55mm held up remarkably well; and I can only imagine what the next iteration of this lens will bring.

Ease of Use

Step 1: Mount.

Step 2: Aim.

Step 3: Focus.

Step 4: Photograph.

Step 5 is “Ogle” because this lens produces truly beautiful results. Don’t rely on a depth of field scale to help get your image because there isn’t one. While this lens can autofocus, we found it much more satisfying to switch on focus peaking and use that ring.

Autofocus

Autofocusing with the 55mm f1.8 and the A7 is might quick and reliable. Fortunately, the A7 doesn’t suffer the autofocusing maladies that plague the A7R. As with any camera, it works best in the best lighting, and as the available light wears thin, manual focus comes to the fore. The AF worked wonderfully when shooting from the hip. I got the shot more often than not. When I had the camera raised to my eye, I often went with manual focusing because there’s something weirdly satisfying about seeing focus peaking lines wrap warmly around the subject.

Image Quality

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The 55mm f1.8 and the Sony A7 produce beautiful photographs. Above all else, this lens is sharp. Secondly, it produces accurate colors in all the right places, that is to say everywhere. Thirdly, the bokeh is creamy to the point where you’d want to take out of focus photographs just to see what this lens can create.

Sharpness

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This lens was shot at f2.5 with the light coming in through the window behind me in The Bean, a café just south of Union Square. With soft, natural light, the 55mm creates sharp images, and at the shallower end of things, the bokeh melts like butter. Portrait and studio photographers rejoice, here’s a lens worth owning.

Color Fringing

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There simply isn’t any, and we can’t imagine any situations in which there might be. The 55mm f1.8 colors between the lines, not across them. Look as hard and as long as you like, but we’ll save you the time and tell you there isn’t any.

Color Rendition

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Sony has some of the best color rendition around, and if you manage to get everything right in the camera, you’ll have very little to worry about in post-production. The 55mm skews warm in most cases, but if that’s not your thing, you can always fix it later. Also, the lens encourages chimping because you’ll want to see what you just took.

Bokeh

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In a word, the bokeh is velvety. Wide open, this lens will give you desirable results, and that only gets better as you stop down. For the bokeh connoisseurs out there, this is the lens to get. The 35mm f2.8 will give you nice results, too, but that lens doesn’t have the benefit of the 55’s attributes, namely: focal length and aperture. Your subject will be in focus, and will be framed by seamless bokeh.

Extra Image Samples

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Conclusion

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The Sony 55mm f1.8, like its shorter brother, has earned our Editor’s Choice Award for sheer performance. If this lens is any indication, the future is bright and creamy for the A7, A7R and whatever will come next. When paired with the A7, you’ll enjoy smooth focusing both manually and automatically. With the A7R, you’ll get far greater resolution. Whether you go for the A7 or the A7R, know that you’ll get great results with the 55mm f1.8.

Get yours at Amazon.

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