Review: Sony 18-105mm f4 G OSS (APS-C E Mount)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 18-105mm f4 lens review product images (1 of 7)ISO 2001-125 sec at f - 1.0

Editor’s Note: in a previous version of this article we mistook this lens for being branded with Zeiss. We have corrected this mistake.

Listen up Sony users: this is the one zoom lens that you’ll possibly ever need if you’re an APS-C mirrorless camera user.

No, really—it’s that amazing. Sony’s 18-105mm f4 G OSS is a lens that we didn’t think much of when it came in for review due to its large size. But after using it for a couple of photos, we fell in love. The image quality is really where you’ll become smitten with it. Rendering a field of view equivalent to 28mm to 160mm, it’s a lens that can be your everyday walkaround lens or an excellent option for folks travelling.

But like every zoom, it’s not the strongest at everything.

Pros and Cons

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 18-105mm f4 lens review product images (7 of 7)ISO 2001-125 sec at f - 1.0

Pros

– The only lens that you’ll ever need for Sony’s APS-C mirrorless camera system

– Internal zooming and focusing

– Feels like a big prime

–  OSS does a great job

– Beautiful bokeh on the telephoto end

Cons

– You’ll need to get used to the zooming. It doesn’t feel natural at all and if anything you may want to just work with the power zooming functionality

– A bit too big and weighty for our liking

Gear Used

We tested the Sony 18-105mm f4 with the Sony NEX-6 camera.

Tech Specs

Taken from the Adorama listing of the product

Lens Type Mid-range Zoom
Aperture (max / min) f4.0 – 22
Focal Length (35mm equivalent) APS-C: 18-105mm (35mm equivalent: 28-160)
Filter Diameter 72mm
Minimum Focus Distance 1 ft. 6 in. (.45m) (W), 3 ft. 1-1/2 in. (0.95m) (T)
Distance Encoder Yes
Distance Scale Yes
Mount Material Metal
Magnification 0.11
Dimensions 3.1 x 4.3″ (78 x 110mm)
Weight 1.1 lbs (482g)

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 18-105mm f4 lens review product images (4 of 7)ISO 2001-60 sec at f - 1.0

From the very beginning of when we first heard about the lens, we had a feeling that Sony was trying to create an all-in-one zoom to end all other superzooms. And this lens is very much a great attempt. It starts with its gorgeous yet very Sony and Zeiss-like looks despite it not being a Zeiss lens. The lens is all black and a smooth metal on the outside.

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The lens can be zoomed in and out by using either the traditional zoom ring or this lever on the side. This lever is very reminiscent of what you might see on a point and shoot or on a camcorder. Obviously, W is for wide and T is for telephoto.

You can also manually focus using the front ring.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 18-105mm f4 lens review product images (3 of 7)ISO 2001-125 sec at f - 1.0

This lens has a 72mm filter thread–which is quite large. You may want to use the lens hood instead unless you plan on shooting video.

Build Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 18-105mm f4 lens review product images (6 of 7)ISO 2001-60 sec at f - 1.0

This lens feels like a big portrait lens of some sort and exhibits a total Zeiss feeling that its name lives up to. The exterior is smooth and feels like metal. It has no weather sealing incorporated into it unfortunately.

Ease of Use

The Sony 18-105mm f4 OSS isn’t your traditional lens. While focusing and zooming can be done via their respective rings, zooming is mostly done via power zooming and not by organic movements. You’re better off just using the level on the side to accomplish this.

This comes in big handy for video shooting, but not much else.

Autofocus

We found the focusing of this lens to be snappy and accurate as can be when mated to the NEX 6. To make the experience better, we recommend using specific autofocusing points.

Part of the great autofocusing has to do with the NEX 6’s phase detection near the center. The new A6000 has even more phase detection points, and so the focusing should not only be faster but more accurate.

Image Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 18-105mm f4 lens sample images extras (10 of 10)ISO 4001-250 sec at f - 4.0

When it comes to pixel for pixel, bokeh for bokeh, element for element image quality, the Sony 18-105mm f4 G OSS has to be the single best lens that we’ve seen for the system’s APS-C cameras. Since it’s for the APS-C crowd, we think that consumers going for the higher end APS-C offerings (like the A6000) will spring for this lens. They won’t be disappointed by the sharpness, bokeh, or color rendition that it offers. Despite the fact that it can sometimes feel like it’s too large for comfort, it’s still a lens that gives you the best quality you can probably get from the system.

Sharpness

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 18-105mm f4 lens sample images extras (4 of 10)ISO 4001-400 sec at f - 10

This lens’s sharpness maxes out at around f6.3–and beyond that you may not want to stop down due to diffraction. But for what it’s worth, wide open at f4 the lens renders a field of view of f6.3 on a full frame camera anyway. So to be to honest, we never thought of stopping it down often. The sharpness wide open is excellent despite the lens being a zoom optic of such a large range.

Bokeh

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At the wider end of the lens, don’t expect the bokeh to be too glorious. However, when you get to the telephoto end, you can expect to see some of the creamiest and most beautiful bokeh that you’ll ever see for a mirrorless camera system. Seriously, it’s that beautiful. Portrait photographers will sit there drooling.

Color Rendition

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While the color rendition from this lens is really beautiful, we still think that Sony’s primes are where it’s at when it comes to RGB to RGB. For their zoom lineup, you’re probably not going to beat the 18-105mm f4. But for better colors, look at Sony’s 50mm f1.8 OSS, 24mm f1.8, and their 35mm f1.8 OSS.

However, it renders skin tones quite nicely and portrait shooters may really appreciate this.

Color Fringing

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We didn’t see any color fringing out of the box with the photos that we shot. But once the contrast was cranked up we began to see it. Still, the fringing that we saw is very negligible.

Again though, this is easily removed with post-production.

Extra Image Samples

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Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 18-105mm f4 lens sample images extras (8 of 10)ISO 4001-400 sec at f - 6.3

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Conclusions

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When it comes to zoom lenses for mirrorless camera systems, not much can beat the Sony 18-105mm f4 G OSS. Micro Four Thirds have their own excellent zooms, but so far we haven’t seen any truly breathtaking and spectacular ones for the APS-C systems. Sony has done it in collaboration with Zeiss and has created a lens that while big for a mirrorless system, renders some of the best images that we’ve seen from the Sony APS-C E mount system after the company’s very excellent primes.

If you’re going for one single zoom to rule them all, you should take a strong look at this one.

And considering the decent price point, you’ll have no reason not to spring for it.

Recommended Cameras and Accessories

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 18-105mm f4 lens review product images (2 of 7)ISO 2001-125 sec at f - 1.0

Sony A6000: The current APS-C flagship camera has more autofocus points than you can possibly count before getting bored. Combined with this lens, it’s bound to be excellent as a walk-around companion.

Sony NEX 6: The older camera can still do quite well with this lens in the right lighting.

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