This Affordable Lens Doesn’t Suck: Sony 50mm F2.5 G Review

The new Sony 50mm f2.5 G isn’t perfect, but for $600 it’s pretty impressive.

Prime lenses fall into two categories: the compact, affordable yet bright lenses and the pro-level, huge, near-technical-perfection monstrosities. The Sony 50mm f2.5 G falls in the first category. Weighing roughly six ounces, it’s a lens that almost feels like you forgot to mount a lens at all. In the bag, it barely takes up a lens slot.

But, as a G series lens, the tiny 50mm f2.5 delivers superior — and perhaps excessive — sharpness. Can Sony balance image quality and portability in a tiny lens? Or is the narrower f2.5 aperture not worth the sacrifice? I put the Sony FE 50mm f2.5 G to the test with some portraits to determine how Sony’s newest nifty fifty fares.

Too Long, Didn’t Read

A well-built lens, the Sony FE 50mm f2.5 G is easily portable. The lens delivers the excessive sharpness we’ve come to expect from a G series lens, but bokeh is a bit mixed, and aberration can occasionally pop up.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Compact size
  • Fuss-free hood
  • Aluminum build with weather-sealing
  • Sharp photos — though maybe a little too sharp
  • Good color
  • Affordable

Cons

  • “Just” an f2.5 aperture
  • Mixed bokeh with the occasional edge or soap bubble effect
  • Occasional colored fringing
  • The similar 40mm focused a bit better.

Gear Used

I used the Sony FE 50mm f2.5 G on the A7R IV body. I also used a reflector with some of the portraits.

Innovations

Sony’s trio of new G series lenses — the Sony FE 50mm f2.5 G, 40mm f2.5 G, and 24mm f2.8 G — don’t do anything drastically new. The three new lenses bring G series sharpness to a much lower price point in a much smaller package.

Sony FE 50mm f2.5 G Tech Specs

  • Aluminum build
  • Weather-sealed
  • Internal focus with double linear motors
  • Minimum focus distance: .35m (13.77 inches) autofocus, .32m (12.59 inches) manual focus
  • Constructed from nine elements in nine groups
  • Weighs 6.2 ounces

Ergonomics

The 50mm f2.5 G is the same size and approximate weight as the 40mm and 24mm G series lenses announced on March 23. The three lenses also have the same control scheme and are difficult to tell apart short of the lens numbers.

Adding roughly six ounces and about 2.5 inches from the front of the camera, the 50mm f2.5 G is easily travel-friendly. The lens is easy to carry around for long shoots and balances well with the camera body without creating a front-heavy pairing.

Close to the mount on the bottom left, the lens has a simple autofocus mode switch. That’s topped by a button, just below the G symbol, for locking the autofocus. Hiding on the bottom right corner of the lens near the camera’s grip is a switch to turn the aperture de-click on and off.

Continuing the journey towards the front of the lens, the next stop is the aperture ring. Only a small sliver of the aperture ring is raised. This creates a textured ring to grip that’s barely larger than a rubber band. The ring turns with either a satisfying click or smoothly using the de-click switch. The section of the ring that sits flush with the rest of the lens is nicely labeled. The labels feel almost vintage. And it allows photographers to adjust the aperture without looking through the viewfinder.

The focus ring sits at the front of the lens. Because Sony made that aperture ring so narrow, differentiating between the two rings is relatively easy to do. The aperture ring is narrow with rougher ridges and an (optional) click, while the focus ring is wider with a softer texture and smooth turn.

The lens’s front has a lens hood that’s so well integrated, it almost feels built-in. The hood is a plastic lip that’s about a fingertip deep and even squares off a bit on the bottom. It’s a bit of an odd look. But, the hood is so discreet that I left it on at all times. You can’t reverse the hood for storage, but it’s so small it’s simpler to leave it on. Along with helping to fight flare, the unusual hood will probably deflect some objects from scratching the front of the lens.

The lens accepts 49mm filters, a small size that tends to be more affordable than the larger filters. The filters can screw directly into the hood or remove the hood directly onto the lens’s front.

The lens lacks a focal distance scale. The missing feature isn’t as necessary on a 50mm as it is for lenses made for tasks such as shooting astrophotography.

Build Quality

The Sony FE 50mm f2.5 G is crafted with aluminum. That gives the lens a sturdy feel without adding unnecessary weight. The rings also feel nicely crafted, considering it’s a $600 lens.

Weather-sealing also adds to the sturdy feel. While I didn’t get a chance to shoot in the rain with this lens, I gave it a good splash. It kept shooting, unfazed, and the integrated hood helped keep some splashes off the front glass.

Autofocus

Autofocus on the FE 50mm f2.5 G is decent. Shooting portraits, the A7R IV with this 50mm only missed about ten percent of the time, with most of those wide-open shots.

The focus falters just a little when working with a subject at a walking pace. About 13 percent were too soft at a walking speed, with another five to ten percent being not quite as sharp but still usable images.

The hit rate also decreases when towards the end of the 15.77-inch minimum focusing distance. I had difficulty shooting closer than a head-and-shoulders shot. The lens can focus two inches closer than the new Sony 50mm f1.2 GM, but don’t expect to be able to get in real close on eyelashes. In comparison, the sister 40mm f2.5 fared a little better in autofocus tests and can shoot a little closer to the subject.

Ease of Use

The G series is Sony’s more advanced optics, but the 50mm was still relatively straight-forward. Photographers will need to do a little exploring to find the de-click control. The aperture ring also needs to be turned to A to use the lens in auto or shutter priority mode. But, the labeled aperture ring makes it easy to start using right away. Most photographers will be able to mount and start shooting within a few minutes.

Image Quality

For such a small lens, the Sony FE 50mm f2.5 G packs in a lot of sharpness — in fact, maybe a little too much sharpness. While the lens has excellent detail and sharpness, the lens does create the occasional soap bubble and some slight onion ring bokeh and doesn’t quite correct all the aberration.

Bokeh

Close crop of the background to show bokeh

As an f2.5, the lens doesn’t entirely obliterate the background like an f1.8 or f1.2. Still, on a full-frame camera, getting soft backgrounds and bokeh balls is simple. And, the aperture makes it easier to get both eyes sharp in a portrait.

The bokeh isn’t quite as impressive as some of the larger G series lenses, however. Occasionally, the bokeh balls would have a slight onion ring to them. In other shots, I got a bit of a soap bubble look. It’s slight and not overly distracting, but it’s not a lens for the bokeh perfectionists.

Sharpness

Even wide open, the 50mm is quite sharp. It’s maybe even a bit too sharp with the detail from a 61-megapixel sensor on the A7R IV. It’s sharp enough to see the individual pixels on my printed lens test chart. 

The only place the sharpness falls off is in the very corners. Subjects placed towards the edge will still be sharp, but you may have trouble if you cut off the subject with that corner at f2.5.

Lens Character

I was a little disappointed to spot some slight green fringing on backlit tree branches. The aberration, while there, wasn’t terribly distracting — I just had big expectations from a G series lens. 

I could still capture some flare with a low, backlit sun, even using the hood. The flare had a unique pattern — a rainbow circle with a star in the center. That creates some flexibility for adding a little character back into this super sharp lens.

Color Rendering

Colors met expectations. The colors felt accurate and true to life. Sony’s camera bodies leave a little more work in post to get the best skin tones, but that’s true with any lens mounted to this body.

Extra Image Samples

From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. You’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a whole section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.

Edited

Unedited

Conclusions

Likes

  • This lens is light enough to carry around all day.
  • The hood has a unique, integrated design that you don’t need to reverse to put in a bag.
  • With an aluminum, weather-sealed build, the lens doesn’t feel like cheap.
  • Photos are very sharp (but some will say too sharp).
  • The colors are good.
  • This is one of the most affordable lenses in the high-end G series.

Dislikes

  • Some bokeh balls from hard light occasionally have an edge or soap bubble effect.
  • You can get more blur and light gathering capabilities with a wider aperture.
  • Autofocus on the similar 40mm lens did a little better in tests and closer to the subject.

The Sony FE 50mm f2.5 G isn’t Sony’s most impressive 50mm — but it is only $600 and six ounces. For photographers who don’t want to lug around the new 50mm f1.2 G or cough up $2,000, the f2.5 is a good alternative. It’s plenty sharp with great color and won’t weigh down your camera bag. 

The 40mm f2.5 G, announced alongside the 50mm, has a nearly identical set of features. The 40mm, however, focuses a bit closer and is a better option for portraits in tight spaces.

However, you need to spend the extra $1,400 if you want that ideal bokeh and ultra-wide aperture. It’s also not a lens you can get super close with. The image quality is a little more flawed than pricier G series lenses, with some occasional aberration. It’s not overly distracting, however, and flaws were fairly minimal considering the budget-level price.

For photographers wanting the most sharpness for the money, the Sony FE 50mm f2.5 G is a good buy. I’m giving the lens four out of five stars. Want one? The lens is $599, with shipping beginning May 12, 2021.

Hillary Grigonis

Hillary K. Grigonis is a photographer and tech writer based in Michigan. She shoots weddings and portraits at Hillary K Photography. A mother of three, she enjoys hiking, camping, crafting, and reading.