Sony E 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the Sony E 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS standard kit lens for Sony E mount cameras.

|  Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and Features

Sony E 18 55mm OSS Lens (3)
This 3x zoom lens is the one normally bundled as part of a kit with Sony NEX cameras. As a result, it's normally pretty cheap to pick up separately, costing only £140. For that you get a compact lens with optical stabilisation. In this review, we'll take a look at how it performs.

Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Handling and Features

Sony E 18 55mm OSS Lens (4)
Surprisingly for a budget E-Mount lens, the outer barrel is made from aluminium alloy with an inner barrel made from high quality black plastics and a metal lens mount. Even with the lens only weighing 194g, the lens feels robust. The low weight and compact size makes sure the lens will match up perfectly with even the most compact NEX series camera bodies, and it handles very well on the Sony NEX-7 used for testing.

Auto focus is quick and accurate and applying manual focus adjustments is a pleasure, thanks to the smooth action of the focusing ring, which is nicely damped. Minimum focus is 25cm from the sensor plane, which is quite close for a lens of this type.

Sony E 18 55mm OSS Lens (2)

As focusing is performed internally, the 49mm filter ring does not rotate, which makes the lens ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters. A petal-shaped lens hood is supplied as standard, which attaches to the lens via a bayonet fitting.

For those times when slow shutter speeds are necessary, this lens comes equipped with optical image stabilisation. With care, allowing a pause for the stabilisation to catch up, sharp hand-held images can be taken at shutter speeds as slow as 1/10sec, which is roughly three stops slower than the usual rule of thumb for hand-held photography would allow.

Sony E 18 55mm OSS Lens (5)

Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Performance

Sharpness is outstanding in the centre of the frame at maximum aperture and 18mm. Unfortunately the same cannot be said about how this lens performs towards the edges of the frame. Here clarity is fair at maximum aperture, improving to good levels as the lens is stopped down to between f/5.6 and f/11.

Zooming to 35mm results in similar performance in the centre at maximum aperture, but clarity towards the edges of the frame is much improved. Here sharpness in the centre is still excellent and clarity towards the edges of the frame is good at maximum aperture. Stopping down to f/5.6 results in peak performance across the frame. Here sharpness is outstanding in the centre of the frame, and very good towards the edges of the frame.

Finally, at 55mm, performance is similar to that found at 35mm. Sharpness is outstanding in the centre of the frame at maximum aperture and clarity towards the edges is good. Stopping down to f/8 results in the best performance, with excellent sharpness in the centre and very good clarity towards the edges of the frame.


How to read our charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony NEX-7 using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations well controlled, at wider apertures, increasing with stopping down to f/16 and beyond for much of the zoom range. The low levels of fringing encountered should pose few issues, even in images with high contrast towards the edges of the frame.


How to read our charts

Chromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony NEX-7 using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is well controlled. At 18mm the corners of the frame are 0.7 stops darker than the image centre at maximum aperture and at 55mm the corners are 0.81 stops darker. Visually uniform illumination is achieved with the lens stopped down by one stop from maximum aperture throughout the zoom range.

Distortion is well controlled at either end of the zoom range. At 18mm, only 0.195% barrel distortion is present and this is replaced with 0.106% barrel distortion at 55mm. This amount of distortion will be very hard to spot, and will rarely require correction.

The supplied lens hood does an excellent job of shielding the lens from extraneous light that may cause issues with flare. Even without the hood this lens is resistant to flare and produces good contrast when shooting into the light.

Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Sample Photos

Value For Money

This lens can be picked up for around £140, but most people will own one as it has been bundled as part of a kit with a NEX camera. The closest alternative is the Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens, which costs around £260, but offers a wider field of view at the wide angle end of the zoom range.

Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Verdict

Budget lenses, and those bundled as part of a kit aren't normally the ones that people will tend to get excited about. Although the specifications of this lens are pretty standard, it is capable of delivering very high quality images. It's a shame that the quality towards the edges of the frame at 18mm isn't up to the standard of the rest of the zoom range. Even so, it does what most people will want from a lens well.

  Despite being a kit lens, it is capable of delivering very high quality images. 

Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Pros

Excellent sharpness in the centre of the frame throughout the zoom range
Good build quality
Effective optical stabilisation
Low distortion

Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Cons

Sharpness toward the edges of the frame at 18mm


Sony 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Sony E Mount
Focal Length18mm - 55mm
Angle of View29 - 76
Max Aperturef/3.5 - f/5.6
Min Aperturef/22 - f/32
Filter Size49mm
35mm equivalent27mm - 82.5mm
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus25cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data

View Full Product Details


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