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Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro Lens Review

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro Lens Review - John Riley reviews the new Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro lens for Sony FE cameras.

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Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro in Interchangeable Lenses

Handling and Features
Performance
Verdict
Specification

Sony Fe 50mm F2,8 Macro Front Oblique View

In terms of 35mm-format “full frame” cameras, the 50mm lens offers a natural perspective on the world, a view similar to the human eye. Thus we have the ubiquitous “standard lens” which has been a reliable workhorse as long as the format has existed. Be it portraiture or landscape, the 50mm can be put to good use. Add to that the ability to focus closer than normal and we have the macro lens, extending the usefulness still further. Let's see how the new Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro lens performs and if it lives up to expectation in what has become a very high quality line of optics.

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro Handling and Features

Sony Fe 50mm F2,8 Macro On Sony A7IIr

The lens is compatible with Sony FE format full frame sensor cameras and also the APS-C models, in the latter case, the field of view becoming a “35mm-equivalent” of 75mm. The lens is reviewed here using the Sony Alpha A7R II body.

There is no supplied lens hood, but the front element is quite deeply recessed anyway and it is well protected from unwanted glare. A 55mm filter thread is provided for the attachment of filters, hood or other accessories. Weight is a modest 236g, helped by the extensive use of high quality plastics. A welcome feature is dust and moisture resistance, freeing us to brave the elements in search of images.

Lens construction is 8 elements in 7 groups. There is one aspheric element, plus one using ED (extra low dispersion) glass.

There is a wide manual focusing ring that operates electronically. This is silky smooth to operate, but has such a long travel that it is not really a viable way to work. Behind this there are three controls. The upper one is the usual AF/MF switch. The middle one is a focus lock button that offers another way to focus, lock focus and then recompose to shoot. The other way is of course a half pressure on the shutter release button, which also locks the point of focus. The final, lower control selects the working range of the AF, either the full range, infinity to 0.3m or 0.3 to 0.16m.

AF locks on reliably, but is really quite slow. There can also be some hunting, especially at closer distances. As we focus closer, the lens does extend, although there is no rotation of the front element. This reveals macro distances that are engraved on the barrel, also showing magnification ratios. The lens focuses down to 0.16m (0.53 feet), a maximum magnification of 1.0x or 1:1. This is also referred to as “life size” indicating that an object, say, 10mm long would form an image 10mm long on the sensor.

Sony Fe 50mm F2,8 Macro Markings Upright

The aperture is formed by a diaphragm with 7 blades. Sony suggest this makes a rounded aperture, but in fact the flat edges can be clearly seen. The lens works at the taking aperture rather than stopping down when the shutter release is pressed. This is something that we have seen before and it does raise the question as to whether focusing accuracy is maintained at smaller apertures as the light falling on the sensor is reduced. It does seem to be merely a theoretical concern though as the camera continues to focus well even at f/16.

It is interesting that the apertures stop at f/16, presumably because diffraction will reduce the sharpness beyond that point to an unacceptable degree. It can be good to have the choice though, as there is limited depth of field at macro distances.

There is no doubt that handling is excellent. Focus locks on reliably, the image in the viewfinder or on the monitor is clear and it is a pleasure to enjoy again the simplicity of just having that one standard lens to shoot with. A wide variety of subjects can be attempted.

Sony Fe 50mm F2,8 Macro Rear Oblique View

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro Performance

Sharpness at the centre is simply excellent at all apertures. Fall off at f/16 from diffraction is minimal. The edges do not start off so well, and at f/2.8 are quite soft. Stopping down to f/4 gives very good sharpness and from f/5.6 to f/11 results are again excellent. At f/16 sharpness is still very good.


 

 
Sony 50mm Macro MTF Chart
MTF Chart
 

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.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony Alpha A7R II using Imatest.

 

CA (Chromatic Aberration) is highly corrected at the centre, approaching zero. The edges do show some fringing but it is not too apparent in most images and can always be tackled in software if necessary.

 


 

 
Sony 50mm Macro CA Chart
CA Chart
 

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 Alpha A7R II using Imatest.


The coatings are effective and even without a provided lens hood the front element is recessed enough to avoid any signs of flare.

Macro lenses tend to be very well corrected for distortion and this is no exception. There is just +0.0548% of pincushion distortion, which for most purposes will not be noticed and hardly needs any further correction.

Despite only having 7 diaphragm blades, the bokeh is still very pleasing. It is not as ultra-smooth perhaps as lenses specifically designed with bokeh in mind, but it is very satisfactory.


Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro Sample Photos

Value For Money

The Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro lens is priced at £499.00 and seems to be the only option for full frame E mount cameras in this focal length.

To see how its value matches up, we can look at the Zeiss Milvus 50mm f/2 Makro-Planar for Canon and Nikon DSLRs, priced at £949, or the SMC Pentax-D FA 50mm f/2.8 macro at £319. The Pentax lens is the closest in terms of specification and does cost rather less than the Sony. The f/2 aperture of the Zeiss commands a premium price. This suggests the Sony lens is reasonably priced, especially considering its generally excellent performance.

For more options have a look at the Top 10 Best Sony E Mount lenses, or have a look at the Top 10 Best Macro Lenses

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro Verdict

The 50mm lens is a universally useful optic and the ability to continue to focus right down to life size is very appealing indeed. The Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 macro lens is an excellent performer and a pleasure to use, at a realistic price.

 

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro Pros

  • Excellent sharpness
  • Very low central CA
  • Resistant to flare
  • Life Size magnification
  • Light and compact
  • Low distortion
  • Dust and moisture resistant

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro Cons

  • Some edge CA
  • Fairly slow AF
  • Soft edges wide open

Features4/5
Handling4.5/5
Performance4.5/5
Value4/5
Overall Verdict

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 1:1 Macro Specifications

ManufacturerSony
General
Lens Mounts
  • Sony E Mount
  • Sony FE Mount
Lens
Focal Length50mm
Angle of ViewNo Data
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/16
Filter Size55mm
StabilisedNo
35mm equivalentNo Data
Internal focusingNo Data
Maximum magnification1x
Focusing
Min Focus16cm
Construction
Blades7
ElementsNo Data
GroupsNo Data
Box Contents
Box ContentsNo Data
Dimensions
Weight236g
HeightNo Data

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