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Sony NEX E 20mm f/2.8 Pancake Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews this new pancake lens from Sony, the 20mm f/2.8 NEX lens, the smallest lens available for NEX cameras.

|  Sony E 20mm F2.8 Pancake in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and features
Sony E Mount 20mm F28 (3)

This wide angle pancake lens provides an angle of view equivalent to a 30mm lens used on a 35mm camera and costs around £310. It sports a reasonably fast f/2.8 maximum aperture and internal, silent focusing.

Sony E 20mm f/2.8 Pancake Handling and features

High quality black plastics with a glossy finish have been used for much of the lens barrel construction and the lens mount is metal. As you may expect for such a compact optic, it is very lightweight, tipping the scales at 69g.

Sony E Mount 20mm F28 (2)

Auto focus is pretty fast but occasionally it can struggle to focus accurately, especially at close distances. Applying manual focus adjustments is a pleasure thanks to the narrow, but well damped manual focus ring. Minimum focus is 20cm from the sensor plane, which is perfect for shooting in claustrophobic environments, or for the occasional close up image.

Sony E Mount 20mm F28 (1)

As focusing is performed internally, the 49mm filter ring does not rotate, which makes the lens ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters.


Sony E 20mm f/2.8 Pancake Performance

Sharpness in the centre of the image area just about reaches good levels at maximum aperture, with the clarity towards the edges not being far behind. Peak sharpness across the frame is achieved with the aperture stopped down to f/5.6. Here sharpness reaches excellent levels across the frame.


Sony20mm MTF
Resolution at 20mm

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-5R using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are quite high at maximum aperture towards the edges of the frame. Here fringing just exceeds one pixel width, which is a level of fringing that will become visible around high contrast edges.


Sony20mm CA
Chromatic aberration at 20mm

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-5R using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is really quite pronounced. At f/2.8 the corners are 2.48 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination isn't achieved until the aperture is closed down to f/8.

Distortion is quite strong for a fixed focal length lens. Imatest picked up 2.44% barrel distortion during testing. Luckily the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which should make applying corrections in image editing software reasonably straightforward.

Contrast holds up well when shooting into the light and there are very few instances of flare, even in very harsh lighting conditions.

Sony E 20mm F2.8 Pancake Sample Photos


Value for money

The price tag of £310 may seem a little expensive; especially as Sigma's 19mm f/2.8 costs only £100. Both lenses sport silent internal focusing and a maximum aperture of f/2.8.

The Sigma lens may be a little more bulky, as it isn't a pancake-type lens, but then it is a third of the price, so you could probably put some of the price difference towards a jacket with larger pockets.


Sony E 20mm f/2.8 Pancake Verdict

This lens provides reasonably good performance, but that certainly isn't its main selling point. As it is currently the most compact lens for Sony NEX system cameras, it is perfect for those who want to keep the system as pocket friendly as possible. Some may feel the price is a little on the high side for the added convenience though.


  The Sony 20mm f/2.8 lens is perfect for those who want to keep the system as pocket friendly as possibl

Sony E 20mm f/2.8 Pancake Pros

Decent Build quality
Good performance when stopped down
Close Focus


Sony E 20mm f/2.8 Pancake Cons

May be a touch expensive
Optical performance could be better (although certainly not poor)



Sony E 20mm F2.8 Pancake Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Sony E Mount
Focal Length20mm
Angle of View70
Max Aperturef/2.8
Min Aperturef/16
Filter Size49mm
35mm equivalent30mm
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus20cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens hood, lens cap, lens rear cap.

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