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Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the wide-angle zoom Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS lens for Sony NEX cameras.

| Sony SEL 10-18mm OSS in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and features
Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS Lens Review: Sony E 10 18 F4 Oss Wide (3)

An ultra wide angle zoom lens for Sony NEX cameras that provides an angle of view equivalent to a 15-27mm lens on a 35mm camera. The lens also sports a constant maximum aperture of f/4, optical image stabilisation and costs around £700.

Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS Handling and features

Build and design is typical of Sony's E-Mount lenses, with high quality black plastics with a glossy finish used for much of the lens barrel construction and the lens mount is metal. For a lens providing such a wide field of view, it is incredibly lightweight, tipping the scales at 225g.

Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS Lens Review: Sony E 10 18 F4 Oss Wide (7)

Auto focus is reasonably fast but occasionally it can struggle to focus accurately. This is especially apparent with subjects of low contrast, or in dim lighting conditions. The smoothly damped manual focusing ring makes applying manual focus adjustments a pleasure.

Minimum focus is 25cm from the sensor plane, which is ideal for shooting in claustrophobic environments, or for making the most of the distorted perspective wide angle lenses provide when shooting close to your subject.

As focusing is performed internally, the 62mm 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.

Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS Lens Review: Sony E 10 18 F4 Oss Wide (2)

The usefulness of having optical image stabilisation on a wide angle lens like this is debatable, even so, the feature does allow a little more leeway when shooting at slow shutter speeds. Typically, sharp shots are possible with shutter speeds as low as half a second around half the time at 10mm, and a quarter of a second at 18mm.


Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS Performance

At 10mm, sharpness in the centre of the frame is already excellent at f/4, although the clarity towards the edges of the frame is a little disappointing by comparison, just falling short of good levels. Stopping down the aperture to f/5.6 results in a great improvement in sharpness across the frame, resulting in outstanding sharpness in the centre of the frame and clarity which is just short of excellent towards the edges.

At 14mm performance at maximum aperture drops off quite severely, with clarity in the centre barely reaching good levels and clarity towards the edges of the frame being fair. Stopping down to f/8 results in much improved performance with outstanding sharpness in the centre and very good clarity towards the edges of the frame. The lens performs very similarly at 18mm also.


Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS Lens Review: Sony10 18mm MTF@10mm
Resolution @ 10mm
Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS Lens Review: Sony10 18mm MTF@14mm
Resolution @ 14mm
Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS Lens Review: Sony10 18mm MTF@18mm
Resolution @ 18mm

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 reasonably well controlled, barely exceeding three quarters of a pixel width at any most apertures and focal lengths. CA's just exceed 0.75 pixel widths towards the edges of the frame at 14mm. This level may be just visible along high contrast edges towards the edges of the frame.

Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS Lens Review: Sony10 18mm CA@10mm
Chromatic aberration @ 10mm
Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS Lens Review: Sony10 18mm CA@14mm
Chromatic aberration @ 14mm
Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS Lens Review: Sony10 18mm CA@18mm
Chromatic aberration @ 18mm

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 quite pronounced fas you may expect for such a wide angle lens. At f/4 and 10mm the corners of the frame are 2.29 stops darker than the image centre and at 18mm this level drops to 1.86stops. Even with the lens stopped down to f/11, some darkness can still be seen in the far corners on some images, with illumination never really being visually uniform across the frame.

Distortion is very well controlled for a lens of this range with only 0.298% barrel distortion present at 10mm and 0.219% pincushion distortion present at 18mm. The distortion that is there is uniform across the frame, so should be relatively easy to correct in image editing software afterwards.

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

Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS Sample Photos


Value for Money

With a price tag of around £700, many may expect better performance at maximum aperture than this lens delivers.

As an alternative, Sony NEX system camera owners may also consider Sony's A-mount 11-18mm, which costs around £400 and can be used with a NEX camera with the correct adapter. This route may only suit those who already own a selection of A-mount lenses to make the extra cost of the adapter, and extra bulk of the system as a result, worthwhile.


Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS Verdict

So long as the limitations of this lens are known, and understood, then this lens is certainly capable of producing high quality images.

However, it is a shame that the performance at maximum aperture between 14mm and 18mm isn't up to the same high standard as when the lens is stopped down a little.


Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS ED Pros

Good build quality
Good performance when stopped down a little
Lightweight for a wide angle zoom
Low distortion

Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS ED Cons

Lacklustre performance at maximum aperture between 14mm and 18mm
Some issues focusing accurately in low contrast and low light conditions



Sony SEL 10-18mm f/4 OSS Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Sony E Mount
Focal Length10mm - 18mm
Angle of View76° - 109°
Max Aperturef/4
Min Aperturef/22
Filter Size62mm
35mm equivalent15mm - 27mm
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus25cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsFront and Rear Caps, Lens Hood

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Anters 7 United Kingdom
22 Dec 2015 1:51AM
I think the reviewer has misunderstood the significance of this lens in real world usage. As a result, the score he has given does not truly reflect the truly excellent performance you can expect from this lens in the field (literally).

Let me explain. While the lab results are consistent with what most other reviewers have found (yes, it's results aren't stellar wide open), you must consider who will use this lens and for what purposes.

As a small-compact, lightweight f/4 lens, it's aimed squarely at landscape photographers, who don't want to carry heavy loads as they hike up and down mountains. This is a huge tick in the right box.

Serious landscape photographers carry tripods, so none of them will ever need to shoot wide open at f/4, thus this limitation in performance is a non-issue in practice. Sony has clearly considered the above facts in its design and sacrificed f/4 performance for size and weight. Very smart move!

However, even if you find yourself in a low-light situation, don't forget that you have OSS built into the lens, unlike many landscape lenses that don't. This means you already have a couple of stops head start on most competing lenses, so while they might need f/4, you could shoot this lens at f/5.6 or f/8 and get equally shake free images with good/excellent cross-frame sharpness. I could see this being more useful for indoor architecture shots, when tripods aren't allowed, than landscapes.

But, name a pro landscape photographer who takes shots of sunrises and sunsets and doesn't use a tripod....go ONE!

If you're a serious landscape photographer, then f/8 to f/11 it's where it's at and this lens is very-good to excellent in that range and at f/16 it's still good.

Whilst the 10-18mm's optimal use is on an APS-C NEX or A6000 body, it also provides huge flexibility as it can be used as a full-frame lens between 12mm and 17mm on an A7r (albeit with some complex distortions, only noticeable in architecture not landscapes). So if you carry an A6000 with you, it can not only be your main body for 15-27mm, but also act as a back up body. In addition, it provides extra reach with long lenses. Because, if you're going to crop with your long lens anyway, then you'll get a better image cropping with a crop sensor in camera, than cropping in post on full-frame. In summary, you can get an 11-12mm to 300mm with just a few lenses and two bodies....and all reasonably light weight. Wow!

If you don't believe me, then check out Trey Ratcliff's (AKA Stuck In Customs) reviews for this lens. If you further check out his Smugmug gallery, you'll find that he seems to have ditched using the FE16-35 back in March 2015 in favour of this lens plus the FE 24-240. This analysis is based on his most recent 200 photos in the gallery.

My guess is that his decision making is not about IQ per se (because the FE16-35 has better IQ), but his decision is based mainly on weight and convenience (two lenses vs many). I think he's decided the IQ of this 10-18mm is good enough and the weight/focal length benefits it provides over FF wins.

In case you don't know, Trey's photos sell for $75,000 each! Whilst none of the 25 photos at this price seem to have been shot with this lens, I think it's just a matter of time before his portfolio includes photos at that price, which are shot with this lens.

Anyway, if this lens is good enough for him, it's good enough for the rest of us.

Anters 7 United Kingdom
22 Dec 2015 2:05AM
p.s. regarding autofocus issues in low-light. Well again this is a non-issue for landscape photographers, as they generally use manual focus. Some landscape lenses don't even come with autofocus. I myself have it permanently switched off.

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