The modern APS-C nifty-fifty from Sony has been around for a while now. It’s been reviewed many times but I’d like to take a look at it myself in this review.
The lens is made of a lightweight metal exterior and contains plastic parts inside. Handling feels good on the a6300 – I quickly forget there’s a lens on the camera when shooting. The focus ring is smooth but not buttery. The focus-by-wire mechanism works well with this lens and while I don’t have any issues using it, it’s not as nice as a dedicated manual focus experience.
Crop Factor and Minimum Focus Distance
On APS-C, this lens fills the role of a short telephoto portrait lens (50 x 1.5 = 75mm on full frame). What this means is you can expect this lens to perform like a 75mm lens on a full frame camera which gives a slight zoomed-in effect.
The MFD of the lens is 1.28 ft which is pretty good. Even if you’re shooting a small subject, you should be able to get close enough to fill the frame.
Overall, this lens is pretty sharp and captures great photos wide open. At f/1.8, the center is good while the corner is a little blurry. There’s also a small dip in contrast here. At f/2.8, both center sharpness and contrast are great and the corners start to catch up. Increasing aperture continues to improve sharpness and by f/5.6 the image is excellent across the frame. This sharpness is maintained going into f/8.0 and diffraction begins softening the image by f/11.
My copy didn’t have any decentering that I could make out – great job on that Sony.
High contrast areas at fast apertures lead to visible lateral aberrations.
At f/2.8 it’s reduced but still quite visible.
Lateral CA fringing continues to decrease until f/8 where its level is low.
Longitudinal aberrations are at their worst at f/2.8 – f/4.0. By f/8.0 they’re pretty much invisible.
Barely perceptible. Applying the lens profile in Lightroom hints at a tiny bit of pincushion distortion.
Visible at f/1.8, reduced by f/2.8, almost gone by f/4.0.
Autofocus and OSS
The AF is accurate but can be slow if it needs to scroll between min and max focus. I’ve found that this doesn’t impact object tracking in normal situations.
The OSS in the lens is handy, I’ve found that I can shoot at 1/30 with little problem and I don’t have a super steady hand.
The Sony 50mm features a rounded 7-bladed aperture. Performance here is mixed – bokeh will retain it’s smoothness when slightly stopped down but will quickly go heptagon when pushed.
At maximum aperture, bokeh is lovely albeit with a fair amount of mechanical vignetting in the corners (cats-eye bokeh effect). This clears up at f/2.5.
I feel that f/2.5 is the sweet spot if you want mostly round bokeh across the frame. By f/4.0 you’re looking at heptagon shapes for out of focus highlights.
But if your background isn’t very busy, you can still get a nice blur.
When it comes to busy backgrounds, the lens holds up pretty well.
Flare and Sunstars
Veiling flare is well controlled but ghosting is visible.
The good news is the ghosting is at least in good taste.
Sun stars come out to be irregular and 14-pointed. They aren’t well defined until f/11.
When the sun is just out of the frame you can get some flares.
Even the hood wont fully protect against them. When this happens you’ll have to use your hand for more shade.
- Excellent sharpness at most apertures
- Great bokeh at fast apertures
- Little distortion
- Useful OSS
- Accurate autofocus
- Poor flare control with a bright light source just outside the frame
- Sunstars are irregular
- CA correction
- 7-bladed aperture
- Ghosting from bright light
- Bokeh at medium apertures
If you must have a 50mm lens for your a6XXX, this is the lens to get. It offers a good performance that doesn’t compromise too much on any specific trait. Is it nifty? Yes! Is it worth $300? Probably, but price routinely drops to around $250 and I think that’s a better place for it.
This lens has a lot to love – it’s sharp and has very nice bokeh, the OSS is wonderful, there’s practically no distortion, and it’s lightweight. However, on APS-C this lens falls into the portrait lens category and I feel that Sony missed a few opportunities here to really capitalize on that. I wouldn’t mind a slightly longer focal length, like 55mm or even 58mm, to better fit the crop factor of APS-C. I’m also personally not a huge fan of 7-bladed apertures, I would have liked to see at least an 8-bladed design. Making this lens feel a little more like a portrait lens would do wonders for it, but it’s still an excellent performer.