Hands on review – E-Mount Lenses for the Sony Alpha NEX
Lens choices are always hard, there is the nagging “what if” in your mind. Sony made the “what if” easier for us with 5 zooms, 4 primes and 1 Zeiss under their brand in the E-Mount range.
First comes the 2 “kit” lenses, let’s start with the newer 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 Powerzoom OSS (SELP1650). As I said in my Sony Alpha NEX 5R/6 review, it feels squarely aimed at the video shooter. This lens maybe very compact but it does not feel right, the power zoom reacts oddly and the zoom ring is powered and difficult to control. Bottom line it does not do what I expect of it and that is an issue. It does every other job as intended; it’s just that irritating powerzoom. It also looks like it cannot take a hood which could translate into flare issues.
In contrast, the older 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Zoom OSS (SEL1855) feels solid and is more traditional in it’s functionality; it has a zoom and a focus ring, it is slightly heavier and larger than it’s sibling but is comfortable to use and the results are well within expectations. If I had a choice of kit lens this one would be it. This is also my first choice in the NEX lens trinity.
In the longer zooms, the 55-210mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS, this is a traditional long zoom lens with built-in image stabilization (OSS) it works brilliantly on the short end. Past 130mm find something to lean on or stabilize the camera. One does no realize how light the camera is and how hard it is to keep it still. This is also the second NEX lens of the trinity. It focuses fast and gives great results; just remember to take of the hood in high wind conditions.
The biggest surprise of the lot was the 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 PowerZoom OSS, when I picked it up I thought that this was the lens I was not going to use at all, I even tried to hate it. As it turned out, I was very wrong, this is the lens to rule them all. Like the ring, it comes at a price, it is heavy, really heavy and expensive. On the imaging side it works, maybe a little soft and a bit of fringing but noting that cannot be handled in post with little to no effort. The amazement is when used to capture video, it’s great fun with good results, as with the 16-50 it is bias for video capture. In full manual zoom, it does the trick. I found it hunting on small movement but otherwise will work well in any outdoor conditions. It is the ideal lens to avoid the “what if” feeling. this would easily replace the trinity if it needed.
The last zoom is without a doubt Sony’s crowning achievement to date on the e-mount, the magnificent 10-18mm f/4 Zoom OSS. Of all the Sony lenses this is the one I would want on my camera permanently with the 50mm f/1.8 in the bag, I’d be in street/landscape/cityscape photography heaven. This lens is ultra-sharp, low distortion, very wide and fast focusing, add a luxury feel to it and this makes it a must, petty about the price though. This is the last of my trinity of lenses in my bag and the most likely to stay there for a long time.
In the prime lenses the 50mm f/1.8 OSS is a must, that controllable shallow depth of field is irresistible. The lens is also very well built and feels solid; I have not noticed any aberration or distortions after 6 months of use.
The last of the Sony lenses I want to mention is the 35mm f/3.5 Macro, no image stabilization in this lens but a very easy to use focus ring and an amazingly close focus. Set your camera in a mode – Manual Focus or Direct Manual Focus – because it tends to focus hunt a bit. This did not bother me as I shoot macro in manual focus mode. The sharpness was above my expectation. This is a fun lens to use as are most macros.
The fact is putting your camera in Direct Manual Focus is a good idea as it allows for the camera to focus and you to tweak at any time.
Lastly, I had the opportunity to play with the 2 new ZEISS Touit prime lenses for the E-Mount. The 12mm f/2.8 was a blast to shoot with and it just feel like it belongs on the NEX, the pre-production model had it’s issues mostly around focus hunting but I am sure that the phenomenon will be sorted in the final release version. The 32mm f/1.8 did not blow my socks away but it is a luxurious and performing lens that is light and small. Neither sport optical stabilization but it’s not required for these type of lenses. They are expected to cost R14000 for the 12mm and R10500 for the 32mm not cheap but quality is not cheap either. I was informed last week that they are now available in South Africa.
For photos done with these lenses please go here.
- Sony E-Mount 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 Powerzoom OSS (SELP1650) R4500
- Sony E-Mount 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 Zoom OSS (SEL1855) R3600
- Sony E-Mount 55-210mm f/3.5-6.3 Zoom OSS (SEL55210) R4100
- Sony E-Mount 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 PowerZoom OSS (SELP18200) R15000
- Sony E-Mount 10-18mm f/4 OSS (SEL1018) R 11000
- Sony E-Mount 35mm f/3.5 Macro (SEL30M35) R3500
- Sony E-Mount 50mm f/1.8 OSS (SEL30M35) R3500
Pascal's day job is as a technologist but you can mostly find him behind a camera after hours. As a passionate photographer he regularly shares his experiences with the world. From how-to to reviews you will find it all in his regularly updated blog and other places.