Sony E 50mm f 1.8 OSS

After testing SonyNEX-7 with the underwhelmin kit lens, Andy Luck hopes that this new prime, fast lens from them will bring out the best from the exceptional sensor.SonyNEX range of lenses offers a genuinely viable alternative to bulkier APS-C DSLRs for image quality, but currently lags behind the range of prime lenses from competitors such as Olympus and Panasonic.

Sony E 50mm With the startlingly high pixel count of the latest NEX-7 camera from Sony —you get 24MP worth for your money —this shortage of premium lenses became even more starkly apparent. In OP s test of the camera (OP154), we found the high detail of this remarkable sensor snapping at the heels of even the latest full-frame cameras, but it is equally unforgiving of the distortion and soft edge issues apparent when used with the bundled kit zoom. Sony, it seems, are aware of this problem and interesting primes are starting to emerge from the pipeline, the latest being the Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS. This lens is another great technical achievement from the Sony engineers, with a fast maximum aperture matched to the Optical Steady Shot (OSS) image stabilisation system —the first lens of this type to combine these useful low-light shooting features.

First impressions of the lens are good. It is relatively affordable and the build quality, with its all-metal body, is impressive. The minimalist external design and the wide and finely ribbed metal focus ring match the NEX body. At 62mm high and 62mm wide, the lens is bigger than I expected, and is slightly longer than the 18-55 kit zoom. This is perhaps a result of fitting the OSS to the lens but, nevertheless, it doesnmake the new 50mm any more of a pocket-friendly combination than the kit zoom lens, which is disappointing. With the 1.5x crop factor of APS-C sensors, the lens equates in 35mm terms to a 75mm lens; almost the perfect portrait length when you are on your travels. The fast aperture and seven-blade circular diaphragm is a good formula for exquisite background blur, which this lens provides in buckets. The beautifully smooth bokeh, both in front of and behind the focus point, is outstanding. Sony E 50mm The optics are in eight groups with nine elements, and the internal focusing provides a strong performance in the centre of the lens when it is used wide open. The edge of image quality catches up, too, from f/4 onwards, with little distortion. I did notice a little fringing and chromatic aberration creeping in, especially when it is wide open. The focusing is fast and silent, and the lens can focus down to around 30cm, giving a maximum magnification of 0.16 so, while not a macro, it is useful for close focusing on subjects.  At last, an affordable prime lens approaching the quality level required to start exploring the full potential of the Sony NEX-7 sensor, particularly in portraits where this lens’bokeh is exceptional. If it was smaller and more in keeping with a compact system, I would rate it higher, but the reasonable price and fine optical performance, combined with stabilisation, makes this lens something of a star among the existing Sony E-mount lineup.

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