Review: Sony E-mount Lens SEL50F18
SEL50F18 attached on NEX-6

Review: Sony E-mount Lens SEL50F18

It has been more than half a year since my last lens review. Finally, I’m not that insanely busy recently to take some free time for lens review. Which lens is going to be reviewed this time? It is the old but excellent prime lens, the Sony E-mount SEL50F18.

Introduction

SEL50F18 - front view
SEL50F18

As we know, every camera manufacturer will have a legendary 50 mm prime lens for their cameras. It is usually the cheapest and has excellent optical performance among all the available lenses. So does this apply to the Sony E-mount SEL50F18 as well? Let’s read more about this lens from the following review.

Pros & Cons

  • Large aperture
  • In-lens Optical Steady Shot (OSS) image stabilizer
  • Excellent Sharpness
  • Low price
  • Smooth bokeh effect
  • Slightly inaccurate auto-focus in low light situation
  • Flare control can be very terrible in few cases

Key Specification

Aperture (Max.)f/1.8
Aperture (Min.)f/22
Focal Length (35mm equivalent)75mm
Filter Diameter : 49mm49mm
Lens Groups-Elements8 groups, 9 elements (2 aspheric surfaces, 3 ED)
Minimum Focus Distance1.28ft (0.39 m)
Aperture Blade7 blades (Circular aperture)
Dimensions (Max. Diameter x Length)2-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ (62 x62 mm)
Exterior Finish
Internal MotorYes (Stepping motor)
Lens Weight7.2 oz (202 g)
Maximum Magnificationx0.16
Mount Material
SEL50F18 Specification

Look & Feel

Sony recently brought us a new black version of the SEL50F18, but the lens I got is the original silver version.

SEL50F18 with Lens Hood
SEL50F18 with Lens Hood

The SEL50F18 is similar to my favorite Sony SEL24F18Z (the review here), but it gives me a much lighter feel (it actually does). The lens hood is the typical round shape instead of the petal shape we saw with SEL24F18Z and SEL35F18 (the review here).

SEL50F18 attached on NEX-6
SEL50F18 attached on NEX-6

The aluminum alloy finished on the lens barrel gives the lens a premium look. Holding it in my hand, I feel it is more solid than the plastic-ish SEL35F18, but it still cannot match the rock-solid SEL24F18Z.

Sharpness (Infinity)

SEL50F18 - Area Cropped for Sharpness Comparison
Area Cropped for Sharpness Comparison

The image above indicates the area that I cropped for the sharpness comparison.

Corner Sharpness

SEL50F18 - Corner Sharpness Comparison
Corner Sharpness Comparison

The corner sharpness of SEL50F18 shows a delightful result from its widest open until F 16, while the corner sharpness at F 22 has significantly dropped.

Center Sharpness

SEL50F18 - Center Sharpness Comparison
Center Sharpness Comparison

The center sharpness of the SEL50F18 also performs similarly to its corner sharpness. Center sharpness does a great job from its widest open until F 16, while the center sharpness at F 22 has dropped significantly.


The SEL50F18 has impressed me for its sharp performance. It is rare to see a lens that provides comparable sharpness performance (in a good way) from its widest open to the end (exclude the F 22).

Macro Performance

SEL50F18 - 100% Cropped for Macro
100% Cropped for Macro

With a magnification ratio of 0.16 and a minimum focal length of 39 cm, the SEL50F18 is not an ideal macro shoot lens. However, its excellent sharpness performance allows you to crop the shots and make them great macro shots. Above is the 100% crop from the close-up shot of my watch.

Distortion

As an APS-C lens, 50 mm is equivalent to 75 mm in 35 mm format. A lens in this focal length is supposed to have pincushion distortion, but I cannot spot any difference between the RAW and the after correction JPEG. The SEL50F18 is almost perfect for controlling its distortion.

Vignetting

SEL50F18 - Vignetting Comparison
Vignetting Comparison

Fast prime usually suffered from the vignetting, but it does not apply to the SEL50F18. The SEL50F18 exhibits little dark corners at its widest open at F1.8 and F2, however, stopping down to F 2.8 has eliminated all the visible vignetting effect. It amazed me for its vignetting control as even the much expensive Zeiss SEL24F18Z still exhibits little dark corners at its F 2.8 but not the SEL50F18. Good job!

Chromatic Aberration

SEL50F18 - Area Cropped for CA Comparison
Area Cropped for CA Comparison

The shot above indicates the area that I crop for the CA comparison.

Corner CA

SEL50F18 - Corner CA Comparison
Corner CA Comparison

The SEL50F18 shows some purple fringing at its widest open and F2. Stopping down to F2.8 will eliminate all the color fringing, and no more color fringing is visible until F22.

Center CA

SEL50F18 - Center CA Comparison
Center CA Comparison

SEL50F18 center CA performance is the same as its corner CA performance. The high contrast area in the center exhibits purple fringing at its widest open and F2 while all the color fringing are gone once it is stopped down to F2.8 and onward.

The SEL50F18 does an excellent job of its chromatic aberration control as well. The visible color fringing is minimal and only spotted at its widest open and F2.

Ghosting and Flare

The SEL50F18 controls the flare incredibly well. I shot the sunrise, sunset, sun with buildings, and finally, I managed to make the SEL50F18 “lost control” for its flare control in the shots below.

SEL50F18 - Flare Comparison
Flare Comparison

It is the worst case that I can hardly produce while in most of the cases the sun will nicely be placed as a bright spot without affecting other subjects in the frame. Therefore, the flare control of SEL50F18 is a mixed result where it depends on how you place the subject in your frame.

Bokeh Effect

SEL50F18 - Bokeh Comparison
Bokeh Comparison

As expected, the SEL50F18 shows the beautiful circular bokeh effect at its widest open and the F2. Some bokeh showed up as polygon from F2.8 and more obvious in F4. However, the Bokeh effect is still smooth and buttery.

Unnamed Flower
Unnamed Flower

Handheld Low Light Performance

SEL50F18 has a 75 mm focal length in 35 mm equivalent which means 1/80 second is the safest shutter speed. So let’s see how effective the Sony in-lens Optical Steady Shot (OSS) is from the comparison below.

Without OSS

SEL50F18 - Without OSS Handheld Comparison
Without OSS Handheld Comparison

Without the OSS on, the image shows blurriness from 1/15 second and becomes unusable at 1/10 second.

With OSS

SEL50F18 - With OSS Handheld Comparison
With OSS Handheld Comparison

With the OSS on, it is possible to shoot at 1/6 second and keep the shots usable. The Sony OSS provides a 3-1/2 stops slower shutter speed which is pretty close to the advertised 4 stops slower.

Bottom Line

SEL50F18 is almost a perfect fast prime, in my opinion. It is the cheapest among its E-mount lenses (SGD 449), built-in with an OSS image stabilizer, excellent control in the distortion, vignetting, and CA, smooth and buttery circular Bokeh effect, and the surprisingly good sharpness from its widest open.

If I have to pick the cons for this lens, I would say its auto-focusing is not perfect. Please don’t take me wrong. Its autofocus works silently, fast, and accurately most of the time, including the low light situation, but not all the time. It sometimes changes/refuses to focus on the subject you aim to, so you either have to use the Direct-Manual Focus (DMF) or change to the Manual Focus (MF) to adjust the focusing.

With a price of SGD 449, and excellent optical performance, the Sony E-mount SEL50F18 is a steal for E-mount users. The SEL5018 is capable of producing lovely portrait shots due to its 75 mm equivalent focal length. It took me some time to get used to the focal length initially, but I found that it is so handy in street photography once I am familiar with it.

Before I end this review, let’s look at some shots taken by this fantastic SEL50F18 below.

That’s all for today’s lens review. Did you use this SEL50F18 before, or are you going to buy this lens? Welcome to leave your comments and thought here. I hope you enjoy the reading and like it. Cheers.

This Post Has 12 Comments

  1. Thanks for the review!
    I’m contemplating between SEL50F18 or SEL35F18. From your review it looks like SEL50F18 produces better image quality, but the focal length makes it a bit difficult to shoot indoor as I may need to move away from the subject quite a bit. Which one would you recommend? Thanks!

    1. Hi Rivan, I prefer the SEL50F18 optical performance than the SEL35F18.
      If you are shooting indoor often and only consider these two lenses as your choice, then SEL35F18 is preferrable.
      Personally, even the SEL35F18 is a bit too long for me to shoot indoor. It depends on your shooting style and you might have to try the lens for indoor shooting before you buy it.

        1. The F 0.95 is absolutely the sell points of the lens and it is definitely larger and heavier.
          It seems like the Nokton 17.5mm F0.95 is specifically designed for micro 4/3 system, or did I miss anything for the Nokton for E-mount?

      1. ^^,Sorry, my mistake.
        That need adapter.
        The other lens dot need adapter like: Mitakon Zhongyi 35mm F/0.95 Night Eye Lens for Sony NEX Camera.
        But it looks so soft and changed color.

        1. No worry =) The Nokton is not recommended since it is specifically designed for Micro 4/3, and it will generate heavy vignetting on Sony APS-C NEX/Alpha camera even we can use the adapter.
          I’m not sure about the Mitakon 35 mm, but a preview from Steve Huff http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/04/28/first-look-preview-the-mitakon-50-f0-95-full-frame-lens-with-the-sony-a7/ for the Mitakon 50mm F 0.95, the 50mm seems quite on par with its built quality and optical performance.
          Let me know how’s the 35mm perform if you decide to get it 😉

  2. The main character is my 4 years old daughter. Some time it haven’t good light for shooting photo or movie. I think the a6000’s max ISO is 3200.But I can use it to ISO 6400 via raw format & use DxO software to fix the noise.
    I’d like use shine, shadow & bokeh effect.
    I read your blog that is very useful to let me understand how to use the lens.
    And I like your photo.
    Actually this lens isn’t good auto-focusing as you pointed.And photo looks haven’t sharp.
    I even want to replacement to SEL55f18z.I changed my idea when I read your blog.
    Yes, the a7S need extra accessory that closely us$2000 to record 4k, I try to find other cheap way to clear it via HDMI, but haven’t.
    http://white-screen.jp/?p=29415
    May be GH4 is good for record 4K, but I can’t raise interest when I saw the spec & sample.
    https://www.youtu.be/HUHVT9GZRa0
    http://www.fstopacademy.com/blog/sony-alpha-7s-first-hands-on-shooting-review/
    Even I have 4K movie, I still haven’t idea who to show 4K on TV, the easy way is like show 2K via the iTunes home share & Apple TV. Youtube may be a good way but it looks not good for 4K, because it have high compression ratio via network. May be it isn’t 4K year now. we need wait.

    1. The SEL50F18 is a great portrait lens especially when you have a cute daughter as your main subject. The autofocusing in low light scene is not as great as the Zeiss SEL24F18Z but it is way better than the Sony SEL35F18.
      You might set the aperture to F 2.8 to get more DoF (more area in focus) so that you can get sharper result easier while F 2.8 still gives you a beautiful bokeh effect. (I’m working on a post about bokeh and you might be interested in it 😉
      Personally I feel 4K movie market is not mature yet as not everyone has those 80″ 4K capable TV to play it, and the network is not fast enough to transfer it yet.
      So stay tuned to see what will be happening in the future for the digital world.

  3. Good job. I got the Sony a6000 & this lens. I am surprising what a perfect partner. I love its.

    1. Thanks Peter. It’s great that you like this lens with your new a6000. Enjoy the shooting!

      1. Hi James,

        I like this price & performance.
        I use DxO software to fix the raw file.
        So I can easy to use f/1.8 & ISO 6400 to shoot photo anytime.
        The next step I wait it can take 4K move & more light ISO.
        Because the a7S looks like Semi-manufactured goods.

        1. It seems like you are always shooting in extreme low light scene. How’s the a6000 high ISO performance?
          The A7S provides impressive high ISO performance but need the extra accessory to record 4K. I’m looking forward for Sony new curve sensor design and wish it will bring some close-high-ISO performance as A7S to the cropped-sensor camera.

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