Review: Sony SEL35F18
Sel35F18

Review: Sony SEL35F18

These few days were rainy and shady. The sky was full of soft sunlight. The weather is not ideal for the lens review, but I still try my best to review the Sony SEL35F18 with my Sony NEX-6.

Introduction

Sel35F18
Sel35F18

The Sony SEL35F18 was released in December 2012. This lens has the focal length of 52.5mm in 35mm equivalent, which gives you the angle of view similar to what we see daily, not too broad, not too narrow, just a lovely view. It has the built-in Sony OSS (Optical Steady Shot) image stabilizer, which is rare in the lens of these focal lengths. It is still one of the best E-mount prime lenses, and it is sold at the price of SGD 629.

Pros & Cons

  • Large aperture of F 1.8, fast prime
  • 3D pop up feel of the portrait subject
  • Built-in OSS
  • Quiet and smooth AF
  • No distortion
  • Affordable price
  • Smooth Bokeh
  • Compact size
  • Heavy vignetting at large apertures
  • CA problem at largest and smallest aperture
  • Focus issue in the low light scene
  • Heavy plastic feel

Key Specification

Aperture (Max.)f/1.8
Aperture (Min.)f/22
Focal Length (35mm equivalent)52.5 mm
Filter Diameter49 mm
Lens Groups-Elements6 groups, 8 elements (2 aspheric surfaces, 1 ED)
Minimum Focus Distance11.88″ (30 cm)
Aperture Blade7 blades (Circular aperture)
Dimensions (Max. Diameter x Length)2 1/2″ x 2-13/16″ (63 x 45 mm)
Lens Weight5.5 oz (155g)
Maximum Magnificationx0.15

Source from Sony Official Website.

Look and Feel

This lens is a fingerprint magnet due to its shiny black surface material. It is lightweight, compact, and built solid, but it won’t make you feel premium as well. You get a plastic sound and feel when you knock it with your fingernail.

DSC00256
The SEL35F18 with Lens Hood Attached on the Sony NEX-6

The lens comes with a small lens hood. It looks nice and balanced when attached to the lens and the camera. However, the lens hood will still block the lens focus ring when it is attached oppositely.

DSC00243

The Sony SEL35F18 supports the DMF (direct manual focus), and its focus ring is smooth and comfortable in use.

Sharpness (Infinity)

I had taken shots from the scene below and cropped the center and bottom-left corner for sharpness comparison.

Sharpness Testing
Sharpness Testing

Center Sharpness

SEL35F18 - Center Sharpness Comparison
SEL35F18 – Center Sharpness Comparison

The center sharpness is improved significantly from F2.8 onward. The maximum sharpness is achieved at F5.6 and maintains a good sharpness at F8. It started to drop from F11 and has a closed performance till the minimum aperture of F22.

Corner Sharpness 

SEL35F18 - Corner Sharpness
SEL35F18 – Corner Sharpness

Except the F1.8 and F22, the corner sharpness at other apertures are performed similarly while the sharpest corner occurred at the F4. Its corner sharpness performance is not too bad but still not able to match any of its center sharpness.

Macro Performance

The Sony SEL35F18 only has a maximum magnification ratio of 0.15 times and the closest focus range of 30 cm. These conditions make this lens not an ideal macro lens.

The shot below was captured at F5.6 on the tripod at the minimum focus range. The details level is excellent and very sharp indeed.

Distortion

SEL35F18 - Distortion Comparison
SEL35F18 – Distortion Comparison

This lens almost has no distortion at all. Well done.

Vignetting

vignetting
SEL35F18 – Vignetting Comparison

The Sony SEL35F18 exhibits heavy vignetting at the F1.8 and F2. Stopped down to F 2.8, and smaller apertures will reduce it significantly. You will not need to worry about it too much when you turn on the Shading compensation in your camera setting, even at F1.8.

SEL35F18 - Vignetting Comparison
SEL35F18 – Vignetting Comparison at F 1.8

Chromatic Aberration

The Sony SEL35F18 has some issues when handling the CA at wide open.

Center Chromatic Aberration

SEL35F18 - CA 100% Center Cropped Comparison
SEL35F18 – CA 100% Center Cropped Comparison

There is heavy purple fringing at F1.8 and some magenta at F22 at the center. The center CA performance at other apertures is in good control.

Corner Chromatic Aberration

SEL35F18 - CA 100% Corner Cropped Comparison
SEL35F18 – CA 100% Corner Cropped Comparison

The Sony SEL35F18 corner CA performance is similar to its center CA performance. However, the corner purple fringing is much lighter than its center at F1.8, and it also shows a little magenta at F22.

Ghosting and Flare

I used the spotlight to test the ghosting and flare.

SEL35F18 - Ghosting and Flare Comparison
SEL35F18 – Ghosting and Flare Comparison

The lens handles the ghosting nicely, but if you look carefully at the top right area, you will notice a light blob near the light source throughout every tested aperture.

Bokeh Effect

The Sony SEL35F18 has an excellent bokeh effect. It is able to produce lovely, smooth, and creamy bokeh easily. The bokeh background remains a good circular shape from F1.8 to F2.8 and becomes a polygon shape from F4 onward.

SEL35F18 -Bokeh Comparison
SEL35F18 -Bokeh Comparison
SEL35F18 - Bokeh
SEL35F18 – Peace

Handheld Low Light Performance

With the crop factor of 1.5, the SEL35F18’s safe shutter speed should be at least 1/50 second. It is so rare to have the image stabilizer in the lens of this focal length. The OSS included in the SEL35F18 is a bonus to us. Besides the low light shooting, OSS is an advantage for video recording too. Let’s see how the OSS performs in low-light shooting.

Without OSS

SEL35F18 - Handheld without OSS
SEL35F18 – Handheld without OSS

Without the OSS turn on, the slowest recommended shutter speed for this lens is 1/40 second. Any shutter speed slower than that will easily result in a blurred image.

With OSS

SEL35F18 - With OSS Turn On
SEL35F18 – With OSS Turn On

The OSS does what it is advertised. By turning on the OSS, you will be able to shoot at 1/8 second and still get a blur-free result. It is 3 stops down from the safe shutter speed. The results obtained from 1/6 and 1/4 seconds are still better and usable than those from 1/20 seconds without OSS. However, you will start to suffer when shooting from 1/10 second and slower as you need a substantial hand to get the blur-free shots.

Bottom Line

The Sony SEL35F18 is a good fast prime lens that is sold at the price of SGD 629. It has the normal angle of view, smooth and creamy circular bokeh, no distortion, great OSS, and a large aperture for low-light scenes. Its focusing is pretty fast and accurately during daylight shooting.

This lens does the focusing quietly and seldom hunt for focus. However, it tends to focus on the rear subject when shooting in the low light scene. I supposed this is an individual issue as the first copy I used previously had no such issue at all.

I really enjoyed shooting with the SEL35F18. Its creamy bokeh effect and the extra stability provided by the OSS make night photography more manageable and more enjoyable. Before the end of today’s review, below are some shots of the Sony SEL35F18 with my Sony NEX-6.

_DSC7495
The Dreamy Outside World
Scooter
Scooter
Rose
Rose
Black Swan
Black Swan
Little Swan
Little Swan
Fossil Wood
Fossil Wood
Ancient Tree
Ancient Tree
Moss
Moss
Bird of Paradise
Bird of Paradise
_DSC7774
The Little Yellow Flowers
_DSC7845
The Reds

That’s all for today’s review. Hopefully, this review will give you some ideas about how it performs, and I hope you like it. Thanks for reading!

James Tan

James Tan is a Singapore-based professional photographer who shoots products, nature, and cityscapes. Learn more about his works on his galleries. He shares his perspective on cameras, gadgets, and photography tips & tricks in his blog. You can follow him on his YouTube channel and Instagram.

This Post Has 6 Comments

  1. I am in the market for a lens like this and I was also thinking about the Sigma 30mm. However, the SEL-35F18 has two big advantages: a faster aperture and optical stabilization, which will make for much better indoor and low-light performance. The faster aperture will also allow for shallower depths of field when needed.

  2. How is it compared to the Sigma 30 mm? Thanks.

    1. Hi, I do not review the Sigma 30m so cannot give you any comment for the comparison.

  3. Excellent work, thank you so much for sharing this! I actually would like to know how good this lens would be for portraits…

    1. Hi Vincenzo, if you occasionally shoot portrait then the SEL35F18 will not let you down. If you mainly shoot portrait, I will recommend you the SEL50F18 which is much better in almost every optical performance and cheaper than the SEL35F18.

  4. Nice, thanks for sharing

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