Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro

FE Full-Frame E-Mount

Sample Images   Intro   Format   Compatibility

Specifications   Performance   Recommendations

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Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro (covers full-frame and APS-C, 55mm filters, 8.3 oz./236g, 1:1 macro close focus at 0.53'/0.16m, about $448) bigger. I got mine at B&H. I'd also get it at Adorama, at Amazon or at Crutchfield.

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to my personally-approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Sony does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any other source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, damaged, returned, non-USA, store demo or used lens. Get yours only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.

 

November 2017   Sony   Sony Lenses   Minolta Lenses   Zeiss   Canon   Nikon   All Reviews

Why Fixed Lenses Take Better Pictures

 

Sample Images

(more throughout the review)

Top   Samples   Intro   Format   Compatibility

Specs   Performance   Recommendations

Sony 50 2.8 Macro Sample Image File

Spanish Fireplace, 10 November 2017. Sony A9, Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 at f/4.5 at 1/80 at Auto ISO 100, Perfectly Clear. bigger or full-resolution © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display the full resolution files properly).

 

Sony 50 2.8 Macro Sample Image File

Spanish Tile, 10 November 2017. Sony A9, Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 at f/9 at 1/400 at Auto ISO 100, Perfectly Clear. bigger or full-resolution © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display the full resolution files properly).

As we expect for a macro lens, it's flawlessly sharp even wide-open. If any of the sides seem less sharp it's because I'm hand-holding this and my image plane isn't parallel to the tile- so some parts are out of focus.

 

Wide-open at f/2.8:

Sony 50 2.8 Macro Sample Image File

Desert Palm Trees, 10 November 2017. Sony A9, Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 at f/2.8 at 1/2,000 at Auto ISO 100, Perfectly Clear. bigger or full-resolution © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display the full resolution files properly).

Even wide-open at f/2.8 it's sharp corner to corner, so long as it's in perfect focus (these are three-dimensional trees).

 

Sony 50 2.8 Macro Sample Image File

Door Mat, 17 November 2017. Sony A9, Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 at f/2.8 at 1/60 at Auto ISO 100, Perfectly Clear. bigger, full-resolution © file or camera-original © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display the full resolution files properly).

It's super sharp, even wide-open at f/2.8, even in the far corners. This is a hand-held shot at a slow shutter speed; put the camera on a tripod so you can get everything parallel to the image plane and stop down to f/8 and it's so sharp as to be almost three-dimensional.

 

Introduction

Top   Samples   Intro   Format   Compatibility

Specs   Performance   Recommendations

Good   Bad

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This Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro is an optically superb lens with a crummy autofocus system. The AF system hunts back and forth, flying right past your subject a few times until it finally locks on. Manual focus doesn't win any prizes either, being geared so slowly that it takes quite a few turns to get it in focus.

I wouldn't buy this 50 2.8; I'd get the superb Sony 90/2.8 G OSS macro instead. The 90mm lens focuses fast and silently, while this nasty little 50mm's AF motor sounds like a kid's toy. For serious macro work you have to get so close with this 50mm that you usually block your own light. Skip this 50 and please get the 90/2.8, which is a superb lens all around — especially if you shoot macro.

On the good side, there is a focus lock button and a focus range limiter switch which helps a little with autofocus.

 

Good

Excellent optics; super sharp.

No distortion.

Focus Lock button.

Focus range limiter switch.

Silent diaphragm operation.

Autofocuses over the entire frame on an A9.

 

Bad

Awful autofocus that has to hunt back and forth just about every time looking for the subject.

Noisy autofocus motor sounds like it's from the 1980s.

Stops down only to f/16, which is a pity as the best macro shots of most things other than test charts are made at f/32.

Displays the same aperture even as focussed to 1:1. It does not display the effective aperture as focussed closer to 1:1, meaning that actual exposure becomes less as focused to macro distances, which is only a problem when used with external exposure meters or manual flash.

 

Format

Top   Samples   Intro   Format   Compatibility

Specs   Performance   Recommendations

This is a full frame lens and I'm reviewing it as such.

It works great APS-C cameras, on which you may make the usual inferences.

 

Compatibility

Top   Samples   Intro   Format   Compatibility

Specs   Performance   Recommendations

This works on all Sony E-mount cameras, full-frame and APS-C crop-sensor. This includes all the variations of NEX, A9-, A7-, A6xxx and A5xxx series cameras.

It will not work on any Sony A-mount DSLR or any Minolta MAXXUM 35mm SLR of any kind. Those use the old A mount which was actually the Minolta MAXXUM mount from 1987.

 

Specifications

Top   Samples   Intro   Format   Compatibility

Specs   Performance   Recommendations

 

Name

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8. bigger.

Sony calls this the Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 .

    FE: Full-frame coverage, E-mount.

It's Sony model number SEL50M28.

 

Optics

Sony 50 2.8 internal construction

Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro internal construction. Aspherical and ED elements. bigger.

 

8 elements in 7 groups.

Floating element design.

One Aspherical element and one element made of ED extra-low dispersion glass to help reduce secondary axial chromatic aberration.

Mutlicoated.

 

Diaphragm

7 rounded blades.

Stops down only to f/16, which is a pity as the best macro shots of most things other than test charts are made at f/32.

The diaphragm is silent as it operates on a silent camera.

 

Aperture Ring

No.

 

Focal Length

50mm.

When used on APS-C, it sees the same angle of view as a 75mm lens sees when used on a full-frame or 35mm camera.

See also Crop Factor.

 

Angle of View

47º diagonal on full-frame.

32º diagonal on APS-C.

 

Autofocus

Noisy motor moves front section of lens in and out.

Focus-lock button.

 

Focus Scale

Sony 50 2.8 macro focus scales

Sony 50/2.8 Macro Focus Scales. bigger.

No, but there are markings on the front barrel so that as it extends you can read the macro reproduction ratios.

 

Infinity Focus Stop

No.

 

Depth of Field Scale

No.

 

Infrared Focus Index

No.

 

Close Focus

0.53 feet (0.16 meters).

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio

1:1 (1.0×).

 

Filters

Plastic 55 mm filter thread.

 

Hood

None needed; the front element is deeply reassessed into its barrel.

 

Size

2.79" maximum diameter × 2.80" extension from flange.

70.8 mm maximum diameter × 71.0 mm extension from flange.

 

Weight

8.315 oz. (235.75g), actual measured.

Rated 8.4 oz. (236g).

 

Quality

Made in China.

 

Announced

30 August 2016.

 

Included

Lens.

ALC-F55S front and ALC-R1EM rear cap.

No case and no hood; just the lens and caps.

 

Packaging

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8. bigger.

Bubble-wrapped lens in corrugated cardboard box.

 

Sony's Model Number

SEL50M28.

 

Price, USA

$448, late November 2017.

$498, mid-November 2017.

 

Performance

Top   Samples   Intro   Format   Compatibility

Specs   Performance   Recommendations

 

Overall   Autofocus   Manual Focus

Breathing   Bokeh   Distortion   Ergonomics

Exposure  Falloff   Filters   Flare & Ghosts

Lateral Color Fringes    Macro   Mechanics

Sharpness   Spherochromatism

Stabilization   Sunstars

 

Overall

Performance          top

The Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro is optically superb, as most 50mm f/2.8 lenses are, but has awful auto and manual focus. I'd avoid this lens and get the 90/2.8 instead.

 

Autofocus

Performance          top

Autofocus is slow and noisy. Worse, it usually misses your subject and hunts back and forth a few times until it finds it.

Use the focus limiter switch to minimize this:

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Autofocus Controls. bigger.

The top slider is the auto/manual selector. Focus is always electronic; there is no direct mechanical connection between the focus ring and the focus system.

The unmarked button is the focus lock button.

The bottom slide switch sets the range over which the lens will focus. I'd leave it in the ∞ - 0.3m (one foot) position.

 

Manual Focus

performance          top

Manual focus is with an electronic ring.

It's moderately damped. A fingertip will move it.

Sadly manual focus is so slow that it takes multiple turns to get it in focus. It is extremely precise, but this means you have to turn the focus ring very far to get it in focus.

 

Focus Breathing

Performance          top

Focus breathing is the image changing size as focused in and out. It's important to cinematographers because it looks funny if the image changes size as focus gets pulled back and forth between actors. If the lens does this, the image "breathes" by growing and contracting slightly as the dialog goes back and forth.

The image from this 50/2.8 gets bigger as focussed more closely.

 

Bokeh

Performance          top

Bokeh, the feel or quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to how far out of focus they are, is reasonably good. Not much distracts:

Sony 50 2.8 Bokeh

Davis 6250 weather station, 15 November 2017. Sony A9, Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 at f/2.8 at 1/1,250 at Auto ISO 100. bigger or camera-original © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display full resolution images properly).

As always, if you want to throw the background as far out of focus as possible, shoot at f/2.8 and get as close as possible.

 

Distortion

Performance          top

The Sony 50/2.8 has no measurable distortion at 10 feet (3 meters), even uncorrected.

Bravo!

 

Ergonomics

Performance          top

No mysteries here: it has an electronic focus ring, an AF/MF slide switch, a big, unmarked focus lock button and a focus range limiter.

This is not as good as a mechanical focus ring as on the 70-200/2.8 GM, but if you set your camera controls well, the focus ring works fine — but only works in certain modes.

The focus lock button is a huge help, although to be honest on a camera like the A9 that focuses throughout the entire frame, not as necessary as it was with DSLRs that only focussed in the center and had to be recomposed.

It takes too many turns for manual focus.

 

Exposure

Performance          top

Camera indications don't reflect the fact that the lens' actual aperture becomes smaller as focussed towards 1:1.

This only matters if shooting with manual exposure or under studio strobes, in which case the actual exposure will become less as focussed more closely. Even though the camera reads the same aperture, the effective aperture drops about two stops as focussed from infinity down to 1:1.

This doesn't matter for 99% of users who use the camera's own metering, and is done because Sony would get too many returns if the lens read properly and only displayed a maximum aperture of about f/5 at 1:1!

So long as you use the camera's own flash and ambient metering and don't change focus distance after setting a manual exposure, everything is fine.

 

Falloff

Performance          top

There is no significant falloff at any aperture, at least on most Sony cameras which correct it by default.

See the f/2.8 samples at the top. No problem.

 

Filters, use with

performance          top

No problem; 55mm is a more than an ample filter size for the optics of this lens. Even on full-frame you can stack several filters before you see any vignetting.

Go ahead and use any normal filters and thick rotating polarizer and grad filters; there's no problem.

 

Flare & Ghosts

Performance          top

Sony 50mm f/2.8 ghosts

Ghosts at f/2.8, with filter. bigger.

If you point it directly into the sun and have a dark object on the opposite side of the photo to see potential ghosts, you can see a couple of green blobs, even with a filter. This is very good performance.

You won't see any flare or ghosts in actual use.

 

Lateral Color Fringes

Performance          top

There are no color fringes as shot on my Sony A9, which corrects them by default if there are any.

 

Macro

Performance          top

While this 50 2.8 is super-sharp and focuses super-close, in reality as with all 50mm macro lenses, the biggest problem is that when you get close, you're too close and you often block your own light. Even with the light coming from the side, the subject is still often in shadow because there is only an inch or two between front of your lens and the subject:

Sony 50 2.8 macro performance

Kienzle Flieger Automat 800/2843, 10 November 2017. bigger.

This is one of many reasons that the Sony 90mm f/2.8 is a much, much better idea if you're serious about actually using this lens for macro work. The best use of a 50mm, as opposed to a 90mm or 200mm macro lens, is for copying slides because slide copiers are lit from the back.

If you can light your subject, or don't need to get that close, of course this lens' optics are superb:

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro Performance

Kienzle Flieger Automat 800/2843, 10 November 2017. Full-frame Sony A9, Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro at f/4.5 at close focus distance at 1/125 at Auto ISO 100. bigger or camera-original © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely display full resolution images properly).

 

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro Performance

1,200 x 900 pixel crop from above. bigger or camera-original © file to

If this crop is about 6" (15cm) wide on your screen, then the complete image printed at this same extreme magnification would be about 20 × 30" (50 × 75cm).

If this crop is about 12" (30cm) wide on your screen, then the complete image printed at this same extreme magnification would be about 40 × 60" (1 × 1.5 meters).

If you don't get perfect focus, spherochromatism will be visible.

 

Mechanical Quality

Performance          top

 

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro

Sony FE 50mm f/2.8. bigger.

It's a mostly plastic lens with metal vanity shell, glass glass and a metal mount. It's like a cheap CD player: plastic on the inside with some metal trim on the outside.

 

Front Bumper

None.

 

Filter Threads

Plastic.

 

Front Barrel

Plastic (only seen when it extends when focussed very closely).

 

Focus Ring

Metal.

Fixed part of barrel ahead of focus ring: metal.

 

Rear Barrel

Metal.

 

Identity & Markings

Painted on top of barrel, and a sticker on bottom.

 

Internals

Mostly plastic.

 

Moisture Seal at Mount

No.

 

Mount

Chromed metal.

 

Serial Number

Printed on sticker glued on bottom of barrel - not a classy way to do this unless it's a CD player.

 

Date Code

None found on lens, but it is marked on the box. Be sure the serial number on the box (in the middle of the number below the second bar code) matches the serial number printed on the sticker on the bottom of the lens.

 

Noises When Shaken

Very minor clicking.

 

Made in

China, shown clearly on the sticker on the bottom of the lens.

 

Sharpness

Performance          top

As I showed at the top, It's flawlessly sharp and contrasty from corner-to-corner at every aperture.

Like most macro lenses, its optical are pretty much perfect.

Sony 50/2.8 Macro MTF

Sony's MTF chart at f/2.8 at 10 cyc/mm and 30 cyc/mm. bigger.

 

Image Stabilization

Performance          top

This lens has no stabilization as the 90mm Macro does.

This lens works with any in-camera sensor-shift stabilization, if your camera has it.

 

Sunstars

Performance          top

With 7 curved blades, the only sunstars come at f/16:

Sony 50mm f/2.8 sunstars

Sunstars (and ghosts) at f/16, with filter. bigger.

 

Recommendations

Top   Samples   Intro   Format   Compatibility

Specs   Performance   Recommendations

This is an optically awesome lens in a dinky barrel with crummy autofocus. It looks great on paper, but is a bad idea for serious macro use because you can't get enough room between the lens and your subject. Get the 90mm Macro instead and you'll be thanking me. The better autofocus and ergonomic qualities will be remembered long after the price is forgotten.

I use a clear (UV) protective filter instead of a cap. I only use a cap when I throw this in my bag, otherwise I leave a clear filter on my lens at all times.

The very best protective filter is the Hoya multicoated HD3 55mm UV which uses hardened glass and repels dirt and fingerprints.

For less money, the B+W 55mm 010 is an excellent filter, as are the multicoated version and the basic multicoated Hoya filters, but the Hoya HD3 is the toughest and the best.

Filters last a lifetime, so you may as well get the best. The Hoya HD3 stays cleaner than the others since it repels oil and dirt.

I got my 50 2.8 at B&H. I'd also get it at Adorama, at Amazon or at Crutchfield.

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Sony does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any other source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, damaged, returned, non-USA, store demo or used lens. I use the stores I do because they ship from secure remote warehouses where no one gets to touch your new camera before you do. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection.

Thanks for helping me help you!

Ken, Mrs. Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

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16-26 November 2017