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Sony FE 35mm f/1.8 review

Neat and tidy, the Sony FE 35mm f/1.8 is an alluring lens with real street smarts

Sony FE 35mm f/1.8
(Image: © Sony)

Digital Camera World Verdict

There’s a lot to love about this lens, and so there should be given that it’s pricey for 35mm f/1.8 prime. It has a solid, weather-resistant construction featuring a metal barrel and mounting plate, while handling is very refined with a tactile focus ring and customizable function button. Image quality is excellent overall, although there’s heavy vignetting at wide apertures.

Pros

  • +

    Mostly excellent image quality

  • +

    Very good build quality

  • +

    Nice handling characteristics

Cons

  • -

    Expensive for a 35mm f/1.8

  • -

    Heavy vignetting

The Sony FE 35mm f/1.8 is an ideal prime lens for street photography (opens in new tab) and everyday shooting with a full-frame mirrorless Alpha camera. It has a classic focal length that delivers a modestly wide viewing angle, along with a fairly fast f/1.8 aperture, shoehorned into a compact and lightweight yet robust construction.

Specifications

Mount: Sony E (FE)
Full-frame: Yes
Autofocus: Yes
Stabilization: No
Lens construction: 11 elements in 9 groups
Angle of view: 63 degrees
Diaphragm blades: 9
Minimum aperture: f/22
Minimum focusing distance: 0.22m
Maximum magnification ratio: 0.24x
Filter size: 55mm
Dimensions: 66x73mm
Weight: 281g

Key features

Premium glass includes an aspherical element to enhance sharpness and minimize distortion and spherical aberrations, and the aperture is controlled by a well-rounded 9-blade diaphragm. Autofocus is fast, based on a linear stepping motor which also deliver smooth and virtually silent autofocus transitions when shooting video. One niggle for serious moviemakers, however, is that the lens lacks the aperture control ring that’s typically featured in Sony’s G and G Master primes.

There’s an AF/MF switch on the barrel, and the electronically coupled manual focus ring has a very linear response, as well as enabling very precise adjustments, right down to a usefully short minimum focus distance of 0.22m, making a maximum magnification of 0.24x available.

Another handling bonus is that the lens features a customizable function button, which falls naturally under the thumb. It’s nominally assigned to autofocus hold but a range of other options are available via in-camera menus.

Performance

Levels of sharpness and contrast are highly impressive throughout the entire aperture range. Color fringing and distortion are both very minimal, and the lens is fairly resistant to ghosting and flare. The only minus point is that vignetting is severe when using wide apertures, unless you boost edge/corner-brightness with artificial correction.

Lab results

We run a range of lab tests under controlled conditions, using the Imatest Master testing suite. Photos of test charts are taken across the range of apertures and zooms (where available), then analyzed for sharpness, distortion and chromatic aberrations.

We use Imatest SFR (spatial frequency response) charts and analysis software to plot lens resolution at the center of the image frame, corners and mid-point distances, across the range of aperture settings and, with zoom lenses, at four different focal lengths. The tests also measure distortion and color fringing (chromatic aberration).

Sharpness:

(Image credit: Future)
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Sharpness across most of the image frame is outstanding even when shooting wide-open at f/1.8. Corner’s sharpness really gets into its stride at f/2.8, only really dropping off again at f/16 due to diffraction.

Fringing:

(Image credit: Future)
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Even without using automatic in-camera correction, color fringing is very minimal across the entire frame, right out to the extreme edges and corners.

Distortion: 0.8

There’s a touch of pincushion rather than barrel distortion, which is unusual for a ‘wide-angle’ lens, albeit with a modest 35mm focal length. Even so, it’s of a fairly low order and easy to correct in-camera or when editing.

Verdict

There’s a lot to love about this lens, and so there should be given that it’s pricey for 35mm f/1.8 prime. It has a solid, weather-resistant construction featuring a metal barrel and mounting plate, while handling is very refined with a tactile focus ring and customizable function button. Image quality is excellent overall, although there’s heavy vignetting at wide apertures.

Read more:

• Best camera lenses (opens in new tab) to get
• Best Canon lenses (opens in new tab)
• Best Nikon lenses (opens in new tab)
• Best Sony lenses (opens in new tab)

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Matthew Richards
Matthew Richards

Matthew Richards is a photographer and journalist who has spent years using and reviewing all manner of photo gear. He is Digital Camera World's principal lens reviewer – and has tested more primes and zooms than most people have had hot dinners! 


His expertise with equipment doesn’t end there, though. He is also an encyclopedia  when it comes to all manner of cameras, camera holsters and bags, flashguns, tripods and heads, printers, papers and inks, and just about anything imaging-related. 


In an earlier life he was a broadcast engineer at the BBC, as well as a former editor of PC Guide.