Review: Sony SEL35F18 35 mm f/1.8 OSS


The Sony SEL35F18 is a 35 mm f/1.8 normal lens equivalent for APS-C E mount cameras, released in December 2012. Compared to it’s Zeiss-branded sibling, the Touit 32 mm f/1.8, it offers a minimally narrower field of view and image stabilization (OSS).

The SEL35F18 is a light and relatively compact lens with excellent build quality and great handling on the NEX. It comes with a short and handy clip-on tulip lens hood. Autofocus is fast when using hybrid-AF and comes close to the SEL20F28. In DMF mode with manual focus override, the lens reacts precisely to any input and is nearly as easy to operate as the SEL50F18. The effective focal length of 53 mm on APS-C cameras renders the SEL35F18 an excellent normal lens for every day use.

 

Condition of my copy

Optics: Excellent. No dust, no scratches – new.

Mechanics: Excellent. Focus ring uniform and nicely damped, aperture clean and fast.

Exterior: Excellent. Like new (except for the usual fingerprints).

 

Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T

The following evaluation is based on uncorrected RAW images. Please keep in mind that all Sony E mount lenses are electronically corrected in camera (vignetting, distortion, CA) and JPEGs of these shots therefore look very different.

Notice: In the test charts, the right half of the picture was a little softer than the left. This suggests either a slight decentering of the lens or a misalignment of the camera in relation to the chart.

The lens starts at f/1.8 with close to good center sharpness, acceptable corners and the tiniest amount of purple glow. Stopping down just a notch to f/2 pushes the center to a “good” and slightly improves corner performance. At f/2.8 the corners show good sharpness and the center now deserves a close to very good rating. From f/4 to f/8, the center is outstanding. The corners are at their best within f/5.6 and f/8, but never quite reach the excellent performance of the central region. Diffraction starts lightly at f/11, is pronounced at f/16 and heavily softens f/22.

With the exception of the minimal purple glow wide open, there are no visible CAs at any aperture. Either this is an excellently corrected apochromatic lens, or the electronic retouching of CAs in-camera cannot be deactivated.

Vignetting is about 1 stop at f/1.8, decreases to half a stop at f/4 and stays constant when stopping down further. The lens shows a negligible pincushion distortion of 0.1%. The effective T-stop at f/1.8 is T1.8 (-0.0 EV), which is very good.

In conclusion, the SEL35F18 is an excellent, no worries normal lens equivalent for APS-C cameras. Except for the constant vignetting and the not quite razor sharp corners, it shows no weaknesses. It’s main selling point compared to vintage lenses are the absence of chromatic aberrations, the nearly perfect contrast even wide open and of course the image stabilization. If you’re still not convinced or just don’t want to spend that much money, have a look at the MD-II W.Rokkor-X 35 mm f/2.8. It’s much cheaper and except for some corner softness, you probably won’t notice a difference in real world applications from f/4 onwards.

 

Test charts

The following images are pixel-level crops from the test chart. They may appear scaled in your browser window. Click on them to view the crops in full size and cycle through them easily. For more info on the test setup, visit the details page.

 

Overview

Test chart overview

(Cropped areas marked in orange)

 

f/1.8

Sony SEL35F18 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/1.8

 

f/2.0

Sony SEL35F18 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/2.0

 

f/2.8

Sony SEL35F18 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/2.8

 

f/4.0

Sony SEL35F18 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/4.0

 

f/5.6

Sony SEL35F18 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/5.6

 

f/8.0

Sony SEL35F18 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/8.0

 

f/11

Sony SEL35F18 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/11

 

f/16

Sony SEL35F18 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/16

 

f/22

Sony SEL35F18 35 mm f/1.8 @ f/22

 

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