Review: Sony SEL35F18

These few days were rainy and shady, the sky was full of the soft sun light. The weather is not good for the lens review but I still try my best to shoot with the Sony SEL35F18 before the end of the rental period.

Introduction

Sel35F18
Sel35F18

The SEL35F18 was released in December 2012. This lens has the focal length of 52.5mm in 35mm equivalent which gives you the normal angle of view, not too wide, not too narrow, just nice. It has the built-in Sony OSS (Optical Steady Shot) image stabilizer which is so rare in the lens of these focal length. It is still one of the best E-mount prime lens and it is sell 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 low light scene
  • – Heavy plastic feel

Specification

Aperture (Max.) f/1.8
Aperture (Min.) f/22
Focal Length (35mm equivalent) 52.5 mm
Filter Diameter 49 mm
Lens Groups-Elements 6 groups, 8 elements (2 aspheric surfaces, 1 ED)
Minimum Focus Distance 11.88″ (30 cm)
Aperture Blade 7 blades (Circular aperture)
Dimensions (Max. Diameter x Length) 2 1/2″ x 2-13/16″ (63 x 45 mm)
Lens Weight 5.5 oz (155g)
Maximum Magnification x0.15

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. When you knock it with your fingernail, a plastic sound and feel pop-up immediately.

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

The lens comes with a small lens hood. It is looked nice and balance when attached on the lens and the camera. However, the lens hood will still block the lens focus ring when it is attached in an opposite way.

DSC00243

The SEL35F18 support 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 F 2.8 onward. The maximum sharpness is achieved at F 5.6 and maintains a good sharpness at F 8. It started to drop from F 11 and has a closed performance till the minimum aperture of F 22.

Corner Sharpness 

SEL35F18 - Corner Sharpness
SEL35F18 – Corner Sharpness

Except the F 1.8 and F 22, the corner sharpness at other apertures are performed similarly while the sharpest corner occurred at the F 4. Its corner sharpness performance is not too bad but still not able to match any of its center sharpness.

Macro Performance

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

The shot below was captured at F 5.6 on the tripod at the minimum focus range. The details level is excellent and very sharp indeed.

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Distortion

SEL35F18 - Distortion Comparison
SEL35F18 – Distortion Comparison

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

Vignetting

vignetting
SEL35F18 – Vignetting Comparison

The SEL35F18 exhibits heavy vignetting at the F 1.8 and F 2. Stopped down to F 2.8 and smaller aperture will reduce it significantly. When you turn on the Shading compensation in your camera setting, you will not need to worry it too much even at F 1.8.

SEL35F18 - Vignetting Comparison
SEL35F18 – Vignetting Comparison at F 1.8

Chromatic Aberration

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

Center Chromatic Aberration

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

There is a heavy purple fringing at F 1.8 and some magenta at F 22 at the center. The center CA performance at other apertures are in good control.

Corner Chromatic Aberration

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

The SEL35F18 corner CA performance is similar to its center CA performance. However, the corner purple fringing is much lighter than its center at F 1.8 and it also show a little magenta at F 22.

Ghosting and Flare

There were totally no direct sunlight throughout my lens rental period which made me headache for this section. So I used the spotlight instead to test the ghosting and flare.

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

The SEL35F18 handles the ghosting nicely but if you looked carefully at the top right area you will notice there is a light blob near the light source throughout every tested apertures.

Bokeh Effect

The SEL35F18 has an excellent bokeh effect. It is able to produce nice, smooth, and creamy bokeh easily. The bokeh background remain in good circular shape from F 1.8 to F 2.8 and become polygon shape from F 4 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 at 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 definitely a bonus to us. Besides the low light shooting, OSS is an advantage for the video recording too. Let’s see how does the OSS perform 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 blur image.

With OSS

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

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

Bottom Line

The SEL35F18 is a good fast prime lens which is sell at the price of SGD 629. It has the normal angle of view, smooth and creamy circular bokeh, no distortion, great OSS, and large aperture which is great for low light scene. It also focus pretty fast and accurately during daylight shooting.

This lens does the focus 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 to shoot with the SEL35F18. Its creamy bokeh effect and the extra stability provided by the OSS make the night photography easier and more enjoyable. Before the end of today review, the below are some shots by the SEL35F18 with my NEX-6.

_DSC7495

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

_DSC7845

That’s all for today review. Hopefully this review will give you some ideas about how does it perform and hope that you liked it. Thanks for reading!

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6 thoughts on “Review: Sony SEL35F18

    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.

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  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.

    Like

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