Review: Sony E-mount Lens SEL50F18

It has been more than half a year of time since my last lens review. Finally, I’m not that insanely busy recently so that I can take some free time for lens review. Which lens is going to be review this time? It is the old but excellent prime lens, the Sony E-mount SEL50F18.

Introduction

SEL50F18
SEL50F18

As we know, every camera manufacturer will have a legendary 50 mm prime lens for their own camera, and it usually is the cheapest and has excellent optical performance among all the available lenses. So does this apply to the Sony E-mount SEL50F18 as well? Let’s read more about this lens from the following review.

Pros & Cons

+ Large aperture

+ In-lens Optical Steady Shot (OSS) image stabilizer

+ Excellent Sharpness

+ Low price

+ Smooth bokeh effect

– Slightly inaccurate auto-focus in low light situation

– Flare control can be very terrible in few cases

Specification

Aperture (Max.) f/1.8
Aperture (Min.) f/22
Focal Length (35mm equivalent) 75mm
Filter Diameter : 49mm 49mm
Lens Groups-Elements 8 groups, 9 elements (2 aspheric surfaces, 3 ED)
Minimum Focus Distance 1.28ft (0.39 m)
Aperture Blade 7 blades (Circular aperture)
Dimensions (Max. Diameter x Length) 2-1/2″ x 2-1/2″ (62 x62 mm)
Exterior Finish
Internal Motor Yes (Stepping motor)
Lens Weight 7.2 oz (202 g)
Maximum Magnification x0.16
Mount Material

Look & Feel

Sony brought us a new black version of the SEL50F18 recently but the lens I got is the original silver version.

SEL50F18 with Lens Hood
SEL50F18 with Lens Hood

The SEL50F18 has the similar size as my favourite SEL24F18Z but it gives me a much lighter feel (it actually does). The lens hood is the normal round shape instead of the petal shape that we saw with SEL24F18Z and SEL35F18.

SEL50F18 attached on NEX-6
SEL50F18 attached on NEX-6

The aluminium alloy finished on the lens barrel gives the lens a premium look. Holding it in my hand, I feel it is more solid than the plastic-ish SEL35F18 but it is still cannot match with the rock-solid SEL24F18Z.

Sharpness (Infinity)

Area Cropped for Sharpness Comparison
Area Cropped for Sharpness Comparison

The image above indicate the area that I cropped for the sharpness comparison.

Corner Sharpness

Corner Sharpness Comparison
Corner Sharpness Comparison

The corner sharpness of SEL50F18 shows very pleasant result from its widest open until F 16 while the corner sharpness at F 22 has significantly dropped.

Center Sharpness

Center Sharpness Comparison
Center Sharpness Comparison

The center sharpness of the SEL50F18 also performs similarly to its corner sharpness. Center sharpness does a great job from its widest open until F 16 while the center sharpness at F 22 has dropped significantly.

The SEL50F18 has impressed me for its sharpness performance. It is rare to see a lens that provides so close sharpness performance (in a good way) from its widest open to the end (exclude the F 22).

Macro Performance

100% Cropped for Macro
100% Cropped for Macro

With a magnification ratio of 0.16 and the minimum focus length of 39 cm, the SEL50F18 is not an ideal marco shoot lens. However, its excellent sharpness performance allows you to crop the shots and make them as a great marco shot. Above is the 100% crop from the close-up shot of my watch.

Distortion

Distortion Comparison
Distortion Comparison

As an APS-C lens, 50 mm is equivalent to 75 mm in 35 mm format. Lens in this focal length is supposed to have pincushion distortion but I’m not able to spot any difference between the RAW and the after correction JPEG. The SEL50F18 is almost perfect to control its distortion.

Vignetting

Vignetting Comparison
Vignetting Comparison

Fast prime usually suffered from the vignetting but it does not really apply to the SEL50F18. The SEL50F18 exhibits little dark corners at its widest open at F1.8 and F2, however, stopped down to F 2.8 has almost eliminate all the visible vignetting effect. It amazed me for its vignetting control as even the much expensive Zeiss SEL24F18Z still exhibits minor dark corners at its F 2.8 but not the SEL50F18. Good job!

Chromatic Aberration

Area Cropped for CA Comparison
Area Cropped for CA Comparison

The shot above indicates the area that I crop for the CA comparison.

Corner CA

Corner CA Comparison
Corner CA Comparison

The SEL50F18 shows some purple fringing at its widest open and F 2, stopped down to F 2.8 will eliminate all the color fringing and no more color fringing is spotted until F 22.

Center CA

Center CA Comparison
Center CA Comparison

SEL50F18 center CA performance is same as its corner CA performance. High contrast area in the center exhibits purple fringing at its widest open and F 2 while all the color fringing are gone once it is stopped down to F 2.8 and onward.

The SEL50F18 does a great job for its chromatic aberration control as well. The visible color fringing is minimal and only spotted at its widest open and F 2.

Ghosting and Flare

I had shot many sets of images for the flaring due to the unbelievable well-controlled of flaring by the SEL50F18 (or maybe I shot in the wrong way?) I shot the sunrise, sunset, sun with buildings, and finally I managed to make the SEL50F18 “lost control” for its flare control in the shots below.

Flare Comparison
Flare Comparison

It is the worst case that I can hardly produce while in most of the cases the sun will nicely be placed as a bright spot without affecting other subjects in the frame. Therefore, the flare control of SEL50F18 is a mixed result where it depends on how you place the subject in your frame.

Bokeh Effect

Bokeh Comparison
Bokeh Comparison

As expected, the SEL50F18 shows the beautiful circular bokeh effect at its widest open and the F 2.  Some bokeh shown up as polygon from F 2.8 and more obvious in F 4. However, the Bokeh effect is still smooth and buttery.

Unnamed Flower
Unnamed Flower

Handheld Low Light Performance

SEL50F18 has a 75 mm of focal length in 35 mm equivalent which means 1/80 second is the safest shutter speed. So let’s see how effective the Sony in-lens Optical Steady Shot (OSS) does from the comparison below.

Without OSS

Without OSS Handheld Comparison
Without OSS Handheld Comparison

Without the OSS on, image shows blurriness from 1/15 second and becomes unusable at 1/10 second.

With OSS

With OSS Handheld Comparison
With OSS Handheld Comparison

With the OSS on, it is possible to shoot at 1/6 second and keep the shots usable. In this case, the Sony OSS provides a 3-1/2 stops slower shutter speed which is pretty close to the advertised 4 stops slower.

Bottom Line

SEL50F18 is almost a perfect fast prime in my opinion. It is the cheapest among all of its E-mount lenses (SGD 449), built-in with OSS image stabiliser, excellent control in the distortion, vignetting, and CA, smooth and buttery circular Bokeh effect, and the surprisingly good sharpness from its widest open.

If I really have to pick the cons for this lens, then I would say its auto-focusing is not perfect. Don’t take me wrong, its auto-fcousing works silently, fast, and accurately in most of the time where including the low light situation, but not all the time. It just sometimes changed/refused to focus on the subject that you are aiming to, so either have to use the Direct-Manual Focus (DMF) or change to the Manual Focus (MF) to adjust the focusing.

With a price of SGD 449, and the excellent optical performance, the Sony E-mount SEL50F18 is a steal for E-mount users. The SEL5018 is capable to produce lovely portrait shots due to its 75 mm equivalent focal length. It took me some time to get used to the focal length initially but I found that it is so handy in street photography as well once I familiar with it.

Before I end this review, let’s have a look for some shots taken by this amazing SEL50F18 at below.

_DSC9163_01
Panning Shot
_DSC8805
Popcorn Counter
_DSC9026
Big Snail
_DSC8895
Giant Wheel
_DSC9083
Old School Fun
_DSC9096
Eraser Fighting
_DSC9102
I won!
_DSC9117
1,2,3 Jump!
_DSC9137
Shuttlecock!
_DSC9127
The Host
_DSC9036
Night Sky
_DSC9184
Bird of Paradise
Takashimaya Singapore
Takashimaya Singapore
Giant Shoe
Giant Shoe
Busy Chef
Kebab Stall

That’s all for today’s lens review. Did you use this SEL50F18 before or you are going to buy this lens? Welcome to leave your comments and thought here. Hope you enjoy the reading and like it. Cheers.

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12 thoughts on “Review: Sony E-mount Lens SEL50F18

      1. Hi James,

        I like this price & performance.
        I use DxO software to fix the raw file.
        So I can easy to use f/1.8 & ISO 6400 to shoot photo anytime.
        The next step I wait it can take 4K move & more light ISO.
        Because the a7S looks like Semi-manufactured goods.

        Like

      2. It seems like you are always shooting in extreme low light scene. How’s the a6000 high ISO performance?
        The A7S provides impressive high ISO performance but need the extra accessory to record 4K. I’m looking forward for Sony new curve sensor design and wish it will bring some close-high-ISO performance as A7S to the cropped-sensor camera.

        Like

  1. The main character is my 4 years old daughter. Some time it haven’t good light for shooting photo or movie. I think the a6000’s max ISO is 3200.But I can use it to ISO 6400 via raw format & use DxO software to fix the noise.
    I’d like use shine, shadow & bokeh effect.
    I read your blog that is very useful to let me understand how to use the lens.
    And I like your photo.
    Actually this lens isn’t good auto-focusing as you pointed.And photo looks haven’t sharp.
    I even want to replacement to SEL55f18z.I changed my idea when I read your blog.
    Yes, the a7S need extra accessory that closely us$2000 to record 4k, I try to find other cheap way to clear it via HDMI, but haven’t.
    http://white-screen.jp/?p=29415
    May be GH4 is good for record 4K, but I can’t raise interest when I saw the spec & sample.

    http://www.fstopacademy.com/blog/sony-alpha-7s-first-hands-on-shooting-review/
    Even I have 4K movie, I still haven’t idea who to show 4K on TV, the easy way is like show 2K via the iTunes home share & Apple TV. Youtube may be a good way but it looks not good for 4K, because it have high compression ratio via network. May be it isn’t 4K year now. we need wait.

    Like

    1. The SEL50F18 is a great portrait lens especially when you have a cute daughter as your main subject. The autofocusing in low light scene is not as great as the Zeiss SEL24F18Z but it is way better than the Sony SEL35F18.
      You might set the aperture to F 2.8 to get more DoF (more area in focus) so that you can get sharper result easier while F 2.8 still gives you a beautiful bokeh effect. (I’m working on a post about bokeh and you might be interested in it 😉
      Personally I feel 4K movie market is not mature yet as not everyone has those 80″ 4K capable TV to play it, and the network is not fast enough to transfer it yet.
      So stay tuned to see what will be happening in the future for the digital world.

      Like

  2. Thanks for the review!
    I’m contemplating between SEL50F18 or SEL35F18. From your review it looks like SEL50F18 produces better image quality, but the focal length makes it a bit difficult to shoot indoor as I may need to move away from the subject quite a bit. Which one would you recommend? Thanks!

    Like

    1. Hi Rivan, I prefer the SEL50F18 optical performance than the SEL35F18.
      If you are shooting indoor often and only consider these two lenses as your choice, then SEL35F18 is preferrable.
      Personally, even the SEL35F18 is a bit too long for me to shoot indoor. It depends on your shooting style and you might have to try the lens for indoor shooting before you buy it.

      Like

      1. The F 0.95 is absolutely the sell points of the lens and it is definitely larger and heavier.
        It seems like the Nokton 17.5mm F0.95 is specifically designed for micro 4/3 system, or did I miss anything for the Nokton for E-mount?

        Like

      2. ^^,Sorry, my mistake.
        That need adapter.
        The other lens dot need adapter like: Mitakon Zhongyi 35mm F/0.95 Night Eye Lens for Sony NEX Camera.
        But it looks so soft and changed color.

        Like

      3. No worry =) The Nokton is not recommended since it is specifically designed for Micro 4/3, and it will generate heavy vignetting on Sony APS-C NEX/Alpha camera even we can use the adapter.
        I’m not sure about the Mitakon 35 mm, but a preview from Steve Huff http://www.stevehuffphoto.com/2014/04/28/first-look-preview-the-mitakon-50-f0-95-full-frame-lens-with-the-sony-a7/ for the Mitakon 50mm F 0.95, the 50mm seems quite on par with its built quality and optical performance.
        Let me know how’s the 35mm perform if you decide to get it 😉

        Like

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