68 comments on “Lens Review–Sony 35mm f/1.8 OSS

    • Thank you angela, it’s one of my recent favorites. :) I hope to really just have fun in the class, because all we are learning are the basics I already know!

  1. Matthew, thank you for once again doing a nice job of looking at a lens.

    If I hadn’t gone over my own personal financial photography cliff…….

  2. hey there – try to use a minimum speed of 1/30 to 1/60 fro the panning shoots, and also an f stop of 8.0 maybe …

  3. Thanks for the review. I dont see anything my “legacy” manual lenses can not. Except for AF of course. Particularly the bokeh of Sonys lens seems sub-par. May have to do with the smaller entrance pupil than on full frame lenses. Maybe I will have a shoot-out in the near future.

    • Welcome Johny, I’m sure there are more than a few legacy 35mms that can probably match the E35 in terms of image quality. But don’t forget about the OSS, that’s where a lot of the price is coming from. :) I do find the bokeh just neutral, but for a normal, it’s about what I expected. The longer the lens, I’ve found, the smoother the bokeh is in general. Bokeh on the E35 can be extremely smooth, but it is more situation-dependent than lens dependent.

  4. Thanks for the comprehensive review Matthew. I bought the lenses based on general observations from the first few early adopters but nice to read about your opinions as well!

    Now with the 16/2.8, 35/1.8, 50/1.8, all I need is a E-mount 85/1.8 to complete my most used focal lengths! : )

    • Hey Ed! Glad you liked the review, even before the first impressions came out from some of the “big” websites, I had a hunch this lens would deliver, based on Sony’s lessons with the 24mm zeiss and 50mm f/1.8. The only thing I worried about was its performance on the NEX-7, but it seems they definitely designed it with their flagship camera in mind!

      And I’m sure you know about the rumored 85mm f/1.8 to be announced within the next couple months, right? :)

  5. Wonderful goods from you, man. I’ve understand your stuff previous to and you’re just extremely fantastic.
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  6. First time here. What a great review. I am a videographer with a Nex-VG20. I have the 16mm, 50mm. Sony E Mount lenses. I am at a crossroads wondering if I need better glass. I see you mentioned the following…”based on Sony’s lessons with the 24mm zeiss and 50mm f/1.8.”. Can you tell me more about this? Or point me in the right direction so I can read about it? I am thinking Ziess lenses might be the way to go. But I have never used one and am only going by the name and quality of the product. I guess what I am trying to say is if the Ziess 50mm E mount is so much better than the Sony 50mm E Mount? Thanks!

    • There has been discussion on Sony’s progress in the e-mount primes lineup since the primes (the 50mm f/1.8 notably worse than the 24mm Zeiss) tended to have poor corner performance on the NEX-7 (due to its extremely high-res sensor with difficult setting of microlenses) . Reviewers were worried that Sony wasn’t developing lenses for their flagship NEX camera in mind.

      However, I cannot cite any of these articles, as information has just been back-and-forth snippets I’ve picked up on. You can rest assured that the Zeiss 24mm f/1.8 is a fantastic lens though, which is only slightly outresolved by the telecentric-designed Sigma 30mm f/2.8. Also, the 50mm f/1.8 is by no means a “bad” lens. It’s just a little soft wide open with some fringing, typical of any lens in its class and price range. Once you stop either down for whatever video purpose you’ll be using them for, optical problems will be beyond non-existant (1080p resolution is the limiting factor here! hehe).

  7. First off I would like to say terrific blog! I had a quick question
    which I’d like to ask if you don’t mind. I was curious to find out how you center yourself and clear your mind before writing.

    I have had a hard time clearing my thoughts in getting my thoughts out.
    I do take pleasure in writing but it just seems like
    the first 10 to 15 minutes are usually wasted simply just trying to
    figure out how to begin. Any suggestions or tips? Thanks!

    • Setting aside time with a clear goal in mind is the first real step in any sort of writing. If you succeed in this, you’ll have an easier time in getting a piece completed.

  8. Nice review! And great images.

    Though the sharpness of lenses is IMO so dependant on post production that you really need to descrbe what sharpness settings you’re using when evaluating the lens; is it a straight out of camera JPEG, or an unsharpened RAW? Most images here look a little bit too unsharp for my liking, but taking for example the “The Look” image of a guy holding a camera, just importing the not-full-resolution JPEG into Photoshop and pressing Sharpen once makes it really sharp, without having a dreadful over-sharpened look (though I’d go for something a little less sharpened if I put more time into it and had the RAW).

    Anyway, thanks for the review, I’m getting a Nex 5R soon and will probably pick this up after using the 16-50 lens for a while.

    • Thank you, Jake. :)

      I’m surprised I didn’t talk about this in my “lens review style” post. All of my photographs for test shots (sharpness/bokeh/vignetting/distortion), are shot in RAW, and exported from LR4 as full-size JPEGs after cropping. All post-processing is avoided, and settings are at their default values.

      In my photographic examples, however, I post-process them as I usually do. These adjustments are primarily made to levels/contrast/white balance/clarity/saturation. Sharpness is added as I see fit, though I rarely touch it unless I embed 100% crops. On the NEX-7 and at ISO 100 in RAW, files can be sharpened to 40 in LR4 without any artifacts added. For personal work (usually not shared in reviews), I can push this to 70 with a bit of work.

  9. Hello Matthew,

    Thx for the great review. I am an Nex-6 user having recently moved up from the original 5. I want to purchase a good fast prime lens that I can use indoors for low light shots, and also as an all around general purpose lens. Oh BTW: I recently purchased and returned the Sigma 30 f/2.8 DN / A lens. It was a good lens, sharp corner to corner, bit soft offset of middle on photos taken wide open. However, what I couldn’t live with was the constant hunting of the lens even when it was supposed to be in focus. This happened during daylight and low light shooting. And it was noisy too with the constant hunting. For someone with aging eyes and now who needs to wear reading glasses or any kind of corrective eye-wear this is far from ideal. Here’s the kicker, I have not come across one post that addresses the constant hunting of the lens, when comparing it to the Sony 35, if I knew that I would have not purchased it. So cheaper does not always mean better an as an alternative to the Sony 35, shouldn’t even be a consideration.

    On a different note, remind me did you review the Sony 50mm f/1.8 and what did you think of it? Also why is the 50mm considered the standard for primes when the the 30/35 is much more versatile? Which one would you consider a Must have lens in the bag – the 35 or 50 if you could Only buy one?

    • Hello! Glad you found the review helpful, I’ll answer your concerns in order. My 35mm f/1.8 rarely hunts for focus, even in low light. The times that it does is usually a fault of CDAF (trying to focus on a dark subject with a bright back-/foreground. Focusing on the 35mm is near silent, I think the OSS and aperture blades opening up make more noise.

      Agreed about the cost statement. The Sigma 30 is a great value and is optically excellent, but the focus speed and QC can leave much to be desired on a case-by-case basis. For those that do NOT want OSS or the extra speed, the Sigma is still a lens to consider, but possibly not for low-light work.

      Unfortunately I have not reviewed the 50mm OSS, and probably never will. I have three 50mm Nikon lenses (f/1.4, f/1.8, f/2), so that focal length and speed is covered well. Real reason I went for the Sony 35mm is because any legacy lenses shorter than 50mm tend to present less of a value/performance metric compared to native glass (lots of it due to the APS-C sensor crop. I have, however, heard great things about the 50mm, especially for short portraits. It has the right amount of softness and character from f/1.8-2.8 that many photographers enjoy, while becoming tack-sharp across the frame stopped down (not on the NEX-7, though).

      50mm lenses were the standard prime lenses for film cameras due to their “natural” field of view. On APS-C with its 1.5x crop factor, a 50mm lens (whether designed for full-frame or APS-C) will give a 75mm field of view in full-frame format. For APS-C, primes in-between 30-35mm with the crop factor get very close to the natural field of view, and are the de facto standard lenses to look for.

      If I could only buy one, and wasn’t interested in legacy lenses, I would still go for the 35mm. It’s a lot more versatile a lens, as it is not too wide for people shots, but also not too telephoto for when I want to get the scenery in. Though the 35mm f/1.8 doesn’t give the super-shallow depth-of-field I like working with, the f/1.8 aperture gives decent enough subject separation for the times I need it. It’s a fantastic lens overall. :)

  10. Thanks for your review, very well done. I’ve been doing a lot of thinking since I bought my NEX-5R two weeks ago. The 18-55 kit lens is good, for a kit lens. I wanted something a little more sophisticated. I couldn’t help myself after reading this review and I bought the lens at Henry’s in Canada for $429 + HST. A great price for this lens. They beat the lowest competitors advertised price by $10. I tried to trade in my kit lens but they only offered me $90 for it *fart*. I would rather sell it privately for $90 knowing somebody will get a good deal on it. I will probably leave this lens on the camera for the rest of the year to learn how to better compose my shots. I’m taking it up to Algonquin Park in a week so I should have some fun with it. I especially look forward to trying it out around the campfire, and under the starry night sky.

    We’ll see how it goes. I’ll come back when I have a story to tell :)

  11. I own the Zeiss 24 and the 50 OSS, as well as the new collapsable 16-50 and like you, use a NEX7. I’ve been but have been on-the-fence with regard the the 35/1.8 and 20/2.8. The 35 reviews well, here and elsewhere, but as you say in the review regarding the 50 there are many legacy options. In the end, I’ll probably buy this, just as I did with the 50 (I also have numerous legacy 50 primes) because autofocus is convenient and OSS is a worthwhile feature. The Sony 35 is also advantageous as most legacy SLR 35s are either f2.8, or in the case of the f1.8/f2 models are large and heavy.

    • Good rationale, and one that I so far have followed. The threshold for effectively using SLR lenses on APS-C (satisfying some sort of price/performance ratio) occurs right at around 50mm. Wider than that, and legacy lenses become more expensive and less useful than their native counterparts, while any lens 50mm and longer typically presents a much better value. I’ve got the new Zeiss 32mm f/1.8 on preorder now. Will do a direct comparison to the 35mm, and will sell whichever one doesn’t stack up in price/performance. The new Touit lenses are supposedly “state-of-the-art” in the CSC realm, so we’ll see if the lens is worthy of the Zeiss name soon in June. :D

      • I am anxious to hear what you have to say about the Zeiss 32. What I really wish for is an 85 or 90mm f1.8 and then perhaps a 135mm f2.8, though I doubt we’ll ever see the latter.

        I currently use my Leica Elmarit-R 35/2.8 on the NEX7 when I want high quality in a standard focal length, but autofocus and wider aperture would be nice. The Zeiss 24 is so good that I expect the 32 to find a place in my bag. In a way that would bring us NEX users back to the old rangefinder days of the 35, 50 and 90 (75 in case of the 50 OSS) lens trio. My father carried such an outfit (Nikon S2) in the 1950s and most of the Leica M people still do.

      • Yep Andrew, I put my preorder in with Adorama the day it became available! I’ll also keep track of other retailers and order one that comes in stock if my pre-order doesn’t ship out. Adorama/B&H are usually about the same in getting their lenses in. A shame B&H wouldn’t let me pre-order. Something’s messed up with my account in their system. Still can’t figure it out.

        Though I love my 85mm f/1.4 (yes…I know, still no review), a Zeiss or “G” 85mm f/1.8 that performs superbly starting at maximum aperture would be a worthy consideration…if I wasn’t already looking towards that Zeiss 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar on down the road to do double-duty portraiture and macro. I highly doubt a 135mm f/2.8 will happen, but would still be great to see.

        One lens to look out for preorder links is that 50mm f/2.8 Makro that is supposed to come out at the end of summer. Though I will probably not even preorder it (I like working at f/2 and wider at 50mm), that lens will surely be dynamite if it follows the trend of the 12mm f/2.8 and 32mm f/1.8 (based on early reports, of course).

  12. Just put in my pre-order for the Zeiss 32/1.8. Was very difficult to decide on ultimate quality (Zeiss) or good-enough (plus OSS) at half the price (Sony).

    • Good on you, Andrew! If you’re anything like me with your NEX-7, you love getting all of those 24 million pixels ultra-sharp at ISO 100. The Sony gets close from f/5-f/9, but it’s never a tack-sharp lens corner-to-corner, like my 105mm Micro-Nikkor. I’ve grown used to shooting without OSS on my NEX-7 with all my manual lenses, so the OSS on the 35mm is just a nice bonus for when I might need it (the few times I go handheld at night, or shoot a handheld video), but it’s not necessary for my photographic style.

      Where’d you preorder from?

      • Pre-ordered from B&H both to use an existing store credit and because they’ve always been excellent.

        I also usually shoot at ISO 100, though as someone who despises flash, I often crank it up to 800 or even 1600 at night. I am spoiled by the image quality of the CZ24/1.8E wide open, and hope the new 32 matches it (it should being a Planar).

        The harder decision is whether or not to go for the 12/2.8. Since the NEX7 is known to have significant magenta fringing and I hate spending any time in post, I’ll wait for reviews to hit. I was ready to buy the 10-18, Sony, but reviews show significant magenta shift on the NEX7. For now, I use the 16-50 for wideangle, though 24mm equivalent isn’t as wide as I’d like.

      • Gotcha.

        One thing to keep in mind is that the 24mm f/1.8 is a Sony-made, Zeiss-branded lens. The Touit lenses and their production is controlled solely by Zeiss. Both lenses may actually be better than the 24mm.

        I remember reading an early report somewhere that the 12mm f/2.8 doesn’t produce magenta fringing on the NEX-7. I don’t remember where, but I too would wait for a couple reviews before going for it. $1250 is a lot for any lens, let alone one that may have a flaw on the NEX-7 like that.

      • Just read today (forgot where) that Sony will have a NEX7 firmware update for the Touit lenses in August. Also on digilloyd’s review he praised the 12/2.8 and there is no magenta fringing to be found in the images.

        I am completely satisfied with my 24E. It may be Sony-made and perhaps mostly Sony designed, but it is definitely a Zeiss lens. It was enough better than my Minolta 32/2.0 and A850 full-frame pair that the announcement of the Touits combined with the 24E was enough to put my entire full frame outfit up for sale last week.

        NEX system now only really lacks long focal lengths and fast zooms. I’m more of a prime kind of guy, and legacy telephotos work very well on NEX7, unlike wides. I use late 1980s-vintage Leica Elmarit-R 90/2.8 and 135/2.8 on my NEX7 with fantastic results. A 75~90mm Touit would likely end up in my bag, but I really can’t complain with the Leicas.

        Just pre-ordered the 12/2.8 as well.

      • Yep, I remember now to both. Digilloyd liked the lens, and SAR reported on the firmware deal a little while back. Good to hear.

        I wasn’t knocking the 24mm f/1.8 in the slightest. Heck of a lens from what I see, if I wanted to go wide. 32mm is really pushing it for me. I’m a telephoto guy. :)

        A rumored 85mm e-mount is supposed to come relatively soon. When, I don’t know. Even if it’s f/2.8 it’d be a great and compact lens (especially if they borrowed the optical formula from the SAL8528. That said, I use legacy telephotos and am quite happy with them.

        Dang man, you’re going to have a nice kit when all of this ships. Let me know when you get that 12/2.8 in, I wouldn’t mind featuring a few of your shots as a separate post this summer, since there’s no way I’m getting that lens.

      • I’ll be happy to send some images when they arrive. I am very excited about the transition from full-frame DSLR to compact mirrorless. As I get older, I find that I am becomming a better photographer, but want to spend a lot less time (and muscle) fiddling with camera equipment. Three or at most four primes and a compact body is about the most I would ever want to carry, and often I will just pick one lens and force myself to shoot within its limitations.

        I will likely get the NEX7 replacement (if they keep the excellent control layout) or another NEX7 (depending on close-out price) to minimize lens changes. With the A850 I could never een think of that, and often had to settle for a slower zoom instead of a second body/lens for weight reasons.

        I have always found 35mm (on film) to be my favorite focal length, so I was already a very happy camper with just the 24E. I do want to start playing more at the wide end, which is really pushes me to be more creative.

      • Good to hear. I technically started with an APS-C DSLR, and also hate the weight. My dream camera set-up is/will be(?) a NEX-9 FF with a 50mm f/1.4, 100mm f/2 Makro-Planar, 200mm f/2 AI-s ED, and a 400mm f/2.8 AI-s ED. Who knows, maybe this time next year I’ll be partway there. I typically only go out with one lens at a time as well. Helps with thinking about composition. :)

        I’m considering the next NEX-7, but only if I can sell my current body. Thanks to the repairs, it has 6 more months of warranty and is still in pristine condition. We’ll see.

        Understood about pushing boundaries. For now, the times that I want to go wide, I will use the mosaic method of shooting multiple images and stitching to create a wider field of view. Over the summer I plan to get a 055CX3 tripod and a Nodal Ninja 5 pano head with RD-16 rotator. If you followed my site since last summer, you know how fed up I was with Manfrotto and said I would never get another one of their products. Well…I guess it’s taken a year for me to calm down and give them one more chance.

      • Wide is not at all about field of view for me. Wide is about perspective, and the distortion thereof.

      • Completely understood. The only problem for me is that I rarely want to go wide. I have to admit, there are those that nail the use of that perspective down pat, though. Richard NO on dpreview posts some amazing shots taken with his 10-18mm f/4 on his NEX.

  13. “Hi” Matthew….. Great review… I got this new lens because of you…. The pictures came out way better that the 16mm-55mm kit lens…. I have one question, how do you turn on and off the oss optical stabilization on the Sony Nex 5R…. It’s the same as StradyShot…??

    Thank you…!!

    Best Regards,
    Tony

  14. “Hello” Matthew… Thanks for the quick respond… Sorry, to bother you again.. I’m trying to get a better understanding of this new lens… So, I have another question for you…. If I want to take a really sharp pictures of the car (side view and corner view) what is the recommendation setting of the aperture stopping ?? If I were to take a pictures on a sunny day with the ISO 100 setting…?? Or any other recommendation would greatly appreciate…. BTW I’m using the Nex 5R…

    Thank you again…!! YOU’RE THE BEST…!!

    Best Regards,
    Tony

    • For best detail cross-frame on the 35mm f/1.8, go for about f/5-5.6. If everything is in focus, then you’re good to go. However, if you need more depth-of-field (parts of the car are out-of-focus that you want in-focus) stop down to f/8 or f/11. Sorry for the late reply, been pretty busy lately. :)

      • Thank you Matthew…. I just order a Hoya 49mm Hrt Circular Polarizer Lens Filter… My new question is… Could I use the same set up as you recommend with the Hoya Hrt Circular Polarizer Lens Filter..??

        I’m very appreciated for all the advices & taking your time to reply…

        Best Regards,
        Tony

  15. thanks Matthew for this very exhaustive review! I have a Nex 5r with the 16-50 and I am satisfied so far, but do you think I can improve the quality of my pictures (street, lanscape etc..) if I buy this lens ? thanks in advance.

    • Hey there Alexander. Glad you liked the review! At every equivalent aperture, the 35mm will give you technically better pictures in terms of distortion, sharpness, bokeh, etc. than the 16-50 powerzoom kit. The added bonus of being able to open up even wider than the kit lens can for a bit more subject separation is a bonus as well. Whether you truly appreciate the difference depends on how critical you are of your own photographs. Playing devil’s advocate here, if you say you are satisfied so far with your, why consider upgrading (besides gaining more possible shallow depth of field)?

      • Hi Matthew, thanks for your answer, that helps! I am satisfied by the kit lens, but if I can improve my pictures, I think that’s worth investing a little bit more ;)

  16. i’m deciding between this lens and the cheaper sigma 30mm….this lens has OSS while the sigma doesn’t. is it worth an extra $200? thks.

    • If you need the extra light-gathering ability and gains in slow-shutter speeds (and smooth handheld video) through OSS, then yes, it is definitely worth the money. I’m actually selling my copy of the lens, if you are interested. :)

  17. Hello, great review.

    I am buying an a6000 and I was wondering if I should get the kit 16-50 for $150 more or just the body and 35mm1.8 OSS. If I get the kit lens,I can save money and buy the metabones speed booster adapter to use with my canon glasses( 50 1.8, 17-40 4.0).
    What do you recommend? I also wonder how the image quality and color contrast of the sony 35mm vs canon 50mm.
    Thanks.

    • Hey there Jimmy, glad the review is helping you out. Another option to consider is buying the kit and just selling the kit lens for a little extra profit. I have no idea how the Canon 50mm is compared to the Sony 35mm, especially if you use the former in a speed booster. Depending on which brand you get, it can be a mixed bag. What I do know is the Sony is a great little lens with good image quality all around with not a whole lot to complain about at its price point. Ideally, you would eventually want to try to have both a speed booster for your Canon glass AND this lens for different applications, but its up to you to figure out which to go for first. Good luck!

  18. Great review, was almost going to give up… but now I have a way forward A6000 body only, and this will be my main lens; guess I’ll have to use my feet for that tiny bit of zoom I’ll be missing.

  19. hi,
    i am looking into getting a nice, fast and hopefully very sharp prime for my a6000. i have considered the sigma 30mm f2.8 and even the zeiss touit 32mm as well as this. this seems to be the best middle ground, but i am sorry of wishing there were some other options available. i guess this is not really a question except do you know of any other e mount prime lenses in this 30-35mm range?
    thanks,
    andre

    • Hello there Andre. I have had many ask between these three lenses, and it really comes down to what you need the lens for. If all you want is a cheap 50mm equivalent with good performance, the Sigma is a good choice. Best overall image quality with better depth-of-field control, the Touit. Good price/performance balance with OSS? The Sony is the way to go. There are a couple other offerings from third-party manufacturers, but they are manual-focus only. Good luck!

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