I posted a preview of the Sony SEL3518 35mm f/1.8 E mount lens a couple months ago and it’s time to give you a little more from my day to day use. It has rarely left the body of my NEX 5Nand now the NEX -7 and has proved to be a great all-around lens.
As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my reviews are the type that I hope to read- What is it actually like to use this lens? Others have done a thorough job in showing zoomed in crops from the edges and comparisons from 6 different F stops with a critique of Chromatic Aberration and Bokeh artifacts. I’ll include technical details where I think they make a difference.
35mm on the NEX system has a field of view that is equivalent to a 52mm lens on an old 35mm Film camera or a Full Frame DSLR. For years, SLRs came with a single 50mm lens as a kit. To give some perspective, many folks believe that human vision is about the equivalent of 47-53mm. Sure you can see more to the sides, but that part is out of focus and is what we generally refer to as peripheral vision. Forget the explanation. Here are some photos taken with different focal lengths so you can see.
What I like about this length is the ease of composition. What you see on the screen or in the viewfinder when composing is pretty much what you see with your eyes. With wider or narrower focal lengths, there is often a distortion that happens in features, but that doesn’t happen as much with this lens.
Since I bought this camera system, I’ve been hoping for a compact, middle length “regular” lens. At about that same time, the 24mm Zeiss became available, but it’s quite a bit larger and more expensive. I really love the compact nature of the NEX system as it fits easily in a small case that I can take with me daily. Whether I’m stowing it in my bike pannier or slinging it over my shoulder in a compact case, I can always have it with me without a lot of bulk. All of the native lenses for the NEX system are pretty small compared to the larger lenses you typically use with a full size DSLR, but this lens is just the right balance between weight and size. Here is a shot L-R of the Kit zoom 18-55 f/3.5-5.6, the 35mm f/1.8 and the 50mm f/1.8
Focusing is relatively quick and accurate when stopped down to f/4 up to around f/18. This is pretty normal with fast lenses. Below f.4, the narrow field of focus means that the chances of the exact part of the frame being in focus are smaller. When I’m shooting with these larger aperture settings, I always use the micro adjustment feature to fine tune before clicking the shutter. This is the same technique I use with other large aperture lenses including the Sony 50mm. When you are using a smaller aperture setting, the lower available light can slow down the focus speed.
In my experience, This lens focuses quicker than the 50mm and the 18-55 zoom, but just a little slower than the 16mm prime. I usually leave the focus assist light turned off, but turned it back on for a few days to see how much difference it makes. In low light situations, it makes a big difference, but I don’t think the pluses outweigh the con of a bright orange light shining on your subject and potentially ruining the moment you are trying to capture.
This lens is really light. What that means is that there are metal parts combined with high density plastic pieces. After almost three months of daily use, I’ve seen no scratching or other issues and it seems to be holding up really well. I’m not worried about it at all. The focus ring is of the Focus-by-wire type which means that there aren’t hard stops on the extremes. For those who are used to manual focus rings, this can be a little weird, but the ring does have a nice damping and resistance that feels very linear and tactile.
This lens uses the same bayonet mounting system for the hood and 49mm threads that are used on most all of the E mount lenses. This interchangability is nice if you use either. I recently picked up a Neutral Density Filter and it is nice to know that I can use it on all of my lenses. The two exceptions that I know of, the 18-200 and the 10-18 zooms have a larger 62mm thread size.
Metal Lens Hood
I posted a story a couple weeks ago about a metal lens hood that I picked up to go with this lens. Here are a couple before and after photos.
I'm not gonna talk about it. I'd prefer to just show you some images. This Link will show you every post of mine that I categorized as 35mm. All of these photos are made with this lens. Here are a few images if you don't want to click through.
Basically, this is a great lens. Image quality is fantastic both stopped down and wide open. It's compact, well built and looks great. If you are a NEX owner, you should seriously consider adding this one to your camera bag. In fact, it just might become the center of your kit.