on December 2, 2010
I got this lens for my new Sony A55. First I was going to buy Sony 50mm/1.4, but after realizing how much I've already spent, I decided to slow down a little. After being used to quality build of SAL 18-250 lens I was just amazed how cheap this lens looked like when I took it out the box. It felt like this thing was build for Toys-R-Us. When I set to Manual focus and turned ring around - those little (plastic) gears inside were grinding pretty loudly. Build is comparable to kit lens. It is ... plastic. Made in China.
But when I attached lens to camera and started taking pictures, I calmed down. :) All is fine, optics are very good, lens is sharp. Just, do not confuse "SAM" abbreviation on the lens with word "silent". Focusing is not silent at all. But not too terrible loud either. Bokeh is very nice too. I got it mostly for night video/still shots, but in daylight this lens is very good too. Colors are not distorted, no obvious defects in optics. It is super light - 6oz! (170gr). That's ~3 times lighter than my zoom lens! After APS-C 1.5 conversion ratio it is my 50mm lens (52.5). And inexpensive too for 175. If it dies, it dies.
Most importantly, this is a newer Sony lens, I hope better suited for new cameras Sony A33/55 and A560/580. 1-2 year older lenses will fit/work too, but might be off in some parameters. So, if you have these cameras, you can definitely can give this lens a try. It does what it supposed to do.
UPDATE: after using this lens for a while, I found out that even in setting when all light is provided only by a very basic lighting in my office, plus table top lamp - this lens has no issues to get very good video/stills. Now, I'm VERY comfortable with it. And with (included) hood on - it looks cool too. I like it! I posted couple pics of plants in my backyard, to get idea how it works.
on March 23, 2012
This is about as cheap as worthwhile lenses get. There are only two lenses in Sony's lineup that are cheaper than this (the 50mm F1.8, and the 18-55 zoom, which I've also reviewed). As a very low-cost lens, it gets plastic construction, the SAM (Smooth Autofocus Motor) focus system instead of screw drive or SSM (the best focus drive around), and the most basic focus markings. The SAM focusing motor means you have to deal with two focus mode switches; one on the lens, and one on the camera. I could live without that, really; if I had my way, this lens would just use the body-driven focus and ditch the SAM. But putting motors in lenses is the trendy design these days. As I said, this is an all-plastic body; it doesn't feel nearly as solid as something like a Minolta metal body prime or a Tamron 17-50.
So those are the drawbacks of this lens. Let's talk about its good points. This is going to take a lot more space. Remember those cheaper lenses I mentioned? Well, the 18-55 has (or really lacks, depending on how you look at it) one feature that's rather annoying; the front element turns with the focus ring. So if you use something like a graduated filter or polarizer, you have to focus, and then adjust that filter. Well this ultra-low cost 35mm doesn't do that. Turn the focus ring, and the front element stays put. So you can set up your filter, and then move on to focusing - a much better process. And speaking of focusing, if you're a manual transmission kind of shooter, the ring on this lens has a good long range of motion, so you can do a good job of getting just the right focus. Good thing, too, because this lens has a very shot minimum focus distance (MFD), and when you're right up on a subject at F1.8, the depth of field is pretty darn thin, so the focus had better be spot on in a shot like that. I like lenses with short MFD; it's nice to be able to right up to some subjects. Back to the focus ring; it turns a bit too easily for my taste. That's being pretty nitpicky for a lens that costs around $200, though. So, remember the all-plastic construction? Well, it makes this lens light as air. If you worry about weight in your bag, you'll absolutely love this lens. It feels good on the camera, though; I have an A700, which is about the beefiest body short of a full frame body, and it handles well with this lens in place. The autofocus works well (with the A700 body, anyway); I've taken a couple of thousand pictures of dancers in a dark theater, and every time the focus point was set on something focusable (i.e., pretty much anything but the plain backdrop or a solid black area) the lens focused fast and accurately. The images are sharp in the center even wide open. Stop it down just a bit, and it's sharp all the way across. I'd say at least F2.8 to enjoy corner to corner sharpness. There's a bit of distortion, but not much and it's easily fixed. And the flare control is great. I've put the blazing sun just off center, wide open, with a slightly overexposed shot, and only gotten one tiny dot near the center of the shot. Stop it down a bit, and even that goes away. Very impressive. The lens comes with a good hood (that almost doubles the apparent size of the lens), a pinch cap on the front (so it's easy to take off or put on within the hood) with a big orange alpha symbol, and your regular old rear cap, proudly telling the world that this is a Sony lens. Well, they should be proud of it. It's an amazing lens at this price. Another clue that it's a great lens; I toyed around with the idea of buying one for many months, and in that time, I only saw one used copy for sale.
It takes 55mm filters; this is one of the smaller sizes, so the filters cost a bit less (or a lot less, depending on the quality level you go for).
This lens is a keeper. If you've got a Sony DSLR/DST, you should have one of these.
Update; I've now had this lens for over six months, and am even more convinced that this is one of the best lens values you can possibly find for a Sony DSLR. If you only own one prime lens for your Sony DSLR, it should be this one.
on March 30, 2011
35mm is close to the ideal "normal" (neither wide-angle nor telephoto) field of view on APS-C DSLR's. It very closely approximates the field-of-view of a 50mm lens on a film SLR, which is a focal length that people have found tremendously useful for decades. It's been easy to find 50mm primes, both new and used, for quite some time -- but 50mm with the 1.5x crop factor of a DSLR is kind of an awkward focal length, useful but not ideal for that one, everyday prime lens.
Before this lens, sony shooters looking for a "normal" prime had some options, none of which were very appealing. The sigma 30mm/f1.4 is an OK lens, but relatively pricey for mediocre performance. You could look for a 20 year old minolta 35mm/f2, but those were fetching a small fortune on the used market. You could use the old minolta 28mm/f2.8, but that was never a very strong lens, and not fast for a prime either. The sony/minolta 35mm/f1.4G was a nice option if you wanted to drop $1300.
And now, along comes a lens many sony shooters have been begging for for years -- a budget "normal" prime, f2 or better for APS bodies. And the lens does not disappoint in any way. Optics are very nice all around. Sharpness is excellent, even good wide open (though keep in mind focus can be hard to control at wide apertures on any lens, and contrast can suffer). Color and contrast are very pleasing. Focusing is fairly fast, and seems very accurate on my a700. The lens is pretty small, and extremely light, which means you can take it with you anywhere.
In short: lots to love about this lens, and no real downside. Should be a no-brainer purchase for anyone with a Sony APS-C DSLR.
on November 15, 2010
Compared to the kit lens, I was surprised at how much sharper and detailed the images are from this prime lens. The build quality is comparable to the kit lens, all plastic, which does make it very light which is a plus. I noticed the focus motor is also a little smoother and quieter as well. Keep in mind that at the maximum aperture the depth of field is extremely narrow. This requires critical focus accuracy which the A55 seems to accomplish effortlessly even in low light.
This lens seems like a great bargain based on my results vs. cost.
on December 1, 2011
Like most of the other Sony owners here I had a hard time deciding between this and the 50/1.4. (I shoot on the A65.) The two things that swayed me to this lens was that 1) the 50mm actually shoots at 72mm on APS-C so it's much narrower than advertised, and 2) Kurt Munger rated this lens highest among Sony primes. The 35mm on the non-full frame Sonys will shoot at about 50mm, so the field of vision is perfectly normal, great for shooting on the street and portraits. The clarity in this lens blows the 50/1.8 away. Wide open aperture in broad daylight shows very little vignetting. I shoot mostly musicians as they perform in clubs and very rarely do I ever need to open up all the way to f1.8; at f2.2 this lens is not only a champ, but it makes comparative zooms that cover its range feel . . . less satisfying. The colouration is about what you'd expect from any other Sony lens. On the street, and especially in NYC where I live, the lens looks like a toy cosmetically, especially when standing next to European tourists with their red-ringed Canon lenses. But I can attest that at $1200 less this lens performs just as well (and in some cases better). The bokeh is nice and smooth at f2+. The challenges that sort of hinder this lens all relvove around the physical functionality; the focus motor isn't quiet so if you're filming video or shooting in a quiet place like a church, you'll have to focus manually because it's just too loud. Also (and this really only matters if you're truly novice), I find that the depth of field is a little shallow, so you have to be very precise when focusing. But really, that just makes one a better photographer, right?
As far as primes go in this focus range, there's really no reason to own anything else unless you're upgrading all the way up to a Carl Zeiss. It's a fantastic piece of glass, plasticy/aluminumy/basic-looking yes, but you won't complain if you have to carry it around all day, and you certainly won't complain when you open up the results in Adobe Lightroom.
"true" FOV on the 50mm
superior low light capability
superior vignetting control
somehwhat shallow DOF; precise focusing @less than infinity required
focus motor too loud to film on AF without external mic
audible moving parts while focusing
cosmetically nothing special
So there you go. Physically the lens looks and operates in a manner that is almost laughable. But BOY can it take an awesome picture. If you're spending less than a grand, this is the lens you want, bar none and hands down.
on August 27, 2015
Right up front I'll say that I'm giving this lens five stars based on the way it performs at its price point. I have a few lenses that each cost four to five times as much as the SAL35F18 and, of course, I think they're better lenses. But, they didn't cost $200 and aren't light, compact, and easy to carry. Overall, this is a nice little lens for all-around use. I have carried it in the field where I would normally carry my 105mm macro, and it performed admirably, letting me get landscape shots, close-ups, as well as a series of shots that effortlessly stitched together for a pano. It has also done well for general purpose whatever-have-you photography. I haven't had a "normal" prime lens in years, and I'm having fun learning to shoot that way again, rather than being able to rack focal length on a zoom lens. People have commented on the weight, or lack thereof. Comparing it with my old, retired 18-55 Sony kit lens, the SAL35F18 seems heavier, and produces much better quality than the kit lens, for which my copy could best be described as "crappy" (YMMV). My experience with this lens at f/1.8 is that it requires a lot of care. For me (shooting an A55) I've found the auto focus to be unreliable at that aperture. I also think the lens is a bit soft at that aperture, so perhaps that is the cause. I get better results, or at least more consistent results, with manual focus at f/1.8 and f/2. Also, when wide open I have experienced purple fringing in high contrast situations. Of course, Lightroom takes care of that quite nicely. One comment about macro shots -- I quickly learned the difference between a 35mm macro and a 105mm macro when shooting handheld: a couple of mm of movement of the photographer or the subject amounts to a significant percentage of the subject to sensor distance for the shorter lens, not so much so for the longer lens. Thus, taking macro shots handheld with this lens is more challenging for me than with my 105mm. I had not considered that before, but it makes sense to me. Overall, a good lens and a lot of capability for the price.
on January 16, 2012
I decided to complete my lineup of prime lenses with this one. Given the line up from 24mm to 200mm, and virtually all of them with maximum aperture of f/2.8, I needed one that could be faster. And this is it. Better yet, this is also the "normal" prime for my APS-C frame Sony A55.
Given that this is an economy lens for Sony Alpha DSLR/SLT cameras with APS-C sensors, I wasn't expecting much. It is light, something I could use with most of my walk around lenses being rather heavy. It is reasonably fast, and delivered pretty sharp pictures with minimum chromatic aberrations. It also has a close focusing distance of just 23cm (about 9"). I would recommend this to any Sony Alpha DSLR/SLT camera owner, looking for a fast, normal lens.
on November 11, 2011
To be honest, I did not buy this lens through Amazon. I have been reading reviews for a Macro/Max. apeture lens on Amazon.
I ended up purchasing it through my local camera shop because shipping would have taken too long for the day I needed it.
For background info, I own a Sony A55 and I tested this lens on full manual mode. I was a graphic design major so I took some photography classes in college.
I know at the basics of manual photography and a I learned on a traditional film camera.
I have it for less than 24 hours and I think it is worth the $216 that I spend vs. the SAL 50mm f14 ($399) that I was going to purchase.
For the price, this is an bargin for the effect.
*It is very light compare to my SAL 18-250 super zoom.
*The close up photo is AMAZING. It is sharp, bright, colorful and clear. I took a photograph of a turantula through a very dirty tank (indoor) and you can still see all the hair on the legs.
*It is well constructed and mine was made in GERMANY. The autofocas is quiet but not silent.
*Borka(?) is very nice. NO distracting shape or pattern to speech of.
*Also it is kinda listed as "wide angle." Distant photos is soft so when zoom in on the photograph (in photoshop) it is a bit on the bury side.
*Like most macro/wide angle lens, there are some distortion of the images. When I took picture of my kids from birdeye view, they have a HUGE head.
*High ISO indoor for high speey still needed. My children move fast and if I prefer no flash, I have to set the ISO to about 1600 to make it work.
Hope this helps.
on March 19, 2013
I bought this lens for my Sony NEX 7. The crop factor on the Sony NEX 7 makes this lens a 52.5mm, basically a 50mm lens, perfect for portraits, film, and street photography. I use this lens more than any of the 3 that I own because it is a heck of a lot of fun knowing I have to think about my next shot.
In other words, there will be NO zoom on this lens, so keep that in mind if you like to zoom. The only functionioning part on this lens is the focus ring. This is called a prime/fixed lens, meaning whatever prime/fixed lens you buy, 30mm, 35mm, 50mm, etc, it is fixed in that distance, and that is all.
I've shot with this lens at parties, Pasadena and LA streets, even in a few really dark bars of downtown cities and it performs flawlessly. I am always amazed at the results I get with this lens. No, this lens will not make you a better photographer, but it will definitely help you to understand where you need to be to grab that awesome shot!
Let's talk about quality....someone who reviewed this lens said "the quality of this lens is almost laughable." Honestly, I'd have to agree even though I don't want that to deter anyone away from purchasing this lens. The material used is light plastic and sometimes gives you the impression that you're using a toy lens. But make no mistake about it, this lens is a force to be reckoned with if you know what you are doing.
I use this lens about 85%-90% of the time I have my camera in my hands. My best advice for NEX users is, strap on an A-Mount adapter, throw this lens on, turn on the red focus peaking to "high" and fire away for the best results. It is ridiculously epic.
One last thing to note is this lens is manual focus only. There is a toggle on the lens that you can move to autofocus or manual focus, but it does not work even when your camera and lens are both set to auto focus.
Some other notes about NEX cameras:
-to use this lens you'll need an adapter. I use the A to E Mount adapter from RainbowImaging. (Check my other reviews to find the adapter I'm talking about.)
-to use this lens you'll also need to go into your settings of your NEX. Go into setup and find the "Release w/o Lens" option and click "Enable." This will allow your NEX camera to recognize any lens that is not an NEX lens as long as you have the correct adapter.
-this lens on an NEX camera will be manual focus only
-the part of the lens that is close to your sensor is somewhat annoying to clean because there is plastic in the way...but as long as your caps are on when you're not using it, you should be fine cleaning it once a week or so.
on July 23, 2011
i've been using the sony a55 kit lens and it's served me well; however, i am looking for a lens that will handle indoor/low light photos better; since i have amazon prime i bought this to try out to see if i like the results and without a question i am keeping this lens. you can't zoom in/out with this lens but getting 1.8 at $200 is an amazing deal. i am happy with this purchase and if you are on the fence i'd say def buy it, you will be glad you did. i played between a 55 and a 35 and decided that 35 is def the way to go for $50 more. Here's a video with the Sony A55 in low light. [...]