Customer Reviews: Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro Lens for Sony Alpha Digital SLR Camera
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on October 2, 2010
The Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro lens is one of the best lenses you will ever put in your camera's mount.

I will provide the pros and cons of this lens along with my experience with it.

What most people want to know right now is whether this lens is sharp, it is. You could cut cheese bars with how sharp it is.

The fast aperture of f/2.8 allows you to use aperture to isolate your subject from the background or use it when you work under low light. It closes down to f/32.

This lens gives you a reproduction ratio from 1:4 to 1:1, that 1:1 ratio is the one that will let you take pictures of bugs or tiny things and make them look big enough on the picture with enough detail resolved to let you crop if you need to.

It's common belief that a macro lens works wonders for macros but not for normal shooting, such as portraits or landscapes. This is not true, you can use macro lenses for both purposes with excellent results. Especially from this lens.

The focal length of 50mm applies to full frame cameras (A900/850), in APS-C cameras (from the A100 up to the A700) it will yield a focal length of 75mm, which it may be an odd length to use since it borderlines on telephoto. It's not really a problem when shoooting up close but if you shoot portraits or landscapes, you may need to take a few steps back to compose, depending on what you want to display in the image.

This lens has a metal mount, a DOF scale which let's you determine how much of the subject in front of you will be in focus depending on the subject's distance and the aperture used. Something to keep in mind here: 1: The scale is tuned for Full Frame, not APS-C, and the scale is set to show in focus subjects at f/16 and f/32. Unless you shoot frequently at these apertures going for maximum depth of field, I don't think you'll find this scale useful. The best thing you could do is to look at your optical or electronical view finders (for all those new A33/55 users out there) and engage the DOF preview button (if your camera has the option) to check how much of the image will be in focus at the selected aperture. For those of you with no DOF preview option, my advice is to shoot at different apertures and get familiar with how much in focus things get when using small apertures or how less things in focus you have at wide apertures.

At f/2.8 the lens has a shallow DOF, however, wherever you set the focus point, it will be real sharp, the rest of the image will be fuzzy if you look at detail at 100% magnification (a.k.a pixel peeping) but this is normal, shallow DOF yields few things in focus. Closing down the lens makes things sharp all over the plane. The best sharpness can be obtained at around f/5.6 and f/8, beyond that things won't change too much.

A handy feature this lens has is a focus limiter switch. The switch lets you use the whole focusing range of the lens or limit it at a range you chose so it won't go beyond that while trying to focus. If you're shooting landscapes or portraits, you don't need to go beyond 1:4 magnification and if you are shooting macros at 1:1 or 1:2, the last thing you need is the lens to go at 1:4. This speeds things up when focusing, either manually or automatically.

The lens has a focus hold button, which helps you to retain focus where you set it if you're using AF instead of having the camera look for focus again. In the A100/700/850/900 you can set this button to work as DOF preview instead of using the camera's button. For some, this will be more comfortable ,so it's a handy option as well. I don't know for sure, but I assume this will also work with the new A33/55/560/580 since those have DOF preview buttons too.

The lens is mostly build of plastic, but it doesn't have a cheap feel. It's solidly built. I would just advice to be careful with the filter threads, because those are plastic too, and if you use filters or special add-ons for macro lenses, you could wear them off with frequent use. Maybe a step-up or step-down ring will be a good idea to attach to the lens and use the threads of the ring to mount filters or other things. The thread size is 55mm.

This lens doesn't have a hood, but it doesn't need it. By design, the front element is deeply recessed into the lens, be it completely drawn in or completely extended, so there is no need for a hood. If you need one, use your hand to block light rays.

The focusing ring is wide and has a good grip, unfortunately it carries the same ribbed grip that all Sony lenses carry which is a dirt magnet and hard to clean. I wish Sony dropped this and used the smooth rubbery grips Minolta used to have or the Tamron ones.

The lens focuses real fast thanks to the wide aperture it possesses. However, be careful. When using the lens for portraits or landscapes, focusing won't be a problem, the AF mechanism will do it fast and swiftly. Where it may get annoying is when using it for macro and close up shots.

The focusing axiom you need to know and always remember when shooting macros or close ups is: The closer you are to your subject, the more careful you got to be with distances, in some cases, if you move just 1 mm, you will lose focus completely.

If you think this is exaggerated, try to shoot flowers or something really small while using manual focus and breathing. You'll see that as you breathe, the subject goes from focus to out of focus.

Therefore, you shouldn't expect this lens and camera to *know exactly* where you want to focus when shooting up real close, because there is no way they will know. You can AF at 1:1 magnification, but most of the time it will make the lens hunt for focus and go all the focusing range. Also keep in mind that the closer you are, the more focusing points the camera has to choose, so you can drive the AF nuts with this.

The best way to use this lens when doing macro, is to focus manually. That will ensure you will focus on the right exact spot you want without waiting for the camera to figure out where you want it to focus. Like I said, you can use AF with it, but the lens will be prone to hunt for focus a lot, THIS IS NOT A LENS OR CAMERA MALFUNCTION. It's just the laws of optics and photography.

If you really insist on using AF with this lens, I suggest you use spot focusing and select a focusing sensor so the camera will focus with only that one, I suggest using the central sensor.

One thing you need to determine if you're considering this lens is if you will be shooting near and static subjects or subjects that will let you get close or if you're going to need to shoot from a distance and you can't get close. If you choose the first option, then this lens is for you, if you chose the latter, then I suggest you give a look to the Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro lens or third party options, like the Sigma 105mm Macro or the Tamron 90mm f/2.8 Macro lenses. Why do I bring this up? Because if you're shooting things from a distance, this lens won't give you enough reach. I've gone through this before where I want to shoot things I can't get close to like dragonflies but I can't reach them as I want to because the lens just doesn't have enough length for it. There are several options for the Alpha mount of macro lenses which will give you reach for far subjects, but if you don't really need it, then go for this option. If I recall correctly, this lens is a bit sharper and has more contrast than it's 100mm brother.

The colors and contrast yielded by this lens are superb, images will have a color punch that Canon and Nikon users crave for but can't get from their system.

Aside from the possible short reach of this lens, the other con I can think of is the sound it makes when focusing, while it's not loud like a zoom, it does have a sort of loud deep noise when it focuses. For situations you need it to be silent, you're better focusing manually. But will all due honesty, this is nit picking.

This lens will open up worlds you never knew that existed at distances you could only dream of when using a kit lens. There is a difference between being close and being CLOSE.

If there is one lens that will not disappoint you and be versatile for macros, close ups, portraits, landscapes and whatever else you can think of (except shooting at long distances), is this lens.

I strongly suggest you look the review done by Kurt Munger of this lens, it will provide other technical information I may have missed to mention.

Price wise, it may be a bit expensive, but it's worth every penny. Unless you really need the reach, look into the other options I mentioned, just be aware that price may increase from this price point.

Otherwise, take the plunge now and treat yourself to a wonderful lens.
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on December 14, 2007
Rather than "reviewing" this lens, I will instead point out features which I feel will be important to a potential buyer.

* Lens made in Japan - not Chinese junk.
* Razor sharp images.
* Very crisp and bright for an F2.8 lens - it "feels" like an F1.4 lens.
* Absolutely no vignetting in the corners - full coverage.
* Focus range limiter - either infinity to close, or close to macro. Can be turned on or off. The focus range limiter is a very important feature - it prevents the camera from needlessly swinging the lens all the way from infinity to macro when it re-focuses.
* Uses 55 mm filter rings.
* Macro focus works a LOT closer than advertised. You can photograph a flea on a fly if you want.
* On-lens focus hold button - temporarily turns off auto focus if you need to. This is very useful for getting the *exact* spot in focus that you want (especially in macro mode).
* The Focus Hold button can be programmed in the camera to do focus hold OR depth of field preview.
* Iris leaves are nice and symmetrical - another sign of quality.
* Iris has 7 leafs - and they are slightly curved so that the aperture is almost a perfect circle at any F-stop.
* Lens is smooth and tight - nothing rattles like "cheap" lenses do.

If you buy this lens, you will not be disappointed.
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on November 13, 2008
This is a MUST HAVE glass for your Alpha system! I shoot this on an A700 and a KM 5D. Beside the 1.5x factor (which really makes this lens more like a 75mm) it is TACK SHARP. Whether you shoot macro or for general shooting for portraits. This glass is going to give you the sharpness you need, the color you wish for, and the depth in your subject. The only reservation i have for this glass is that it's a plastic body with a rubber focus ring, which the rubber will tend to get "old" as it ages. But don't get me wrong, it's a good build and never feels "cheap" in your hands. The focus on this is bearable but not super fast when you're in macro mode. Use the focus limiter button and it will surprise you how fast it can keep up even on the KM 5D. It's a prime glass piece! Pay for the price but you won't regret it!!!
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on January 5, 2013
Got this in one day but used 2nd day shipping! Now about the lens. I am extremely pleased with the sharpness and clarity in macro and portrait mode. In macro mode mounted on my Sony A65 I was able to zoom in on a ruler and found the maximum magnification represented about 23mm along the longest dimension of the image meaning that objects that are slightly less than one inch will fill the entire width of a landscape oriented photo on the Sony A65 camera. So that works out to be 6,000 pixels divided by 23mm = 261 pixels per millimeter of resolution.

Like the other reviewers have said, switch to manual focus for the macro shots so you have control of what regions of the object are in focus and don't breathe or your focal plane will shift when the camera moves closer or farther from the object as you breathe.

I got some great shots using the lense in the 50mm portrait mode. And because of the 2.8 speed I even got some great shots with my A65 camera's built-in flash in a dimly lit room from 20 feet away. Can't wait till my external flash (Sony HVL-F43AM) gets here to see how far I can reliably shoot at night.

It is a pricey lens but you get what you pay for in this case.
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on April 16, 2014
Wanted to break out into macro phototography and spent months researching lenses. This one by far was not the cheapest, nor was it the most expensive. Knowing exactly what I wanted out of my photography I knew I needed a quality lens for my sony a65 but I wasnt ready (or able actually) to spend 2g on one of the mega lenses. Besides, what if I started it but didnt love it like I thought I would. So I got this finally and it is perfect for me. I can add extensions if I need to though I havent needed to yet and the quality of my shots speaks for themselves. This was perfect for me.
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on November 6, 2010
This is a great little macro lens - not too expensive, considering the image quality. Images are very sharp, once you get the hang of focusing on very close objects. Manual focus works well on the A300 with its live view. Autofocus is good too, with enough light. At wider aperture a good bit of a single flower or object may be out of the focal plane and it's better to pick your own focus point.

Also works well for outdoor and portrait shooting. At 50mm it's as sharp or sharper than the Zeiss 16-80 for medium to long distance. I got some great shots of the Portland Japanese Garden, mostly composed better than the ones with the zoom - because I had to think harder about framing the picture!

Got a bunch of chrysanthemum closeups today, one (not that flattering I'm afraid) had aphids on it which I didn't notice until I looked at the picture on the computer. Good detail on the aphids!
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on January 25, 2014
I am no expert but I am taking a photography course and wanted a good quality and versatile macro lens for my Sony A35. This fits the bill. It is very sharp and I can also take more photos indoors without flash due to the wider aperture than my kit lens. It is my go to lens for anything where a focal length of around 50mm will work and I am very pleased. I am looking forward to the spring and summer where I can take more true macro shots outdoors.
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on April 10, 2008
If you want to shoot macros, you have to buy this lens. I used it with A700 and got very sharp images that I cannot get using other lenses.
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on March 5, 2014
I have been a Minolta/Sony user for years. Over the years I have preferred fixed focal length lenses to zooms. This lens reinforces that preference. The full frame lens is constructed really well, from the built in hood to the metal lens mount. It has great weight and balance. The focusing motor is smooth and quiet. The F2.8 aperture provides an opportunity for some nice low light shooting as well as a pleasing bokeh when taking portraits. However, the main reason I bought this lens was for its macro capability. I wanted the 1:1 ratio without using close up lenses. I wanted the ability to take macro shots without the use of a tripod. I have what I want with this lens.
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on February 19, 2011
I've been using this lens to photograph details from silver and porcelain for sale on Ebay. The tiniest silver marks and porcelain makers marks are exceptionally clear and can be magnified for easy viewing.
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