Customer Reviews: Sony SEL-20F28 E-Mount 20mm F2.8 Prime Fixed Lens
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on November 3, 2014
Oh, wow, this lens is so much better than the 16mm (SEL-16F28). I know because I used to have the 16mm but sold it after getting this one. The 20mm is much sharper, better built, with a nice and versatile field of view. It also takes the two adapters sold for the 16mm (the wide-angle which I had for the 16mm makes this 20mm a 15mm; and the fish-eye which I don't yet have but intend to buy).

In case anyone's interested, I own a NEX-6 and an A6000. I have most of the "reasonably priced" Sony E-mount lenses: the 20mm with the wide angle adapter; the 30mm Macro (a nice lens if you can get one for a good price), the 35mm prime (one of my favorite lenses for its field of view and its sharp, high-quality images); the 50mm prime (a nice lens, especially for portraits with good bokeh); the 16-50mm PZ kit lens (which I take along with the 20mm when I want to travel very light but still have a bit of a zoom on hand because it takes good, but not great, pictures as you can see clearly see once you've tried the primes); the 55-210 manual zoom (great range, nice and sharp shots, fairly bulky, but I got it for only $150 so can't complain) and the 18-105 PZ "G" lens (which is a superb carry-around lens if you don't mind its relative bulk--it's long and wide, but not too heavy). I've also tried the Sigma lenses (19 and 30mm) but thought, "These would be OK if they weren't so cheaply made (scratch easily) and so bulky and if they had OSS." So I returned them in spite of their low prices. I've also tried for a weekend, but decided not to buy, the Sony 10-18 and 16-70 zooms and the Zeiss Touit 32mm. These are built with high-quality materials and take great shots but they are way too expensive, in my opinion at least, for the relative increase in image quality over the much less expensive lenses.

I'm sure somebody out there will want to quote image tests and pixel peeping comparisons to debate my opinion about this 20mm lens and/or the pricy Zeiss lenses, but my thinking is simply that this "mirrorless" line of medium-format cameras doesn't really need lenses that cost so much. I admit there is a small market for those lenses; they are priced for folks who are willing to spend 2-3 times the money for "something a bit better" (that's how Sony makes back the investment in building lenses that relatively few people will buy). If you really want to step up, I suggest that you skip the APS-C line altogether and buy one of the newest full-frame "A7" camera bodies and any one of the pricey full-frame lenses available for it. With 4 times the money invested, you can see some better images (all else being equal). But switching from APS-C to full-frame means you're not in the same ballpark at all, to use a worn expression. I can say all this with confidence because photography is a hobby for me, not a profession. I'm not taking pictures for National Geographic (I'd love to imagine doing so with my A6000 and one of my pedestrian lenses, but I am not a delusional man). What I am is happy with two Sony APS-C cameras I own. I make use of, and accommodate for, their relative merits. The broad collection of E-mount lenses I have covers most every situation I am likely to get into as a hobbyist. Even better, I bought all my lenses for about 60 cents on the dollar (another hobby of mine is being a bargain hunter).

If you're the kind of photographer that I am, then you'll want to know that this SEL-20F28 lens is a very nice lens to have. I bought it as a "new but sold as refurb" here on Amazon for about 40% off its list. For that kind of money, it really shines as a small, versatile lens (i.e., close-up shots and landscape shots are both very good). It's smaller and faster and sharper than the kit zoom; it also costs much more than the kit zoom. I will add that my 18-105 "G" lens takes a noticeably better (sharper, better contrast, less aberrations) picture set at 20mm than this prime does, but then the zoom is only f4.0 (minimum through its range) whereas the prime is f2.8 and it's 1/10th the size. That's why I have both in my lens bag.

I hope this long ramble helps someone decide whether or not to buy this lens. If not, hey, reading it was free. Peace.
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on April 19, 2013
This is the lens that Sony ought to have made when the first NEX cameras came out, a reasonably fast, medium-wide angle, pancake prime. It's a perfect focal length for street photography or casual snapshots. It's small and light, making NEX cameras reasonably pocketable. It's not exceptional, but reasonably sharp across the entire field of view, at least when it is stopped down. I love the size of this lens, though it is wide enough that the edges stick out on a 5n. Just a bit, but it's there.

I was hesitant to put a preorder into B&H when this lens was announced. Sony's previous wide angle prime, the 16mm was a poor lens. I borrowed a friend's and gave it back quickly. It just wasn't sharp, and surprisingly for such a short lens, it didn't focus quickly. There are no focus problems with the 20mm.

It was a relief to look at my first images from this new prime lens. They are are adequately sharp from f/4 and smaller apertures. At f/2.8 they are at least as sharp as the old 16mm was at any focal length. It's also nice to see Sony make a lens that is sharp in the corners. Except for the Zeiss 24mm, Sony's lenses tend to have great center sharpness but soft edges. My guess is that comes from too much focus on video lenses rather than still lenses. This lens is pretty sharp, at least at the apertures that I normally use 5.6-8. It's acceptable at 2.8 and pretty good at f/4. It's soft at f/16 but still usable. I'm satisfied.

One question is how this compares to the Sigma 19mm, which is a good lens. The two obvious differences are price and size. You can pick up an older model Sigma for $150 or less, which make it very attractive. The Sigma is very sharp in the center, from f/2.8 on, sharper than the Sony 20mm. However the Sony is definitely sharper at the edges.The Sony has some color fringing at the edges. The Sigma shows more flare when pointed toward the sun. Neither is a perfect lens.

The real question is whether or not the Sony 20mm is worth ~ $350. If you're just looking at price and image quality, that's tough compared to the Sigma. I just sold some old lenses so I had money burning a hole in my pocket. You can get an optically equivalent lens from Sigma for less than half the price, but the Sigma 19mm is twice as long and heavier, making the camera a bit much to put in a coat or vest pocket. It's also plastic and makes clunking noises (it's not a problem, some Sigma lenses just do that). The Sony 20 is metal with a nice finish, focuses faster and makes my 5n more or less the equivalent of the new Nikon Coolpix A, which sells for $1100. A new NEX 5r with the 20mm lens runs $900. Put in that light, the lens doesn't look quite as pricey. Okay the Nikon's lens is better but you're stuck with 28mm equivalent. The NEX has interchangeable lenses, which is why I'm sticking with it..
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on May 1, 2013
Recently bought the NEX-5R, initially with the SEL16 pancake. Very happy with returning that lens for the SEL20. This newer pancake does appear to take sharper jpeg images, and perhaps because of the more moderate wide angle focal length, distorts faces much less, especially near edges of the frame. So it's much better for taking pictures of people. Price is steep compared to the respected Sigma 19mm e-mount, but I put a premium on compactness of the combined camera and lens, so I coughed up the money. If it was under $300, like the SEL50F18, I'd give it 5 stars.
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on July 11, 2014
This lens now lives on my camera. I bought it to use with the NEX - 3N, and I haven't taken it off since I got it. We have a newborn and it is important to be able to capture pictures quickly, and this lens allows me control to tackle low light and not have to blind or startle my child with a flash!
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on October 4, 2013
If I'm not mistaken, this is the smallest e-mount lens on the market (smaller than the 16mm). The image quality isn't bad, but certainly not as good as even the 35mm f1.8 (much less the zeiss glass), so don't expect to be blown away. It definitely gets soft when wide open but stopped down a bit it's good, which is where I find myself wanting it most of the time anyway.

$350 seems a little high, but $290 or less for a used one is a steal. After all, it does provide the most pocketable nex configuration currently available. It's not going to fit into your pants pocket, but it will easily fit into a small bag/backpack or jacket pocket. Which is great for anybody trying to make better use of their camera and carry it with them more often. You know what they say, "the best camera is the one you have with you."
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on February 28, 2016
The best camera you have is the one you have with you- and this lens lets itself be with you a lot more often, regardless of what camera body you're using. On an Alpha A5100, this lens still won't make the camera fit in a tight jean pocket, but it'll fit easily in a coat one, certainly it's quite portable. The Mrs. and I just had a baby girl, and we quickly decided that the most memorable snaps would be those featuring the three of us. I'm no fan of the modern 'selfie culture', but you're also not going to let total strangers at a park or zoo hold your smartphone to grab a photo of your family, not when you've got more personal info on your unlocked phone than in your house. I didn't want to chase after a thief who offered to take our photo in front of my wife and kids, not a good look for any dad ;).

With that in mind, we went on the hunt for a strong selfie-capable camera that would also work well at the zoo, disney world, etc. This lens allows for perfect selfie snaps where we can all be in the photo together (as opposed to just mom/baby or dad/baby photos). There's a real benefit to perfectly clear photos at 6000*4000 resolution versus those of the teeny tiny little FaceTime selfie camera an iPhone affords. It's an amazing piece of kit. I had tried the SEL35F18 but it's too tight a focal length (52mm FF equiv) for taking photos of us 3, and Lightroom reported most of my aperture was above f/2.5 anyways. I also found it really tough to keep much of the photo in focus when close to wide open. This is an amazing lens, and the only other one I run is the 16-70mm Zeiss zoom! Grab it used if you can, $348 is steep, I paid $260 and it didn't have a scratch on it!
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on November 23, 2015
I own a Sony A6000 camera and bought this lens thinking it would greatly improve the portability of this awesome camera. It did. In fact, the lens was so small I could carry the camera in the pocket of my cargo shorts. The problem with the lens is its terrible image quality. I base my assessment on two other lenses I own for the A6000--the Sony 35mm prime lens and the Sony Zeiss 16-70mm lens. Both lenses yeild astonishingly good photographs that far surpass the Sony 20mm lens. In fact, your cell phone can take better photos than the A6000 paired with the 20mm lens (considering sharpness and detail as the main factors), which defeats the purpose of buying the pancake lens to improve the portability of the camera. Low light photos produced with the 20mm are incredibly noisy. In the end, I returned the 20mm lens and purchased the Sony 35mm prime lens. I can easily carry the A6000 wth the 35mm lens in a small fanny pack. No, the combo can't fit in my pocket, but it is still very light, easy to carry around, discrete enough for street photography, and produces stupendously good images.
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on October 29, 2013
The best attribute of this lens is it's tiny size. My NEX-7 fits into a coat pocket with this lens attached. That being said the lens is also reasonably sharp, reasonably fast, and the build quality is top notch. I feel that the immage quality is better than what you can get with either of the kit lenses that SONY ships with their NEX cameras.
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on October 30, 2013
I have been using a Sony NEX-7 for about a year and was desperate for a good (yet not too ridiculously expensive) compact prime lens. I chose the NEX-7 to have a great camera that remained portable. I initially used the SEL50F18 (Sony's 50mm f/1.8 E Mount) but found the pictures to be less sharp than expected with that lens; the 50 mm also made the camera more bulky. Then I finally got this lens. The 20mm f/2.8 has been providing much sharper images. In addition, it's low profile makes the camera extremely portable. I use it on a daily basis for most of my "casual shooting."

The only drawback is what is inherent to a 20mm lens - your shots will still be wide-angle even with a 1.5x crop factor. This is not ideal for portraits and there is some mild distortion. However, for traveling and use in tight indoor spaces, it has been an excellent choice.

I tend to favor prime lenses over zoom because of better apertures, size/weight, and my style of shooting. I just tend to compose better with a prime. However, if you're not used to using a prime lens or want to avoid wider angles, there are several other options available for NEX line. For those looking for a daily carry lens, this might just be the one.
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on June 1, 2014
I bought this 20 mm f2.8 Sony lens to use on the Sony A6000. It is a good solid lens and gives sharp focused images. Out of habit, I shot most of my images on Av, so I like having this slightly faster lens. Also, it is very good for video. The 20mm is small and light, and that is good for a small light camera like the A6000. I'm going to use the 20 mm lens as my primary lens when I travel.
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