Customer Review

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You get a lot more than you pay for, March 23, 2012
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This review is from: Sony Alpha SAL35F18 35mm f/1.8 A-mount Wide Angle Lens (Black) (Electronics)
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.
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Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Oct 1, 2013 11:23:57 PM PDT
Karl says:
If your lens has a focus switch, then that is all you need to use, the one on the camera is for any lens without a focus switch.

Posted on Mar 1, 2014 2:23:59 AM PST
Ryan says:
Thanks for the review! It helped me choose this over the 50mm prime lens. I decided to buy the A58 body only with the 55-200mm zoom lens and this one so I don't have to deal with the kit lens.

In reply to an earlier post on Mar 2, 2014 9:51:48 PM PST
Philip says:
Glad it was helpful! The kit lens is actually pretty great for the price. But nothing beats wide aperture. You can stitch to get wider angle, you can crop if the lens is sharp, but you can't fake F 1.8.
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