Camera and Electronics Reviews Gear Reviews

Gear Review: Sony 10-18mm f/4 OSS E-mount Wide-Angle

The Sony 10-18mm is a metal bodied, solid feeling tank of a lens that I've used all around the world to capture some of the most important moments in my life. If you have a Sony mirrorless camera and are looking for a wide angle lens, this is the best option on the market.

Lightweight hiking and backpacking is all about sacrifice. You have to edit your gear ruthlessly in order to cut out everything but the essentials. Weighing your gear and evaluating what you’ll be taking with you on a trip, really forces you to consider the things that are truly important. Funny enough, most people who adopt a lightweight lifestyle on the trail, can’t help but watch that attitude permeate through their home life. Having said this, there are certain areas that people are just not willing to cut. For me, it’s always been photography. I’ve definitely made an attempt, but there is only so far I’m willing to go. I’ve swapped my DSLR for a lightweight Sony a6000 mirrorless. I would love to try something lighter, but an APSC sensor is as small as I’ll go. The great thing about the a6000 and other mirrorless kits, is that the lenses are interchangeable, so I get to choose the right tool for the job. Lately, I’ve found myself in love with a wide angle field of view, and so I bought the Sony 10-18mm. Yes, it’s an expensive lens, and yes, it’s a bit on the heavy side. These two things considered, I have yet to find anything lighter or smaller that comes close to it’s performance. Right now, your two main choices for competition are the Sony 16mm prime with wide angle attachment, or the Zeiss 12mm f/2.8 Touit Series. The Sony 16mm and wide angle attachment are very affordable, but can’t compare on image quality. The Zeiss can compare on image quality, but costs more, is a prime, is equally large, and seems to have a defect where it hunts to autofocus.

I give you the Sony 10-18mm f/4!


Support Trail to Peak by using the links below to purchase the Sony 10-18mm lens from Amazon:

Sony SEL1018 10-18mm
| Sony E 10-18mm International Version (No Warranty)


DSC03700
Sony 10-18mm

Handling and Build:

The Sony 10-18mm handles incredibly well. It’s a metal bodied, solid feeling tank of a lens. This goes against what most look for in a lightweight kit, but anyone who cares about photography, and has dealt with a cheap plasticky piece of glass will know why this is important. The zoom ring is smooth and classy, without any jerk or grit. Moving through from 10mm to 18mm inspires confidence. The same can be said about the manual focus ring at the front of the lens. I’ve used this on many occasions and have not had any problem dialing things in.

Zoom Ring and Focus Ring
Zoom Ring and Focus Ring
Optics
Optics

Sony has this lens listed at 8 oz online, my measurements have it closer to 9 oz, as I have the lens cap and 62mm filter left on. For me, this lens blends the perfect balance of weight and performance.

E-Mount
E-Mount

Performance:

1.) Wide Open:

At 10mm, this lens is phenomenal, albeit with a slight vignette. 12-14mm is the sharpest range for the lens, but I prefer to shoot at 10mm and crop later, or remove the vignette in post production. The vignette is only noticeable on really bright sunny days with a clear sky, which only makes up for a small percentage of my hiking shots. In total, this lens is a thing of beauty when left wide open, which is exactly why I bought it.

Views from the South Rim
Views from the South Rim

Support Trail to Peak by using the links below to purchase the Sony 10-18mm lens from Amazon:

Sony SEL1018 10-18mm
| Sony E 10-18mm International Version (No Warranty)


Some people get a wide angle lens to shoot more space, a major selling point for me as well. Another reason to get a wide angle, is to allow one to get closer. Getting closer for a portrait and still capturing the essence of the landscape. Again, on this count, the 10-18mm is superb. I’ve used this lens for people, portraits, and animals, and the field of view never leaves me wanting anything else.

DSC01618
Oh Deer

The sacrifice you make is that you won’t be able to get close when things are far away. A few times now I’ve been on the trail and have seen a deer, elk, bighorn sheep, or bobcat in the distance, and I had no way to effectively zoom in to get a photo in time.

With Baldy Bowl
With Baldy Bowl
Cow Head
Cow Head

2.) Low Light:

If you’re looking for a lens strictly for night shots and low light, I would recommend the Samyang 14mm f/2.8. If you’re looking for a lens that can do it all, grab this Sony 10-18mm. Yes, it’s an f/4.0 lens, but with the optical image stabilization, it performs much better than the numbers on paper suggest. It’s not perfect, but for an all around lens, it’s pretty tough to do better. I’ve used this lens for shots of starry nights, lights in the tent, inside of churches and small rooms, every time I’ve come away being blown away by the performance. Whether hand held or on a tripod, I always have great confidence that this lens will help me get the exposure I’m seeking.

Stars
Stars
Starlight
Starlight
Long Exposure
Long Exposure

3.) Actions Shots:

This really isn’t a lens for your standard actions shots, but as a hiker, it’s important to get crisp shots of people and objects moving with great auto-focus. For this purpose, the lens performs very well. There have been a few times when the auto focus has had to “hunt” for my desired subject, but rarely do I miss a shot because of it. For me, the greatest test of an action shot comes in the form of my little goldendoodle, Isla. She is constantly darting around on the trail, and unless I’m holding treats, is pretty tough to make sit still for a portrait. Luckily, this lens does a great job of capturing all that is in front of it with auto focus to infinity, and all that gets close as well.

The Little Musher
The Little Musher
My Little Girl on the Summit
My Little Girl on the Summit

Conclusion:

This lens is a more than capable performer for all of my hiking photography needs. If you’re not sure whether or not you need a wide angle, take this advice: Shoot with your kit lens for a few weeks and look at your EXIF data. If you’re constantly close to the lower level, you’ll benefit from a wider angle lens. I had an 18-55 kit lens on my first camera many years ago, and was always bottomed out at 18mm, wishing I could go wider. That made the decision simple for me.

Once you’ve decided you need a wide angle lens, or if you’re already sure and shopping around…buy this lens. Don’t over complicate things, you really can’t do better than this for the cost on a mirrorless set up. I can’t say enough good things about the Sony 10-18mm.


Support Trail to Peak by using the links below to purchase the Sony 10-18mm lens from Amazon:

Sony SEL1018 10-18mm
| Sony E 10-18mm International Version (No Warranty)


Specs:

Lens Mount Type : Sony E-mount

Lens Stabilization : Optical SteadyShot

Distance Encoder : Yes

Minimum Focus Distance : 6.83″ 0.25m

Lens Groups-Elements : 8 groups, 10 elements

Filter Diameter : 62mm

Lens Type : E-mount 10-18mm F4

Lens Weight : 8 oz (225g)

Aperture (Max.) : f/4

Aperture (Min.) : f/22

Steady Shot Mode:Active : Lens-based Image Stabilization (OSS)

Aperture : Circular

Maximum Magnification : 0.1x

Focal Length (35mm equivalent) : 10-18mm (35mm) 15-27mm (APS-C)

Aperture Blade : 7 blades (Circular aperture)

Exterior Finish : Black

Angle of View : 109°-76° (APS-C)

10 comments on “Gear Review: Sony 10-18mm f/4 OSS E-mount Wide-Angle

  1. Pingback: Gear Review: Lowepro LP36336 Compact Courier 80 8.5/10 | Trail to Peak

  2. An excellent review that I was expecting to see. Your conclusion is bang on! for me when you said «  I had an 18-55 kit lens on my first camera many years ago, and was always bottomed out at 18mm, wishing I could go wider. That made the decision simple for me. » well I did a check on LR what angle did I use the most on the 18-55mm and the winner was 18mm. I’m doing street photos and I need wide angles.
    Thanks for your review.
    If Sony could make a Loxia serie wide angle lens for APSC do you think it could be a better quality. then 10mm or 18mm as a fix lens?

  3. Thank you Drew for a helpful review I’ve shared with friends looking for a more compact high performing camera and quality wide lens. Things will get even more exciting with the new Sony A6300. No doubt the Sony 10-18mm f/4 OSS E-mount is a great wide angle lens, but are you already using or considering any telephoto lenses for wildlife shots? Which telephoto lenses would you recommend for getting in closer to wildlife? Note I’m not referring to extreme closeup offered by monster Canon 400-600 telephoto lenses as they are simply too large and heavy for lightweight backpacking.

    • Thanks, MW. I’m really excited about the A6300. It looks like a great upgrade, but I’m not so excited about the increase in price! I don’t use any telephoto lenses, I’m strictly a landscape shooter. I like primes (35 and 50) while walking through cities, but never really do any closeups for wildlife.

  4. Michael

    Great review
    I’m wondering about a zoom vs prime – you mention using it nearly always on 10 mm? So you are actually not using the zoom function much?
    I about to purchase a6300 and a wide lens for landscape and trying to desire which one

    • Michael, I very rarely use the zoom function, but it is nice to have in those rare moments when I need it. Having said that, being able to zoom to 18mm isn’t really much of a zoom. I really like my Rokinon 12mm f/2. I use that for a lot of my travel and street photography. Being able to shoot at f/2 makes a huge difference for low light. Very little distortion with the Rokinon as well. The only downside is that it’s a manual focus. The other solid prime option is the Zeiss 12mm f/2.8, but it’s a good $500 more than the Rokinon. I’ve also tried the Sony 16mm with wide angle attachment and it’s pretty good. It’s also the cheapest option of the four.

      • Travis

        Drew, I’m stuck between the Sony 10-18 and Rokinon 12mm for doing exactly what you are – landscape photography while hiking. It seems the vast majority say go with the Rokinon as the Sony is not worth 2-3x the price. The MF of the Rokinon is a non-issue since you can leave it at infinity 99% of the time. Any thoughts on that? Why don’t you use the Rokinon since you said you rarely use the zoom of on the Sony?

        Cheers,
        Travis

      • Travis, the Rokinon 12mm is a great choice, and a lens I use often. The 10-18mm was the first lens I purchased for my Sony a6000, when the only other choice was the Zeiss 12mm. If your focus is set at infinity 99% of the time, go with the Rokinon. I do shoot a ton of landscapes, but also use my 10-18mm for hike reports and travel, where I do a lot of shooting in closed quarters. The Rokinon works great in these situations, but the autofocus of the Sony saves time. Also, it could just be my eyes, but the Sony has slightly better contrast and saturation. The Sony 10-18mm is a better lens, but is it better than the Rokinon by $400? Probably not.

  5. I really like the tone of your review and the excellent photos. I, too, love using the SEL1018 (on an a6000).

    Try this tip for “fixed-focus” shooting:

    Use Manual Focus (not DMF) and set the a6000/6300/6500 viewfinder’s distance scale at “3m,” then shoot at f/7.1 or f/8 in Aperture Priority mode. You can then forget about focusing. This works well for street photography, landscape, architecture, etc. when you want maximum DoF.

    Just don’t touch the focus ring after setting the viewfinder’s distance index to “3m.” You will have to reset it to “3m” if you turn the camera off and back on. Here’s the amazing thing: It works no matter which Focal Length you select, because, even though you’ve set the fly-by-wire distance scale to read “3m,” the actual focus distance changes proportionately with the Focal Length!

    You only have to make sure that you don’t include subjects in the frame that are any closer than the Near distances shown, here, for each Focal Length:

    For 10mm FL, keep Nears at 2.66 ft (0.81 m), with “3m” focusing at 5.31 ft (1.62 m)

    For 12mm FL, keep Nears at 3.82 ft (1.16 m), with “3m” focusing at 7.63 ft (2.33 m)

    For 14mm FL, keep Nears at 5.20 ft (1.58 m) with “3m” focusing at 10.4 ft (3.17 m)

    For 16mm FL, keep Nears at 6.80 ft (2.07 m) with “3m” focusing at 13.6 ft (4.15 m)

    For 18mm FL, keep Nears at 8.55 ft (2.61 m) with “3m” focusing at 17.1 ft (5.21 m)

    As long as your subject space falls between the Infinity and the Near distances shown here, you’ll be good to go.

    Again, note that the hyperfocal distances shown at right, vary with FL, even though the viewfinder’s MF distance scale is set to “3m” in each case!

    These DoF figures were calculated for shooting at f/5.6, to secure maximum permissible CoC diameters of 0.0111 mm at the Near and Far limits of DoF – sufficient to support a non-resampled, uncropped image resolution of 360 ppi (equivalent to 5 lp/mm) in an 18x enlargement (11.1 x 16.7-inch print). Similarly, a 180 ppi (2.5 lp/mm) will be supported by this method for 36x enlargements (22.2 x 33.4 inch prints).

    I recommend shooting at f/7.1 or f/8, as a hedge, but stopping down further than f/8 will only cause the diameter of diffraction’s Airy disks to exceed the goal of limiting spread functions to 0.0111 mm – and diffraction will soften the entire print,not just subjects that reside at the Near and Far distances of the subject space.

    Lastly, the “trick” of leaving the MF distance scale set to “3m,” was discovered while testing my DoF calculations with an a6000 and SE1018 mounted on a tripod, shooting a brick wall, precisely positioned, in turn, at each of the calculated hyperfocal distances, using a Bosch GLM35 laser rangefinder. It quickly became apparent that a viewfinder distance of “3m” was giving me the best visually confirmed focus for each FL’s respective hyperfocal distance, using the 11.7x Focus Magnifier feature.

    Apparently, the focus-by-wire distance scale is proportionately consistent from one FL to the next when it comes to setting and forgetting hyperfocal distances – the main reason why a lot of street photographers hate focus-by-wire lenses, preferring instead to use true Manual Focus lenses that have distance scales on their barrels.

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