The Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 is the most affordable Sony lens available for full frame e-mount cameras. The Sony FE 50mm isn’t going to win any awards for build quality with its plastic construction, but I was pretty impressed with its performance and the images I was able to get during my months of testing. Make no mistake, this lens doesn’t come close to the Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 that many will compare it to. The Sony Zeiss 55mm costs upwards of $750 more though. As much as I love the Zeiss 55mm, I think a case can be made that the Sony FE 50mm might be the better value pick for a lot of photographers. Find out why in this review.
Lens Construction, Handling, And Build Quality:
The Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 is constructed almost entirely of plastic and feels very light in the hand. Many photographers and reviewers like to knock light and plastic lenses for feeling cheap and toy-like, but I think they serve a purpose for long hikes and backroad travel. These kinds of lenses are also great for shooters on a tight budget. The durability, weather sealing, and overall quality of heavier lenses is unquestionable, but there are times when a light camera setup trumps maximum image quality. The major sacrifices you have to be willing to make with the Sony FE 50 is with autofocus, weather resistance, and long term durability. The falloff in image quality is not as great as many would have you believe.
The Sony 50mm FE comes in at 6.5oz, which is 3.4oz lighter than the Sony Zeiss 55mm. The Sony 50mm FE is a short and stout lens at 2.70 x 2.34″. The lens hood is also pretty compact, making this a great lens when you want to go unnoticed.
The plastic focus ring on the 50mm FE scrolls infinitely, and does the job when called upon for manual focus shots. The scroll wheel itself feels like it floats a little, but the movements are more-or-less precise.
There isn’t a lot of glass used on the 50mm FE, which is what makes this lens and other ‘nifty fifty’ lenses so affordable to produce. Sony uses 6 lens elements in 5 groups, and a single aspherical element in the rear of those 6. The max aperture on this lens is f/1.8, and Sony uses 7 rounded diaphragm blades. The 7 rounded blades create pretty decent bokeh for a lens at this price point which you’ll see in the image gallery below.
On the back side of the 50mm FE you’ll find one of the only sections made of metal, the bayonet. There is no weather or dust sealing on this bayonet, which is to be expected on a $250 lens.
Specs and Stats:
Dimensions: 2.70 x 2.34″
Weight: 6.56 oz (186 g)
Filter Thread: 49mm
Focal Length: 50mm
Aperture: f/1.8 -f/22
View Angle: 47°
Minimum Focus Distance: 17.76″ (45 cm)
Diaphram Blades: 7 rounded blades
Find the Sony 50mm F/1.8 Online: Amazon | B&H Photo Video
Image Quality And Performance:
As a landscape photographer, 50mm is not a focal length I shoot with often. I prefer to shoot ultra wide at 15-25mm or very close at 150mm-300mm. 50mm is ‘no man’s land’ for landscapes, but the perfect focal length for portraits and general use walkaround shots. My use (or lack there of) at this focal range is another reason the 50mm FE is a tempting pick over the Sony Zeiss 55mm. It’s hard to justify a $750 price premium for a lens I only use on occasion. Below you will find a gallery of sample shots organized by category.
Portraits and Bokeh:
The Sony 50mm FE has proven to be a versatile walkaround portrait lens. I’ve been able to get some really sharp shots of my son and of a few strangers. The focal length works well for close-up head shots or for full body environmental portraits. Shooting at or near the max aperture of f/1.8, I’m able to get some nice subject separation with impressive sharpness at the center of the frame.
The bokeh on the Sony 50mm FE isn’t the best I’ve ever seen, but it’s not bad either. At f/1.8 and f/2 the background blur is pretty nice. As I stop down though, the bokeh can be a little distracting.
Landscapes and Architecture:
I don’t shoot many landscape or architecture shots at 50mm, but this lens is fairly capable when called upon. When shooting from f/1.8 to f/5.6 the center is sharp but the corners can be pretty soft. Once I stop down though, the entire frame sharpens up nicely.
The autofocus on the 50mm FE isn’t the best I’ve ever used, and this has caused me to miss quite a few shots with fast moving subjects. The ‘hit rate’ is substantially lower than the Sony Zeiss 55mm. The autofocus accuracy in quality outdoor light is average, and can best be described as terrible in low light.
Low Light Handheld:
It’s really a shame that the autofocus is so poor in low light because this lens takes some really nice lowlight shots. When shooting in dimly lit situations, you’ll just want to make sure your subject is static.
The Sony 50mm FE retails for $250 and can regularly be found with Sony rebates for $200. The plastic build is about what you would expect at this price point, but the optics and image quality has shown me that this lens can punch above it’s weight when called upon. On the performance side of things, the Sony 50mm FE shines in well lit settings, but the autofocus really struggles in low light situations. For this reason, the Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 is my preference when the quality of the image really matters. Shooting in low light is one of the main reasons I primarily shoot with fast primes. For photographers on a budget or for those that don’t shoot at 50mm often, the Sony 50mm FE f/1.8 is a lens to consider adding to your camera bag. For those that shoot at 50mm regularly and get paid to do so, the Sony Zeiss 55mm is better choice.
Other Lenses To Consider:
Sony 28mm f/2 (My review)- This is Sony’s second most affordable full frame e-mount lens at the moment. At 28mm this lens is much wider than the 50mm. The build, autofocus, and performance qualities are all superior.
Amazon | BH Photo Video
Rokinon 35mm f/2.8 (My review)- This is another cheap, light, and plastic lens. These two lenses compare well in regards to performance. With the Rokinon 35mm f/2.8, you’ll gain a little width and give up a little speed.
Amazon | BH Photo Video
Sony Zeiss 55mm f/1.8 (My review)- This lens has a similar focal length and identical maximum aperture. The comparisons stop there though. The Zeiss 55mm blows the Sony 50mm out of the water in regards to optics and performance.
Amazon | BH Photo Video