Three 50 mm lenses from Sony in comparison
This article was translated automatically.

Three 50 mm lenses from Sony in comparison

David Lee
Zurich, on 14.04.2022

All three lenses are handy, reasonably fast and have a 50-millimeter focal length. And yet they are very different.

Lenses with a focal length of 50 millimeters are the most normal thing in the world - that's why they are called normal lenses. They show a section of the image that is similar to the human field of view and are therefore versatile. This focal length enables fast and sharp lenses without complex lens construction. That's why a classic "nifty fifty" is small, light and inexpensive despite its high speed.

For me, a 50 mm lens is always part of the equipment. However, there is not just one per system. Sony has about half a dozen on offer, plus others from third-party manufacturers.

The lenses

I will compare three lenses in this article. First of all, there's the FE 50mm F1.8, which I'll call "f/1.8" from now on. It corresponds most closely to the classic Nifty Fifty: quite fast, weighing only 186 grams and actually very cheap. At the beginning of the year, it was still available for under 200 francs. In recent months, however, supply bottlenecks have driven the price up.

FE 50mm F1.8
236.–12% off with voucher code
Sony FE 50mm F1.8
174

Lens number two is a macro lens. I can get really close to the subject to show small details in a big way. Although I'm not a passionate macro photographer, I find it quite useful for product photos and I also find myself in a situation every now and then where I could use the short shooting distance. Of course, a macro can be used for other shots as well. But if you decide for this "2 in 1" variant, you accept slight disadvantages. The lens is, because it is a macro, a bit bigger, heavier and less fast than the first one. And also more expensive - but less expensive, less large and less heavy than two separate lenses.

FE 50mm f / 2.8 Macro
484.–12% off with voucher code
Sony FE 50mm f / 2.8 Macro
5

The third 50 mm lens is the most expensive of the bunch. It is neither particularly fast nor macro-capable, but it has other advantages. The autofocus is fast and quiet. This lens has an aperture ring that can also be adjusted continuously. This makes it more suitable for video recording than the other two. As an aside, it is also the smallest of the three lenses. I'll call it the "f/2.5" or "G lens" for short in this review.

FE 50mm f/2.5 Sony E
546.–12% off with voucher code
Sony FE 50mm f/2.5 Sony E
9

The other Sony lenses with 50 millimeter focal lengths are "Fifty" but not "Nifty". They have a speed of f/1.4 or even f/1.2, which makes them much larger and more expensive. Personally, I don't need such high speed - at least not in full frame.

Operation

With the f/1.8, things are simple: apart from the focus ring, it has no controls. Not even a switch to change from manual focus to autofocus or vice versa. You have to do that on the camera, where it's much more cumbersome. Switching is necessary because you can't use the ring when autofocus is on. Speaking of which, the focus ring has to be turned for different lengths of time depending on whether I move it quickly or slowly. For shooting, this is good because I can adjust slowly accurately. For videos, however, it is impractical. It's impossible to always focus or unfocus at the same pace. Also, I have to shoot way too much when I'm slow.

The macro lens is more comfortable. Next to the AF/MF switch, there is a customizable button. Unlike the custom buttons on the camera, you can easily hit this button even when looking through the viewfinder.

The small G lens with f/2.5 also has the custom button and the AF/MF switch, plus the aperture ring as mentioned, which can be used with or without click stops. A special feature is the sunshade. It cannot be screwed on upside down when not in use. Instead, the lens cap is mounted on the sunshade. This makes the lens a little longer, but only a little, since the sunshade is short. It sounds like a disadvantage, but it is an advantage. Because with the f/1.8 - and many other Sony lenses - the sunshade screwed on backwards obscures the focus ring. With this lens, on the other hand, all controls remain freely accessible.

Beim f/1,8 (links) verdeckt die umgekehrte Sonnenblende den Fokusring. Ist auch ein Blendenring vorhanden, wie rechts beim 24mm f/2,8 wird auch der verdeckt. Nicht aber beim 50mm f/2,5 (Mitte): Diese Gegenlichtblende braucht wenig Platz und bleibt immer in Betriebsposition.
Beim f/1,8 (links) verdeckt die umgekehrte Sonnenblende den Fokusring. Ist auch ein Blendenring vorhanden, wie rechts beim 24mm f/2,8 wird auch der verdeckt. Nicht aber beim 50mm f/2,5 (Mitte): Diese Gegenlichtblende braucht wenig Platz und bleibt immer in Betriebsposition.

Focusing

The focus motor on the cheapest lens is slow and noisy. It is hardly usable for videos. Especially annoying: When you move the ring in manual focus, it drives the electric focus motor. As a result, the manual focus is just as loud as the autofocus. In addition, the image section changes significantly depending on the focus point. This focus breathing is also a problem, especially in videos.

All this also applies to the macro lens. However, due to the larger focus range, it takes longer for the focus to move from one end to the other - whether manually or automatically. The focus breathing is therefore also more pronounced. With the distance switch you can limit the autofocus range: from 16 to 30 cm or from 30 cm to infinity. Another special feature: this lens has no internal focusing. The lens extends when you move into the close-up range. This can be a problem in special situations, such as when you want to shoot through a window.

The focus shows why the smallest of the three costs the most. The autofocus works completely silently in video mode. The autofocus is also superior in photo mode: It is much faster and still works reliably in low light. The focus ring always covers the same distance, regardless of speed. However, focus breathing can also be seen here.

Here is a comparison of the focus motors of the lenses. Turn on the sound for this.

Macro capability

When it comes to macros, logically the macro lens wins - by far. The question is, who takes second place? It's the f/2.5. It lets me get ten centimeters closer than the f/1.8, and you can see that clearly.

f/1,8: Naheinstellgrenze 45 cm
f/1,8: Naheinstellgrenze 45 cm
f/2,8 Macro: Naheinstellgrenze 16 cm
f/2,8 Macro: Naheinstellgrenze 16 cm
f/2,5: Naheinstellgrenze 35 cm
f/2,5: Naheinstellgrenze 35 cm

Edge sharpness

In the center of the image, all lenses are sharp, stopped down anyway. But at open aperture, differences show up in the corners of the image. The f/1.8 is clearly less sharp than the other two, even when I stop down to f/2.8. The expensive G lens wins out over the macro, but both are very good.

The comparison images show a crop from the top right corner.

f/1,8, Offenblende
f/1,8, Offenblende
f/1,8, abgeblendet auf f/2,8
f/1,8, abgeblendet auf f/2,8
f/2.8 Macro, Offenblende
f/2.8 Macro, Offenblende
f/2.5, Offenblende
f/2.5, Offenblende

Vignetting

In this comparison, the cheapest lens wins when I shoot all the photos at f/2.8. The G lens is better than the macro, but still disappointing for the price.

 f/1,8
f/1,8
f/2,8
f/2,8
f/2,5
f/2,5

However, f/2.8 is already more than one stop stopped down on the winner - and stopping down always helps against vignetting. In this respect, the comparison is not entirely fair. At open aperture, even the f/1.8 remains dark in the corners.

f/1,8 bei Offenblende
f/1,8 bei Offenblende

Luminous intensity and depth of field

The three lenses have different apertures: from f/1.8 to f/2.5 to f/2.8. What does that mean in everyday use?

In a situation where a lens with f/1.8 speed can get by with 1000 ISO, one with f/2.5 already needs 2000 ISO and one with f/2.8 2500 ISO. This can sometimes be an advantage, but most of the time f/2.8 will do.

The other advantage of a larger open aperture: More latitude when it comes to blurring the background. For the following three self-portraits, I would recommend you to focus only on the background. It's much less sharp at f/1.8.

f/1,8
f/1,8
f/2,8
f/2,8
f/2,5
f/2,5

However, I think that in such cases the image composition is much more important than a bit more or less depth of field. Specifically: The distance between the subject and the background is the most important factor. If this is large enough, portraits can be made that are clearly set off from the background even with f/2.8.

Conclusion

For videos with autofocus, only the f/2.5 comes into question. The others can only be used for videos in situations where the focus can be fixed in advance.

In photo, the matter is less clear. All three have their advantages and disadvantages. Nevertheless, I clearly favor the f/2.5 here as well. Despite its small dimensions, it offers very good image quality and leaves hardly anything to be desired in terms of handling - quite in contrast to the f/1.8, which doesn't even have a focus switch. The excellent focus motor of the G lens is also welcome when taking pictures.

As for the macro: The compromises you have to make for the macro function would be too high for me. Budget permitting, I'd recommend a separate macro, ideally with a bit more focal length. Sony's 90 is a very good macro lens.

The f/1.8 is really only a good choice because of the normally low price and the speed. Whereas I find that in full format and with today's low-noise sensors, even f/2.8 is almost always sufficient.

Ultimately, lens and camera should fit together. If you bought an Alpha 7 II at a low price to shoot portraits, the f/1.8 may be the right choice for you. However, you can only exploit the potential of a current Alpha 7 IV with fast autofocus and sophisticated video functions with the f/2.5.

9 people like this article


User Avatar
User Avatar

My interest in IT and writing landed me in tech journalism early on (2000). I want to know how we can use technology without being used. Outside of the office, I’m a keen musician who makes up for lacking talent with excessive enthusiasm.


Photo and video
Follow topics and stay updated on your areas of interest

These articles might also interest you

  • Skeleton Loader

    Skeleton Loader

  • Skeleton Loader

    Skeleton Loader

  • Skeleton Loader

    Skeleton Loader