SEL35F18 initial impressions

Started Dec 24, 2012 | Discussions thread
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SEL35F18 initial impressions
Dec 24, 2012

Despite my rants here about the new 35mm OSS being overpriced, last week I received some Sony gift cards and decided to use them on the lens.  I just received it a few hours ago and here are my initial impressions on a NEX-5N:

-Build quality is excellent.  One web review said the body was plastic but it's definitely metal (probably aluminium), just polished to a semi-gloss that makes it appear plastic-like.  Focus ring turns smoothly like the 18-55.  The hood is the same as the 18-55, which means I only need to carry one (if at all).  Made in China.

-OSS works as well as the kit lens (which is good).  It is slightly audible when held to the ear but not noticeable for shooting stills.  However, on video there is a pretty noticeable whirring sound when playing back files, which may be a dealbreaker if you don't use external audio.  I don't use video much myself.

-Sharpness is pretty even across the frame.  Even at f/1.8 the corners are decent when shooting a flat surface.  Obviously in real world shots the corners will be out-of-focus at wide apertures.

That being said, I feel it's noticeably softer from f/1.8-4 than most DSLR primes across the frame.  I compared some files from my old D5100 + 35mm 1.8G and the Nikkor has more detail.  It doesn't even compare to my sharpest lens at the moment, a good copy of the Canon 85mm 1.8, but I don't know how much that's due to sensor differences with a Canon 5D.  The Sony 35mm is usable at f/1.8 at least, and it does get sharp when stopped down to f/4 or more.

-Bokeh seems decent - better than the Nikon 35mm 1.8G (which isn't saying much), but it's not as good as the Sigma 30mm f/1.4 at 1.8.

-AF is generally pretty good, on par with my 18-55.  I find I have to manually select the AF point because center point is too imprecise - the AF box is too large and it keeps wanting to focus on the background.  This is not a problem with the 5N's touchscreen but I would be frustrated if I had to select AF with a D-pad.

All in all a pretty solid performer.  I'm impressed by the size, weight, and build of this lens.  With the OSS you can shoot at night with no problems, especially with the great NEX sensors.  Would I pay $450 for it?  Probably not, but if you're like me and got the NEX body for a song ($430 with kit lens), splurging for this lens might complete a pretty good travel setup for under $1000.

Canon EOS 5D Nikon D5100 Sony Alpha NEX-5N
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