Sony 40mm - too normal a prime?

Started 2 months ago | User reviews thread
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QuietOC Veteran Member • Posts: 5,032
Sony 40mm - too normal a prime?

What I like:

  • Size and weight
  • Well-aligned
  • Minor pincushion distortion
  • "Dust and moisture resistant"

What I don't:

  • Price
  • Alloy veneer
  • A bit tight for a 40 mm
  • Focus control has axial play, not smooth
  • Additional left-hand UI
  • Busy background rendering
  • Chromatic aberrations
  • Dark corners
  • Distortion compensation forced

I made what I thought would be too low of an offer for this on Greentoe, but it was accepted. This lens has most of the tradeoffs typical of recent Sony budget lenses: very quiet, fast, reliable AF, good sharpness/contrast, somewhat busy rendering, and questionable build quality and UI. My favorite normal prime so far has been the Sigma 45 F2.8, but I also appreciate the lowly FE 50 F1.8. "Made in China"

The 40 G can be seen as the replacement for the out-of-date 35 F2.8 ZA Sonnar which was recently reduced to the same $600 retail price. It is 50% larger and 44% heavier than that lens and adds several additional left-hand controls. It is also the same price as the mostly mechanical Pentax-FA 43 F1.9 Limited. F2.5 is a fairly unique maximum aperture, although I've used a couple of F2.5 Minoltas recently.

My previous favorite 40 mm is the inexpensive Canon EF STM pancake that was recently  discontinued (March 2021.) This lens has noticeably less angle-of-view than the Canon, but it is slightly closer to the Canon than it is to the Pentax 43 (and Sigma 45). Maybe it is a 41 mm?

One of weaknesses of the old ZA was close focusing. This lens focuses closer than the Canon with greater magnification, despite "MACRO" being written on the side of the Canon pancake. The FE 35 F1.8 and Sigma 45 focus closer with even more magnification. And both of those lenses have less focus breathing.

It has a similar amount of barrel distortion as the Pentax 43. The Canon 40 and Samyang 45 have less distortion. The Sigma 45 has slightly more pincushion distortion. Sony forces the distortion correction making it impossible to compose shots using the barrel distortion. Sony, please enable this setting on your cameras for all lenses. It really makes no sense with this lens. It made me assume the distortion was much worse.

The focus control sounds and feels worse than the ones on the 28-60 and 50 F1.8. The aperture control indents are better than those on the 20 G, but still don't match the precise feeling of the Sigma lenses. I'd still use the nicely textured, thin rubber focus control on the Canon over any metal focus ring. The lens also emulates the cheapest 1980's AF lenses with a randomly placed MF switch.

This lens has worse chromatic aberration control than the Sigma especially midfield. It also lacks the under-corrected spherical aberration of that lens and the Sony FE 50 F1.8 which generally produces nicer looking images. The image quality is better than the Canon pancake lens. The background rendering is not as smooth as the FE 35 F1.8. Out-of-focus highlights have a lot of structure.

The stock hood is ugly. It is mostly plastic with a thin aluminum veneer on the outside. This seems likely to show wear quickly as often seen with older FE lenses. The hood uses a similar bayonet mount as the older 49mm filter E-mount lenses, but their hoods will not attach due to the overlap of the focus control over the hood bayonet. I prefer the little screw-in ES-52 hood for the Canon 40 STM. At least Sony avoided bulky magnetic lens caps.

As much as I like this focal length, this lens is a hard sell for me. I don't see it replacing any of the 35's or 45's, but I will probably sell the Canon 40. Sony may intend these high margin primes to go with reduced function camera bodies like the A7C. That seems a poor trade-off to me, but it may be marketable.

 QuietOC's gear list:QuietOC's gear list
Pentax Q7 Sony a7R IV NEX-5T Sony a77 II Sony DT 16-105mm F3.5-5.6 +85 more
Sony FE 40mm F2.5 G
Prime lens • Sony FE
Announced: Mar 23, 2021
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