The Sony FE 28 mm f/2 is a bright wide-angle lens that is also light, compact and very affordable. The lens is usable on both the APS-C and full-frame models from Sony. The 28mm is exactly the kind of lens you expect from a mirrorless system. It fits the Sony cameras like ice cream goes with apple pie.
Good and affordable: Sony FE 28mm f/2.0
A 28mm is a very beautiful but often forgotten focal length. Many photographers tend to prefer purchasing a 35mm because it is such a classic documentary lens, or else they opt for a 24mm because you have a really wide wide-angle. It’s not without reason Sony now has GMaster versions of the 5 and 24 mm with a brightness of f/1.4. But a 28mm fits there so nicely and more or less combines the benefits of both. Just like with the 35mm, you can shoot portraits from a short distance, where you can get a lot of the surroundings in the frame without your model becoming very distorted. A 24mm no longer lends itself to this. At the same time, with the 28mm, you can also shoot reasonably wide landscapes, just like with the 24mm. A 28mm is therefore an ideal lens if you want to take a wide-angle lens with you. And it is also a nice intermediate step between a 50mm standard lens and a really wide 20- or 18-mm wide angle. And that all goes double for the Sony FE 28 mm f/2.0 because the lens is also nice and light, compact and affordable. If you combine this 28mm with, for example, the FE 50mm f/1.8 or f/2.8 macro and the FE 85mm f/1.8, then you have a very nice set of bright, affordable and light lenses that, all together with a Sony A7 or A9 camera, fit in a very small bag, and you can photograph lots of subjects with it. Anyone who wants more wide-angle can still combine this lens with two adapters to make it a 21mm wide-angle or a 16mm fisheye from it. We have not yet been able to test the adapters. Keep in mind that they make the lens a lot bigger and heavier and that you have to screw them into the (plastic) filter thread of the 28mm.
BUILD AND autofocus
The Sony FE 28 mm f/2 feels like a high-quality lens. This is mainly due to the metal housing. The focus ring is nice and wide and offers some resistance for manual focus, even though the ring is not directly connected to the autofocus motor. The mount is also metal but does not have a gasket to seal the connection to the camera. The lens comes with a plastic lens hood that can be mounted in reverse. The plastic feels a bit light, but the lens hood is long enough and pretty effective. The lens also has no setting rings or programmable buttons. The filter size is 49mm, and the aperture has 9 blades. The autofocus works quietly and quickly and does what you ask it to. The manual focus is not only fly-by-wire but is also completely non-linear. That means that the focus changes in smaller and smaller increments as you turn the focus ring more slowly. For photography, that can be useful for focusing very accurately, but for video work, it is a disaster, because you actually cannot manually shift the focus during a shot. Newer Sony lenses are much more linear than this 28mm. An option that you now find with some competitors is the ability to choose linear or non-linear manual focus. After all, it is a matter of an algorithm in the camera, and that should be able to be arranged with a software update, we think. It is a shame that Sony does not take advantage of that possibility.
VIGNETTING, FLARE AND DISTORTION
The Sony FE 28 mm f/2.0 is a compact and lightweight lens that relies heavily on corrections in the camera for optimal performance. Without any corrections, the lens suffers from substantial vignetting at full aperture and hefty barrel distortion. Sony already corrects the RAW files in the camera and corrects the jpeg files even more. These corrections result in a loss of sharpness, especially in the corners, because the necessary calculations have to be done. You can see that loss in the graphs for the resolution. All in all, the 28mm performs very well with all corrections. The vignetting in RAW is 1.2 stops at full aperture. In jpeg, it’s a bit more, probably because the jpeg shots get slightly more contrast. The vignetting is slightly lower with stopping down one stop, but it then remains at about the same level. In RAW, the distortion with corrections is one and a half percent, and in jpeg – and that’s also what you see in the viewfinder – it’s almost 0. This lens has surprisingly little trouble with flare when shooting with backlighting. And thanks to the nine-bladed aperture, you can get very nice solar stars with 18 points if you shoot at small apertures like f/11 or f/16 against the sun.
The FE 28 mm f/2.0 is not yet optimal at full aperture. The sharpness in the center is reasonable, but there is a substantial gradient to the corners. Stopping down one extra stop gives you a big boost in sharpness over the entire image field, and the image quality increases up to f/5.6. Both the center and the corners are optimal, and the sharpness is high over the entire image. In the jpegs, thanks to the (extra) lens corrections, the results are just a fraction better, although you can of course also achieve this with the RAWS and some post-processing. The bokeh of the 28mm is not bad at all for a wide angle. Thanks to the nine-bladed aperture, the bokeh is nice and soft, especially if the distance to your subject is not too big. If your subject is a bit further away, you will get less blur in the background, and the bokeh will be a bit noisier. But again, for a wide angle, it’s quite a good result. Chromatic aberrations are reasonably well suppressed and are largely corrected in the camera. That isn’t true for the chromatic aberration that you see in the foreground and background at full aperture in the blurred areas. Shiny blurry objects take on a magenta color edge at full aperture when they are in the foreground and a green color edge when they are in the background. In many RAW converters, you can partly eliminate this, but in jpegs this effect is visible.
ConclusiON: Sony FE 28mm f/2 @ A7R iii REVIEW
- Image quality – after corrections – is fine
- Nicely compact and light
- Good autofocus
- Very affordable
- Distortion and vignetting without corrections are substantial
- Image quality at full aperture not optimal
The Sony FE 28 mm f/2.0 is nice and light, compact and affordable.
The Sony FE 28 mm f/2.0 is a very nice lens for the Sony A7 and A9 cameras. The lens is light and compact and perhaps does the best job of showing off the advantages of a mirrorless system. It is quite bright and yet very affordable. And it is just fine optically, otherwise you wouldn’t have any benefit from all those plus points. We would like to say to Sony: please make a whole series with these qualities. A light, affordable 20, 24 or 100mm for the A7 and A9 cameras would be great. Until then, we have at least this nice little 28mm.