Review Sony FE 90 mm f/2.8G Macro
The selection of FE lenses for the full-frame Sony A7 series has significantly increased over recent months. Until recently, the Sony 90 mm FE f/2.8G was the first choice of both portrait and macro photographers with a camera from the Sony A7 series. As far as macro is concerned, that is still the case. As far as portraits are concerned, this lens has gotten company from the brighter Zeiss Batis 85 mm f/1.8 and the even brighter Sony 85 mm f/1.4G Master. On a camera with a full-frame sensor, f/2.8 is more than enough to isolate the subject from the background. That makes the Sony FE 90 mm macro extra appealing, due to the portrait/macro double function. We tested this macro lens on the camera with the highest possible resolution: Sony A7R II.
Sony FE 90 mm f/2.8G Macro: perfection in detail
|Practice shot, made with the Sony FE 90 mm macro f/2.8, taken by J.P. Mioulet |
Macro lenses are also the most obvious choice for reproduction photography, because macro lenses have very little distortion. Macro lenses, at it again appears from our tests, not only stand out at extremely short distances, they are also very sharp at greater distances.
Build and auto focus
With a weight of 6 ounces, a filter diameter of 62 mm and a length of 13 cm, this—for a camera with a full-frame sensor—is a rather modest lens that you can use effortlessly over an extended period. The build quality of this lens is flawless, with a beautiful matte black, metal housing. Both the zoom ring and the focus ring turn smoothly and are simultaneously sufficiently dampened not to turn on their own. This lens is extra-well sealed against dust and splashwater. There are only a few macro lenses for which that is the case. Built-in image stabilization (OSS) also makes this lens attractive to owners of a Sony A7 camera from the first series, where image stabilization was not yet built into the camera. You turn the OSS on or off with a switch on the lens.
A short telephoto lens is great for macro shots of insects, because you maintain a bit more distance from your subject and the light on the subject is not blocked. The shortest focal distance is 28 cm. Manual focusing is very good, and the AF is quiet and precise. A switch on the lens makes it possible to limit the focal range (full, from 28 to 50 cm or 50 cm and beyond), so that the AF can do its work even faster.
|Portrait photographers know how small the focal depth is at f/2.8, and with a macro lens you have the ability to highlight the eyes. The eye-AF option in combination with continuous AF means that you have a greater chance of a sharp picture than with an SLR camera. ||This lens consists of 15 lens elements, including 1 aspherical lens, 1 lens of ED glass and 1 lens of extra ED glass, in 11 groups. |
Vignetting, distortion and chromatic aberration
|In our Imatest measurements, the Sony 90 mm macro showed -0.01% (jpg) and -0.59% (uncorrected RAW). Vignetting is kept nicely limited and amounts to a maximum of 0.7 stops (at full aperture), in both jpg and RAW files. In the Imatest measurements, we saw no difference between the uncorrected RAW and jpg shots as far as the amount of vignetting is concerned. Chromatic aberration is kept nicely limited. In uncorrected RAW files, lateral chromatic aberration is no higher than 0.8 pixels. In the jpg files, chromatic aberration is absent. |
The ZEISS® T*-coating suppresses internal reflections effectively, so that flare from backlighting is minimized and high contrast is retained. In our practice shots, we also had no visible ghosts.
The image stabilization of the Sony A7R mk2 worked well. That is very unusual for a camera with a full-frame sensor, since the physical shifts that the sensor has to make in order to combat undesired vibrations become larger as the sensor becomes larger. We tested the image stabilization (Optical Steady Shot: OSS) by making multiple test shots with and without image stabilization and then measure the sharpness with Imatest. A shot with image stabilization and a shutter time of 1/25 of a second is just as sharp as a shot made with a shutter time of 1/200 sec without image stabilization. That is an actual profit of 3 stops. The diagram that we show are the averages of 2* 10 shots per shutter time. If you assume the best result per shutter time, or if you are satisfied with a bit lower resolution than that of a shot from a tripod, then the image is still rose-colored. If you take a couple of pictures in a row, then it’s almost certain that there will be a very sharp picture made with a shutter time of 1/6. Even at longer shutter times, you can still get a usable shot.
The high resolution of this lens makes an important contribution to the high score that the lens achieves. The record-holder to date, the Canon 100 mm f/.8 L IS on a Canon 5DsR, is pushed out of first place in our list of reviewed macro lenses by the Sony FE 90 mm macro f/2.8. The center sharpness, partly thanks to the high resolution of the Sony A7R II test camera, is unaffectedly high in the center. From full aperture through f/11. Above that, the sharpness decreases as a result of diffraction (a phenomenon of physics that even the designers from Zeiss and Sony cannot do anything about). Although the corner sharpness in the Imatest measurements increases by stopping down, the corner sharpness even at full aperture is already so high that you can actually say that the desired background blur or the desired focal depth are the determinative criteria for the aperture that you choose for a shot.
Ideal: High resolution and a beautiful bokeh
|The macro lens from Sony has an aperture with 9 rounded lamellae that produces a beautiful, quiet bokeh. It is not visible in the shot above that was focused just in front of the subject, but due to the high sharpness at full aperture, the effect of a beautiful, butter-soft, “bokeh-licious” background is amplified in practice. |
Conclusion Sony FE 90 mm f/2.8G Macro review with Sony A7 R II
WYSIWYG score: This table shows the performance of this lens if you save the files in the camera as jpg, where you have applied all available in-camera lens corrections. This score gives you for this lens/test camera combination: "What you see is what you get".
|Pure RAW score: This table shows the performance if the file is stored in the camera in RAW format. This score approaches the intrinsic quality of the combination of lens and test camera. If you make use of Photoshop or Lightroom for converting RAW files, then the RAW scores are equal to the jpg scores. |
The Sony FE 90 mm f/2.8 with the Sony A7R II is a fantastic combination, both for macro and for portraits. As far as image quality is concerned, this combination scored higher in our test than the Canon 100 mm f/2.8 L IS Macro on a Canon 5DsR (with a 50-megapixel sensor). That says a lot about the high quality of this Sony macro lens, and with that we have immediately have a new number 1 in our list of reviews of macro lenses. That says a lot about the image quality of this lens, since the Sony A7R II test camera has fewer megapixels than the Canon 5DsR. In other words: should Sony release a camera in the future that has even more megapixels, then with the Sony 90 mm f/2.8 macro, you are most probably already set for it.