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Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro lens review

By Paul Carroll - Tuesday November 22 2016

Lens Review
Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro lens review

Lens options for Sony’s full-frame A7 series of mirrorless cameras are increasing all the time, and the new $498 Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro adds another choice in this popular prime lens focal length. Great for general-use photography and portraiture, the Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro also boasts 1:1 macro magnification with a 16cm/6.3-inch minimum focus distance, for high-quality close-up photography. FE-mount lenses also remain compatible with Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras such as the A6300, offering an equivalent 75mm focal length, which remains a good option for portraits and macro work, if a bit long for general use. The Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro features both ED and aspherical glass elements for improved performance, as well as dust and moisture resistance, and a focus limiter switch.  The focus limiter offers 3 settings, including full, 30cm to infinity, and 16cm to 30cm, with the latter being helpful for reducing the amount of “focus hunting” when using autofocus for macro shots.

Overall image quality

Specifications

  • FE / E mount for Sony mirrorless
  • F/2.8 to f/16 aperture range
  • ED (extra-low dispersion) element
  • Aspherical element
  • 1:1 magnification with 16cm/6.3-inch minimum focus
  • Focus range limiter for macro autofocus
  • Dust and moisture resistant
  • Rounded 7-blade diaphragm

 

Highlights

  • Lightweight and portable
  • 1:1 macro focusing
  • ED (extra-low dispersion) element
  • Dust- and moisture-resistant
  • Outstanding sharpness from f/4 to f/8
  • Well-controlled chromatic aberration

 

Drawbacks

 

Overall image quality

Achieving its best overall score of 37 points on the Sony A7R II, the Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro achieves 37 P-Mpix of the A7R II’s 42Mp resolution, making this an incredibly sharp lens-camera combination. In fact it’s the third-sharpest lens we’ve tested on the A7R II, just behind the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro with 42 P-Mpix and the Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* 55mm f/1.8 with 40 P-Mpix. The FE 50mm f/2.8 costs about half the price of these top two performers, however, making it an attractive option for super-sharp results on the A7R II. Its sharpness on the 36Mp Sony A7R drops to 25P-Mpix, so the Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro doesn’t achieve as much resolution potential on Sony’s first-generation high-resolution full-frame mirrorless camera, but it’s still a very good score. The inclusion of an ED glass element keeps chromatic aberrations under control, and there’s minimal distortion, as you’d expect from a 50mm prime. The only real image quality drawback is vignetting, with some noticeable corner shading visible at all apertures, including a heavy –1.9Ev at f/2.8.

 

Specific use case

With exceptional and very nearly uniform sharpness of around 80% acutance at f/2.8, the FE 50mm f/2.8 is a high-quality lens both for shooting portraits and for low-light work on the Sony A7R II. The heavy vignetting at f/2.8 might require some post-production correction depending on the subject and composition, but of course some mild corner shading will often enhance a portrait. For macro photography, the 50mm focal length is slightly wider than many macro lenses, which could be an advantage depending on your subject and background. Sharpness at the minimum f/16 aperture for longer depth-of-field macro shots remains very good with acutance around 70%, too. The Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro hits peak sharpness between f/4 to f/8, at which resolution is phenomenal and uniform.

Specific use case

 

Image quality compared

Image quality compared

The Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro’s overall score of 37 points and sharpness score of 37 P-Mpix compares well to the more expensive Zeiss competition and ranks slightly above the cheaper Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 version. The $998 Carl Zeiss 55mm f/1.8’s improved low-light performance puts it ahead of the FE 50mm f/2.8 overall, and the Zeiss is one of the sharpest lenses we’ve tested with 40 P-Mpix, but the cheaper FE 50mm f/2.8 isn’t far behind. Thanks to its wider f/2 maximum aperture, improved light transmission and low-light performance, the $949 Loxia 2/50 FE also ranks above the FE 50mm f/2.8 overall, but the Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro boasts slightly better sharpness (although both are very sharp lenses). The value-option $198 Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 scores very well overall due to excellent low-light performance, and although it’s not quite in the same league as the more expensive FE 50/55mm options when it comes to sharpness, it still offers very good resolution of around 80% at f/8.

Image quality compared

 

Conclusion

Shooting full-frame, a 50mm prime is a really handy option for general use and portrait photography, as well as a relatively lightweight and portable lens. Adding 1:1 macro focusing, the Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro offers greater functionality for Sony A7 series owners, making it an even more versatile optic at a sensible $499 price point. Sharpness is outstanding on the Sony A7R II, achieving 37 P-Mpix of the Sony A7R II’s total 42Mp resolution, and it’s the third-sharpest lens we’ve tested on this camera. It’s not as sharp as the Zeiss Sonnar T* 55mm f/1.8 and lets in half the amount of light using the maximum aperture, but it’s also half the cost of the $998 Zeiss and offers macro.

 

Also consider

For greater insight into the performance of alternatives to the Sony FE 50mm f/2.8 Macro, please see our Sony FE 50mm f/1.8, Zeiss Loxia 2/50, Mitakon 20mm f/0.95 and Sony A7R II best prime lenses reviews.