Reviewing the SONY 55 f/1.8 Zeiss lens

Updated: 21. December 2018

First blog post here is a running review of the Sony 55 f/1.8. I have no commercial interest in this review, just Image Quality interest.

This lens gets a lot of praise in several online reviews, from www.phillipreve.net, and www.sonyalpha.blog.

There has been some talk from Lensrentals about this lens having a more than average variation in optical quality, but I can’t tell for sure since I only test one.

Since I have only recently started testing this lens, I will update the review from time to time with more facts about focusing, sharpness, CA, LoCA, etc.

I will warn you that I am in no way a lens expert, optical engineer, etc although I have a technical background and work in the Semiconductor Industry, and have been photographing for 30 years, and the last 12 years with Digital SLR.

Expect this review to consist of photos and my personal opinion.

The Lens:

The Lens comes with a solid Lenshood made from metal and plastic including the mounting bayonet.

  • Mount Type: Sony FE

  • Focal Length: 55mm

  • Maximum aperture f/1.8

  • Minimum aperture: f/22

  • 9 Circular aperture blades

  • Filter diameter: Ø49mm

  • Minimum focus distance: 0.5m (1.64 ft)

  • Maximum magnification: 0.14x.

  • Lens (Elements): 7

  • Lens (Groups): 5

  • Format(s): Full Frame 24x36 mm.

  • Image Stabilization: No

  • Aspheric Glass Elements: 3

  • Autofocus: Yes

  • Internal Focusing: Yes

  • Weight: 281g (10oz).

  • Dimensions: 2.54 in. (64.4 mm) x 2.78 in. (70.5 mm) (Diameter x Length)

 

It has the famous Zeiss T* coating, 9 circular aperture blades, and is rated dust/moisture resistant whatever that means since there is no rubber seal at the lens mount.

The Lens is build of Plastic with an outer metal barrel. The focusing ring is made of metal too and is an enjoy to use. I think it's very well built, and love the minimalistic design.

The filter thread is precise and my filters fit very well in the thread.

Now to some testing. I am mainly going to use this lens for landscape, what I call minimal photography, Architectural details, and some Portrait.

Initial testing was done under less than ideal circumstances, with a not exactly precise method. So because of that and the bad weather here, I have made some new tests with a test chart indoor.

The first outdoor test shots are available further down.

Test chart. I put a printed chart on a flat wall, one in each corner, and one in the center, and aligned the camera the best I could with a spirit level. I also tested at shorter distance, close to minimum focus distance but with one chart, and a star in the center, also to make an initial centering test of the lens. (See comments under each photo).

Test chart is from Bob Atkins, and Siemens star from Nates Tech which has made them available for free.

f/1.8 @ 3 x close focus distance. Impressive to say the least.

 

f/1.8 @ 1 x close focus distance. Impressive to say the least. Composite test chart made by me in PS.

 

Crop of eye at f/1.8 just to the left from center. Shown @100%. So impressive. Click on photo for larger version.

19. december 2018

Initial testing was done under less than ideal conditions, but I can’t change the weather. I used a target, a steel mast approx. 680 meters or 740 Yards away so infinity focus should be reached by far.

Then I centered the camera on the mast and took a shot for each aperture, and then turned each of the 4 corners to the same target by turning and tilting the head on my tripod.

I know it's better to have a long distance so I can avoid tilting the camera and the optical axis, but that was what I could manage today, and I think this way to do it is OK.

(Please tell me otherwise in the comments if that is the case)

Unfortunately, the weather was a bit hazy and very windy, so I think a new test will be needed when the sky is more clear.

Anyway, let's start at f/1.8 with the center, and go to the bottom left corner and with the clock around till we reach the bottom right corner. Let me begin by saying that I am impressed! The corners are sharp and quite comparable in sharpness. Maybe the lower right corner is a tiny bit sharper but that is negligible. I had some varying sharpness because of shake, or haze, and definetly because of the strong wind, in some of the shots and choose the best ones but I am still in doubt about a couple of photos.

But there is certainly no serious centering problem at infinity and at f/1.8

The Photos are done with 5 sec. self timer, and focus on the center. There is NO sharpening applied to the photos, and no lens Profile either in camera or Lightroom. All files are RAW converted in Lightroom and exported as 100% quality Jpeg from LR. The crops are 100% crops from the very corner of the frame, so a very demanding test. See comments under each photo.

As a note I would never shoot a landscape at f/1.8.

f/1.8 center

f/1.8 Lower left corner

f/1.8 Upper left corner

f/1.8 Upper left corner

f/1.8 Upper right corner

f/1.8 Upper right corner

f/1.8 Lower right corner

f/1.8 Lower right corner

f/2.0 Lower left corner

f/2.0 Upper left corner

f/2.0 Upper right corner

f/2.0 Lower right corner

f/2.8 Center

f/2.8 Lower left corner

f/2.8 Upper left corner

f/2.8 Upper Right corner

f/2.8 Lower Right corner

f/4.0 Center. Moire visible.

f/4.0 Lower left corner is a bit worse than the others.

f/4.0 Upper left corner. Moire visible.

f/4.0 Upper right corner

f/4.0 Lower right corner. Moire visible.

f/5.6 Center

f/5.6 Lower left corner. Not quite as sharp as the other corners but still great.

f/5.6 Upper left corner

f/5.6 Upper right corner

f/5.6 Lower right corner. Shake from camera to be seen here because it’s not as sharp as f/4

f/8 Center. Moire visible.

f/8 Lower left corner. Still not as sharp as the other cornes, but only by a tiny margin, and within the margin of error that the conditions allowed today.

f/8 Upper left corner.

f/8 Upper right corner.

f/8 Lower right corner.

f/11 Center. Even sharpness all over the frame.

f/11 Lower left corner. Even sharpness all over the frame

f/11 Upper left corner. Even sharpness all over the frame

f/11 Upper right corner. Even sharpness all over the frame

f/11 Lower right corner. Even sharpness all over the frame

I will add more photos in December 2019

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