One 50mm lens scratched off the list.

Just a quick note for any fellow Sony A7x users who may also be looking into getting a new 50mm lens for their camera system. I took a trip to the somewhat hallowed halls of Precision Camera this morning, credit card in hand, to investigate the inexpensive lens option from Sony; the 50mm f1.8 FE.

The lens is small and light and looks visually well matched for the smaller body. I had done some research online and understood that one must load the latest firmware in their A7ii or A7Rii in order for the lens to function optimally. I did that a few days ago.

My sales associate handed me the lens and I took the Olympus lens and adapter off my A7ii body replacing it with the inexpensive ($250) Sony. It clicked nicely into place. I turned my camera on and started attempting to focus on various things around the well lit store. The lens never goes directly to the point of sharp focus, instead it does a little jig to the point, then past the point on one side and back, past the point on the other side; only then does it finally lock into place. The jigs are small but noticeable and they take their toll on the time to sharp focus. I tried again and again with the same results. It's not as though I was trying to focus on a white wall or some smooth, beige carpeting. No, I was intentionally giving the lens an easy way in.

I was trying to focus on the hard edges of shelves or the bold lettering on posters. I also tried a human face but the lens was less than competent. I can't see anyone being happy with that level of AF performance regardless of how good or bad the lens is optically. I am flabbergasted that one popular reviewer declared the lens to be a great value and a good performer.

I looked around at some of the new stuff coming into the store, then shoved my credit card back into my cast iron wallet, snapped the wallet shut and headed for the door.

The search for the most satisfying 50mm for the A7 series continues.... I guess I won't be able to get away with the cheap options...


amolitor said...

I will state the obvious, as a pro forma act. Could this be a bad sample?

Kirk Tuck said...

Hi Andrew, Two samples tested. One right out of the box, one the demo. Same/same. Sorry, no happiness in this report.

tnargs said...

But your "current frontrunner in my popularity contest of lenses" is MF-only. If MF-only is acceptable, why scratch a lens for its AF? Just ignore that aspect.

texascbx said...

I see the 55mm f/1.8 Zeiss in your future. It is unreal.

Ricardo Cordeiro said...

I was very happy when Sony announced that lens, but now I'm disappointed. Your feedback regarding the poor AF is in line with other reports I've seen online. I prefer to continue using good legacy manual focus 50's to a bad AF lens which may be cheap but still more expensive than a great variety of legacy glass that can be bought for less than 100 bucks.

It seems that the Zeiss Sonnar 55mm f/1.8 is still the best option for the A7 series, a bit expensive but with good AF, weather sealing, well balanced in terms of size (other native options like the Samyang are dSLR designs that defeat the purpose of having a small mirrorless camera IMHO) and, most importantly, with stellar performance even wide-open. I find the rendering of that lens really perfect for my taste: sharp with the typical zeiss micro-contrast combined with the smooth Sonnar bokeh.

I'm still searching for a good used deal for this Zeiss, until then I will have to continue using my collection of manual 50's, in this regard one of my favourites is the Minolta PF 55mm f/1.7, a very good performer, compact with good mechanics and can be bought for less than 30$.

edshots said...

Samyang have one out soon (who knows when exactly). 50mm 1.4 and their first AF generation so hopefully they get at least as good as some of the slower Sony lenses.

TMJ said...

I think I would look at the Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA, not too heavy, not too light, good ergonomics and excellent all round image quality, not just sharpness.

Anonymous said...

Hello Kirk,
I enjoy your blog and I think your books are technically excellent. I don't normally post on photography blogs but I thought I might contribute a little of my experience with 50mm lenses used on the Sony A7 Series cameras. I really enjoy using manual focus lenses; quite frankly the experience and results from the auto focus lenses left me cold but that is probably more to do with my old fart style of photography. I own many 50mm proper lenses (27 at last count); By proper I mean No plastic, real glass, super concentric and axially perfect components made from materials that came out of a furnace, they will last and I can pass them on to others. I know which ones render the best; but they all have a curtain character, I won't bore you by listing them in order of preference, I have them from all manufactures. So here it is! you probably already own it; the Nikon Nikkor 50mm 1:1.4 AIS a basic lens good colour, fantastic shape definition and great out of focus rendering (that B word). Yes I can see as a professional you need a good AF Lens, But would it be as much fun? There are better old and new lenses, one is an old M42 Mount Pentax but if you use it long enough there is a significant possibility of developing ocular cancer! The other is high value, starts with Z, in your mind it screams at you "I AM KING" but its not really; it is unlikely your results with it will give you equatable satisfaction when compared to the cost of a trip to Paris accompanied with your everyday mirror-less camera and an old adapted lens.
There are images out there taken by photographers from all decades that are technically very poor but the content is absolute gold. This is the truth of the matter. Content!
Bottom line I enjoy being responsible for the focus.
Incidentally the the 60mm f1.5 Olympus is a truly classic lens, And I really Like the images you have posted using it.

Kind regards
Michael Slattery

Anonymous said...

To my tastes the Zeiss 50/1.4 Plannar is still the best 50 for digital. But I'm weird that way, hardly ever use AF lenses, :)

Anonymous said...

Always a part of my FF kit is the good ol' Nikkor 50 f/1.8G. Inexpensive, fast focusing, and rendering far beyond its price point.


Anonymous said...

The A7ii is a terrific camera for using older MF legacy lenses. I use a lotof different 50mm lenses on this camera. My recommendation would for you to purchase a Rollei planar 50mm f1.8 HFT in qbm mount. They were manufactured initially in collaboration with Zeiss in Germany and then in Singapore by Rollei in the early 70's for their SL series of slr cameras. This is an incredibly good 50mm lens, one of the best from the era that will rival anything produced today. It is an ultron (zeiss planar) type lens with 7 elements. You can purchase the qbm to nex adapter on ebay or amazon. The lenses can usually be purchased for around 100 usd (ebay). Another really good lens is the 50mm f1.4 Super takumar m42 mount, but still not as sharp as the Rollei.