Sony 30mm f/3.5 Macro SEL30M35
Here is the anticipated (and doubted) 30mm f/3.5 Macro from Sony. It is a wide-standard lens with close focus capability, moderate aperture of f/3.5, and high hopes of image quality since it is a macro. Is it worthwhile?
Build quality of this lens is good. The mount appears to be nickel plated brass instead of aluminum as on the 16mm. It is made largely of light weight metal and high quality plastics. The lenses uses Sony’s Direct Manual Focus (DMF) focus by wire control, and it has pretty good feel for a focus by wire system. It is actually much easier to achieve critical focus than it is with the Tokina 35mm f/2.8 Macro lens’ mechanical manual focus.
This macro focuses to life size magnification ratio of 1:1. It is internal focus (rear focus in this case), so the barrel doesn’t extend while focusing. It has the standard 49mm threads we have seen on several E Mount lenses. It is a 7 element in 6 group design with 3 aspheric lenses. It is very light weight for the class at only 138g (5oz). It also has 7 diaphragm blades that are slightly curved, but the do sometimes show in the specular highlights.
The lens has a removable hood that fits close to the body so it doesn’t make the lens much longer. When working at 1:1 it might be necessary to remove it to get adequate light on the subject.
Minimum focus distance is 0.10m (3.84 in), but bear in mind the sensor to end of the lens distance isn’t much more than that. Remember that I am photographing a normal subject chart at approximately 1:54 magnification, not a 1:1 chart so performance could differ for macro subjects.
NEX 3 Optical Characteristics
NEX 3 MTF 50 (Sharpness)
NEX 3 MTF 20 (Resolution)
NEX 3 Lateral Chromatic Aberration
The lens has noticeable barrel distortion of -0.38 (numeric average between tested apertures). Coefficients can be found in the following chart.
All data gathered using Imatest.
The lens is sharp in the center throughout the range, but extreme corners are barely acceptable through the entire range. The resolution of the lens at the corners is a bit better than the sharpness, but still not great.
The lens has high lateral CA for a macro lens, and is in fact worse than many non macro lenses of similar focal length. Longitudinal CA in the bokeh at least is good. Lateral CA is easily correctable.
Flare resistance is good. The sun in the corner can produce a slight bit of flare as with any lens, and if it is at one of the 1/3 points, it will produce some lens flare, but not a lot and it tends to be fairly low contrast and blend into the background.
Distortion is moderately high for a macro lens, but still relatively low for the 30mm class lenses.
Bokeh: See the test photographs. Fairly uniform in specular highlights, a bit of longitudinal CA can be visible in some circumstances, but it is good overall.
– Sharp Center throughout range
– Compact and light weight
– Internal Focus (improves working distance)
– Poorly corrected for a Macro (High CA, Distortion, and low corner sharpness)
– General Macro
– General Photography
This lens shows that 1:1 magnification does not a “true macro” make. The lens is very good at close focus, but has poor corner sharpness and high lateral CA for a macro lens. I think we are seeing a weakness of the short flange distance and fairly short focal length lenses. I really want to test this lens on a 5N to see if the corners improve. It is also possible that the lens would perform better at close focal instead of the 1:54 magnification at which I am photographing the chart.
This lens is producing similar quality to the SEL16F28 from f/4 and up. If you are happy with that lens, you should be happy with this macro. Given the split reviews of that lens, this lens is the same. I tend to like the pictures from the lens better than my test chart results.
It is a good lens for the asking price (purchased by itself it is $50 US less than the kit lens). Buy this lens if you want a perfect focal length standard (in my opinion 30mm is nicer than 35mm) that is good (but not the best) at everything. Once I get my NEX 7 in November, I will compare this lens against the kit lens, and also see if the NEX 7 helps the corners at all.
If you want to buy this lens Adorama has it available for order. Sony Store might have them in stock.
If you like my review, you might shop for camera gear at Adorama.
The gallery images are © 2011 Eric Tastad, and may only be used for personal evaluation of the lenses. The images were exported straight from camera with my default LR3 settings for the NEX 3, which have some sharpening set since it is a fairly high resolution sensor and LR tends to under sharpen.
Testing a new gallery style using Zenfolio. You can go download the originals from Zenfolio (go view the gallery on their page, hover over an image, and click the menu button that pops up in the upper left, click download original, and you can do just the 1 file or the entire gallery).