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Jun 16

Review: Sony FE 28mm f/2

Sony’s full frame FE lens lineup is somewhat small, but expanding quite rapidly. While Sony has done a nice job of filling in the gaps of the lineup, one of the downsides to the FE lens lineup has been the relatively high cost of almost all the lenses.  That changes with the addition of the new FE 28mm f/2.  The FE 28mm is a fast wide-angle prime that is compact and offers some versatility with the addition of two conversion lenses.   Let’s dive into the details.

The Sony FE 28mm f/2 on the Sony A7 II

The Sony FE 28mm f/2 on the Sony A7 II

Construction and Handling

The Sony FE 28mm f/2 is a compact lens constructed predominantly of lightweight metals.  The lens is tightly assembled and has no flex anywhere on the body.  While the metal used is thinner and less substantial than that used in the Sony Zeiss lenses for E-Mount, the FE 28mm still feels like a quality piece.

The front of the lens beyond the focus ring is constructed of high-grade plastics, including the hood/conversion lens bayonet and the front filter threads.  This is the only point I wish was more strongly constructed.  The front bayonet seems small and thin considering it needs to support the weight of the rather weighty 21mm ultra-wide conversion lens and the 16mm fisheye conversion lens.  While I didn’t have any failures using the 21mm conversion lens, I do wonder at the robustness of this connection with long-term use of one of these add-on lenses.

Sony FE 28mm f/2

Sony FE 28mm f/2

The FE 28mm is lightweight and handles very well on any of the E-mount cameras.  The focus ring is finely ribbed metal and moves very smoothly with a very nice lightly damped feel. The lens includes a bayonet mount lens hood that locks securely into place.  The hood is a more simple all-plastic hood that lacks the metal accent of the Zeiss branded FE lenses.  Still, for the price, it’s hard to complain.

Autofocus

The FE 28mm f/2 features a generally quick and quiet autofocus motor.  In good light, the lens locks fairly swiftly and silently, with good accuracy.  However, I found AF to falter a bit in lower light, especially on subjects that are in a bit of shadow.  Here, I frequently experienced hunting through the focus range and often found the lens to misfocus when it did ‘lock’ in these situations.  These situations happen with most lenses with the A7 series autofocus system, but the 28mm seemed to fare worse than other FE lenses I’ve used on my A7 II.  It would have been nice to see a better performance in this department.

Sony FE 28mm f/2 on Sony A7 II

Sony FE 28mm f/2 on Sony A7 II

Conversion Lenses

The FE 28mm f/2 adds some versatility by the ability to add two specialized conversion lenses to the front, changing the combination into a 21mm ultra-wide angle or a 16mm fisheye lens.  My full review of the 21mm ultra-wide conversion lens can be found here.  The ability to add a 21mm lens or fisheye lens to your bag with minimal cost does add considerable value to the FE 28mm, especially considering the current minimal choice at the wide-angle end of things in the lens lineup. With the exception of the rather large and expensive Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS, these conversion lenses are the only other way to get an ultra-wide field of view, and they do so without breaking the bank.

I will say that it can be somewhat unwieldy to switch between these converters, but overall it’s a very nice and affordable way to add ultra-wide or fisheye capability to your kit.  This is especially useful for the casual ultra-wide shooter.  Be sure to check out my 21mm review for a much more in-depth discussion of using the converter with image samples.

Continue: Image Quality

About the author

Jordan Steele

Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Admiring Light; Photographer; Electrical Engineer and Dad

19 comments

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  1. Wolfgang Lonien

    Love your I-80 and bronze sculptor images!

  2. Vlad

    Quick question. For the waterfall pictures, what ND filter do you use? Great review and shots as always.

    1. Vita

      I would also like to know the answer to this one, please. Thanks!

    2. Vita

      Also, could you please recommend a variable ND filter for this lens?

    3. Jordan Steele

      I did not use an ND for these shots. Light was low enough that stopping down produced enough blur, though a circular polarizer was used for a few images. I have not had good luck with Variable ND filters, but I use Hoya HMC/HD2/Pro1 filters for the most part. I own a 10 stop ProND1000 that is excellent for a super dense filter, than I also have a 3 stop and 4 stop HMC ND filters.

  3. agenius

    all full frame lenses are expensive, that’s just a fact of life, the same way SUVs are pricier than sedans. Then there is the fact that Sony’s in particular are of the highest quality (well, the overwhelming majority anyways), (relatively) small and AF.

    disclosure – I own both a a7ii and formerly an a7, and the 35 2.8, 55 1.8, 16-35 f4 as well as the kit lens. And I’m considering the a7rii! what I’m not considering, though, is this lens, as I have become hooked on the Zeiss rendering, which this sadly lacks. might consider the Batis line instead…

    1. Colin Johnson

      I agree.
      I was hoping this was a 28mm version of the excellent 35 F2.8.

      Sadly it is not.
      I tried 2 separate copies hoping I had a dud with the first one.
      Again, I was disappointed.

      This lens renders like the Sony 35 F1.8 on my A6000.
      Good overall, but bland and sterile and lacking that Zeiss creamy, dreamy quality.

      I ordered the Batis 25mm F2 instead…

      1. agenius

        nice! It would surprise me if you weren’t happy with the batis 25, as it seems to be excellent, from the early reviews. me, I’m still in the considering phase…

        I agree. that 35 2.8 is excellent, and moreover underrated!

  4. Mauro

    nice review

    note:there’s a wrong sample: the first child sample is taken with 55 1.8 instead 28 f 2.

    http://admiringlight.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/xander_ball.jpg

    cheers

    1. Jordan Steele

      Whoops! Thanks for catching that. Had mixed in the 55 for a few shots that day and missed it. I’ve taken that shot out now.

  5. Jim McB

    Hi Jordan…greetings from Castalia. Your site is excellent and may have saved me from walking away from my lone time gear.. I have accumulated and absurdly large collect of Minolta MF gear. I have shot nothing but slides on MF gear since the 70’s but recently ran into difficulty getting e-6 processing done here in Ohio. Never owned AF gear or digital. Can’t teach old dogs new tricks I guess, That said I be interested in your adcive for a mirrorless camera and adapter for Minolta lenses. I shoot mostly landscape but I have all but 3 of the full minolta lense line up…micro up thru the mirrors. Thanks again or any assistance you can provide

  6. Jason D

    Thank you for all your reviews. Not sure if you are still monitoring these comments but thought I would try!

    I am completely torn between the A7ii with 28mm and 55mm and the Fuji X-T1/10 with 16mm and 35mm. It seems to me you are getting one amazing lens (55mm and 16mm) and one slightly lesser lens (28mm and 35mm) per system. Am I on the right lines or is one set of lenses appreciably better? For landscape and general travel would one system work better? Are any other factors significant?

    As I said thanks for all the info, it’s good to read and compare all systems by the same reviewer.

    Yours, Jason

    1. Jordan Steele

      As a whole, the Fuji lens lineup is currently a bit better in my opinion, but Sony’s been doing a great job lately. The 55/1.8 is certainly a sharper lens at wide apertures vs. the Fuji 35, though some may prefer the rendering of the Fuji better. Stopped down, they are both exceptional. The 16/1.4 is a better lens than the 28, but again, both are good. They also have different fields of view.

      You’ll be able to make great images with either system, that’s for sure. An A7 series is likely going to be a bit better for landscape use due to the Fuji’s occasional oddities with foliage, but I’ve made great landscape images with both systems. As much as I love my A7 II, and I do use it a bit more for landscape work, the X-T1 feels so at home in my hands, and I enjoy shooting a bit more with the Fuji gear. I’d definitely handle both and see what feels best to you.

      1. Jason D

        Thank you for your reply Jordan.

        Just one final question. What about AF performance between them. I see you regard the new X-T10 as very good in low light. Is the Sony system considerably weaker? Poor low light focus on the Nex 7 and X-E1 really put me off both cameras and I sold them on quickly – perhaps too quickly.

        I had thought I may try manual focus on the Sony system but after reading your recent Loxia review that seems like a bit of a pain in the neck – stopping up and down.

        Thank you for your time. Your reviews are tremendously helpful.

        Yours, Jason

        1. Jordan Steele

          Autofocus is one of the hardest things to articulate, as it’s so situation dependent. With the X-T1 and T10, I’ve found low light focusing to be more sure than with my A7 II. The A7 II is generally a bit quicker (especially with the 55mm vs. the Fuji 35mm) in good light, but it can struggle in low light, or especially with back-lit subjects, which my Fujis don’t seem to have trouble with. The Fuji’s will be similar to the Sony cameras in dimmer light if using the AF points outside of the PDAF area…the phase detect points on the Fujis help tremendously in lower light, and with overall focus speed.

          Manual focus works quite well on both cameras (The T1 better than the T10 due to the much larger finder), though it’s not for speed if you’ll be stopping down and want pinpoint precision (though you can focus stopped down).

  7. Vivek Anand

    Thanks for the post and images. Even though most people (including myself) are fans of the Zeiss lenses, I was shocked to see that the Sony 28mm had a DXO score of 34 vs a DXO score of 33 for the Zeiss Fe 35mm f2.8!

  8. Sally

    Bought this 28mm lens because I needed the 2, aperture for night shooting. I am horrified by the starburst situation on every light! I have a cheap sony kit zoom that doesn’t do that, and I also own the 35mm fixed sony and it doesn’t do it either, What gives? I’ve tried changing the aperture and even at 2. it does it.
    Its so bad, every light, every car headlight etc. Am I doing somthing wrong here?

    1. Jordan Steele

      Do you have an example?

  9. Faisal

    I just want to know how it performs on sony a6xxx series as compared to sony 35mm 1.8.

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