Sony FE 50mm F1.8 Review

Howdy folks, in today’s article we’re going to be looking at the Sony FE 50mm F1.8. This lens is fairly old at this point, but it was Sony’s take on the iconic nifty fifty.

Why You Can Trust Me

Chance (that’s me) has been practicing photography for 10 years and has been a paid professional for most of it. I bought my first Sony camera in 2018 so this site is a culmination, so to speak, of 6 years of Sony experience (full site history). For this lens in particular, I got it about a year and a half ago and have taken it out every so often (read how I review/test gear).

Personally, I got this lens (used) when I bought my a7iii. I had scored a steal on eBay, getting the camera and a whole bunch of lenses (of various values and quality lol). So, since then, I’ve taken it out on occasion and I’ve really come to like it, despite its flaws.

In this review, I’ll be sharing dozens of sample photos (skip to “image quality” section if you just want to see the pictures) along with my impressions and criticisms of this cheap but mighty lens. This thing is, in my opinion, seriously underrated. So, let’s dive in.

  • Sharp w/ great images
  • Beautiful bokeh
  • Lightweight/compact
  • Dirt cheap
  • Poor-ish build quality
  • Loud/slow AF

Verdict: Although suffering from some autofocus issues, the Sony FE 50mm F1.8 is a tiny lens that packs a mighty punch. Keep reading for my full impressions, or check out what other users have to say (affiliate link).

sunrise under the Hoan Bridge
Sunrise under the Hoan Bridge. (Milwaukee, WI)

Build Quality

Alright, so jumping right in here: let’s talk about build quality first and foremost. If you’ve used a nifty fifty from any other manufacturer, you’ll know that build quality typically isn’t a high priority. Sony’s take on this lens is no exception.

New to photography and not sure what a "nifty fifty" is? A nifty fifty is a 50mm lens that is often inexpensive but offers great image quality. Every manufacturer makes one (or a few).

The barrel is made entirely out of plastic and, while it does feel fairly cheap, I wouldn’t necessarily say it feels flimsy. The glossy black finish on the plastic doesn’t attract fingerprints, however it does show a LOT of scratches. And trust me, my copy of the lens is real beat up.

Everything considered, overall, the lens doesn’t feel terrible. It’s definitely lightweight and compact (which I like), but it doesn’t feel bad. Just don’t compare it to a GM lens or a Sigma.

Autofocus

Next up, let’s focus on focusing (heh). To be entirely frank, autofocus is definitely the major negative point of this lens. I mean, it works. It focuses, and it focuses fairly accurately, but it’s a bit slow and VERY noisy.

If you want to see (or rather hear) the autofocus noise in action, scroll back up and skip to 2:37 in the video. For what it’s worth, I have found that you can’t hear it on the internal mic when recording video, so that’s good.

In that same vein, focus breathing is also quite a problem. Skip to 2:30 in the video to see a demonstration of that. Finally, for manual focus users, the focusing ring does feel a bit cheap/inaccurate but it does the job. I can’t really complain about it.

police car on road
Autofocus isn’t great, or quiet, but it’s adequate for most situations. Tracking, as you can see here, works well.

Image Quality

Alright, time to get into the real meat and potatoes: image quality! Like I alluded to earlier, nifty fifty lenses are generally not known for their AF or build quality, but rather the images that they are able to produce at such a reasonable cost. The Sony FE 50mm F1.8 is, once again, no exception.

My lens tests don’t get very scientific (no MTF charts or anything), but to me eyes sharpness looks pretty good. At F1.8, we see very sharp centers, with moderate fall-off near the corners.

Stopping down evens out the edges a lot more, and (again, to my eyes) I found that this lens is actually pretty good for taking “landscapes” or rather pictures of non-human subjects.

And then, for you fellow bokeh fanatics out there, I found the bokeh to look quite lovely. Do note that there is a tiny bit of “cats-eye” warping near the edges of photos though. Here are a few samples.

Finally, there are two optical issues to discuss: chromatic aberration and flare resistance. The CA is VERY strong on this lens when photographing any bright shiny object (aka cars getting hit by the sun).

Flare resistance is the other weak point. You won’t see any ghosting, but you will get “light streaks”. Notice in the pictures below how the sun rays stretch across the frame.

Conclusion

So yeah, that about sums it up. Autofocus kinda sucks, it’s small but feels cheap, but the image quality is FANTASTIC for the price point. These days, this lens can be found at just under $200 from most major retailers.

I’ll drop a link below. It’s an affiliate link, which means I get a (tiny) commission at no extra cost to you. Think of it like paying me back for this awesome review. 😉 Thanks for reading!

Buy it Here

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