HANDS ON! Sony’s Nifty Fifty! A $249 50 1.8 FE Lens

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HAND’s ON! Sony’s Nifty Fifty! A $249 50 1.8 FE Lens

Hey to all! It’s nearing the end of the week and man it has been a busy one for me! I have a load of new camera gear at the Huff household to start using and reviewing (Leica T 35 1.4 Summilux, Sony G Master lenses, Sony A6300, Olympus 300MM) and while one of those pieces of gear sitting here is NOT this new 50 1.8 from Sony, I did get to use this lens for a day this week in San Francisco and I will tell all Sony A7 owners right now:

*If you are a Sony A7 user, as in, you own and use ANY A7 series body from the 1st to the most recent and you DO NOT own the Sony/Zeiss 55 1.8..or a fast 50..then YOU MUST seriously consider this lens. For $248, it is a steal*

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Canon and Nikon have their inexpensive 50 1.8’s and now Sony does as well, and while it is not as crisp or WOW as the Zeiss 55 1.8, it comes in at a MUCH lower price of $248 and comes with a nice little lens hood as well. For $248, this is a huge bang for the buck and I feel every Sony user should own one (if you do not already have the 55 1.8 or other fast 50). Even their older crop sensor 50 1.8 is more expensive! This is a full frame lens my friends!

The 50 1.8 on a Sony A7RII at f/1.8. For $248, this is stunning performance. Vignette added by me. To see the image sharper and how it should be seen, click on it. All images here must be clicked on to see them correctly as the site softens them up (as you see them here without clicking). 

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How about some color?

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When I first held  this lens I was surprised at how light it was..then again, remembering the price point and other “Nifty-Fifty’s” I came to realize that this is how low cost fast 50’s feel. Yes, it is light but the performance is VERY good. While this is not a full drug out review (as I only had access to the lens for hours) and no huge tests against other 50’s, I can say that out of the camera files with this lens will be lower contrast than say the Zeiss 55 1.8 that has had rave reviews since its release. But this lens is much less expensive, so you will not have the out of the box performance of the Zeiss. But all that is needed is a quick slide of the contrast slider in your fave editing platform and you will have something like you see above.

Another in B&W with this lens and a crop below. This was also shot wide open at 1.8. I added vignetting here for effect, but as it is, there is none from this lens when used on my A7RII.

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When using the lens I expected the images to be a tad soft, and maybe have vignetting or issues but Sony actually added an ASPH element here to minimize distortions and enhance clarity and sharpness. They also added a double-gauss optical design to reduce field curvature and give edge to edge sharpness. This is not a “Cheap” 50. It is an inexpensive ($248) 50 that performs more like a $500 lens. Here are a few more details on this lens from Sony:

  • Normal-length 50mm prime lens is designed for full-frame Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras, however, can also be used with APS-C models where it will provide a 75mm equivalent focal length.
  • Fast f/1.8 maximum aperture benefits working in difficult lighting conditions and also avails greater control over focus placement for working with shallow depth of field techniques.
  • One aspherical element minimizes spherical aberrations for improved clarity and sharpness.
  • Double-gauss optical configuration helps to reduce field curvature and distortions for more consistent image quality from edge-to-edge.
  • DC actuator offers quick, quiet, and accurate autofocus performance to suit both stills and video applications.
  • Metal bayonet offers increased durability and a solid feel when mounting the lens.
  • Rounded seven-blade diaphragm contributes to a pleasing bokeh quality.

There is not much to say about a simple fast 50 but if you have never used a 50mm prime, then you are really missing out. I expect 95% of you reading this page probably have either owned or used a fast 50mm prime at some point. It’s the staple of many lens collections. I used to only use a 50mm and did for almost two years when I was shooting film on a Leica. The 50mm focal length was truly my thing, and the more I used it and stuck with it, the better my photos were getting. Soon, it got to the point to where I could just look at my surroundings and I could see ANY scene or frame in my head, in 50mm. I knew exactly how the image would look, Bokeh and all. I also found 50 to be a nice mid portrait lens. Many feel 85 or longer is best for portraits, and for headshots those people would be correct. For portraits like you see above, a 50 can also do the job, especially in tighter quarters.

Not all 50’s are created equal though. Some are SUPER 50’s like the Leica 50 Summilux, which I feel is the “Gold Standard” among 50’s for price, character and lovely Bokeh and 3D separation. That lens is $3500. This lens is $248 and while it is nothing like a Leica 50 Lux, it will deliver nice sharpness, no real distortions and can be used for so many situations. Being an f/1.8 it will allow you to get more light to your sensor when you need it making  this a great all around, every day general inexpensive lens.

I added a filter to this using VSCO – must click to see it correctly.

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Auto Focus Speed

When using the 50 1.8 lens I made a mental note  to pay attention to the focus speed and accuracy. Only having it for a short time, I wanted to make sure it had no issues focusing because if it did, then I would have had a problem with it. I am not a fan of lenses or cameras that focus slowly or give inaccurate AF readings.

I can say that the 50 1.8 focuses just fine. While not a speed demon with blazing AF like something you would see in a $2000 lens, it punches above its weight a little delivering consistent performance across the board from AF speed, accuracy, IQ and handling. This is an extremely light lens, and it makes your A7 feel extra light. This is good, just do not drop the lens 😉 While the lens focuses it does extract in and out a bit, so the internals move and you will hear a slight motor noise as it goes in and out and attains focus. But its quiet and would never bother me or anyone while shooting.

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At the end of the day, I can HIGHLY recommend this lens. It is cheap in price, great in quality, delivers performance and speed of a $500 lens vs the under $250 that it does cost. The Bokeh seems smooth and pleasant and while the contrast and pop is low out of the box, a few tweaks to your image (contrast) will make them pop. It’s not up there in performance, build or 3D pop that you get with the more expensive Zeiss 55 1.8 but for the money, nothing will beat it on a Sony A7 system. This is a full frame lens unlike the old Sony 50 1.8 they made for APS-C. So this is the lens you want for your full frame Sony A series body.

You can pre-order the new Sony 50 1.8 FE at the links below. Cost is under $250 and it starts shipping next month in may. Pre-order assures you will get it first and these shops do not charge you until your lens ships. Pre orders can also be canceled anytime before the lens is shipped. If you have a serious interest in this lens I HIGHLY suggest pre ordering as I expect (as does Sony) that this lens will be HUGELY popular due to the cost and performance it provides. Also, using my links below will help keep this site going and going! Thank you!

PRE ORDER THE LENS!

PRE ORDER THE SONY 50 1.8 AT B&H PHOTO HERE

PRE ORDER THE SONY 50 1.8 AT AMAZON HERE

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33 thoughts on “HANDS ON! Sony’s Nifty Fifty! A $249 50 1.8 FE Lens

  1. (serious) Hi! I’m looking for a sony lens suited toward shooting photos of my girlfreinds face, while she is on top of me and we are having sex. Right now i have a sony a7rii and 85mm 1.4 gm. I find that while on top of me she is too close for the lens to focus. Any advice? I’d like a lens that can shoot close ups of her mouth, but also portaits.

    Would this lens work in this case?

    Im a super novice so I really dont understand basic correlation between lens sizes to capability.

  2. Hello.

    I’m looking to buy a 50 mm to my new alpha 7. Someone can tell me if the option to buy a canon 50 1,8 stm + commlite adapter is a better option than this sony FE 50mm?

    ( Price for the canon+commlite is 185 euros and 320 euros for the sony)

    Thanks

  3. I don’t really use AF much, but I am looking for a good 50mm lens for landscapes on my Sony a7. I can’t afford the Sony/Zeiss 50mm, so is this my best bet? What about the old Carl Zeiss Planar 50mm f/1.4 (C/Y)?

    If it matters, my concerns are resolution/sharpness in the corners and lens flares f/5.6-f/14. You know, landscapes.

    I’ve read a lot of 50mm reviews on your site, what do you think?

    1. 50mm at 5.6 is really sharp. IQ not so different than 55mm.

      Issue is that the 50mm (as well as the newest $1500 1.4) is that it focuses stopped down, creating a problematic handicap for the AF performance.

      If you shoot landscapes or static objects it may not be an issue.

      I shoot lifestyle and often I photograph people and environmental portraits and I want to use f:4 to have eyes, nose in focus.
      But in that circumstance the AF will perform as I have a f:4 lens rather than a f:2 or f:1.8.

      Issue also for fashion / studio photographers who shoot at f:11 with modeling lights. The lens will struggle to autofocus.

      I wish Sony would do a firmware update to allow user choice about whether a lens would autofocus wide open or stopped down.

      Anyway I have the Sony 50mm 1.8, the 55mm 1.8. I also have the Minolta 50mm macro 2.8 with LA-EA4, that may be even sharper than the 55mm at apertures like 5.6 and has warmer, more pleasing tones for landscapes.
      But with the LA-EA4 you lose eye-AF, and you get AF points only in the central area of the frame.

      Anyway Sony should change the AF / aperture behavior, but I am afraid that the new lenses are designed without a constant focus plane at every aperture.

  4. It is NOT CHEAP considering it is built like a 80 USD lens. Yes the images are nice, sharp and pleasant, but the AF is hesitant and slow. If you stop down past 2.8 in dim interiors it will struggle.

    My old Nikkor 50mm 1.8 D was sharp and even if was not quiet it would focus quickly and easily.

    This lens should cost half its price. The 50 f/1.8 OSS for the crop frame Sony cameras is better built, has OSS and has better AF for the same price.
    I understand if it had good AF, Sony would sell a lot less Sonnar 55mm lenses.
    But I just wish it had decent AF. I am considering returning it, but I hope Sony will come with some firmware update. The issue is not the speed of the motor but the fact that it focus a little back and forth before getting the correct focus.

    I wish this review / preview were a little more objective about the overall performance of the lens and the cost.

  5. Hi Steve,

    I am looking for a “buget” prime that would be versatile for both portraiture and possibly landscape also for my a7rii. I know the 28mm F2 is more wide, but im not sure how it might perform for a portrait. Would you recommend the FE 50 1.8 or the Fe 28 2? Or maybe something else?

    Thank you!

    1. Funny as I was just using the 28 and the 50 1.8 yesterday at comicon. The 28 is VERY nice and the 50 is a tad soft wide open, slow to AF but great results for the $$. I prefer the 28 on an APS-C but the 50 on full frame.

      1. Helli Steve,

        I really enjoy, learning and appreciate with your help and knowledge about preview all cameras and lenses.
        I just found out that the 2 news lenses from Sony: Fe 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS lens and FE 50mm f/1.8 lens are made in China, not in Japan. I had bought and use the new FE 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6 G OSS lens and I am really disapointed about the sharpness and the clarity of all images. I have been using Sony cameras and most of my lenses are from Zeiss and I am very happy and impressed the quality of the photos: very sharp and the clarity quality of the images. I just want to let you and all shooters that they should rethink about getting these 2 new FE lenses from Sony, if you uses the FE 70-300mm for bird in flight or fast moving subjects, you need to have a very bright sunlight and the high ISO. I have been using the FE 70-300mm lens and never get a sharp pictures of bird in flight. Not really happy with this lens and I waisted $ 1,200 dollars.
        Would you please let me know any tricks that csn help me get sharp pictures with this lens. My friend just got the new FE 50mm f/1.8 lens and he is not happy with the quality of his pictures also.
        Thank you Steve for your knowledge.

        1. If you bought the 70-300 and did not like it why didn’t you return it for a refund? My 70-300 is astonishing for the money. Sharp, fast, great reach. No complaints at all. Do not expect $2500 performance from a $1300 lens. I used the 70-300 in my new A6300 review with fantastic results.

  6. Just pre ordered my nifty 50 from B&H. Happy to see Sony make a good bargain lens for those of us who are not pros and are on a budget. 50mm is one of my favorite focal lengths on full frame.

  7. Will be in Japan on June. I’ll definitely buy one of this. It is the first time I got nervous with digital having the 28F2 FE just tonight. I’m not looking for perfection but am looking for character. That is why I will listen to Steve’s comment on the Zeiss 55mm. “It is too clinical.” Maybe that is the reason I’m loving film. I hope to use my A7II more. It has been a year and I seldom use it. It is time to shorten my work flow. I can’t enjoy adapters I have so many because they make the A7II big if not ugly (imagine planar 50 f2 zm on the A7II). JPGs are enough since I can blow up a scanned film to A3 just using the Pakon F135. Sleepy enthusiast here.

  8. I always shoot with film cameras and mf 28 and 50. My a7ii almost never gets used because the 16-35 even with great results is just too heavy. I think it is time to buy an af 28 and 50 for it. I just hope I hold longer hoping sony will have an fe 50 1.4 af small and light one.

  9. Well…it’s nice to see that SONY is continuing to release mediocre lenses for poor college kids. This one should be excellent for zit photography with better bokeh than the 28.

    1. Canon and Nikon sell their 50/1.8 for less than half of Sony’s price. Can we assume their target group is below high school or straightforward the plebs?

      1. I have a sony a6000 body. What would you suggest the best for portraits ??… this new cheap FE 50mmf1.8 or a sigma 60mmf2.8. as both these lenses are of similar price points..

        Please suggest

        Sourav

  10. For someone who owns the a6000 or a6300 and is not planning to upgrade to Full Frame, will you recommend this lens or the APS-C lens? The APS-C lens has a great reputation, has Optical Stabilization, and most of the time you can get it for 248$, essentially costing the same.

  11. Hi Steve thanks for the post. how does this compare to the slr magic 50/1.1, i remember you had a post about it once here a while ago. mainly looking it from sharpness/contrast point of view.

    1. That SLR Magic lens was not very good and they even made me send it back as they said they had to rework it and not release it as is. Never heard back from them on that. Odd. But this lens is leagues better, its smaller, lighter, has AF and is much sharper and is good across the frame. The only real *amazing* SLR Magic lens I have used is the 50 0.95 M mount Hyperprime from years ago.

  12. I wonder what is so special with this focal length so that all major players have “their inexpensive 50 1.8’s”. Why can’t we have inexpensive, fast, and good 35mm or 25mm?

    1. 50’s are one of the easiest primes to make and make inexpensive as well. They can be simple or excotic, and there are so many 50’s out there, all with different character and charm. A 50 Prime is a lens all photographers should own..any 50 prime.

    2. For any format, the easiest lens to design is a lens that has a focal length that is close to the diagonal length of the medium. These focal lengths are typically called “normal lenses.” In the case of 35mm, the diagonal length is 43.3mm. Generally speaking lenses in the 40-58mm are considered normal lenses. Because of this similarity in lengths, you do not need many elements to project a sharp, well corrected image onto the image plane. Most normal f1.8 lenses have between 4 and 7 elements.

      Another example of this is the Zeiss 80mm f2.8 for the Hasselblad V system. A 6cmx4.5cm film negative has a diagonal length of 75mm. The Zeiss 80mm lens only has 4 elements in it and is considered one of the best medium format lenses ever made.

  13. Hey Steve, can you comment a bit more on how this compares to the Zeiss 55mm? Assuming someone doesn’t own either, is the Zeiss really worth the extra $750, or would you recommend the new nifty 50? Great site! Thanks

    1. I did not do a side by side nor have I shot them side by side. I do not have this 50 with me, only had a chance to use it for a day, half a day really. The Zeiss 55 1.8 will have more pop, contrast, bold color and will be sharper. It has more of the Zeiss pop than this one. As I state, out of camera this lens will render a tad dull in the contrast, but its easily boosted in camera or in software after. It does not match up to the Zeiss, but for $248 I would not expect it to. The Zeiss is $998.

  14. I have an A7 and an my most used lens is an old Zeiss 50 1.4 manual lens which I love, but I’m strongly considering pre-ordering this.
    Photos look plenty sharp enough for me, the option of AF would be handy sometimes, and with just that lens I reckon it’d fit in a big jacket pocket, and the combo is nice and light.
    Thanks for the speedy write-up Steve!

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