SLR Magic 28 2.8 “E” Mount Lens Review using the Sony NEX-C3

The SLR Magic 28 2.8 “E” Mount Lens Review using the Sony NEX-5 and Sony NEX-C3

Yet another lens real world use review using an SLR Magic lens! This is a company that in the last year has brought out some interesting lenses for Micro 4/3 and Sony “E” or NEX mount. I reviewed their fun Toy Lens for M4/3 and their equally fun “SLR MAGIC” lens for the Sony NEX and the reason I enjoyed those lenses so much was due to the fact that they were tiny, light and CHEAP! Plus the results were pretty cool and unique. Recently they sent me their new more serious lens for the Sony NEX mount. A 28mm f/2.8 lens made of metal. This is a manual focus lens and has aperture click stops from 2.8 up to f/22.

I had this lens a while and did not get to use it much but did manage to get a few shots in here and there. I finally have shot this lens enough to give it a fair review so here we go! Keep in mind that this is a real world review. The same type I have done for 2 1/2 years. The images you see here are all snapshots. Images I captured during my use with the lens to test the output and character of the glass. Nothing more, nothing less 🙂

The SLR Magic 28 2.8 equals about a 42mm on the NEX. A not so fast 2.8 aperture would make this lens seem good for landscape or maybe even portraits but this lens has a unique character just like most SLR Magic offerings. No, this lens will not give you funky swirl or crazy bokeh but it will give you a rendering that is a bit soft when wide open and with softer corners. It is a lower contrast lens as well when shot at 2.8 but when you stop it down, watch out! It sharpens up and the contrast gets a little higher as well. Also, tweaking the image in Photoshop or Lightroom easily fixes and lower contrast issues that may arise.

One unique thing about this lens is that it has a new “Revolver Style” aperture ring which gives you circular bokeh at every aperture. It also helps to cut down on size. SLR Magic also sent me the image below that helps explain the best aperture to use for certain situations.

The Build, The Look, and Feel

This lens is pretty solid. It comes in a box with a metal screw in lens cap and a rear cap. The lens is made of metal and has a good feel about it. It does not seem as “polished” as something that would come from Nikon, Canon or Leica but look at the price. A measley $169 on their E-Bay page. For that price, I can not complain about the build at all, only praise it.

I shot with this lens on a Sony NEX-5 and a Sony NEX-C3. The lens is small enough that it felt good on both cameras. It’s not long and it’s not to heavy. When manually focusing the new peaking feature worked GREAT. I was able to shoot without using the magnification, and 95% of the time the focus was spot on. This is a manual lens folks, so that means no auto focus and no turning the dial on the back to choose aperture.

NEX-5 and the 28 2.8 wide open

The Character of the 28

This lens is NOT going to be a lens that gives you perfect corner to corner sharpness. This lens has a but of unique character and even a little bit of a classic draw. I found it good for people and if you stop it down to f/8, good for landscapes when the lens does sharpen up considerably. I love lenses with character though this lens was not so easy to use when I first started shooting with it on the NEX-5. I had many out of focus shots due to the complications of shooting manual lenses on the NEX system. Once Sony did the focus peaking update, the lens became SO MUCH better and easier to use for me.

On the NEX-5 with the new firmware. Messing with the new color effects…

Using the NEX-C3 with the 28.28  at ISO 1000 – rich color wide open here but I adjusted contrast in Photoshop. Shot in Vivid mode on the C3.

Shot during a gloomy “funny” day in Amsterdam on the NEX-5 – 2.8

CLICK THE IMAGE BELOW FOR A FULL SIZE FILE FROM THE NEX-5 and 28 2.8  – This is wide open and shows the softer corners.

Low light portrait…wide open

This shows a hint of the slight dreaminess you can get from this lens…

…and by f/8 it sharpens up considerably. The next two are JPEGs from the NEX-C3,  f/8

ISO 1600, NEX-C3 – JPEG – f/2.8

below, f/8 in the full Las Vegas sun

Wide open at f/2.8 indoors – NEX-C3

The tree below was shot on the NEX-5 with the 28

The corners are soft when shot at 2.8 but the lens is sharp in the center wide open…see the sample below with 100% crop at 2.8 – MUST click image to see 100% crop

Full Size Samples from wide open to f/11

Some of you may want to see full size samples wide open and stopped down. The following images are all right out of camera JPEGS, saved as a “9” quality in Photoshop. Click on each image to see the full size version.

So, What do I think of the SLR Magic 28 2.8?

This lens is cheap at $169 (plus shipping). For your cash you get an all metal manual lens made for your SONY NEX camera. Shipping from SLR Magic is quick, and they are a great company when it comes to customer service. I have had several lenses shipped to me from SLR Magic and never had one issue. Well, that is not true. One time they sent me a lens and it never arrived. They sent me a replacement and then right after the original came. They told me to just keep both and give one away. Pretty cool.

This 28 2.8 lens is somewhat classic in its rendering when shot wide open and when you stop it down to f/8, forget about it! It sharpens up and gives really great results. When shooting on the NEX-C3 the color seemed better to me over the NEX-5 which seemed duller but that could have been the color mode I shot in as the NEX-5 shots were RAW and the C3 shots are JPEGS.

I had a love/hate with this lens from the get go though. For the first month of shooting I disliked it as I found it a chore to use on the NEX (but I found ALL manual lenses slow and cumbersome on the NEX). I did enjoy the SLR Magic 35 1.7 on the NEX-5 but that lens was made to be imperfect, like a toy lens so missing focus wasn’t such a big deal. But when you use a lens like this, which is a bit more serious, you want your shots IN focus. Not until Sony released the focus peaking feature did I really start to appreciate this lens, and again, at $169 there is NOTHING here to complain about.

My Pros and Cons? Simple really:

PROSPrice of $169, well made, manual aperture ring, rounded aperture, sharp center

CONSA but dull in the color right out of the camera, lower contrast and soft corners until stopped down a bit. 

They even sell a version of it with a Macro adapter on their E-Bay page for $100 more. (which I have but have not used yet. I will update this review with MACRO pics as soon as I get something decent with it)

After spending $899 for an E-P3 and $799 for the 12mm f/2 lens, paying $169 for a lens like this seems like a steal. BUT!!! You must remember what this lens is and is not. It is an ALL MANUAL lens. This means you have to manually focus it. You have to set the Aperture on the lens. These two things are very “Leica Like” but the quality of the lens, and it’s rendering is somewhat classic wide open. It’s one of those dual personality lenses…wide open you get a softer glow at times and stopped down you get plenty of contrast and sharpness. I like it but it is what it is. A great lens for $169. if you like the look of the photos above and do not mind a manual lens, you will probably really enjoy the SLR Magic 28 2.8. At the asking price, it’s worth it! You can buy the SLR Magic 28 2.8 direct at their E-Bay page HERE.

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  1. I think the photos look great. There’s a lot of character to them. Clinical sharpness from edge to edge has its uses, but I find a little softness wide open often adds a feeling of depth to photos.

  2. Thanks for the great review Steve! I am really looking forward to the macro pics. That will make or break the deal for me.

    • I’m sure you could takel any subject mttear at hand and make it look great, Sherri, as you have here through a combination of vision and special techniques.

  3. Would be awesome as an 24mm, or even better an F2… as it is now though with the bland contrast I’d rather take the hit in size and get an old slr kiron/komine 24mm f2. Not a bad lens though, just needs that extra 10%.

  4. I do not see anything to not recommend this lens for $169. Actually, from Steve’s images it appears to be providing better image quality than the price would lead you to expect.

    I very much like the portrait of the man with the accordian.


  5. In my humble opinion, this type of lens more closely resembles how we see and is perfect for a loose style of photography that is intent on capturing memories as opposed to a “professional” image with sharp corners.

    Is your periphery vision sharp to the edges?

  6. I find very interesting how sharp is the center wide open but at the same time the corners are soft. I think it is a great effect that can be used creatively. I do like this lens.

  7. Thanks Steve. It is interesting to see that budget & “character” lenses are preceding “normal” offerings. I am just wondering – if one actually wants more of portrait like lens with character – would not some of the older ltm mount lenses (russian Jupiter lenses come to my mind) that can be had for very little even better option? Do you see this lens more as “budget” or “character” lens?

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