Sony 28mm F/2.8 Review - Photo Jottings

Sony 28mm F/2.8 Review

Here’s a brief look at the Sony 28mm F/2.8 lens.  Scroll down for the review.

SAL-28F28  Sony 28mm F/2.8
Box contents
Front and rear caps, and a users manual.
$270 retail  Discontinued in 2011
Build quality
Very good
Additional information
Has neat built-in hood, 3/8″ (9mm) deep fully extended, but it does no good
Specifications below
Optical configuration
5 elements in 5 groups
Angle of view
75° full frame, 50° APS-C.
7 blades, straight
Full frame and APS-C
Yes, made for full frame.   APS-C equivalent, 42mm
Depth of field and focus scales?
Yes and yes
Minimum focus, image plane to subject
12″  (310mm)
Minimum focus, end of lens barrel to subject
7.9″  (200mm)
Hard stop at infinity focus?
Length changes when focusing?
Focus ring turns in AF?
Filter size
Filter ring rotates?
Distance encoder?
Max magnification
Min. F/stop
Sony teleconverter compatible?
Dimensions W x L (my measurements)
2.6″ x 1.7″   66mm x 43mm
Maximum  extended length (my measurements)
1.8″  (46mm), add 3/8″ (9mm) for hood extension.
Weight bare (my scale)
6.6oz  (187g)  7.4oz (209g) with caps
Requisite product shots.

Front with hood retracted
Box and lens
Front with hood extended
Side shot
Sony X-ray view and MTF chart
All testing done with the Sony A 700 and A900.  For full frame results, go to the bottom of the page.  For a better understanding of my review methods and terminology, go here.

The Sony 28mm F/2.8 is a compact lens, about as small as you’re going to get with Sony.  Build quality is very good.  It has a satin black finish with rubber inserts around most of the circumference.  It has a focus distance window with ft and m in different colors along with DOF hash marks. The lens says “Japan” so I’m assuming it’s made in Japan.  This lens has a short focus throw, As you can imagine it focuses very quickly and very accurately using the A700.  There’s a tiny bit of slop on the focus ring if you wiggle it by hand when engaged, and none in actual MF use.  Manually, the ring is easy to manipulate with a finger and thumb.  Less than a quarter turn gets you from close focus to infinity.  The focus ring turns in auto-focus mode.

This lens looks optically identical to the old AF Minolta 28mm F/2.8 from 1985.  The Sony version doesn’t quite match up with the Minolta as far as area captured, the Sony seems like it has a 1mm longer focal length.  This updated Sony version still doesn’t incorporate distance encoding.
The lens is multi-coated and resists flare and ghosting with average results, and similar to other wide angle lenses.  It has a cute little built-in lens hood that you slide out from around the front element, but it doesn’t do anything.  Use your hand to block stray light from the shot if possible.  When the sun is close to, but not in the image, you may have a small blob or a pale cone show up depending on your angle and aperture.  See examples below.
Filter size is 49mm.  The only full frame lens to use this size.  APS-C (‘DT’) lenses using this size of filter are the DT 30/2.8 macro, and DT 50mm F/1.8.  The NEX system uses this size extensively.
Filter use.  There’s a very small amount of additional vignetting at F/2.8 using a regular filter on a full frame camera, and none on APS-C.
Coma is evident at F/2.8, but mild and cone shaped, not flying bird type.  It’s completely gone at F/4.  Full frame results are different, see those at the bottom of the page.
Color looks the same as other Sony lenses.
Bokeh is neutral to just so-so at F/2.8.  At F/4, much smoother and more pleasing in my opinion.  See crops below.
Lateral color fringing is present, but not very apparent unless you shoot bright white subjects flanked by dark areas.  I mostly came upon red and cyan, though red seems more noticeable.  Stopping down won’t help with this type of CA.  This lens is average in this department.
Example of color fringing from a lower left corner crop.
Notice the red along the house outlines and cyan to a lesser degree present in lower left and A/C unit sides.  If you just glance at the image, you don’t notice any color fringing, it’s only when you’re looking for it that it’s noticeable.
Random shots.
Sun centered, F/5.6
Sun in shot, F/5.6
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Bokeh, F/2.8
Bokeh, F/4
october08/s28ffbok28.jpg october08/s28ffbok40.jpg
Coma, F/2.8
Coma, F/4
october08/s28a700cma28.jpg october08/s28a700cma40.jpg


The top left shot shows how the lens handles the sun when it’s smack dab in the middle of the image, and it does a good job, no rings or color blobs.  The right shot shows the sun at an angle, and it controls ghosts about average for a wide angle lens.  Sun blow out can be an issue, but solve this by using your hand to block light.  The lens has a built in hood, (marketing gimmick) that won’t help when the sun is just out of the frame.


The middle  crops are bokeh at F/2.8, and F/4.  I like the look of F/4, which is pretty smooth, the wide open F/2.8 crop is too busy and harsh for me.


The last row are the results of coma, which don’t look too bad.  It’s better than the Minolta 24mm F/2.8 shots.  The (corner cropped) points of light at F/2.8 are supposed to look like they do at F/4 in this example.  This wouldn’t really show up in a normal picture, so don’t worry about it.


Distortion below.


Barrel distortion.


Distortion is very light, and corrects easily with standard lens correction tools in your photo imaging software.


Light fall-off.


Aug08/s28mm28lf.jpg Aug08/s28mm40lf.jpg
Light fall-off or corner darkening is mild at F/2.8.  It blends well into the center of the image so it doesn’t show in real life.  By F/4 it’s gone


Shot at F/2.8, no adjustments.  Light fall-off in real images is not noticeable on a cropped sensor camera.


I wonder how sharp the corners are?


Aug08/s28mm28cn.jpg Aug08/s28mm40cn.jpg


These crops are from the extreme bottom left corner.  Things look ok here at F/2.8, but the corners definitely respond to stopping down.  F/4 is a little better, and I think the sharpest comes at F/5.6 or possibly F/8.  It’s obviously not going to matter after F/5.6.


How sharp are the centers if the image is enlarged to a staggering size?


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Center sample results.

The center sample crops above show F/2.8 and F/4 to be very similar is sharpness, though it appears the lens is at its sharpest at F/4.0-5.6.  There isn’t a whole lot of change as you can ascertain, and it’s only noticeable cropped and displayed side-by-side.  I think the Sony 28mm F/2.8 is very similar to the Minolta version, but maybe a hair sharper at F/4.  I’d say that’s probably caused by sample variations as one might expect.  I’ve heard people chatter about this lens being very soft at F/2.8, but I don’t see an issue.  I wouldn’t be afraid to shoot at F/2.8 with this lens for a paying job, but see my final thoughts below.
Close focus sample.
Below, check out the close focus shot, a 100% cropped portion of the full image.  The sample shot was taken with the Sony A 700 12.2mp camera.  The subject is a standard US stamp, 1″x 3/4″ or 25.4mm x 19mm.  Also, note the macro shot was taken as close to the subject as focusing allowed; In this case, 8″ or 203mm, measured from the front of the lens barrel to the subject.
Click for larger image F/8
This maximum magnification shot is sharp, but it’s small.  If you’re using this lens properly, you won’t care about macro type shots.  If you want to add a little “zing” to a close up, add a +4 close up lens, like I did in this review.

Full frame results using the Sony A900 below.


Check out the differences when using a film or full frame camera below.  I’m only pointing out the noticeable issues as compared to the APS-C bodies, so if I don’t show it here, the results are not significantly different enough to warrant posting an additional set of images in this section.


Light fall-off


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Light fall-off is worse than the APS-C crops shown earlier.  At F/2.8 it’s heavy, and noticeable in real shots, but one stop down and things change dramatically for the better.  It doesn’t get much better by stopping down past F/4.


Full image from A900 below.




The dark corners are noticeable here, but not bad, it all depends on subject placement and background. This shot was F2.8, ISO 200, 1/4000sec.  As always, don’t shoot normal daylight scenes at F/2.8.


Corner samples next.


october08/s28ffcn28.jpg october08/s28ffcn40.jpg


The corners are softer than the APS-C crops show, by about one stop.   Don’t concern yourself with this as normal daylight shots would be F/5.6 or smaller, and low light shots would probably hide soft corners depending on subject matter.  The corners are their absolute best at F/11, but hardly noticeable from the F/8 crops.  The exposure differences are from light fall-off.




Barrel distortion on A900


There is slightly more barrel distortion for full frame cameras, but I’d still consider it light to moderate.


Coma results with full frame.


october08/s28ffcma28.jpg october08/s28ffcma40.jpg


This is coma on the A900.  It’s mild to moderate at F/2.8, but clears up for the most part at F/4.  I wouldn’t be afraid to shoot night time street scenes at F/2.8, but make sure you try and keep points of light away from the corners of the frame.  At F/4 coma is barely noticeable.  Keep in mind the samples above are 100% cropped portions of the original image, if you printed the whole image out as you might see it on your computer screen would measure 65″ (1.9m) wide using the A900.


My final thoughts.
The Sony 28mm F/2.8 lens turned in a good performance.  It’s small and light, and focuses very quickly.  Light fall-off is very low, and the centers are pretty sharp at F/2.8, but hit max sharpness at F/4-5.6.  The corners look real good at F/5.6.  Color fringing can be a little strong, but that’s about the only real negative.  Overall, I really like this compact lens.  While it makes perfect sense with a full frame body, I can’t help but think it isn’t the best choice for an APS-C camera, where it’s equivalent to 42mm.  A wider lens would be a better choice, of course that’s just my opinion since I like wide.
For full frame users; The Sony 28mm F/2.8 makes a great entry level wide angle lens.  It’s sharp in the centers wide open as stated above, though the corners will need an extra stop to sharpen up as compared to the APS-C camera, however, that’s only when viewing your images at large sizes.  Light fall-off is noticeable wide open, but is nearly gone at F/4.  Coma is normal to light at F/2.8, and looks fine at F/4—typical results for a wide angle lens.  This lens has been discontinued by Sony, but is readily available on eBay.
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