Quick Review: Using the Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 at a festival

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The FE 50mm f/1.8 is the cheapest full frame lens Sony makes. I got it because I stumbled across a bargain. Since I didn’t have a proper portrait lens for my a6300, the 50mm f/1.8 was the right lens at the right time.

I used it for a couple of days before joining the Neversea Festival as a photographer. My main lens was the trusty 18-105mm. For portraits though I felt I should give the 50mm a good run. After 4 days of shooting, I can draw some conclusions.

Autofocus isn’t great

Yes, all those reviews talking about the autofocus are right. It’s not horrible though. Having Face Tracking or Eye AF on helps a lot. But the 50mm missed more shots than I had expected. Even the slightest drop in lighting gave the lens a difficult time at focusing. For static subjects, it’s a great lens, but for those who came to party at Neversea, the lens struggled.

Another thing you should consider is the autofocus noise. By today’s standards it’s really loud and it contributes to the sensation the lens isn’t capable to focus fast.

Image quality is forgettable

I hope nobody is expecting stellar performance from a sub $200 lens. Having said that, image quality can only be described as decent. There’s a fair amount of detail and from my point of view, the colors are OK. One thing to consider before buying this lens is chromatic aberration. Shooting portraits means zooming to 100% to check for proper focus. This is where you’ll notice the lens doesn’t handle harsh contrasts that well. Nothing that Lightroom can’t fix.

Construction is basic

Continuing with the “it’s just a $200 lens” trend, the 50mm f/1.8 is simple. Unlike the 85mm f/1.8 and the newly announced 35mm f/1.8, the nifty fifty doesn’t have any extra buttons or AF/MF toggles. It’s made out of plastic, it’s light and it feels cheap. The filter thread is 49mm and oddly enough it’s just as big as the 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens I reviewed a while ago.

Does it bother me it’s made out of plastic and that it feels cheap? Not a slight bit.

Who’s it for?

In a sentence: people who want something more than just a kit lens. Mind you, APS-C users can also choose the 50mm f/1.8 OSS. It costs around $50 more, but for that, you get optical stabilization and arguably better materials.

Sony a5000, Sony E 50mm f/1.8 OSS | 1/80s, f/4, ISO 1000

So why should you get the non-stabilized 50mm f/1.8 for your Sony APS-C? One reason is whether you plan on switching to full frame or not. If you make the jump, this lens will work right away, without you having to buy a new one. Another reason is price, though you should probably choose the APS-C version, even if it’s slightly more expensive. If you happen to find a good price, I see no reason why you shouldn’t get it.

Those seeking the best portrait lens for Sony APS-C bodies, look no further than the Sigma 56mm f/1.4 DC DN. It’s extremely sharp, the bokeh is incredibly smooth, and at around $400 it’s great value for a camera system Sony has forgotten in the last years.

Pros:

  • Decent image quality;
  • Cheap;
  • Light.

Cons:

  • Subpar AF;
  • Noisy AF;
  • Noticeable chromatic aberration;
  • For APS-C users, the E 50mm f/1.8 OSS costs just $50 more.
Man With A Camera. Romanian, copywriter, content editor, photography enthusiast, and an electronic music fan.

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