Is this budget fast prime lens the perfect choice for Alpha 7 users? Andy Westlake finds out
Sony FE 50mm f/1.8 review: Introduction
It’s no secret that the Alpha 7 series of full-frame compact system cameras (CSC) has been a runaway success for Sony. By providing excellent image quality in a package that’s smaller and more portable than any comparable full-frame DSLR, it has become one of the most popular of the new breed of mirrorless systems.
Its importance to Sony is best illustrated by the contrast between the company’s rapid expansion of the new, full-frame FE lens range over the past two years, and the relative stagnation of both the APS-C E-mount and legacy Alpha-mount systems.
One of Sony’s recent additions to its full-frame line-up is the FE 50mm f/1.8. At just £239, it’s the firm’s most affordable FE optic by some way. The focal length will be instantly familiar to generations of film users; for many years 50mm f/1.8 lenses were supplied with 35mm SLRs as standard. Traditionally, they offer a combination of excellent image quality and a usefully large maximum aperture for low-light shooting, while being more compact and less expensive compared with their f/1.4 cousins.
It’s often claimed that 50mm lenses give a field of view similar to the human eye, although given the extent of our peripheral vision this is an oversimplification. But it is true to say that lenses around the 40-50mm bracket tend to bring a very natural perspective to images, imposing neither the wideangle distortion of shorter focal lengths, nor the compression effects typical of telephotos. Because of these qualities, they’ve gained the label ‘normal’.
However, technology has moved on since we were shooting film and focusing manually. In these days of high-quality zooms, in-body image stabilisation and ISO capabilities beyond the dreams of film users, the attractions of the 50mm prime lens are less clear. So does the FE 50mm f/1.8 still warrant a place in the Alpha 7 user’s kit bag?