The “nifty fifty” is a lens that every photographer should have in their kit. What a “nifty fifty” is, is a 50mm lens that usually has a maximum aperture of f1.8-f/2.0. This spec lens used to come with just about every new camera purchase as a kit. Over the years it has developed sort of a reputation as being sub-standard. In most cases, nothing could be further form the truth.
Sure across the board there are other more expensive options in every camera manufacturers lens catalog. In the Sony eco-system there are of course the Zeiss 50mm f1.4 and the Zeiss 55mm f/1.8. By all accounts better lenses, only marginally though, and both at five to eight times the price. Of course there are various 50mm options from third party manufacturers, most notably Sigma. Again at a much higher price point.
So lets look at Sony’s “nifty fifty” – the SEL5018F according to Sony’s catalog:
50mm focal length
Full frame compatibility
6 elements in 5 groups
7 rounded aperture blades
49mm filter thread
47 degree angle of view
Weighs 6.5 ounces or 186 grams
All in all pretty standard. Note this lens does not have built in image stabilization, or Optical Steady Shot in Sony terminology, because most of Sony’s full frame cameras have in body stabilization (IBIS).
This is not a critical scientific review so I will dispense with MTF charts and the like.
In my experience, the lens offers an acceptable degree of sharpness and good image quality. However it is somewhat subject to flare, so use a lens hood or your hand if needed to shade the front element.
There is, in high contrast situations, especially against a light background, a decent amount of chromatic aberration mostly in the form of purple fringing.
Also the focus motor is a little loud so this would not be an ideal lens for video as you would probably pick up extraneous noise during focusing. The lens does not have an external Auto/Manual focus switch either.
How does this lens compare to offerings from other manufacturers? My only basis of experience is with the Canon 50mm 1.8 STM which I used to shoot on my canon DSLRs then adapted to my Sonys before getting the Sony version. I found the Canon to be sharper and more contrasty, while having a better overall image quality, and for half of the price. However adapted lenses never work as well as native mount lenses in my experience and the Sony version is not that far behind the Canon in the mentioned areas, and Canon has had much more time to develop their lens.
So, is it worth it? Absolutely. If you favor the 50mm focal length and want a fast aperture this is a great way to go. If you are an APSC shooter, it is a decent focal length for portraits, though you might be better served by Sony’s APS-C version that does have built in stabilization and slightly better IQ – though at a higher price point.
Let’s look at some images.
So, is it worth it? Absolutely.
Let me know what you think in the comments.
Stay safe and see the world your own way.
Thanks for reading.