Sony has paid more attention to its full-frame FE lenses in recent years than its APS-C E family, but there are still plenty of photographers using cameras in the Alpha 6000 line. The E 50mm F1.8 OSS ($299.99) covers a short telephoto field of view when paired with an A6000. It’s a field of view that’s a bit tight for everyday use—the E 35mm F1.8 OSS is a better choice if that’s what you want—but it’s a solid choice for portraiture. The lens is quite sharp, compact, and affordable, though it lacks the all-weather design you get with a pricier, full-frame FE lens like the Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA.
The E 50mm is rather small, coming in at just 2.4 by 2.4 inches (HD), 7.1 ounces, and supporting 49mm front filters. Its barrel is aluminum, available in your choice of silver or black. A reversible lens hood is included.
The lens projects an image circle large enough for use with an APS-C sensor camera, like the Alpha 6000, 6300, or 6500. Its field of view is about equal to a 75mm lens mounted to a full-frame camera, making it a solid choice for portraits.
You can mount the lens to a full-frame Alpha 7 II series camera. By default the image sensor will automatically crop to an APS-C size, reducing image resolution. You can set the Alpha 7 II to shoot without the crop, but you’ll get a strong circular vignette around your image if you do.
Autofocus is quick and accurate, but manual focus is also an option. Turning the focus ring activates the focus motor to adjust internal elements, a method that allows for compact construction, but doesn’t offer the tactile feedback you get from a mechanical manual focus mechanism. The ring turns freely, without hard stops, which isn’t the most pleasant manual focus experience, as it can be difficult to gauge which direction or how quickly to turn the ring to adjust focus for a shot.
Optical stabilization is built in, a big plus for Sony shooters. As of now, the only APS-C model with built-in stabilization is the Alpha 6500. Putting stabilization in a lens makes it possible to get crisp, handheld shots at longer shutter speeds, and also works to steady handheld video.
The 50mm focuses to about 1.28 feet (0.39-meter). It’s a fine working distance for portraiture, but if you’re a fan of using a longer lens as a daily driver, you’ll find yourself backing up from subjects to focus.
I tested the E 50mm F1.8 OSS with the 24MP Alpha 6500. At f/1.8 it scores 2,284 lines per picture height on Imatest’s center-weighted test. Image quality is strongest at the center of the frame, but falls off as you move away from the center—showing about 1,815 lines in the middle third. That’s still better than the 1,800 lines we want to see at a bare minimum, but just barely. Results at f/2 are similar.
At f/2.8 the overall sharpness score improves to 2,482 lines, with a center that tops 2,800 lines and middle and outer parts of the frame that are also strong, around 2,175 lines. There’s improvement all around at f/4, with the average score hitting 2,665 lines, with most of the frame approaching that score.
The lens is at its best at f/5.6 (3,051 lines) and f/8 (3,034 lines). Diffraction sets in at narrower apertures, cutting resolution at f/11 (2,827 lines), f/16 (2,502 lines), and f/22 (1,542 lines).
Distortion is a nonissue; the lens shows virtually none. Illumination is a concern, however. Corners lag behind the center by -2.3EV and -2EV at f/1.8 and f/2, respectively. Portrait photographers may appreciate this natural vignette, but if you don’t you can enable automatic correction in-camera when shooting JPGs, or use Lightroom CC to correct the issue in Raw images. At narrower apertures the deficit is within -1EV, which we consider to be negligible in field conditions.
The Sony E 50mm F1.8 OSS is a solid option for photographers invested in the APS-C system. Its short telephoto field of view is a great choice for portraiture and for general use when you’re not in a confined space. A wide aperture design blurs backgrounds, and works with the stabilization system to net sharp images in challenging light. It’s not a fantastic general purpose lens—the slightly wider E 35mm F1.8 OSS is a better choice if that’s what you’re looking for. But if you want something tighter for portraiture or to complement a wider prime like the Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA, the E 50m F1.8 OSS is an excellent way to go.