Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 (SEL2860) lens
Sony’s FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 lens lacks versatility and fast speed, however we’ve given it a ‘Recommended’ rating because of its compact size, light weight, optical performance, and its build is better than average for a kit lens.
Announced concurrently with the Sony α7C camera, the new FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 (SEL2860) kit lens is the lightest and most compact standard zoom lens to date for cameras with ‘full frame’ sensors. Its retracting design means it only extends approximately 50 mm from the camera body so it takes up little space in a camera bag or pocket and its 167 gram weight is easy to carry. The 28-60mm zoom range is suitable for everyday snapshots and casual vlogging.
Side view of the FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 lens. (Source: Sony.)
The optical design of this lens consists of eight elements in seven groups and includes three aspherical elements to suppress common aberrations and deliver edge-to-edge sharpness. A dust- and moisture-resistant construction enables it to be used for outdoor recording of still images and video clips, while a linear AF drive motor provides the fast and accurate autofocusing.
This diagram shows the positions of the dust- and moisture-resistant seals in the lens. (Source: Sony.)
The seven-bladed iris diaphragm closes to a near-circular aperture for smooth and attractive bokeh. The minimum focusing distance is 30 cm at 28mm and 45 cm at 60mm for a maximum magnification of 0.16 times life size.
This lens is only supplied with front and end caps. No lens hood is listed on Sony’s website.
Who’s it for?
Most people will acquire this lens with a camera, probably the new α7C for which it appears to have been designed and which is reviewed separately. It’s not particularly versatile and not very fast so its small size and light weight are the main factors in its favour.
The 28-60mm zoom range might be fine for snapshooters (although they’re unlikely to want to spend more than AU$3000 for the camera to accompany it). But it’s only just adequate for the vloggers and YouTube video posters who appear to be the main targets of Sony’s marketing – although it’s better than the average smartphone.
It’s also less than ideal for travellers. The 28mm position isn’t wide enough for landscapes and cityscapes and the 60mm position is a bit short for portraits and won’t get you near enough to take exciting shots of events and exhibitions.
It’s also totally unsuitable for sports and wildlife photography, at least in part because it’s not compatible with the Clear Image Zoom and Digital Zoom functions provided by Sony’s α7 cameras. On the positive side, though, the lens is quite solidly built and claims to be sealed against dust and moisture.
Build and Ergonomics
The 28-60mm is a typical consumer-level lens, being made mostly from polycarbonate plastic mounted on a metal lens mount that attaches snugly to the camera body. There’s a thin rubber ring around the mounting plate to keep out moisture and dust.
The small size of this lens is achieved through its retracting structure. Before it can be used, the zoom ring (which is closest to the camera body) must be rotated from the stored position to the 28mm focal length position. This extends the inner barrel by 25 mm, rotating it a little in the process.
Five focal length settings are stamped on the trailing edge of the zoom ring: 28mm, 35mm, 40mm 50mm and 60mm. These are lined up against a white mark on the 8 mm wide fixed section of the lens immediately behind the zoom ring.
This area also carries the name of the lens plus a raised white index dot around the left side of the lens barrel, which is lined up against a similar mark inside the lens mount when attaching the lens to a camera. The maximum and minimum aperture settings change as focal length is adjusted, as shown in the table below.
|Maximum aperture||Minimum aperture|
The zoom ring is approximately 13 mm wide with a 10mm wide strip of moulded ribbing around its leading edge. Roughly 2 mm in front of it is the focusing ring, which is about 5 mm wide and entirely covered with narrower ribbing.
Because focusing is driven from the camera, the focusing ring turns through a full 360 degrees when power is shut off. When the camera is switched on and manual focusing is selected, there’s virtually no tactile feedback when the ring is turned, although by default, the camera will magnify the scene in both the manual focus and DMF (Direct Manual Focus) modes.
We found the DMF mode difficult to use with this lens at the 50mm and 60mm focal lengths, largely because the image was magnified so much it was hard to find and edge to focus upon initially and equally hard to keep it in focus. Using the Manual Focus mode wasn’t much easier.
The inner barrel is shortest between the 35mm and 40mm focal length settings but only extends by a 5 mm when you move to either the 28mm or 60mm positions. In front of the focusing ring is a 7 mm wide section of the outer barrel that steps slightly inwards towards the front of the barrel.
The front of the inner barrel is 52 mm in diameter but the glass covering the front element is only about 27 mm in diameter, leaving an annulus of black plastic around it. The moulded plastic threading for 40.5 mm filters is located here.
The lens is supplied with a 42 mm diameter clip-on lens cap plus the standard Sony FE mount end cap. No lens hood is provided and none appears to be available for this lens.
As tested on the α7C camera body, the review lens was a capable performer, with the highest resolution recorded around the middle of its zoom range and at mid-range apertures. Some edge softening was detected at all focal lengths, as shown in the graph of our Imatest results below.
Traces of coloured fringing were observed in some JPEGs taken in contrasty lighting. However, our tests showed lateral chromatic aberration remained entirely within the ‘negligible’ band at all aperture and focal length settings, confirming that chromatic aberration is a minor issue with this lens. In the graph of our results below, the red line marks the border between negligible and low CA.
Backlit subjects were handled very well; although the lens could be a little flare-prone when a bright light source was inside the frame. However, most contre-jour shots showed no instances of flare artefacts, even when the light source was within the frame.
Since Sony cameras apply corrections to JPEG files when they are produced, we had to examine AWR.RAW files to detect both vignetting and rectilinear distortions. We found slight vignetting in uncorrected files at the widest apertures with all focal lengths, with the most visible vignetting occurring at 28mm. It reduced rapidly as the lens was stopped down.
Distortion is common with wide-angle lenses and examination of uncorrected files showed barrel distortion to be obvious at 28mm, but barely detectable at 35mm. Slight pincushion distortion could be seen at the remaining focal lengths.
Close-up shooting performance was limited by minimum focus distance of 30 cm at 28mm and 45 cm at 60mm, neither of which provides much magnification. This restricts the lens to shooting close-ups of larger flowers and similar sized objects.
Bokeh was much as you’d expect from a relatively slow lens, although by 60mm the f/5.6 maximum aperture didn’t produce much background blurring. No outlining of highlights was seen in shots with bright background elements.
Autofocusing was quick and quiet and focus accuracy was generally good, including in relatively low light levels and when shooting video clips. Manual focusing was much as you’d expect from a focus-by-wire lens, which has no mechanical coupling with the camera.
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Picture angle: 75 to 40 degrees
Minimum aperture: f/22-f/32
Lens construction: 8 elements in 7groups (including 3 aspherical elements)
Lens mounts: Sony FE
Diaphragm Blades: 7 (circular aperture)
Weather resistance: Dust and moisture resistance
Focus drive: Linear motor
Stabilisation: No (relies on SteadyShot IS in the camera body)
Minimum focus: 30 cm at 28mm, 45 cm at 60mm
Maximum magnification: 0.16x
Filter size: 40.5 mm
Dimensions (Diameter x L): 66.6 x 45 mm
Weight: 167 grams
Standard Accessories: Front and rear caps
Distributor: Sony Australia; 1300 720 071
Based on JPEG files taken with the Sony α7C camera.
Vignetting at 28mm f/4.0.
Vignetting at 35mm f/4.5.
Vignetting at 40mm f/5.0.
Vignetting at 50mm f/5.6.
Vignetting at 60mm f/5.6.
Rectilinear distortion at 28mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 35mm
Rectilinear distortion at 40mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 50mm.
Rectilinear distortion at 60mm.
28mm focal length, ISO 100 1/40 second at f/8.
35mm focal length, ISO 100 1/50 second at f/8.
40mm focal length, ISO 125 1/40 second at f/8.
50mm focal length, ISO 125 1/50 second at f/8
60mm focal length, ISO 400 1/60 second at f/8
Close-up at 28mm focal length, ISO 100 1/800 second at f/4.
Close-up at 60mm focal length, ISO 100 1/400 second at f/5.6.
Flare at 28mm focal length, ISO 100 1/125 second at f/4.
Contre-jour lighting at 28mm focal length, ISO 100 1/125 second at f/8.
Contre-jour lighting at 60mm focal length, ISO 100 1/60 second at f/8.
Strong backlighting; 28mm focal length, ISO 100 1/400 second at f/9.
60mm focal length, ISO 100 1/160 second at f/6.3.
Crop from the above image magnified to 100% showing traces of purple fringing around contrasty edges.
40mm focal length, ISO 320 1/40 second at f/11.
50mm focal length, ISO 100 1/800 second at f/5.6.
Additional image samples can be found with our First Look review of the Sony α7C camera.
RRP: Not available currently
- Build: 8.8
- Handling: 8.5
- Image quality: 9.0
- Autofocusing: 9.0
- Versatility: 8.0