Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens

      Photo Review 8.9

      In summary

      The FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS was the first image-stabilised zoom lens for Sony’s α7 cameras.

      Performance-wise it’s a very good all-rounder and is the cheapest Sony lens available for the company’s full frame cameras.

      We recommend this lens for the α7S models, but not for cameras with higher resolution like the Alpha 1 or α7R Series.

      Full review

      Announced in October 2013, the FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS was the first image-stabilised zoom lens for Sony’s α7 cameras and initially only offered in the α7 kit but is now available separately. This was relevant at the time since neither the α7 nor the α7R included sensor-shift stabilisation, although the α7 II used for this review – and subsequent models in the line-up do. In terms of size, performance and price, this lens has plenty to offer, as we found in our tests.


      Angled view of the FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens without end caps or lens hood. (Source: Sony.)

      The optical design of this lens (shown below) is relatively simple, comprising nine elements in eight groups. Three aspherical elements are included to minimise common aberrations like distortion and coma and keep overall weight low. One ED (Extra-low Dispersion) glass element minimises chromatic aberration and coloured fringing.


      The optical design of the FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens showing the positions of the exotic elements. (Source: Sony.)

      Unusually for a kit lens, the FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS boasts dust- and moisture-resistant sealing and uses a linear AF motor. It also comes with a petal-shaped lens hood.

      Who’s it For?
      The compact size, light weight and affordable price make this lens a good choice for travellers but it’s equally suitable as a general-purpose lens for everyday snaps and video grabs. Being relatively slow, it’s less suitable for low light work and an average performer with respect to differential focusing and bokeh.

      Its low price and decent ergonomics work in its favour – as does its built-in optical stabilisation. While this lens is seldom bundled with the latest Sony cameras, if you find it and the combination suits you, it’s worth snapping up.

      Build and Ergonomics
      Although it’s made mostly from industrial plastic, the overall build quality of this lens is good. It has a solid metal mount that fits snugly onto the camera and, as mentioned and unusually for a kit lens, it comes with a plastic hood that is easy to fit and remove (if a little on the thin side).


      Angled rear view of the FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens showing the metal lens mount. (Source: Sony.)

      The front element is 33 mm in diameter and bulges outwards a little. It is surrounded by a ring of fine ridging plus an unridged band that carries details of the lens. A raised ring around the inner circumference of the internal barrel has internal threading for a 55 mm filter plus external bayonet lug for the lens hood.

      All the control surfaces are on the outer barrel. Roughly 8 mm back from its leading edge is the focusing ring, which is 16 mm wide and entirely covered with a finely ridged rubber-like band. This ring turns through 360 degrees when power is off because focusing is driven from the camera.

      Just behind the focusing ring is the zoom ring, which is approximately 32 mm wide and mostly clad in the same rubber ridging as the focusing ring. A 4 mm wide unridged band at the rear of this ring carries stamped marks for the 28mm, 35mm 50mm and 70mm settings, which line up against a white line on the fixed section of the outer barrel.

      28mm 35mm 50mm 70mm
      Maximum aperture f/3.5 f/4.0 f/4.5 f/5.6
      Minimum aperture f/22 f/25 f/29 f/36

      The maximum and minimum aperture changes at each focal length are shown in the table above.

      The inner barrel extends by about 4 mm when the lens is at the 28mm focal length, retracting as it is zoomed to 50mm and extending by a millimetre or so at 70mm. We noticed a slight rotation of the front of the lens while scanning across the zoom range, although for most purposes it’s too small to have an impact.

      The lens barrel slopes steeply inwards just after the zoom ring before straightening for the final 15 mm stretch and ending in the metal mount. The Sony cinnabar (orange) coloured branding ring is located where the lens meets the camera body.

      Although the lens is specified as weather-resistant, there’s no obvious rubber flange to indicate weather-resistant sealing. However, the lens fits snugly enough to exclude all but the most invasive moisture or dust.

      Performance
      Our Imatest tests showed the lens to be an average-to-good performer, which is the norm for kit lenses. Resolution was something of a mixed bag, with the highest resolution measured (as expected) in the centre of the field of view and declining resolution towards the periphery.

      With JPEG files, the highest resolution fell a little short of expectations for the review camera’s 24-megapixel sensor but with ARW.RAW files converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw, it just exceeded expectations. Mid-range and edge resolution was also higher with the raw files.

      Edges in JPEGs tended to be very soft at wider apertures, particularly at the 28mm and 70mm focal lengths. Diffraction began to take effect from f/11 but really kicked in at f/16. The graph below shows the results of our tests.

      Lateral chromatic aberration was low in JPEGs, thanks to in-camera auto-correction but, interestingly, also low in ARW.RAW raw files with all optical adjustments disabled. In the graph of our test results below, the red line marks the border between ‘negligible’ and ‘low’ CA.

      Vignetting was also low and only visible at maximum apertures across the zoom range – even with raw files. We suspect some in-camera correction is being applied ‘under-the-hood’ even to raw files.

      Rectilinear distortion (which you can’t deactivate in the camera) was also evaluated with uncorrected raw files. It ranged from just noticeable barrel distortion at 28mm to obvious pincushion distortion at 70mm, with barely visible pincushioning at 35mm, becoming evident at 50mm.

      We had no complaints about autofocusing speed or accuracy, both of which are influenced by camera settings. It was also relatively quiet and we couldn’t detect any focus breathing, which augurs well for its use when shooting video.

      The optical image stabiliser (OSS) was good for between three and four stops of shake correction, when combined with the SteadyShot system in the α7 II camera used for this review. This is good for a lens of its vintage.

      Backlit subjects were generally handled quite well, although we’d recommend shooting ARW.RAW files in such situations to cover potentially wide brightness ranges in subjects. Few flare artefacts were found in backlit shots. But sunstars were nothing to write home about and usually a bit on the mushy side.

      Bokeh in close-ups at wide aperture settings was also pretty average, although not bad for a relatively slow kit lens. Some outlining of bright highlights was evident at all focal length settings.

      Conclusion

      Please Login or Register to access the Conclusion.

       

      SPECS

      Picture angle: 75 to 34 degrees
      Minimum aperture:  f/22-f/36
      Lens construction: 9 elements in 8 groups (including three aspherical elements and one ED glass element)
      Lens mount: E-mount
      Diaphragm Blades: 7 (circular aperture)
      Weather resistance: Dust- and moisture-resistant
      Focus drive: Linear motor
      Stabilisation: Optical SteadyShot
      Minimum focus: 30-45 cm
      Maximum magnification: 0.19x
      Filter size: 55 mm
      Dimensions (Diameter x L): 72.5 x 83 mm
      Weight: 295  grams
      Standard Accessories: Lens hood (ALC-SH132: petal shape, bayonet type), front and rear caps
      Distributor: Sony Australia; 1300 720 071

       

      TESTS

      Based on JPEG  files.

      Based on ARW.RAW files converted into 16-bit TIFF format with Adobe Camera Raw.

       

      SAMPLES


      Vignetting at 28mm f/3.5.


      Vignetting at 35mm f/4.0.


      Vignetting at 50mm f/4.5.


      Vignetting at 70mm f/5.6.


      Rectilinear distortion at 28mm.


      Rectilinear distortion at 35mm.


      Rectilinear distortion at 50mm.


      Rectilinear distortion at 70mm.


      28mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/11.


      35mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/100 second at f/11.


      50mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/80 second at f/11.


      70mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/125 second at f/11.


      Close-up at 28mm, ISO 100, 1/640 second at f/3.5.


      Close-up at 35mm, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/4.0.


      Close-up at 50mm, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/4.5.


      Close-up at 70mm, ISO 100, 1/200 second at f/5.6.


      Highlight outlining in close-up at 70mm, ISO 100, 1/640 second at f/5.6.


      28mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/25 second at f/9.


      Crop from the above image magnified to 100% showing coloured fringing along high-contrast edges.


      Sunstar at 28mm, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/22.


      Sunstar at 70mm, ISO 100, 1/400 second at f/36.


      70mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/200 second at f/8.


      70mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/100 second at f/6.3.


      70mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/200 second at f/8.


      61mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/80 second at f/5.6.


      28mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/80 second at f/8.


      28mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/80 second at f/5.6.


      70mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/80 second at f/5.6.


      70mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/40 second at f/5.6.


      28mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/60 second at f/11.


      28mm focal length, ISO 3200, 1/60 second at f/3.5.


      28mm focal length, ISO 200, 1/400 second at f/9.


      28mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/200 second at f/10.


      28mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/40 second at f/11.


      28mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/320 second at f/11.


      70mm focal length, ISO 100, 1/500 second at f/11.

       

      Rating

      RRP: AU$399; US$398

      • Build: 8.8
      • Handling: 8.9
      • Image quality: 8.8
      • Autofocusing: 8.8
      • Versatility: 8.7

       

      BUY