Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS zoom lens - myths and realities

WARNING - this post contains images of brick walls and domestic pets. 
Parental Guidance advised.


So, I now have an AF lens for my Sony FE cameras. And it is now the plural since I picked up the A7 / 28-70mm kit yesterday. A Sony kit zoom then........Mmmm. However, while it isn't the best lens I've ever used, it's actually rather good. The A7r sensor helps with that obviously. Firstly a couple of myths that need dispelling.

'The AF on the Sony A7 / A7r is slow' Well, not true. It's actually very good with the zoom AND it works very well in low light, something the 'speed kings' of m4/3 seriously struggle with (But we don't talk about that, too 'inconvenient').

'The 28-70mm zoom is soft with poor corners'. Again not true. Probably the best Sony kit zoom ever made and yes I know that's not saying much, but my initial tests show that it's a very decent 'kit zoom' and certainly better than I was expecting. And I guess Sony really had to produce something that didn't destroy what the A7 and A7r can create. 

I have included, much against my better judgement, a 'brick wall' test later in the post. This shows that distortion is well controlled and the corner sharpness, even wide open, is pretty good. I'm certainly seeing none of the decentering (centre significantly sharper than edge) problems of the Sony FF 28-75mm, APS-C 16-50mm or the softness of the NEX 18-55mm. 

For those who use Adobe raw conversion, I should mention that there is already a lens profile for this lens. Using it makes a few tweaks to correct lens distortion. It really isn't that much and less than I see on many of Nikon lenses, including primes.











There is one thing that you notice straight away with this lens, it's very light. I was actually surprised at how light it is. It's 295g. When you consider that the Nikon 18-55mm APS-C zoom is 265g, you get some idea of what's been achieved here. That includes OSS in the lens as well. In fact the whole outfit in the picture at the top of the page is only just over a Kg. That camera body, grip, two batteries and zoom lens. The whole lot weighs only marginally more than a Canon 5D Mk III body + battery on it's own. 

Other stuff - I've seen figures quoted that the lens focuses down to just below 12". But that's actually not the case. It focuses a lot closer than that. I haven't measured it exactly but it's around the 5-6'' mark. Plus there are other comments that there is a lot of distortion at either end of the zoom. Again, that's another myth (lets be honest here, they aren't 'myths' they are either mistakes or lies, posted by people who are either totally inept and haven't actually used the lens or who have an 'agenda') If you use the lens profile then there's virtually no distortion anyway. Another thing I would add is that, for a 'kit' zoom lens the bokeh is actually quite nice. If you look at the two conservatory shots above you will see a nice transition to the areas not in sharp focus.

So initial impressions look promising. And I really do need an AF lens.The zoom is going to give me much more coverage than the primes and I really don't need a fast lens for what I do. This was brought home to me yesterday when I was putting together the amazing pictures I put in the last post. Great though the Voigtlander is, it is very metallic and very cold to handle. And yesterday was a really cold day. After an hour and a half, my fingers were only just about working. Now some of this is caused by the medication I take to control my visual migraines, one of the side effects being 'white finger'. Now if I work outside in the cold for too long all of my fingers on both hands go completely white and I loose all sensation in them. Sometimes this takes a while to come back. And yes I've tried using gloves but I just can't get on with them. Plus no gloves I've tried (and I've tried a lot of them) really work as holding and using the camera almost constantly, which I do, means I'm permanently gripping it and changing controls. Manual focusing just makes this worse by taking more time and means I have less time to get some warmth back into my hands to carry on shooting. MF lenses do make this worse and certainly for the winter, an AF lens will make life easier for me. 

So for working comfort, I was prepared to sacrifice ultimate quality for AF. And if a lens is slightly softer than I would like then there is always the possibility to sharpen it up in Photoshop. However from my initial testing with the 28-70mm it seems that isn't going to be that much of an issue. Certainly, I can already see that there is going to be no impact whatsoever for my picture library files and I can only imagine that the lens is going be very useful for me. I'm still going to have to carry around a MF telephoto option, though I discovered yesterday that using that APS-C crop in camera and then upsizing the files later sacrifices very little image quality.

Now I need to do some real world shooting to get an idea of just how good this lens is and I'll do that the next time I get some sun, which if the forecast is correct could be tomorrow. However, today's tests give me cause for optimism.



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