An Adorama Learning Center exclusive: Let's take a close-up look at Sony's first macro lens for its NEX lineup of MILC cameras.
One of the smallest (2.2 x 2.4 in.) and lightest (4.9 oz.) interchangeable macro lenses currently available, the Sony E 30mm f/3.5 macro lens , available at the Adorama Sony store, is built to work with the Sony NEX series of mirrorless interchangeable lens compact cameras: the Sony NEX 3, Sony NEX 5n, and Sony NEX 7, all available at Adorama; the lens's diminutive size matches well to all NEX cameras. If you're a NEX owner, is this lens worth adding to your arsenal of optics? I had a chance to use it in the field under a variety of conditions for this exclusive Adorama Learning Center review. Here's what I learned.
The Sony E 30mm f/3.5 macro lens is a true macro, delivering 1:1 magnification, and can accommodate 49mm filters. Combined with the Sony APS sensor, it provides a field of view equivalent to a 50mm on a full-frame camera. But because it is one of the shorter macro lenses available, a trade-off is that it offers a very short working distance. To achieve 1:1 magnification, you need to bring the lens to within four inches of the subject, which could in some circumstances force you to block light sources. Once I made adjustments for the short working distance, however, I found this lens to be a handy tool for real macro work.
The lens's minimalist design (is has a focus ring but that's it) fits in well with the Sony line. The lens focuses internally, which means it does not extend outward as it focuses closer. I wish the lens had a focus/magnification chart engraved on the side, so a user could set magnification quickly and easily, but since it's a wire-focus type system, and since you have to rotate the focus ring several times to shift focus from infinity to 1:10 magnification, this was not possible.
I found the lens to be fairly sharp in the center but that sharpness fell off somewhat towards the corners when photographing flat subjects, especially at the widest and smallest apertures. However, if you are not shooting a flat subject, this should be barely perceptible and for most purposes the lens is capable of delivering extremely sharp results. Best performance seemed to be at f/8.
Excellent sharpness shown in this 1:1 full macro image that holds up in this 100% detail of 24MP image shot with NEX-7, below. Note the octagonal spectral highlights in above image.
Vignetting, Distortion, and Flare
The lens exhibited virtually no vignetting, and linear distortion was practically non-existant, an excellent result. There was some evidence of chromatic aberration: High-contrast edges showed moderate purple/blue fringing. Spectral highlights were hexagonal shaped. Flare was well-controlled at all apertures.
I wanted to find out if this bracelet was made of pure gold or a mix of gold and silver, but the numbers that indicate its content were hard to read, even when using an 8x loupe. So, I took a picture with a Sony NEX-7 and Sony E 30mm f/3.5 macro lens and enlarged it. Sure enough, the numbers indicated that it is a mix of 14 karat gold and silver. The lens captured the bracelet's intricate detail, but also showed evidence of purple/red fringing, as you can see in the 100% detail, below.
As is typical with macro lenses, focus acquisition time is a bit longer than it would be with non-macro lenses. Focusing from macro to near infinity took just under a second, which is typical for a macro lens. Macro focusing is possible, but I suggest first attempting autofocus, then fine-tuning in manual using your camera's viewfinder magnification tool. This is especially important when shooting macro subjects as the lens often missed focus oh-so-slightly and in macro, “oh-so-slightly” is not a good thing.
Conclusion and recommendation
Sony's selection of macro lenses for its NEX line is currently limited to two—the Sony E 30mm f/3.5 macro lens and the 30mm f/2.8 Macro, available at the Adorama Sony store, which is designed for Sony DSLRs but can be used on NEX models via an adapter. Both lenses offer 1:1 magnification, but the Sony E 30mm f/3.5 Macro Lens is lighter, which is an advantage of you're looking for convenience. Although pro shooters may want sharper edge-to-edge performance, the 30mm f/3.5 is a great entry-level lens for photography enthusiasts and interchangeable-lens first-timers who want to explore the exciting, transformative world of macro photography.