Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 review

Sony FE 28-70mm f3.5-5.6

This is a rolling review about the Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 OSS lens. The 28-70 is the kit lens for the Full Frame Sony A7-series camera’s. When you buy it as a single lens it will cost you about 450 euro’s but if you buy it in a kit you’ll pay much less. This lens does get a lot of bad rep online. It isn’t sharp enough, build quality isn’t high enough and the lens is too big. Spoiler alert: I don’t agree.

Looks and build

Looking at this lens it is clearly not the most pretty lens in the Sony E-mount line up. I don’t like the bulky look with the unsubtle plastic of the barrel and front. Most Sony E-mount lenses are made of metal, with metal mounts and very tight finish. This lens is completely made of plastic, though luckily the mount is made of metal. The lens uses 55 mm filters, and is supplied with a petal shaped lens hood.

Sony FE 28-70mm f3.5-5.6

 

The zoom and focus rings are coated in a rubber-like material that does give you a lot of grip, but do attract some dust. Keeping it clean means rubbing it down regularly. The zoom ring is the wider ring closest to the camera, the focus ring is a little small but since you don’t use that as much it isn’t a big problem. Both rings operate very smooth with the focus ring being nicely dampened. It is focusing by wire by the way. When you zoom the lens just extends a little, being the shortest at around 45 mm and extending when you go wider or longer.

Although it’s made of plastic the build quality is very high, all parts seem to fit very well. And the lens is weather sealed, which is a nice plus especially for a kit lens. Because of the plastic build the lens is quite light for a rather large lens. Weighing just 295 grams it is a lot lighter than for instance the Zeiss FE 24-70 F4 OSS with its constant aperture and metal body the Zeiss weighs 426 grams.

On the camera

The 28-70 isn’t small but being a Full Frame lens it isn’t really big either. Of course you can’t really compare this Full Frame lens to the APS-C lenses, but it is a little smaller than the Sony Zeiss 16-70mm F4 OSS I’ve reviewed earlier. This lens is just 8 cm long and about 7,5 cm across. That combined with the relatively low weight means this lens balances nicely on the Sony A7. The package combined weighs just a little more than 700 grams. That is a Full Frame camera with a zoomlens attached, how is that for light weight! To give you an idea of just how impressive that is: just the body of the Nikon D610 without lens and without the battery weighs 760 grams!

Sony FE 28-70mm f3.5-5.6

Focusing

Since the 28-70 is an original Sony FE-mount lens it supports the advanced focusing system of the A7 and A7 II. On those cameras you can take advantage of both the PDAF (Phase Detection Auto Focus) and CDAF (Contrast Detection Auto Focus), for fast and accurate focusing. The A7s and A7r don’t have PDAF, so they will only use CDAF for focusing meaning they will focus a little slower.

Focusing with the 28-70 is mostly fast and very accurate. The A7 can track moving subjects quite well with the 28-70 attached, but for really fast moving subjects it sometimes loses focus. I’ve used the 28-70 at a show with birds of prey flying overhead, and the camera was able to keep the birds in the focusing box but it seemed the lens couldn’t keep up with the camera. It felt like the focusing system in the lens wasn’t fast enough to hold on to the fast moving birds. I must say this is just a feeling, especially since I didn’t have another FE-lens with me to test the difference. That being said, for almost every other situation the focusing of the 28-70 is more than fast enough. Accuracy is very good, I haven’t seen any problems with it missing focus, as I did sometimes have with my A6000 with the Zeiss 16-70mm.

Zoom  and use

With a range of 28-70mm the range is perfect as a walk around lens. The 28mm wide end is perfect for tight spaces or landscapes, and would be comparable to 18mm on a APS-C body. With the A6000 with the kit lens and the Zeiss starting at 16 mm (24mm FF eq.) I was afraid I’d miss the wider field of view, but I can’t say I did. The long end with 70mm is more than enough to get some compression in your image and to create some nice background separation, even at F5.6 but I’ll tell you more about that later on.

The built in OSS does a good job of keeping the images sharp in low light. I’ve gotten sharp images at 70mm with shutter speeds as low as 1/15th second.

Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 review
Handheld in low light

Colours and imperfections

Colour reproduction and contrast are good, but can’t quite keep up with the Sony Zeiss offerings. Especially the micro contrast seems a little less pronounced. I do process most of my images in LR, and with a little work you can get the colours and contrast to what you’d get with a Sony Zeiss lens. So while not perfect, for the price of the lens the performance is very good.

I didn’t notice any extreme light fall off.  I did however see some CA in very high contrast situations, like you would expect for a lens in this price class. It is quite easily corrected in post though.

Sharpness

This is where I was impressed most with my lens. Reading about this lens online I was afraid I would be disappointed with the sharpness, especially since I was used to the very sharp Sony Zeiss 16-70mm. I don’t know if my copy is better in sharpness or it is because the newer models of this lens are sharper than the earlier ones, but I’m very happy with the performance.

Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 review

Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t as sharp as a good prime, but for a zoom and in particular a kit zoom lens its very good. At the extremes of the range (28 and 70mm) you do lose a little sharpness. Corners aren’t perfect, it is sharpest in the center. Wide open the performance is acceptable for me. For the best performance you do have to stop down to F8 or F11. The best sharpness is achieved at around 35 mm at F11.

Bokeh

The rendering of the out of focus area’s is acceptable for a zoom lens. Bokeh can get a little busy in some situations, but most of the time it is smooth (at the longer zoom ranges).  With the Full frame sensor the background separation achieved at 70 mm F5.6 is more than enough to create a shallow depth of field portrait.

Sony FE 28-70mm F3.5-5.6 review
Bokeh can be a little busy, but isn’t bad for a kit zoomlens

Gallery

In the following gallery you’ll find some examples of photos I have taken with this lens.

Conclusion

I’m quite impressed with this little kit lens. Coming from the very good Sony Zeiss 16-70mm F4 OSS lens on my A6000 I was afraid I would lose a lot of image quality. In reality the Zeiss is sharper and offers better colours and contrast, but the difference isn’t as extreme as I would have expected. Given the relatively low price you pay for this lens if you buy it in a kit with the Sony A7-series, it’s almost a no brainer. If you aren’t planning on getting the Sony Zeiss 24-70mm F4 OSS, I’d certainly get this lens to get you started and use as a convenient walk around lens. Using the lens on a APS-C size sensor camera doesn’t really make sense to me, the range would be 42-105mm FF equivalent, which would not be wide enough for me.

Pro’s

  • Very acceptable performance
  • Cheap when bought as a kit lens
  • Not very big for a Full Frame zoom lens and lightweight
  • Good build quality and metal mount
  • Weather sealed and OSS
  • Useful walk around range

Con’s

  • Not very pretty
  • Plastic, feels a little cheap

Product photos in this review taken from the Sony NL site.

If you want to buy one of these lenses you can use the following link to buy it at Adorama (affiliate link):

Sony FE 28-70mm f3.5-5.6 OSS

 

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