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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In the following gallery you’ll find some examples of photos I have taken with this lens.
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.
- 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
- 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):
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Thanks for a great real-life review 🙂 I was debating on selling it, but now I think it will be a great walk around lens. Cheers!
Thanks for your reply, I really like the lens and think it is one of the best all round kit lenses on the market right now!
My mind is still thinking about a zeiss 24-70mm. Have you compared the two lenses together? Are the image quality that close?
Love to shoot Netherlands one day.
Cheers from San Francisco 🙂
Hi Alfred, thanks for your reply! I haven’t compared the Zeiss with the 28-70 directly. I did read a lot of other reviews and I think the Zeiss is a little sharper, but the Zeiss has got better colors and contrast. But to my eyes the difference isn’t worth the extra money. I’d rather get the 35 mm 2.8 or 55 mm 1.8 with the kit 28-70. That would give you a great, sharp prime for when you need it and a very decent zoom for the times you need the convenience.
Hope you get the chance to visit the Netherlands sometime, but I loved SF also. Very nice scenery!
Thanks again for you “real world” feedback. I have to stop reading test results from the “kit’ lens on other sites. While I’m numbers guy and love statistics, I have to not ignore “real world” use and not “pixel peep”. Your right the little bit on sharpness and results from the Zeiss is not worth the extra money. I’ll hold off for the next line or 2nd generation of Sony Zeiss lenses. I should Say I do have a FE 28mm and just purchased a FE 70-200mm. So I guess I’ll bring those two plus the Kit lens with me to Hawaii next week.
Oh when is the best “picture” time to visit the Netherlands?
I also tend to forget it isn’t about the gear but about the photos and enjoying yourself. Seems like you have a great setup that will allow you to capture just about everything you’re going to encounter. Have fun in Hawaii, I guess you can’t really go wrong there as it seems like heaven to me! If you want to come to Europe I’d suggest the summer. Maybe for photography fall is prettier, but especially in the Netherlands the weather can be bad.
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It works quite well on the Sony A6000 too. Like a 42 to 105mm. Balances well and focuses fast. I got a good deal on one used for when I move up to Sony full frame.
Yes I love it with the a6300 as a general purpose walk around lens. 28mm is perfect in APSc as it is a 28mm sensor so you get the most neutral angle with it, photos are not as surreal as they are when using a wider angle like a 24, 18 or 16 due to their slight distortion but 28 is closer to what your eyes see. That is reason most cinematographers don’t generally like wides past 28mm on Super35 film.
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Thanks for the nice review of the Sony 28-70, it is worth it’s money.
I know you say in your review that it doesn’t make much sense to have it on mounted to say an a6000 but have you tried it on your a6000 and is it any good.
I didn’t use it on my A6000, bu I have tried it on a NEX5R (16 megapixel) an it did work very well on that camera. It just isn’t a really useful range, as it is a 42 to 105mm lens. So you miss a lot of wide angle.
Thanks, i have the 28-70 as I have recently sold my a7 to drop down to a seriously light weight system and cannot decide whether to keep it or sell for a more flexible lens. Can’t help but feel that as it is a full frame lens it may have better glassfor overall image quality when compare to a cropped sensor variant. Or is that just daft?
It isn’t daft at all, but it isn’t alway the case that a full frame lens perfoms better on a crop sensor camera (crop sensors have a higer resulution over a smaller part of the lens, making them more demanding on the transmitted sharpness. They normally do give less vignetting). I’d say you would be better of buying a dedicated cropsensor lens for your A6000 as those have a more useful range and / or are smaller than the 28-70. But you would have to sell the 28-70 for a decent price.
Thanks that is most helpful.
I really liked your article. I got answers to all the questions that I had. I read many other reviews and tests, but I could not get there, such exact and detailed answers. I have this lens, and correctly decided not to change it to Zeiss 24 -70 /f4.0
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