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Saturday, February 1, 2014

REVIEW - SEL1018 Sony E-mount Super Wide-Angle Zoom Lens

Click here for more information about the Sony 10-18mm f/4 OSS Alpha E-mount Wide-Angle Zoom Lens
Sony 10-18mm f/4 OSS Alpha E-mount Wide-Angle Zoom Lens

It's been a while since Sony announced their new batch of E-mount lenses, but today I'm finally able to do a hands-on review of the much anticipated Sony 10-18mm super wide-angle E-mount zoom lens, compatible with the Alpha NEX cameras and NEX Camcorders. Now, I won't be doing this review from a scientific point of view. I'm a photographer and filmmaker and personally care more about how it is to work with in the field and seeing the results created with my own camera and settings, then talking about specs and lab-results. So if you were hoping to see some nice colour boards, diagrams, graphs and lab experiments, I'm very sorry to disappoint you! Luckily there are many sites out there that can show you exactly that and they can certainly be interesting to see. A comparison (with video) between this 10-18mm ultra wide lens and the Sony 16mm pancake lens with VCL-ECU1 ultra wide converter will be posted soon.

First impressions
SEL1018 in use on the Blackbird stabilizer
When I opened the box and took out the lens, I was pleasantly surprised with how light-weight the lens actually is. It weighs only 225g. This is perfect for using it on a Sony Alpha NEX Mirrorless Digital Camera and even better for using it on a NEX-FS100 or NEX-FS700 in combination with a handheld stabilizer / Steadicam.

The second surprise was the build quality. Except for the lens hood, there's little plastic parts to be found. The zoom and focus rings operate very smoothly, but unfortunately there are no markings on the focus ring and it doesn't have stops. However, it works and responds much better then the focus ring on the Sony 18-200mm NEX lens, which feels a bit more electronic-ish. When using the zoom ring to go to 10mm ultra wide, the lens will extend slightly. This is the opposite of what you might expect normally. The drawback of this, is that the lens will retract a bit when mounting the lens cap when you're in full wide. The lens is quite small when you compare it to a similar lens like the Tokina 12-24mm f/4 lens and it's only half the weight. The lens has a filter thread in front, so you can add a 62mm Variable Neutral Density filter or 62mm UV filter if you want. An option that was seriously lacking when using the ultra wide converter with the 16mm pancake lens.

Sample images
Now before talking further about specs and performance of this lens, I'm going to share some sample images I took with this lens on a Sony NEX mirrorless digital camera.

ISO 100, f/6.3, 1/125 at 10mm
ISO 100, f/8, 1/500 at 10mm
ISO 100, f/5.6, 1/125 at 10mm - nice exaggerated perspective when looking up

ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/80 at 10mm

ISO 160, f/4, 1/60 at 10mm

ISO 100, f/4.5, 1/80 at 10mm

ISO 100, f/5, 1/100 at 10mm

Performance of the SEL1018
I was happily surprised with the performance quality of this lens. It's sharp throughout the frame and common ultra wide angle lens problems like vignetting and chromatic aberration (color shadows at hard contrast transitions), seems to be almost non-existing with this lens. It also has a super wide view at 10mm (15mm equivalency in 35mm format) which will give a nice exaggerated perspective when looking up with your camera. An aperture of f/4 throughout the zoom range will help you to capture blur-free photos in low light. And thanks to the Optical SteadyShot Image Stabilization system you won't have a problem with camera shake anymore. It also performs really well when filming handheld. Autofocus is fast and accurate thanks to movement of the lens elements at the rear of the lens. There's very little barrel distortion visible at full wide, which is quite amazing when working with an 109° angle of view. And the thing that surprised me the most was how nice the lens handles lens flare. Every super wide angle lens I've used in the past showed a very strong lens flare effect when shooting against a light source. This lens handles that surprisingly well and much better then any lens I've ever worked with.

Sony's 10-18mm super wide-angle lens on the NEX-FS100
Focal Length10 - 18mm
ApertureMaximum: f/4
Minimum: f/22
Camera Mount TypeSony (E Mount for NEX)
Format CompatibilityDSLR (APS-C Sensor)
Angle of View109° - 76°
Minimum Focus Distance9.84" (24.99 cm)
Diaphragm Blades7
Image StabilizationYes
Tripod CollarNo
Filter ThreadFront:62 mm
Dimensions (DxL)Approx. 2.76 x 2.50" (70 x 63.5 mm)
Weight7.94 oz (225 g)

The Sony E-mount Super Wide-Angle Zoom Lens (SEL1018) positively surprised me in almost every way. It's not the fastest lens at f/4, but it's enough to get by with in almost any shooting environment. The only negatives I could find, no markings or stops on the focus ring and the lens retracting when putting on the lens cap at 10mm, are completely irrelevant when compared to the positives. It's extremely sharp, lightweight, has fast and accurate focus, very wide angle of view, zoom possibilities, and little barrel distortion, lens flare, chromatic aberration or vignetting effects. In short: it's my most favourite lens of all time. It isn't cheap with a price tag of $848.00, but there's no other lens with similar specifications at this price point that can compete with it. If you've been waiting for a superb wide-angle lens for your NEX digital camera or camcorder, look no further!

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