Sony 30mm f/3.5 E-mount Macro Lens Initial Impressions

Because of my recent full blown addiction to watches, I decided to invest in a macro lens to better take close up photos of them. The Sony NEX-3 is the only digital camera I own right now and I figure I’d stick to it (or at least the NEX system) for a while so getting another lens is ok. Besides, at US$299, the Sony SEL30M35 30mm f/3.5 is prolly the cheapest macro lens in the market today.

This is an “initial impressions” review since I’ve only had the lens for less than two months. First, a size comparison to the kit lens:

The kit lens is on the left and the Sony SEL30M35 macro lens is on the right. As you can see the macro lens is just a few mm shorter, so no real advantages with regard to portability.

Disclaimer before I go into how the SEL30M35 performs: this is the first time in my life that I’ve worked with a macro lens. Prior to getting the macro I’ve only worked with standard zooms and 50mm primes, and I must say that handling a macro is an entirely new ballgame.

I’ve observed that as I get closer to the subject, the depth of field gets a lot shallower. If I want more of the subject to be in focus, I’d have to stop down, and that’ll lead to slower shutter speeds and or higher ISO. Adding to the challenge is the fact that the Sony 30mm macro does not have image stabilization. All this factored in, it would really be a challenge to shoot macro handheld using only indoor lighting. Shooting small things like watch dials and getting enough of it in focus would mean using f/5.6 at the very least. That would mean going outdoors (in the shade at the very least) so that with the stronger light you can work with small apertures and decent shutter speed and ISO (i.e. 1/60 and 400 respectively).

And yes, to the pros out there reading this, I know what you’re thinking: that I’m so ghetto and that I should get myself a lightbox and a real macro lens. Well, maybe I am ghetto, but this Sony macro lens serves its purpose.

AF speed in macro shooting is slow, especially when the available light dims down. I often found the lens hunting…and missing. The shutter blades are noisy too when focusing, adding insult to injury. Here’s a few macro image samples taken with the lens:

Note: This ice cream cup is smaller than a coffee cup.

Looks like a wall clock, but it's really a wristwatch.

A not so close-up shot. Notice that at f/5.6, only a thin sliver (the song list) is in focus.

My apologies if this review does not include regular (non-macro) shooting, as I haven’t done it substantially with the lens. However, my initial observations is that this macro lens is softer than the kit lens, especially when wide open. Sorry no sample pics to prove it. I did try to shoot a video clip with the lens and true to the specifications, the lens doesn’t make a sound when it refocuses! On video mode the AF is very slow and deliberate, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. It’s artistic even, as compared to the focus hunting that the kit lens does that’s amateurish and nauseating especially when watching the clip on an HDTV.

Well, that’s it for now. Hope to do a follow on review and a recommendation when I spend more time with the lens.

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One thought on “Sony 30mm f/3.5 E-mount Macro Lens Initial Impressions

  1. Pingback: Sony SEL30M35 30mm f/3.5 e-mount Macro Lens - SLR Lense Tips & Guide | SLR Lense Tips & Guide

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