Sony announced the SEL30M35 more than a year after the NEX 3 and NEX 5 commercial launch. Many of us were expecting a pancake. What a surprise when the first pictures of this lens revealed a big lens. Being as big as the 18-55 kit zoom it is not the expected pancake! Being a F3.5 it is not a fast lens. It does not feature the OSS optical stabilization. But, Sony took its time coming out with this lens and the optical quality is reported as being very good by most of the reviewers. Will this lens be useful for me?

SONY SEL30M35 macro lens

SONY SEL30M35 macro lens

When this lens was released many of the Sony NEX enthusiasts were disappointed for several reasons:

The size of this lens: we were expecting a pancake in the same form factor as the Sony SEL-16F28. The size is almost the same as the SEL-1855 zoom kit lens! It is not a pocketable lens. An old manual lens with an adapter gives the same size when mounted on the NEX.

It is not a fast lens: I do not consider a F3.5 lens as a fast lens for indoor shooting.

If you take a look to the Voigtlander Color Skopar 35mm F2.5 Pancake II, you will notice that it is realistic to have a fast pancake for this focal length. When waiting for this lens many of use were aware of that…and have been disappointed.

30mm is a bit short for a macro lens: I do not concur with this remark I heard many times. A lot of photographers are worried with the very short working distance to the subject caused by a 30mm focal length.

On this particular topic, I would says that it depends on wich kind of macro you plan to do:

  • For wild life (insects) the working distance is not convenient and a longer focal length would be better. (90mm or more)
  • For the rest, I like this focal length: my favorite macro lens is the Magnon MC 28mm F2.8 with extension tubes.
Magnon MC 28mm F2.8 with extension ring

Magnon MC 28mm F2.8 with extension ring

But I am fully happy with my manual lens. Why should I purchase an auto-focus lens to replace my manual one? For macro photography auto-focus is useless.

It does not feature an OSS optical stabilization: Considering it is not fast, an optical stabilization would have helped to gain 2 or 3 stops for indoor shooting. It would have been the last chance for this lens to be useful for me.

Without this feature, considering it is not a pancake, it is not a fast lens and I am happy with my manual 28mm lens, then I will definitively not purchase this lens.

My feeling is different for the Sony SEL50F18: I have decided to purchase it because of the OSS feature. But it is still not available today.

I have been lucky enough to find a 28mm for 17€ with good optical quality. But the prices of the old manual lenses are raising. I can’t say how far the new Sony SEL 30M35 would be better than my Magnon 28 opticaly speaking, but what I can say is that I am fully happy with this 28.

Magnon MC 28mm F2.8 mounted on the Sony NEX 3 with the Konica AR adapter

Magnon MC 28mm F2.8 mounted on the Sony NEX 3 with the Konica AR adapter

If you do not have a good 28mm, then the trade-off is more difficult. How much will it cost to find a good enough manual 28mm? With the risk of being disapointed each time you buy an old lens. With the new Sony SEL30M35 you are certain you won’t be disappointed considering the available reviews.