At review time, the Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 Lens is the world's smallest and lightest full-frame standard zoom lens. It was fittingly announced alongside the Sony a7C, "The world’s smallest and lightest full-frame body with uncompromising performance." [Sony]
This light little lens will create a small, light overall package when mounted on any Sony Alpha camera, but mount the smallest full-frame standard zoom lens on the smallest full-frame camera, and a remarkably small package is the result. Despite this lens's compactness, it features a very useful general-purpose focal length range, and despite both of those aspects, the price is similarly small and light.
I love it when my expectations are exceeded. When the Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 Lens was announced, I posted the news, added the gear to the site's database, placed an order, and moved on with little additional thought. I was busy, and this tiny, light, inexpensive zoom lens didn't catch my strong attention. Perhaps my mind was thinking, "Kit lens." Then the FE 28-60mm lens arrived, and test after test showed good results, with image sharpness being especially good.
As this lens easily exceeded my expectations and is begging to become part of my kit, it likely fits physically and functionally in your kit.
When small, light, and inexpensive are on the requirements list, reducing the focal length range is one of a designer's compliance options. In this case, the designers selected the heart of the ideal general-purpose lens range. While not going very wide or very long, the 28-60mm range covers a range of very popular focal lengths, ensuring the usefulness of this lens.
I've been reviewing camera lenses for 18 years, and this is the first 28-60mm lens I can recall using.
The moderately wide-angle through standard 28-60mm focal length range covers a vast range of general-purpose needs. This is the type of lens you can take when you are not sure which focal lengths you will need, and usually, it will be the right choice.
The 28-75mm range is great for photographing people, and it is ideal for portraits, weddings, parties, events, documentaries, interviews, lifestyle, theater, fashion, studio portraiture, candids, and even some sports. Use 60mm for loosely-framed head and shoulders portraits and the wider end for groups and environmental imagery. With this lens's narrow aperture, some of these uses are conditional on adequate ambient lighting or adequate lighting added, such as flash.
This lens is a perfect choice for recording general life and for self-recording. The 28-60mm focal length range will also be found useful for street photography.
This lens is a good choice for landscape and cityscape photography. It is not difficult to create compelling landscape compositions using the 28mm perspective while still providing emphasis on a foreground subject against an in-focus background and providing the viewer a sense of presence in the scene. At the other end of the range, 60mm works nicely for mildly-compressed landscape images featuring distant subjects such as mountains.
This lens is well-suited for commercial photography, and the wide end of the range is ready to capture exterior architecture and larger interior spaces. Cityscapes, countrysides, large flowers, medium and large products, and much more are on this lens' capabilities list.
Here is an example of what this focal length range looks like:
APS-C sensor format cameras utilize a smaller portion of the image circle, and that means a scene is framed more tightly, with 1.5x being the angle of view multiplier for Sony's lineup. Mounted on an APS-C imaging sensor format camera, the 28-60mm focal length range provides an angle of view that equates to a 42-90mm focal length range on a full-frame camera. This angle of view gives up the wide angles, but extends into the short telephoto range, favoring portrait photography over landscapes.
As always, the lower the aperture number, the more light the lens will allow to reach the sensor. Each "stop" in aperture opening reduction (examples: f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6, f/8, f/11) reduces the amount of light reaching the sensor by a factor of 2, a substantial amount. Allowing more light to reach the sensor permits freezing action and handholding the camera in lower light levels and can also permit the use of lower, less noisy, ISO settings. In addition to allowing more light to reach the sensor, increasing the aperture opening permits a shallower DOF (Depth of Field) that creates a stronger, better subject-isolating background blur (at equivalent focal lengths).
Because the aperture is measured as a ratio of lens opening to focal length and because this lens's maximum opening does not increase adequately with focal length increase to maintain the same ratio, the max aperture is a variable one, ranging from f/4.0 to f/5.6 as the focal length is increased. These are relatively narrow apertures at any specific focal length.
The advantages of a narrow aperture are primarily related to the lens elements being significantly smaller in size. The benefits include a smaller overall lens size, a lighter weight, and a lower cost. Those are factors that we all can appreciate, and they apply in a big way to this little lens.
The variable max aperture design provides the same size, weight, and cost efficiencies while delivering the widest aperture possible at each focal length. A downside is that the widest available max aperture, f/4.0, cannot be used over the entire focal length range. Your camera will automatically account for the change in auto exposure modes, but making use of the widest-available aperture in manual exposure mode is complicated somewhat.
Reality is that the f/4.0 max aperture is only available at 28mm. Here are the camera-reported aperture step-downs:
28mm = f/4.0
29-34mm = f/4.5
35-40mm = f/5.0
41-60mm = f/5.6
Overall, this lens is not the ideal choice for stopping low light action. When the sun goes down, action sports photographers using this lens (or similar models) will be reaching for very high (noisy) ISO settings to keep images bright enough when using the fast shutter speeds needed to freeze their subjects' motion. This lens is not the best choice for indoor sports or for photographing anything else that moves in low light.
Narrow max apertures combined with standard focal lengths do not produce an especially strong background blur, but when focused close, this lens is capable of creating subject separation.
In the maximum blur examples above, there is a significant amount of blur, but the scene remains recognizable.
The Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 Lens is not optically stabilized, but Sony generally takes care of that omission in-camera with Steady Shot or IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization). On a traditional DSLR with an optical viewfinder, IBIS results in an unstabilized view, meaning that stabilization was not helpful for composition or for providing a still subject to the camera's AF system. With compatible cameras having EVFs, the viewfinder image is being read from the imaging sensor, which is stabilized. Therefore, the viewfinder image is very nicely stabilized, and sensor-based AF has a stabilized view of the subject.
With no IS switch on the lens, the camera menu must be used to enable or disable IBIS, potentially slowing the workflow.
Arriving in a kit with the Sony a7C gave me an initial expectation of kit-level performance, which tends to be mediocre for modestly-priced lenses. While the kit lens definition holds in the sense that the lens came in a kit with the camera, the image quality delivered by this lens exceeds typical consumer-level kit-grade performance.
From this lens, expect sharp center-of-the-frame wide-open aperture image quality through the entire focal length range, with little improvement seen or needed at narrower apertures.
In general, lenses are not as sharp in the periphery, where light rays must be bent more strongly than in the center. For a general-purpose zoom lens, the corner image sharpness produced by this lens is very good except for the extreme corners. The extreme corners sharpen nicely by f/8, except for the 28mm corners where the outermost portion of the image circle remains a bit soft.
Below you will find sets of 100% resolution center of the frame crops captured in uncompressed RAW format using a Sony a7R III. The images were processed in Capture One using the Natural Clarity method with the sharpening amount set to only "30" on a 0-1000 scale. Note that images from most cameras require some level of sharpening, but too-high sharpness settings are destructive to image details and hide the deficiencies of a lens.
As stated above, the wide-open aperture results are very sharp, and very little improvement is seen (or needed) when stopped down.
Focus shift, the plane of sharp focus moving forward or backward as the aperture is narrowed (residual spherical aberration or RSA), is not an issue with this lens (many modern lenses automatically correct for it).
Samples taken from the outer extreme of the image circle, full-frame corners, in this case, can be counted on to show the worst performance a lens is capable of. We'll next look at a comparison showing 100% extreme top-right, then bottom-right corner crops captured and processed identically to the above center-of-the-frame images. The lens was manually focused in the corner of the frame to capture the first set of images and focused in the center for the second, more distant, set.
I apologize for the dark 28mm corner subject in the second set, but the camera is forcing correcting for strong barrel distortion at this focal length (more about that later) and shows the corrected view in the EVF. When that distortion is uncorrected, somewhere outside of the frame comes into view, and I didn't notice the darkness creeping in. That said, these corners should still be in the expected depth of field.
With a wide-open aperture, the extreme corners are a bit soft. The extremest 28mm corners remain soft at f/8, but just inside of that area (within these crops), the results are reasonably sharp at this aperture.
Corner sharpness does not always matter, but it does matter for some disciplines. When I'm photographing landscapes and architecture with corner sharpness being desired, I'm probably using f/8 or f/11 to obtain enough depth of field for in-focus corner details, and this lens works well for these purposes at these apertures. When shooting at wide apertures, the corners are most often out of focus and not supposed to be sharp. Videos captured at typical wide-aspect ratios also avoid the use of corners.
When used on a camera that utilizes a lens's entire image circle, peripheral shading can be expected at the widest aperture settings. At 28mm wide open at f/4, the about-3-stops of shading in the corners is relatively strong, but not unusual. Stopping down one stop reduces the shading by about 1-stop, and stopping down another stop reduces the shading by about an additional 1-stop. At f/2.8, the shading drops just under the often-visible 1-stop mark to about 0.8-stops. About 1.2-stops of shading remains in the corners at 28mm f/16.
At 40mm, peripheral shading is greatly reduced with about a stop and a half showing in the f/5 corners. Shading diminishes slow throughout the balance of the aperture range and especially after f/8 at 40mm, with just under a stop remaining at f/16.
The peripheral shading map is again looking very good at 60mm even wide open. That said, wide open isn't very wide at 60mm. At f/5.6, expect just over 1-stop of shading deep in the corners and only minor shading, 0.5-stops or less, at narrower apertures.
APS-C format cameras using lenses projecting a full-frame-sized image circle avoid most vignetting problems. In this case, the approximately 1 stop of shading showing at 28mm f/4 may be visible in some images, especially those with a solid color (such as a blue sky) showing in the corners.
One-stop of shading is the amount often used as the visibility number, though subject details provide a widely varying amount of vignetting discernibility. Vignetting is correctable during post-processing with increased noise in the brightened areas being the penalty, or it can be embraced, using the effect to draw the viewer's eye to the center of the frame. Study the pattern showing in our vignetting test tool to determine how your images will be affected.
The effect of different colors of the spectrum being magnified differently is referred to as lateral (or transverse) CA (Chromatic Aberration). Lateral CA shows as color fringing along lines of strong contrast running tangential (meridional, right angles to radii) with the mid and especially the periphery of the image circle showing the most significant amount as this is where the most significant difference in the magnification of wavelengths typically exists.
With the right lens profile and software, lateral CA is often easily correctable (often in the camera) by radially shifting the colors to coincide. However, it is always better not to have the problem in the first place.
Any color misalignment present can easily be seen in the site's image quality tool, but let's also look at a set of worst-case examples. These are 100% crops from the extreme top left corner of high-resolution Sony a7R III frames showing diagonal black and white lines.
There should only be black and white colors in these images, with the additional colors indicating the presence of lateral CA. It is not unusual for a zoom lens to have noticeable color separation in the corners at the focal length extremes, with mid-range focal lengths showing little lateral CA. The results illustrated here have the strong focal length extent color separation, with the mid-range focal lengths still showing moderate lateral CA.
A relatively common lens aberration is axial (longitudinal, bokeh) CA, which causes non-coinciding focal planes of the various wavelengths of light, or more simply, different colors of light are focused to different depths. Spherical aberration along with spherochromatism, or a change in the amount of spherical aberration with respect to color (looks quite similar to axial chromatic aberration but is hazier) are other common lens aberrations to observe. Axial CA remains at least somewhat persistent when stopping down, with the color misalignment effect increasing with defocusing. The spherical aberration color halo shows little size change as the lens is defocused, and stopping down one to two stops generally removes this aberration.
In the real world, lens defects do not exist in isolation with spherical aberration and spherochromatism generally found, at least to some degree, along with axial CA. These combine to create a less sharp, hazy-appearing image quality at the widest apertures.
In the examples below, look at the fringing colors of the foreground vs. background out of focus specular highlights. Created by the neutrally-colored subjects, fringing color differences were introduced by the lens.
Moderate color fringing differences are seen in all three focal length results.
Flare and ghosting are caused by bright light reflecting off the surfaces of lens elements, resulting in reduced contrast and sometimes-interesting but often destructive artifacts. Sony is not promoting special lens coatings used on this lens, but with only 8 lens elements in 7 groups, flare effects from light sources as strong as the sun are not strong even at f/16.
Flare effects can be embraced or avoided, or removal can be attempted. Removal is sometimes very challenging, and in some cases, flare effects can be quite destructive to image quality. Flare effects cannot be removed using a lens profile.
Two lens aberrations that are particularly evident when shooting images of stars, mainly because bright points of light against a dark background make them easier to see. Coma occurs when light rays from a point of light spread out from that point, instead of being refocused as a point on the sensor. Coma is absent in the center of the frame, gets worse toward the edges/corners, and generally appears as a comet-like or triangular tail of light which can be oriented either away from the center of the frame (external coma), or toward the center of the frame (internal coma). Coma clears as the aperture is narrowed. Astigmatism is seen as points of light spreading into a line, either meridional (radiating from the center of the image) or sagittal (perpendicular to meridional). Remember that lateral CA is another aberration apparent in the corners.
The images below are 100% crops taken from the top-left corner of a7R III frames.
These stars are not pin-sharp points, but they are not sprouting wings either.
Note that when this lens is mounted, the camera forces distortion correction to be enabled. When we process the test images, that correction is disabled, sometimes resulting in off-standard framing.
At 28mm, there is very strong barrel distortion, the primary reason for the correction being forced. As seen in the focus breathing test results later in the review, the amount of 28mm barrel distortion decreases somewhat at minimum focus distance. Barrel distortion remains strong at 35mm and slight at 40mm. This lens transitions to essentially void of distortion at around 50mm, and a tiny amount of pincushion distortion sets in by 60mm.
Most modern lenses have aberration correction profiles available for the popular image processing software, and distortion can be easily removed using these, but distortion correction is destructive at the pixel level, and this technique is seldom as good as using a distortion-free lens and focal length in the first place.
As seen earlier in the review, the amount of blur this lens can produce is moderate. Assessing the blur quality is more challenging due in part to the infinite number of variables available. That said, here are some f/11 (for aperture blade interaction) examples.
The first set of examples show defocused highlights. While these results are not ugly, the centers are not so smoothly filled.
The second three results show 100% crops captured outdoors, and the last 60mm result is a full image reduced in size.
Except for a small number of specialty lenses, the wide aperture bokeh in the corner of the frame does not produce round defocused highlights, with these effects taking on a cat's eye shape due to a form of mechanical vignetting. If you look through a tube at an angle, similar to the light reaching the corner of the frame, the shape is not round. That is the shape seen here.
Not surprising for a narrow aperture lens is that the cat's eye shapes are only mild at the widest apertures. As the aperture narrows, the entrance pupil size is reduced, and the mechanical vignetting absolves with the shapes becoming rounder.
With a 7-blade count aperture, point light sources captured with a narrow aperture setting and showing a sunstar effect will have 14 points. The examples below were captured at f/16.
In general, the more a lens is stopped down, the larger and better-shaped the sunstars tend to be. At 28mm, this lens is stopped down four stops to reach f/16, and these stars are just OK shaped. At 60mm, stopping down to f/16 is only three stops, and the stars being produced do not have well-defined points.
The design of this lens is illustrated above with aspherical lens elements shown in lavender. "Optimal arrangement of the three aspherical lens elements effectively suppresses aberrations throughout the zoom range and realizes high resolution from corner to corner."
The image quality produced by this lens is quite sharp, and that feature overshadows the many less-significant deficiencies, including lateral CA, linear distortion, and subpar sunstars.
The Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 Lens focuses accurately and quickly.
While the speed of focusing is in part the lens's responsibility, the camera has a role, and currently, Sony's current Alpha-series cameras defocus the lens slightly before focusing on the subject in AF-S single shot focus mode, even if focusing at the same distance with the same subject. That behavior results in a relatively slow AF lock performance. Use AF-C continuous focus mode to enjoy this lens's focus speed without the defocusing issue.
Focusing is internal and essentially silent.
With no AF/MF switch provided, this lens relies on the camera's menu system for that function. While I prefer a physical AF/MF switch, it doesn't seem practical to fit that feature onto this little lens.
FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported in Sony's DMF (Direct Manual Focus) AF mode.
When the lens is tiny, expect the focus ring also to be tiny. That said, this little plastic-ribbed focus ring is usable and works well. The rotational resistance is light. The approximately 300° of linear adjustment rotation combined with no play makes precise manual focusing easy even at close distances.
Normal is for the scene to change size in the frame (sometimes significantly) as the focus is pulled from one extent to the other, referred to as focus breathing, a change in focal length resulting from a change in focus distance. Focus breathing negatively impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus, and anyone very-critically framing while adjusting focus. This lens shows little to modest change in subject size as full extent focus adjustments are made.
Interesting in these distortion-uncorrected 28mm results is that the geometric distortion appears to change considerably more than the focal length.
While a distance window is not provided, a focus distance meter can be displayed in the lower portion of the electronic viewfinder during manual focusing. Of course, the camera must be powered on to see that meter and to adjust focus distance.
As illustrated in the 100% crops below, the reviewed lens exhibits near parfocal-like characteristics. When focused at 60mm, good focus is retained throughout the zoom range without refocusing.
This lens leaves no doubt that it is not a macro lens. With a minimum focus distance of 11.8" (300mm), this lens has a rather low 0.16x maximum magnification spec.
|Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM Lens||5.2"||(131mm)||0.50x|
|Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens||15.0"||(380mm)||0.24x|
|Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens||15.7"||(400mm)||0.20x|
|Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS Lens||15.0"||(380mm)||0.31x|
|Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Lens||19.7"||(500mm)||0.27x|
|Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 Lens||11.8"||(300mm)||0.16x|
|Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Lens||11.8"||(300mm)||0.19x|
|Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens||7.5"||(190mm)||0.34x|
At 28mm, a subject measuring approximately 10.5 x 7.0" (267 x 178mm) fills the frame of a full-frame camera at the minimum focus distance. At 60mm, an 8.7 x 5.8" (221 x 147mm) subject does the same.
Need a shorter minimum focus distance and higher magnification? An extension tube mounted behind this lens should provide a very significant decrease and increase, respectively. Extension tubes are hollow lens barrels that shift a lens farther from the camera, which allows shorter focusing distances at the expense of long-distance focusing. Electronic connections in extension tubes permit the lens and camera to communicate and otherwise function as normal. Sony does not publish extension tube specs, nor do they manufacture these items, but third-party Sony extension tubes are available.
This lens is not compatible with Sony teleconverters.
Build quality is often sacrificed to create an inexpensive lens. When the lens is tiny, many material costs are implicitly lower, and the build quality of the Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 Lens does not readily reveal sacrifices made.
This attractive-looking lens has a quality plastic exterior barrel with a metal mount behind it.
This lens features a retracting design that becomes very compact when parked. Throughout the 28-60mm-marked range, this lens extends and retracts modestly, becoming the shortest at about 40mm.
Like the focus ring, the zoom ring is small. There is not much room on this lens barrel, and the zoom and focus rings compete for that space. While these rings are adjacent to each other, the zoom ring, ideally located to the rear, is not difficult to find. That aspect is partly due to the zoom ring being raised from the lens barrel on the mount end and helped by the plastic ribs ending early, creating a narrower diameter before the focus ring taking over the barrel space. In use, the zoom ring is reasonably smooth, though some slip-stick behavior is noticeable when fine-tuning a composition.
If you prefer a clean, button- and switch-free lens design, this one has those preferences covered. The AF/MF button is one I miss the most. Having to go to the menu for this commonly-used function can slow the workflow. Positive is that the lack of switches should mean slightly increased reliability and decreased opportunity for dirt and moisture penetration.
This is a dust and weather-resistant lens, including a mount gasket.
Lacking a special coating such as fluorine, the front lens element is not the easiest to clean. Some effort is required to remove fingerprints.
This lens is all about being small and light. You will barely know it is in the bag, on the gimbal, in hand, etc. Class record-holding defines this lens's position on the size and weight comparison charts.
|Model||Weight oz(g)||Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)||Filter||Year|
|Canon RF 24-105mm F4-7.1 IS STM Lens||13.9||(395)||3.0 x 3.5||(76.6 x 88.8)||67||2020|
|Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 GM Lens||31.3||(886)||3.4 x 5.4||(87.6 x 136.0)||82||2016|
|Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens||15.2||(430)||2.9 x 3.7||(73.0 x 94.5)||67||2014|
|Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS Lens||23.4||(663)||3.3 x 4.5||(83.4 x 113.3)||77||2017|
|Sony FE 24-240mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Lens||27.5||(780)||3.2 x 4.7||(80.5 x 118.5)||72||2015|
|Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 Lens||5.9||(167)||2.6 x 1.8||(66.6 x 45.0)||40.5||2020|
|Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS Lens||10.4||(295)||2.9 x 3.3||(72.5 x 83.0)||55||2013|
|Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens||19.4||(550)||2.9 x 4.6||(73 x 117.8)||67||2018|
For many more comparisons, review the complete Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.
Despite the small size of this lens, my knuckles still uncomfortably impact the barrel when using the Sony a7R III and IV.
Here is a visual comparison:
Positioned above from left to right are the following lenses:
That comparison only makes this lens seem more diminutive. Use the site's product image comparison tool to visually compare the Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 Lens to other lenses.
40.5mm filter threads? That is not a typo, and it is unlikely that you have any 40.5mm filters in your kit. Out of the 471 lenses in our database, there are precisely 0 others that have 40.5mm filter threads. This lens also has the smallest diameter threads of any lens in the database. While not common, positive is that 40.5mm filters are small and inexpensive.
Unusual is that Sony did not include a lens hood in the box. More unusual is that there is no lens hood available for this lens, and there is no bayonet mount to attach one. To gain the physical and light protection a lens hood provides, a 40.5mm threaded lens hood could likely be mounted.
I've mentioned initially perceiving this lens as a kit lens. It is priced in line with a Sony FE kit lens – not cheap, but inexpensive relative to the other FE lenses. Despite the relatively low price, I find the performance of this lens to be above expectations for such. Combine tiny size, light weight, useful focal length range, sharp image quality, and modest price to find a great value in this lens.
As an "FE" lens, the Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 Lens is compatible with all Sony E-mount cameras, including both full-frame and APS-C sensor format models.
Sony provides a 1-year limited warranty.
The reviewed Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 Lens was online-retail sourced.
I love it when my expectations are exceeded. While the tiny, inexpensive Sony FE 28-60mm f/4.5-5.6 general-purpose zoom lens did not catch my immediate attention, it made an impact during review.
At review time, this is the smallest and lightest full-frame standard zoom lens available. Seldom is smaller not better when describing a lens, This one is sized to go with you everywhere, and the weight is equally tiny. Small and light keep the fun in photography, and a lens that is always with you captures far better image quality than the one left at home because it wasn't convenient to carry.
An interchangeable lens camera's overall size and weight depend significantly on the lens mounted at the time. This lens makes all Sony Alpha cameras small, but the FE 28-60 was logically introduced alongside the also small and light Sony a7C. The a7C with the FE 28-60 mounted features the smallest of both.
The tiny size, light weight, useful focal length range, sharp image quality, and modest price combine to make this lens a great value.
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