Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6 Review: Not exciting, but it sure is fun.

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First off I will just come right out with it. I like this lens.

Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6

Did not expect to. I even wrote a whole blog post about why I was not interested in this lens. But I was wrong.

But even after writing that post I kept looking at the lens. Had blown my chance since I grabbed the first A7c that came into my local camera shop, which was body only. But I kept looking at used copies. I never pulled the trigger, however. My thinking was that other lenses made more sense.

Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8

Sony A7c
A7c - Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8 AF

Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8

Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8
GORDON PARKS PHOTOGRAPHERS COLLECTIVE HARLEM AND SOHO-VILLAGE PHOTO WALK

SIGMA 45mm f/2.8 Contemporary

Sigma 45mm f/2.8 Contemporary
Sigma 45mm f/2.8 Contemporary

Rokinon/Samyang f/1.8 “tiny” lenses like the 35mm f/1.8

Rokinon/Samyang 35mm f/1.8
NYC

Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS

Sony FE 28-70mm
100 Men In Black

Next up are the two lenses most like the Sony 28-60mm in function based on my experience. Both are for a completely different system, but are likely behind my minor obsession with the 28-60mm.

The <inhales sharply> Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 II R.

It came with my first ever interchangeable lens camera, the E-PL5, and as a result it was the very first digital interchangeable lens I had ever used. And being interchangeable I quickly changed it.

What was my beef? Well it certainly was not optical performance as it performed flawlessly from day one where I first used it while chaperoning my daughter on a school field trip of Washington DC.

Washington DC
Washington DC
Washington DC
Washington DC

So what was my issue? Welp:

  • Size. Even closed it was not all that small really. Almost as long as the full frame Sony 28-60mm closed.
  • That switch. It had a little lock switch on the side of it that I greatly disliked. Missed a few shots because of it. And because it was not that small closed and even larger opened I would close it at every opportunity. Ultimately user error arguably, but it was not a good fit for me.

That is it. I soon after traded it for a Panasonic LUMIX G 14mm f/2.5 ASPH II pancake lens. A lens that served me well, but I later picked up a collapsible zoom that I really liked.

The <inhales more sharply> Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 14-42mm f/3.5-5.6 EZ… Seriously Olympus?

Shot for Blog Post

Naming aside this is a great lens. Not exciting spec wise, but great fun to use. It was very small closed and not that large opened up.

Shot for Blog Post
Shot for Blog Post

A great little lens that performed well above anything the spec would indicate.

Olympus 14-42mm EZ
Olympus 14-42mm EZ
Field
Tunel
Ferris wheel.
Night Gallery

It was smaller than the other Olympus zoom above and it did not have the lock switch issue. Its only fault was being part of a system that I decided to pivot away from that had served me well. But more on that later below.

I went ahead and decided to pick up a used copy of the 28-60mm from KEH. While I was waiting for it I was still wondering what I was doing. Especially since my focus has been pixie dust lenses of late. I figured I would either get it out of my system and move on or realize the usefulness of such a lens and keep it. Then it arrived.

Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6

KEH even threw in a free, branded lens bag like they did with the SIGMA dp2 Quattro.

Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6

Cool. I can already say that I believe we have another winner.

Will write my experiences down in the order realized.

Size

This thing is small. Yes, I have seen the pictures. But it is still smaller than I expected. When closed it feels about the same size as one of the Rokinon/Samyang f/2.8 pancake lenses.

Weight

This lens weighs nothing. But even though it is small and light…

Feel

I am certain that this lens is plastic (polycarbonate according to the Google), but it has a solid almost metal like feel to it.

Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6

Oddly cool to the touch, but also has a finish that should not gather fingerprints. Dials have a nice feel to them as well.

Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6

With the exception of the newest 24mm f/1.8 Rokinon/Samyang, where they upped their materials game a bit, it feels far better than the other Rokinon/Samyang offerings I have handled. Does not feel kit lens-y like the 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS.

A7c companion

Have argued that many other lenses are a great fit for the A7c, but as soon as I affixed this to the front of the A7c I got what Sony was after.

Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6

Aperture spec obsession set aside for a moment this lens is a perfect match for the A7c. It also manages to be ever so slightly lighter and smaller than another Sony lens I would consider for the A7c. The Sony 40mm f/2.8 G prime. Well balanced and to my surprise I was able to get the pair into the pocket of a casual jacket without issue. A parka was not required. That being said most everything mentioned here would also apply to any Sony A7 body. But in my opinion, the A7c suits it best.

Now onto the photo taking experience followed by the resulting photos.

Handling (Twist to open)

The twist to open aspect the 28-60mm Sony solution, which was problematic in theory, was just fine in practice. No lock button like the first Olympus. And I found that I actually preferred a manual twist to open it up and zoom over the power zoom of the EZ variation. Have had a few power extend and zoom lenses and with each (here and here) one I ran into times where either:

  • I would inadverdently open the power zoom in a confined space which concerned me for longevity. It never did become an issue, but I pefer the lock switch-less manual zoom option.
  • The power lens would close when the camera went into sleep mode which added an extra beat before the lens would be ready for action. This is not a concern with the Sony.

Admittedly both items above are personal preferences. But with the Sony I do not have to worry about the lens extending in a confined space and possibly stressing lens motors or the lens collapsing as the camera goes to sleep and taking an extra beat to be ready for the next shot. Plus the Sony has a substantial detent between closed and open to keep the lens from accidentally transitioning between the two modes. An effective compromise.

Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6

Colors

Nice colors.

Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6

Bokeh

Not this lenses strong suit given the spec, but some subject isolation can be had if pushed and it does not look bad at all.

28mm - Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
28mm
60mm - Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
60mm

Focus Breathing

None I could see when doing a quick test at all labeled focal lengths.

Usable Range

While not as great of a focal range as other lenses in this segment there is still enough variation to be useful.

28mm - Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
28mm
60mm - Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
60mm

Flare, Aberrations, and Such

While this lens could be forgiven for not performing well in these areas given its humble spec I am really not seeing any massive issues.

Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6

Autofocus (Surprise 1)

This is one of two areas that surprised me the most. Being a modern Sony system lens I expected:

  • Accurate AF
  • Swift AF
  • Silent AF
  • Great focus in low light.
  • Great Stills Performance
  • Great Video Performance

In general none of those statements are surprising except for the fact that these statements do not properly reflect the magnitude of competence that this lens displays in these areas. This is not a typical showing. This lens is on par with the amazing top of the range Sony 50mm f/1.2 GM in accuracy, speed, and silence with video and stills. There are absolutely no vibrations or noises to even let you know that a change in focus has occurred. And focus acquisition is so immediate that it seems almost predictive. I cannot empathize this enough.

Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6

Was expecting very good not great AF.

Sharpness (Surprise 2)

Had read that this lens is sharp. And it is. Across the frame. Sharper than some primes I have used as well as some I have, still use, and like. With a kit zoom. A collapsible kit zoom at that.

It is so sharp that I would not hesitate using this lens for portraits when brighter apertures are not needed. F/4-5.6 would do just fine for group shots, especially with proper lighting.

As a kind of sum up for the attributes listed above I have a quick test I ran on the fly recently. Bith shots below were taken on different days under the exact same conditions (on the fly) with the exact same camera. The only change is the lens.

Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM
Sony FE 50mm f/1.2 GM
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6

The focal length differs, the 50mm f/1.2 had more light which netted a much lower ISO, but a relatively similar result considering the wildly differing specs and price point.

That being said I will be the first to admit that the f/1.2 GM is not a fair comparison. But what of the Sony FE lenses listed above? Here they are with the reasons or situations where I would prefer the 28-60mm.

Rokinon/Samyang 24mm f/2.8

  • Better build.
  • Better AF.
  • Weather sealing.
  • Sharp across the frame.
  • More flexible.

Tamron 28-75mm f/2.8

  • Smaller and lighter.
  • Sharper in the corners.

SIGMA 45mm f/2.8 Contemporary

  • Smaller and lighter.
  • More flexible.

Rokinon/Samyang f/1.8 “tiny” lenses like the 35mm f/1.8

  • Smaller and lighter.
  • Better build.
  • More flexible.

Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS

  • Smaller.
  • Better build.

I would be the first to admit that a list of advantages these lenses have over the 28-60mm could be written also. In my opinion, the same downsides apply compared to all.

Aperture Spec

One thing I did not mention with the two Olympus lenses or the APS-C lenses above was their aperture spec. All started at f/3.5 and made their way to f/5.6. This works out to a full frame equivalent (per mmcalc.com) aperture spec of f/7-11.2 for the MFT lenses and f/5.36-8.57 for the APS-C lenses. Since I got on fine with these lenses in the past surely I would do just fine with f/4-5.6 of the 28-60mm. And I did. Especially with the solid high ISO performance of the Sony A7c. In normal conditions, great ISO performance comes to the rescue. At night and in very low light conditions I borrowed a page from my SIGMA Foveon bag of tricks. Shoot black and white. A set up that I really like:

  • Shoot JPEG, which allows…
  • High Contrast Monochrome Picture Effect (Menu/Camera 1/Tab 11)
    • Sidebar: Never used this before because I usually shoot RAW. That will now change. I really like the look of this effect.
  • Auto ISO set to top out at 12800
    • I use 6400 for color, but 12800 is fine for black and white.

Here are the results of a quick test one evening while running errands.

Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6

I really like this result. I will be creating a photo therapy post where I share more photos from this outing.

Value

At almost $500 new this lens is a hard sell admittedly. I will say that if I had it to do over again I would definitely have bought this lens with the A7c kit. Now having tried it I would gladly pay the $300 additional kit price for this lens. If you did not get the kit like me these lenses go for a similar kit sum or less on the used market (Here and here for example).

Summary

There is a word I mentioned above.

Fun.

I find this lens fun to use. Here is why:

  • Small, light, and compact.
  • Speed.
    • Sony has done a phenomenal job with AF here. All of the shots in this post were near instaneous. Frame it up and press the shutter.
    • The manual open and zoom lens responds more swiftly than the collapsible power zooms I have used.
  • Lack of compromise
    • This is a proper full frame set up with no limitations in any area of performance operation or IQ wise.
    • A fully articulating screen and EVF in such a small package goes a long way to making this camera a solution for all occasions for stills and video.
  • Great for video.
    • Combining stellar Eye AF, a fully articulating screen, a decent zoom range, and strong video features makes for a great little video solution.
  • Inconspicuous
    • Folks pay this camera absolutely no mind at all. This is huge. Whether hanging by my side by the wrist strap, in hand, or while shooting from the hip or at arms length it brought little or no reaction or notice from those around. Even got a smile from one the Pizza shot customers after taking the photo og the garlic knots above.
  • Sound Ergonomics and Looks
    • This camera and lens make for a great ergonomic and aethetic match. A great match for a kit.
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6

Wrap Up

I like this set up far more than I thought I would. I expected good, but this is a great set up.

I had second guessed Sony’s decision to create such a lens. It seemed boring on paper. But in operation it is great fun. It is like a better version of the compact zooms used above. And that is exactly what it is. Better.

Well done Sony.

Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6

Here are a couple more product shots followed by a few more photo samples.

Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6
Sony FE 28-60mm f/4-5.6

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