- Excellent sharpness
- Low CA
- Low distortion
- Ingenious AF/MF features
- High quality manufacture
- High price
- No weather resistance
We would be very hard pressed to find a poor macro lens as the general standard is very high across all marques. The 100mm macro is a particularly popular choice, doubling up as a useful portrait lens as well as other short telephoto applications. It also gives a working distance that gives room for effective lighting of the subject. Sony has been producing some outstanding lenses, so expectations for the Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS lens will be high indeed. Here we look closely at the lens, using the 42MP Sony Alpha A7R II body for the review.
Handling and Features
This is a large and impressive looking lens that weighs in at 602g and sports a reasonably compact 62mm filterthread. The bayonet lens hood is generously sized and fits precisely and securely. Looking into the lens we can see the 9 bladed diaphragm forms an almost perfectly round aperture, which will enhance the bokeh, the smoothness of out of focus areas.
Looking first at the lens exterior, there is a wide manual focus ring that can be pulled forwards and backwards as well as rotated. Forwards is the AF setting, back towards the camera body is the MF setting. The lens has internal focus, so in AF mode the ring does not move. If we turn the focusing ring in AF then it does nothing, but when in MF it engages with the manual focus scale ring that lies just behind it.
This in itself is very interesting because when engaging manual focus the lens internal focus mechanism moves the point of focus to whatever distance the indicator ring is set to. This means that a setting can be pre-selected and focused on simply by moving from AF to MF.
In addition, there is a button on the lens that will lock the focus position when using AF. This enables the technique of focus, lock focus and re-compose, which can be very useful in macro photography and also in portraiture where focus on the eyes is so important.
Finally, there are two switches on the lens barrel. The first engages a focus limiter and the choice is between full range, infinity to 0.5m and 0.5-0.28m. This will help to avoid any excessive hunting by the AF system. The second switch turns the OSS (Optical Steady Shot) mechanism on and off.
The lens has 15 elements in 11 groups and uses floating elements to maintain close up quality. The closest focusing distance of 0.28m (0.92 feet) gives a maximum magnification ratio of 1:1 or life size. A 1cm object will be 1cm long on the sensor.
AF is achieved using a Direct Drive Super Sonic Motor and is reasonably fast on the full frame Sony A7R II and certainly virtually silent.
Using the lens is totally hassle-free and handling is excellent in every respect. Many macro lenses will be easier to use with manual focus, but the Sony enables the use of AF in most situations. Focusing locks on accurately.
Sony 90mm Macro Rear Oblique View
Sharpness is very impressive. Centrally, results are excellent from f/2.8 to f/16, remaining very good even at f/22 as diffraction starts to take the edge off things. Edge sharpness starts off at a very good level at f/2.8 and is excellent from f/4 to f/16. At f/22 diffraction reduces edge sharpness but results remain good.
How to read our charts
The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.
The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.
CA (Chromatic Aberration) in almost zero centrally and generally kept under one pixel at the edges. This is not particularly obtrusive, but in any event can be handled in software. Flare is also totally absent and even against the light images have good contrast and sharpness.
How to read our charts
Chromatic aberration is the lens’ inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.
Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.
Distortion is respectably low at -0.599% barrel, a figure that is unlikely to be a problem in general photography. This too can be handled in software if required.
The bokeh of this 90mm is very smooth indeed. Out of focus backgrounds look good, with none of the “busy” appearance that some deliver. This is well maintained as we stop down, no doubt helped considerably by the virtually circular aperture.
This is all a very high and even standard of performance and the lens lives up to its heritage and delivers the quality expected.
Of course all this would be to no avail if the results were marred by camera shake. With a lens as crisp as this there is actually a higher expectation in that the difference between utterly crisp, sharp and not sharp can be more obvious. My results indicate that images are utterly crisp hand held down to 1/100 second and sharp down to 1/15 second. They are borderline at 1/8 second and hopelessly unsharp at ¼ second. This is around a three stop improvement compared to images shot with OSS switched off, a significant difference. Others may do better or worse, depending upon how steady they are when hand holding. However well it works for any individual, it is clear that OSS is an extremely valuable asset.
Sony 90mm F2,8 G Macro Outdoor Portrait 2 | 1/320 sec | f/2.8 | 90.0 mm | ISO 100
Sony 90mm F2,8 G Macro Portrait 3 | 1/320 sec | f/2.8 | 90.0 mm | ISO 100
Sony 90mm F2,8 G Macro Small Building | 1/100 sec | f/8.0 | 90.0 mm | ISO 200
Sony 90mm F2,8 G Macro Rufford Old Hall | 1/320 sec | f/8.0 | 90.0 mm | ISO 400
Sony 90mm F2,8 G Macro Bokeh At F2,8 | 1/4000 sec | f/2.8 | 90.0 mm | ISO 400
Sony 90mm F2,8 G Macro Bokeh At F5,6 | 1/800 sec | f/5.6 | 90.0 mm | ISO 400
Sony 90mm F2,8 G Macro Bokeh At F11 | 1/200 sec | f/11.0 | 90.0 mm | ISO 400
Sony 90mm F2,8 G Macro Devils Bit Scabious | 1/125 sec | f/11.0 | 90.0 mm | ISO 400
Sony 90mm F2,8 G Macro Ca Test | 1/800 sec | f/8.0 | 90.0 mm | ISO 400
Value For Money
The Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS is priced at £899/$1,348. To see how this compares with other full frame AF macro lenses we need to look at the main DSLR ranges. The comparable marque lenses might be the Canon EF 100mm f/2.8L Macro IS USM (£659/$988), the Nikon 105mm f/2.8 G AF-S VR IF ED Micro (£659/$988) and the SMC Pentax-D FA 100mm f/2.8 Macro WR (£449/$673).
In Sony FE fit there are also two Samyang manual focus macro lenses. The 100mm f/2.8 ED UMC Macro is priced at £319/$478 and the 100mm T3.1 ED UMC Macro Video lens at £349/$523.
This all makes the Sony a bit on the expensive side, however it is a very, very good lens which may well rather redress the balance.
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Portraits, landscapes, close range sports, architecture, in fact almost anything can be added to the repertoire for this lens, on top of its excellent performance as a macro lens. It is slick in use and the results are excellent throughout.
The price may be a little on the high side, but on the other hand there is little choice for the Sony A7 range user, unless we look at less expensive manual focus lenses.
It works so well with the A7R II that if I were using this system this lens would definitely be one of the essentials to buy.