Sony DT 11–18mm f/4.5-5.6: Very Wide, Very Narrow

 
Sony DT 11–18mm f/4.5-5.6

Sony DT 11–18mm f/4.5-5.6

The Sony DT 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 offers a narrow zoom range, but A-mount users may love its wide angle capabilities. Shridhar Kunte finds out.

This lens is not a new launch at all, the roots of the Sony DT 11–18mm f/4.5-5.6 lens go as far back as the year 2005. Tamron had launched a 11–18mm lens during the PMA show in those days, and just after about a year, Minolta merged with Sony. They came out with a new lens that matched all the specifications of Tamron’s version for the Minolta mount (now the Sony A-mount). Sony brought the same lens back to the market with the A100, under their brand name, of course.

Features
If you have a Sony A-mount DSLR, then this is the only wide angle offering from the manufacturer. The lens features four special elements, out of which three are aspherical and one is an ED element. Overall, the lens consists of 15 elements arranged in 12 groups. While the lens offers a 7-bladed aperture diaphragm unit, it doesn’t really make much of a difference as wide angle lenses offer larger depth of field.

At all focal lengths, the lens offers a minimum focusing distance of 0.25m, and at this distance, the magnification ratio comes up to be 1:8. This can be onsidered fairly decent, given the wide focal length. The lens accepts 77mm filters and the the front element does not rotate while focusing. This is quite handy for those wanting to shoot landscapes along with circular polarisers.

Handling
We coupled the lens with the Alpha A77M2, and the combination felt quite light and well-balanced. Despite the fact that the lens weighs only 360g, it feels pretty sturdy. However, a polycarbonate barrel construction makes it look and feel quite average.

The distance scale has metres marked in white, and feet marked in orange, which is helpful. There is no DOF scale, but since it is a wide angle lens, one can do without it.

The zoom ring is placed close to the camera body and is only slightly wider than the focusing ring. This offers better grip, especially while shooting at slow shutterspeeds. On the other hand, I would have preferred the focusing ring to have been narrower as it rotates during autofocus. A narrower focusing ring would also be ergonomically better as it would allow for more space between the two rings. This would mean smoother functioning of the focusing ring during autofocus, and would also minimise the chances of damage.

The overall rotation of the focusing ring is about 90°, in which it covers the entire focusing distance. The zoom ring, on the other hand, does not need to be twisted a lot to cover the entire focal length.

Performance
While I tested the lens on the latest Sony body, the AF mechanism employed on the lens is similar to the ones found in Nikon D-type lenses. The AF motor is built in to the camera body and mechanically couples with the lens to achieve focus, which slows downs focusing and also makes it louder. This AF noise is easily picked up by the inbuilt microphone during video.

The lens hood does not reduce flare as it should, and you can see a hint of the sun even when it is at the corner of the frame. Additionally, the onboard flash casts a noticeable shadow at all focal lengths, except 18mm, even without the lens hood.

In terms of sharpness and contrast, the lens is excellent across all focal lengths, but the best balance is achieved at f/5.6. However, if you are looking to avoid light falloff at the corners, then my advice is to use f/8 at all focal lengths.

The lens exhibits excellent overall sharpness at f/5.6 and distortion at the edges is well controlled. Exposure: 1/50sec at f/5.6 (ISO 3200). Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

The lens exhibits excellent overall sharpness at f/5.6 and distortion at the edges is well controlled. Exposure: 1/50sec at f/5.6 (ISO 3200). Photograph/Shridhar Kunte

While distortion is well controlled, some barrel distortion is visible at 11mm, but becomes less apparent 14mm onwards.

Conclusion
Priced at Rs. 44,990, the Sony DT 11–18mm f/4.5-5.6 is the only wide angle zoom lens for Sony’s Alpha series of APS-C cameras. The cheapest option available in the market for Sony users, it is a good ultrawide companion to the standard DT 18–70mm kit lens. If you are on a tight budget, then despite some distortion and light falloff, it is a lens worth considering. But there are also third-party options available, if you are willing to increase your budget.

FINAL RATINGS
Features: Close focusing distance of 28cm, no FTM  16/20
 Performance: Less vignetting and distortion, noisy AF  30/35
 Build Quality: Made up of polycarbonate, feels average  20/25
 Ergonomics: Light, MF ring rotates during AF operation  11/15
 Warranty & Support: Wide service network, two-year warranty  3/5
 OVERALL  80%

MRP: Rs.44,990

Who should buy it? Sony APS-C DSLR users looking to shoot lot of interiors and architecture as this offers good wide angle range.

Why? The lens offers a constant minimum focusing distance of 0.25m and distortion is well controlled.

Tags: Shridhar Kunte, Wide-angle lens, April 2015, Sony DT 11–18mm f/4.5-5.6, Sony DT 11–18mm f/4.5-5.6 MRP, Sony 11-18