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Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens Review

by Bob Atkins, May 2008


The Sony 100mm f/2.8 macro is one of two macro lenses in the current Sony lineup. The Sony 50mm f/2.8 macro is the other. Both lenses provide 1:1 magnification. The advantage of the 100mm lens is that it provides more working distance (the distance from the subject to the front of the lens). On an APS DSLR such as the current Sony Alpha lineup the 100mm gives the same field of view as a 150mm lens on a full frame camera. On a Sony Alpha A700, (compare prices) (review), at 1x magnification the 100/2.8 macro will capture an area of 23.5 x 15.6 mm.

The 100/2.8 macro is supplied with a bayonet mounting lens hood.

The Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro, (compare prices), is available from amazon.com, and choose overnight shipping to get the lens even faster.

Operation

Though the Sony 100/2.8 macro has a DOF scale, it's not a lot of use. The lens is not at fault. On a 100mm macro lens there isn't room for useful DOF markings. As you can see, it has lines only for f/32, and they are so close together that you really can't tell what the corresponding distances are.

Magnification is shown on the lens barrel for various focus distances. As the lens is focused closer the barrel extends and more markings are revealed. There are calibration marks from 1:10 (1/10th life size) to 1:1 (lifesize). The barrel does not rotate during focusing. At 1:1 the working distance is approximately 6" (15cm).

The Sony 100/2.8 macro has both a focus limiting switch and a focus hold button. The range limiter can be set so the lens only searches focus in the closeup range. This can speed focus aquisition by restricting the range over which the lens searches. The focus lock button can be used to disable autofocus. Sometimes it's easier to hold focus and move the camera slightly back and forth to focus in the macro range and the AF hold button enables this to be done more easily than by switching the camera from AF to MF.

In AF mode the focusing ring of the Sony 100/2.8 macro does not spin.

Optical Performance

Like most macro lenses, the Sony 100/2.8 macro is very sharp. On the Sony Alpha A700 DSLT (APS-C format), even wide open the lens is pretty sharp from center to edge. Distortion is negligible and there's only the slightest hint of chromatic aberration, even if you look at the edges of the image. At the left is a 300% enlargement from the edge of the image, and as you can see there's only the very slightest hint of green/magenta CA. Sharpness and contrast do increase slightly as you stop down, but this is a lens that can be used wide open at f/2.8 and still yield good results.

The Sony 100/2.8 macro uses a 9-blade iris with shaped blades to provide a near circular aperture. This is designed to give a pleasing shape to out of focus highlights (good "bokeh").

Alternatives

The other macro lens in the Sony lineup is the Sony 50mm f/2.8 Macro, (compare prices), which is smaller, lighter and slightly less expensive ($415 vs. $565), but doesn't give as much working distance. There are also third party macro lenses available such as the Sigma 50/2.8 macro, the Sigma 105/2.8 macro and the Tamron 90/2.8 macro. All these lenses are sharp and focus down to 1:1 (lifesize).

Conclusion

The Sony 100mm f/2.8 macro is a very good lens. It's sharp wide open and aberrations are well controlled. The 100mm focal length gives a good working distance for macro work (6" at 1:1) and also makes the lens quite useful for portrait work.

Where to Buy

You can get this lens from amazon.com. It's normally in stock and overnight shipping is available.

100/2.8 Macro Specifications

Focal length 100mm (150mm full frame equivalent when used on APS-C DSLR)
Filter Size 55mm
f-stop range f/2.8 - f/32
Aperture 9 blades (circular)
Focusing floating elements
Minimum Focus distance 14.4"
Maximum magnification 1:1 (1x)
Groups/Elements 8/8
Length 4" (minimum)
Weight 18oz

Further Reading

More

Sony 100mm f/2.8 macro Sample Images

Sony Alpha A700 (review), f/2.8, 1/640s, ISO 200.

Sony Alpha A700 (review), f/2.8, 1/30s, ISO 800.

Closest focus, magnification 1:1 (lifesize)

Sony Alpha A700 (review), f/2.8, 1/500s, ISO 640.


Original text ©2008 Bob Atkins. Images ©2008 Bob Atkins or Hannah Thiem.

Article created May 2008

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