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Introduction

Sony first announced its 30mm f/3.5 Macro for the burgeoning NEX system in mid 2011. Unfortunately, due to the 2011 flooding in Thailand, the production of this and several other lenses were delayed and first shipments of the E 30mm/3.5 did not start until late 2011/yearly 2012. Currently, this is the only native E mount macro lens available to consumers. The lens is currently 9as of 2012) in production and retails for $249. There are not that many copies of this lens available on used markets yet, so the lens depreciation is probably going to be limited in the near term.

Like all other Sony E mount lenses, 30/3.5 Macro sports a consumer-ish build quality - the lens looks quite shiny and pretty, with the barrel made of some kind of lightweight aluminium alloy. The mount is metal, while the focusing ring and filter thread are plastic. There are no controls on the barrel and thanks to the use of lightweight materials, the lens weighs a meager 138g (4.8oz). The lens is pretty compact, measuring 82x55mm (2.5x2.25in). As a dedicated macro, E 30/3.5 offers a 1:1 magnification at the minimum focusing distance of 9.5cm (3.84in). The optical construction consists of 7 elements in 6 groups, with 1 ED and 3 aspherical elements. The min aperture is f/22 and is electronically controlled from the camera. The lens accepts screw-in type 49mm filters.

 

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The lens can be used only on Sony NEX cameras, where it gives an EFOV of ~45mm. The manufacturer's box includes the lens, front/rear caps, plastic ALC-SH113 lens hood and manual/registration card.

Summary

Lens Composition 7 elements in 6 groups
Angular Field 60 degrees
Minimum Focus 9.5cm/3.84in
Focusing Action AF/MF
f-stop Scale f/3.5-f/22, electronic
Filter Size 49mm
Lens Hood Plastic ALC-SH113 (included)
Weight 138g/4.8oz
Dimensions 82x55mm/2.5x2.25"
Lens Case N/A
Retail Price $249 (2012)
Depreciation -$50 (2012)


Handling

All Sony E lenses are built to target entry level SLR/mirrorless consumers. As such they trade off a number of features that we're accustomed to have on regular SLR lenses. The lack of the distance window is the one that is sorely missed here. Granted, this might not be a major issue for most users, but the fact that it makes me guessing the distance to the subject is driving me nuts. Particularly when I am trying to focus at MFD. Where the heck is that MFD? How much closer can I get? Is the lens not focusing because I'm too close or is it because the lens is hunting? Perhaps Sony plans to introduce a distance meter in the camera's firmware at some later point (easily doable since all the data is already being transferred from the lens anyway), but in the meantime the lack of this feature brings some level of annoyance.

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The build quality of the lens is decent, but not as good as with high end lenses from Zeiss and Leica, or even Voigtlander (expected, given the price point for Sony's lenses). The silver finish looks very nice and the knurled focusing ring is fairly comfortable to grip, but all that did not help much the day I cracked my 30/3.5. I was strolling in downtown San Jose with the Nex-5N and 30/3.5 Macro over my shoulder when I noticed a couple of friends crossing the street - I turned quickly trying to catch their attention and my camera strap swung off my shoulder, bumping against the guard rail of the cross-walk. The impact happened across the side of the lens - not really a direct hit, but more of a sideways brush, but that was enough to chip the lens at the rim. Similar bumps would not have produced any visible damage on any of the Sony Carl Zeiss Alpha lenses (I've had worse accidents with those and they still look like new).

But enough with negatives. There are a few positives as well. Like all other Sony E lenses, 30/3.5 Macro maintains full auto-focus in video mode. This is a major, major plus of the NEX design over say Canon 5Dmk2 where you need to constantly push AF-ON button the have the lens refocus.(mind you that you can't do that while you're shooting the video, so good luck tracking focusing with moving objects)..Another plus is the thread on the lens hood, which allows you to attach filters to the hood itself as well as to the front of the lens. Minor convenience point, but any convenience is welcome here.

Sony decided not to incorporate its latest OSS technology into the E 30/3.5 Macro lens, which is a pity. Technically speaking, wider lenses benefit much less from OSS than say telephotos, but having OSS in a macro lens would have been quite convenient. But OSS would have also pushed up the price of this lens, possibly making it less attractive to entry level users.

The lens offers full AF functionally along with manual override function - if you're in DMF mode, you can lock on your target with AF and then nudge the focusing ring to adjust the focus position. AF is fairly fast, an at normal focusing distances the lens typically locks on the target in under a second. AF can get a bit noisy though - once in a while the lens makes fairly loud cracking noises when focusing, which needs some getting used to. Manual-focusing is also possible, since the lens offers a dedicated focusing ring, and this seems to be the only Sony E lens so far to offer a pretty good manual thrust - about 270 degrees from the MFD to infinity.