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Sony SAL-1118 DT 11-18mm f4.5-5.6 lens review Gordon Laing, September 2007
 
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Sony 50mm f1-4




Sony DT 11-18mm design and build quality

The Sony 50mm f1.4 prime lens, DT 18-70mm f3.5-5.6 kit zoom and the DT 11-18mm f4.5-5.6 are pictured below from left to right. The DT 11-18mm is zoomed to its shortest focal length and the DT 18-70mm zoomed to its mid-way 35mm focal length at which point the barrel is physically shortest. So these are the three lenses in their physically most compact configurations.


from left: Sony 50mm f1.4, 18-70mm and 11-18mm


Measuring 83mm in diameter by 81mm in length when zoomed-out, the DT 11-18mm is noticeably wider but not a great deal longer than the kit zoom’s 66x77mm dimensions. Zoom the DT 11-18mm into its longest focal length and it extends by a mere 4mm or so – see photo below.

Its filter thread measures 77mm compared to 55mm on the kit zoom, and Sony generously includes a lens hood as a free accessory – this makes Canon look very mean in comparison, not including lens hoods with anything other than its premium L models.



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Tamron 11-18mm (Sony)



In terms of weight, the DT 11-18mm weighs 360g to the kit zoom’s 235g, so while it’s obviously heavier, it can hardly be described as a burden to carry around. The build quality is superior to the kit lens and there’s also a tougher metal lens mounting, but in your hands they don’t feel miles apart. Before you take that the wrong way though, the DT 18-70mm feels good for a kit lens – it’s just that the DT 11-18mm isn’t a massive step ahead.

As you can see on the photos, the DT 11-18mm features decent-sized zoom and manual focusing rings, and both turn smoothly without catching. The general standard of construction and assembly is decent with no wobbles or creaks to mention. The fine-grooved rubber grips on the zoom and focusing rings do have a habit of collecting dust though, but as this is part of the Alpha styling, it’s something which affects all Sony lenses.


Sony DT 11-18mm optical design

The Sony DT 11-18mm employs 11 elements in nine groups and features a seven-blade aperture diaphragm. The maximum aperture of f4.5-5.6 is a little slower than some ultra-zoom rivals at the wide end, such as Canon’s EF-S 10-22mm f3.5-5.6, but matches most when zoomed-in. As we’ll see in the results, the DT 11-18mm performs better than the Sony kit zoom when both are set to 18mm, but if you opt for the ultra-zoom, you’ll obviously be losing more than a stop of light gathering power.


Sony DT 11-18mm focusing

The DT 11-18mm, like the vast majority of Sony lenses, employs the AF motor built-into Alpha DSLR bodies – and like the other Sony lenses which employ this resource, the auto-focusing can be relatively slow and noisy. Sony may think its quick and quiet SSM technology is only necessary on high end telephoto lenses, but anyone who’s used a Canon USM or Nikkor SWF lens will know these lens-based focusing motors are desirable at any focal range.

While the filter mounting doesn’t rotate during focusing though, the actual manual focusing ring does – so if you’re holding the lens near the end of the barrel, be prepared for a nudge. And if you want to manually focus the lens, you’ll need to disengage the AF motor using a switch on the Alpha body. On the upside, the lens does at least feed distance information back to the camera for ADI flash support.

The whole focusing experience with the DT 11-18mm is a world apart from the full-time manual focusing options and quick and quiet AF of the competition though. Sony may argue it’s normal on its own range, but anyone who compares it against, say, the Canon EF-S 10-22mm or Nikkor DX 12-24mm, may wonder why they have to put up with such an old-fashioned system. You can see (and hear) an example of this in our Sony DT 11-18mm video tour.

Deja-vu

And finally if the photos and specifications look familiar, that’s because the Sony DT 11-18mm shares many similarities with the existing Tamron 11-18mm lens. They share the same optical construction, virtually identical dimensions, similar exterior design, and about the only differences we’re aware of are the direction of the focusing ring and confirmed support for ADI flash on the Sony model.

The Tamron version is available in the Sony / Konica Minolta fit, and comes in slightly cheaper, so it’s something you may wish to consider. It’s also available in Canon and Nikon fits for owners of these systems. Note: Tamron and Sony assured us they didn’t manufacture lenses for each other, but anyone can see the likeness is uncanny.

All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2014 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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