The Sony E 11mm f1.8 is an ultra-wide prime lens designed for Sony’s mirrorless cameras with cropped APSC sensors. Mount it on models like the ZV-E10 or A6000 series and it’ll deliver coverage equivalent to 16.5mm on full-frame making it ideal for huge landscapes, tight interiors and vlogging.
Announced in June 2022, it’s Sony’s widest prime lens for their APSC lineup to date and launched alongside two other new wide options: the E 10-20mm f4 G Power Zoom and the E 15mm f1.4 G. Sony loaned me all three to test, and while this review concentrates on the 11, I also have separate reviews of the other two here. As always my main review is in the video below, but keep scrolling if you’d prefer to read the written highlights!
While the 11 1.8 is unique in Sony’s catalogue, it goes up against a couple of third party options, most obviously the Samyang 12mm f2 costing a little less at around $400, and to a lesser extent the Viltrox 13mm f1.4, the latter available in Fujifilm X-mount for around $430 at the time I made this video, but I wouldn’t be surprised if an e-mount version follows soon. Let me know if you’d like me to review either lens.
The 11mm is certainly very compact, measuring 57x64mm and weighing just 181g; you’ll barely notice it mounted on one of Sony’s APSC bodies, making it ideal for travel and vlogging. There’s a 55mm filter thread and it’s sealed against dust and moisture including a rubber grommet at the mount. Sony also includes a petal hood with the lens.
In terms of controls it’s very simple, with a free-spinning manual focusing ring that, while not as silky as the G-series models, still feels smooth and also operates with linear-response. There’s also a customisable focus hold button and a switch for auto and manual focus.
Here’s the lens mounted on a ZV-E10, autofocusing using AFS and a single AF area in the middle with the aperture wide-open to f1.8 where you can see it’s pretty quick and reasonably confident. It’s also essentially silent in operation. Note you can feel the internal focusing group move a little on all three of Sony’s new wide lenses if you shake them when the camera’s powered down, but they become locked in place when switched-on.
Let’s now switch to the same test for movie autofocus, this time in Continuous AFC mode, again filming 4k on the ZV-E10 body where you can see the transitions are quick and confident. You’ll also begin to get an idea for the potential for blurring at close range here.
Next for face tracking where like all ultra-wide lenses, it’s best to position yourself near to the middle of the frame and avoid getting too close to minimise distortion, unless of course that’s the effect you’re after. You can also see the lens and body not only keeping me in focus, but that the f1.8 aperture used here can generate a little blurring in the background, at least when I’m closer.
This makes it ideal for vlogging when you want to see your surroundings, but to save weight, Sony’s not included optical stabilisation in the lens, so here’s how it looks completely unstabilised for those not lucky enough to have either IBIS or Active SteadyShot in their Sony body. That said, it’s sufficiently wide you might get away without stabilisation if you’re steadier than I am, or of course using a gimbal.
Newer bodies like the ZV-E10 offer Sony’s Active SteadyShot which applies digital stabilisation, albeit at the cost of a crop to the field of view. As you can see here, it can be surprisingly effective considering this is digital compensation alone, and the lens was wide enough to start with that a mild crop still leaves a big view.
Next for focus breathing, with the 11mm manually focusing from infinity to the closest distance and back again. As the lens focuses closer, the field of view does widen very slightly, but it’s fairly mild and may not be visible in general use.
Ok, now for distortion and like most new mirrorless lenses, especially wide ones, the 11 1.8 employs software profiles to correct geometric distortion. Enter the lens Compensation menu on the ZV-E10 here and you’ll see Distortion Compensation is not just set to Auto on all three of Sony’s new lenses by default, but it’s also greyed-out, meaning you can’t turn it off. This means it’s automatically applied to JPEGs in-camera whether you like it or not, and generally applied by default when converting RAW files. But as a brand new lens, the profile wasn’t yet available in Adobe Camera RAW, allowing me to take a peek behind the curtain.
So here’s a photo I took in RAW+JPEG mode, starting with the RAW version without the profile and as I toggle between it and the out-of-camera JPEG version, you’ll see the latter correcting for some barrel distortion with a mild crop to the field of view as a result. Since the lens was designed to be used with profiles, I’ll be showing you corrected images from this point on.
For my first test I wanted to compare the coverage between the 11mm on the left and the 10-20 Power Zoom on the right at 10mm. This proves the 10-20 is indeed a tad wider in practice, although of course over two stops dimmer.
So let’s now angle the view so that fine details run into the corners. This is the 11mm wide-open at f1.8 where it’s capturing an enormous field of view; I always shoot this from the same position so you can compare the coverage and quality with my other reviews. Taking a closer look in the middle of the frame shows a good degree of fine detail, with a minor boost in contrast available if you stop down a little, but returning to the f1.8 version shows good performance out of the gate.
Heading into the far corner reveals a gradual fall-off in sharpness when the lens is focused in the middle of the frame. This can be improved if you were to move the focus area to the corner, but here I’m judging a full landscape image. Gradually closing the aperture can lift any vignetting and bring very minor benefits to the overall crispness, but again you’re getting most of the performance of this lens from the get-go at f1.8. So not the sharpest lens in the corners if you’re pixel-peeping, but not bad either.
Moving onto a portrait distance, here I am with the 11mm at f1.8 on the ZV-E10 again, using face and eye detection to focus, and if you keep to this sort of subject size and to the middle of the frame, you can mostly avoid distortion. Taking a closer look shows a reasonable amount of detail, and turning your attention to the background shows some opportunity for a little blurring even from this distance. And while the separation isn’t huge, it is a benefit this lens has over the dimmer 10-20 f4 Power Zoom launched alongside it.
Just for comparison, here’s the 11mm at f1.8 on the left with the 15mm f1.4G on the right, and now switching the latter for the 10-20mm f4G at 20mm f4 showing the kind of differences between them for this kind of subject.
Next-up a closer look at rendering of bokeh balls here with the 11mm at f1.8 and near to the minimum focusing distance of 15cm; note you may get a tad closer if you manually focus. As you can see it’s possible to achieve more background blur than you might expect when focused this close, and taking a closer look reveals the bokeh balls to be mostly rounded with only subtle outlining or textures within. As the aperture is gradually closed, you may see the blobs take on different shapes influenced by the aperture blades.
As another comparison, here’s the 11mm at f1.8 on the left with the 15mm f1.4G on the right, both from near to their minimum focusing distances, and now switching the latter for the 10-20mm f4G at 20mm f4 showing the kind of differences between them for close-ups and bokeh balls.
And at the other end of the scale, here’s an example of diffraction spikes with the aperture closed to the minimum f16. Due to a slightly hazy sky on the day, I had to minimise the Sun’s size by obscuring it a little behind a branch.Check prices on the Sony E 11mm f1.8 at B&H, Adorama, WEX UK or Calumet.de. Alternatively get yourself a copy of my In Camera book, an official Cameralabs T-shirt or mug, or treat me to a coffee! Thanks!