Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens Review

Discussion in 'Sony Alpha E-Mount Lenses' started by Amin Sabet, Jul 24, 2015.

  1. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
    The Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens is a relatively new macro lens for the Sony E-Mount. The "FE" designation means that this lens works well with both full frame and APS-C Sony E-Mount cameras.

    Key specifications:
    Focal Length: 90mm
    Equivalent on APS-C Format: 135 mm
    Aperture Maximum: f/2.8
    Minimum: f/22
    Camera Mount Type: Sony E (Full-Frame)
    Minimum Focus Distance: 11.02" (28 cm)
    Magnification: 1x
    Maximum Reproduction Ratio: 1:1
    Elements/Groups: 15/11
    Diaphragm Blades: 9, Rounded
    Image Stabilization: Yes
    Autofocus: Yes
    Filter Thread Front: 62 mm
    Dimensions (DxL): Approx. 3.11 x 5.14" (79.0 x 130.5 mm)
    Weight: 1.32 lb (602 g)

    Current pricing/availability: Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens SEL90M28G B&H Photo Video

    See the brief video below for my impressions of lens build quality, features, and performance:

    You can click through any of the images in this review to see full-resolution captures from my A7II.

    Not being a macro photographer, my first step was to put this 90mm f/2.8 lens through its paces as a family portrait lens. For the most part, I found it very much up to the task.

    First things first, this is a brutally sharp lens. Quite possibly the sharpest lens I've ever used. Below is a shot my wife took of me with our daughter. Despite the shot being taken wide open, you can see everything from the food stuck between my teeth to the fine hairs on my daughter's lip:


    ƒ/2.8 90 mm 1/400 ISO 100

    Likewise, this lens isn't kind to the the skin of my 12-year-old son:


    ƒ/2.8 90.0 mm 1/100 ISO 250

    A few more family photos taken with this lens at or near wide open:


    ƒ/2.8 90.0 mm 1/100 250


    ƒ/3.2 90.0 mm 1/100 200


    ƒ/2.8 90.0 mm 1/125 100


    ƒ/2.8 90.0 mm 1/320 100

    The Sony 90mm macro offers 1:1 macro capability. Here is a shot of a watch movement at 1:1:


    ƒ/8.0 90.0 mm 8 100

    By comparison, here is the same movement at 1:2 magnification, taken with my Nikon 105mm f/4 AIS lens:


    ƒ/5.6 105 mm 5 100

    The Optical Steady Shot (OSS) capability of this lens allowed me to get a variety of sharp close up and macro photos handheld without flash:


    ƒ/8.0 90.0 mm 1/100 640


    ƒ/8.0 90.0 mm 1/100 800


    ƒ/11.0 90.0 mm 1/40 100


    ƒ/8.0 90.0 mm 1/100 1000


    ƒ/14.0 90.0 mm 1/40 6400


    ƒ/13.0 90.0 mm 1/50 6400

    The Sony 90 macro is very resistant to veiling flare as shown in this image of a backlit tree:


    ƒ/2.8 90.0 mm 1/60 200

    Compare that to the same image taken with my adapted Olympus Zuiko OM 90mm f/2 macro, which gives up quite a bit of contrast in this lighting:


    ƒ/2.8 90mm 1/100 200

    There is very little color fringing of any type to be seen with this lens. Bokeh is overall well-behaved with a touch of swirliness that some may not like but I enjoy. There is no distortion to speak of, and field curvature is minimal. Optically, it's a nearly flawless lens.

    My only complaints are that the autofocus hunts in limited light, for example indoor light or outdoors at dusk, and that manual focus by wire can feel a little less precise than mechanically-linked focus.

    Overall, I highly recommend this lens for macro, although one should keep in mind that there are many excellent macro lenses for far less money if you're willing to go the adapted lens route.

    As a non-macro shooter mainly interested in this focal length for portraiture, I'm not sure whether I'll buy the Sony 90 Macro. The biting sharpness wide open, combined with an abrupt transition to bokeh, gives portraits a great deal of 3D "pop". Sometimes I like the effect, other times not so much. Another portrait lenses worth considering is the Zeiss Batis 85mm f/1.8, which I hope to have for review soon. Hopefully Sony will also introduce a more affordable FE portrait lens for the system before long.

    Link to download all RAW files for sample images from this review: 90mm Macro

    Sony 90mm Macro Lens pricing / availability: Sony FE 90mm f/2.8 Macro G OSS Lens SEL90M28G B&H Photo Video
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2016
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  2. robbie36

    robbie36 TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Nov 21, 2014
    Thanks for this.

    1) On the focus hunting issue. I saw a comparison on DPReview between the 90 macro and the Batis which basically says that the Batis is as prone to hunting as the 90 2.8 and is also no faster at focusing.

    2) I am confused about manual focusing with the 90 macro. In this thread - - Tom states (twice) that manual focusing is (or at least can be) 'fully mechanical' rather than 'focus by wire'. Your review and one I read at DPR seems to state otherwise. Does the 90 macro actually have both?
  3. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
    @robbie36@robbie36 - Thanks for the info about the Batis. Makes my buying decision a little harder.

    It's definitely focus by wire. When you switch the clutch ring to MF mode, you get heavier damping, the distance scale moves with focus adjustment, and you have hard end stops for the focus adjustment, all of which makes it similar to a mechanically-linked focus. However, when you look through the EVF with magnification, it is clearly apparent that you are focusing by wire. It doesn't have the precision of mechanically-linked focus. Still, it's one of the best focus-by-wire implementations I have tried.
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  4. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
    On a general note, I plan to do more lens reviews and would love to get some feedback on the overall approach / format. I don't have the time or interest to do exhaustive, technical reviews. My goal here was to provide a video showing lens size / build / controls followed by some comments about user experiences and some images representative of image quality / character.

    The images display up to 1600px wide on a large display, which stretches the text and makes the review a bit bandwidth intensive but has the advantage of being able to tell more about the pics without showing 100% crops or needing to click for larger. Meanwhile, there are full-res versions on click through for those who want to see the details. Does this format work?
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  5. addieleman

    addieleman Passionate amateur Subscribing Member

    Nov 13, 2012
    Ad Dieleman
    For me it does, primarily because of the full-res images. When I get really interested in a lens I'll read other reviews as well, I'm mostly interested in user experiences as I will test any lens myself before buying it.
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  6. quezra

    quezra TalkEmount Top Veteran

    Aug 22, 2012
    Yeah, I agree 100% with the review, though perhaps not the uncertainty on whether to keep it. Great shots too!

    I think this lens is made for the A7rII - it is overkill on our A7/A7ii/A7S type "low" resolution cameras. I for one am keeping mine (as I've mentioned elsewhere, it's so sharp it makes a super short tele since a lens this sharp corner-to-corner gives all kinds of cropping freedom making it far more versatile than the 90mm suggests), as much as my portrait shooting would be (slightly) better suited to the Zeiss Batis. Maybe in time I will have both. But right now, I am thrilled to already have, with 3 lenses (16-35, 55, 90), my entire photography needs covered 100% with native AF lenses (for a travel lens, the 18-200 LE works surprisingly well turning my A7 into an APS-C DSLR-like - more than enough for travel purposes).

    Bring on the A7rII! (er maybe I will wait for a price drop as my A7 is still absolutely fine)
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  7. davect01

    davect01 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Aug 20, 2011
    Fountain Hills, AZ
    Nice write up.

    I am intrigued by this lens, but it is a bit to pricey for me. It is good to see Sony building some high quality optics.
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  8. WestOkid

    WestOkid TalkEmount All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Jan 25, 2014
    New Jersey, USA
    Very well done Amin.
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  9. NickCyprus

    NickCyprus Super Moderator

    Oct 11, 2012

    This is an excellent review :thumbsup:
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  10. serhan

    serhan TalkEmount All-Pro

    Aug 27, 2011
    Thanks for the great review and finding time... Movie is nice to show clutch mechanism and mf with hard stops... I have an old Tamron 90mm macro with clutch and I like it. Does the hard stop matches to min focus and infinity?

    From videos, I see that both Macro 90mm and Batis 85mm might have similar af in low light. I found with 85mm that it is usually the closer distances which I might be hitting the mfd also. So I switched full time dist on the lens panel. Here is af test done on 90mm macro, posted on dpr:

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  11. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
    @serhan@serhan - Thanks! Yes, the hard stops are for min focus and infinity. Very handy.
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  12. tomO2013

    tomO2013 TalkEmount Veteran

    Dec 11, 2014
    Robbie, Amin is absolutely right, I was wrong. It looks to be focus by wire. The reason I thought that it was full mechanical is because when you pull back the clutch the damping completely changes - unlike any focus by wire I've ever used. I genuinely felt that it was mechanical which is possibly the best praise I could give it. Now it didn't/doesn't feel like the best mechanical focus I've ever used, that honor would probably go to the Zeiss ZM Distagon for my needs, but all the same I felt that it truly behaved mechanical rather than fly by wire. Doing the simple test that Amin described pretty much confirms that it is fly by wire. I'm sorry if I mislead anybody. Not my intention. Human error.

    Back on the lens optics, I took it out for a test model shoot this last weekend for a friend who wanted me to help her get some modelling portfolio together. It worked out well cause I got some shots for myself out of it and practice too.

    I'll upload these later. The lens performed amazing just need to be aware of it's almost medium format sharpness and fall off to out of focus due to minimal field curvature.
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  13. ggibson

    ggibson TalkEmount Regular

    Sep 1, 2011
    Thanks for the reviews, Amin! Definitely interested to see more like these in the future. I'm happy to get the "hands-on" impressions in a short format like this. For suggestions that would be helpful to add--I'd be interested in any comments or image comparisons to other FE lenses, especially similar focal lengths if you have them. Seeing the Batis 85 compared to the 90 Macro, for example. Or the 35/1.4 vs. 35/2.8. If that sort of thing isn't possible, comparing new lens sizes to any other FE lenses and how they handle is at minimum helpful to know.
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  14. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
    Thanks, @ggibson@ggibson !

    I have the 35 Sonnar and 35 Loxia on the way with plans to compare them to the Distagon. Also will compare the Batis 85 and 90 Macro as soon as I can get my hands on the Batis. Other upcoming reviews include a couple lens reviews for APS-C, Zeiss 24 and Sony 50, as well as some samples and comparisons from the A7R II :th_salute:.
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  15. tomO2013

    tomO2013 TalkEmount Veteran

    Dec 11, 2014
    I had (very recently) the 35 Sonar 2.8, loxia 35 biogon and 35 Distagon all side by side. I have shots from all three in my collection... the big surprise for me was that I ended up sending back the loxia. I guess I just preferred the crisper rendering from the Sonar and Distagon. From a video perspective it's a fantastic lens and it's character works best there I feel. I'm a complete odd ball on this one I know - it's a bit like saying that you preferred a ferrari to a bugatti. Having said that, the handling of the biogon was amazing.
  16. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
    @tomO2013@tomO2013 - I don't think you're alone on that one. @Jman13@Jman13 recently reviewed the Loxia and had similar thoughts if I recall correctly. But if the Loxia is like the corresponding ZM lens, I'm gonna like it, because I like the 35/2 ZM a lot.
  17. Dane

    Dane New to TalkEmount

    Jul 7, 2015
    Great review! I'm not always interested in the super techy angle that some reviewers take, so I'm happy to see you giving real-world advice.
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  18. Alex66

    Alex66 TalkEmount Regular Subscribing Member

    Dec 23, 2014
    I would be very interested in a side by side review between this and the Batis, I am torn on one hand I love the way most Zeiss formula lenses look in the photographic print but then I do a bit of macro as well. So I am torn between the two that before I got the 55mm I was going to adapt a decent manual lens but hey I have the cash floating around so as I was saying to the wife about adapting a lens she said just go all in and get the best*. Having the 30mm aps is mostly satisfactory for the macro but if the 90 is as good to my eye then its worth considering. I was thinking of getting the money together for a PHD but will have enough for it by the time I get the proposal together and intend to start.

    *She normally says such things.
  19. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
    @Alex66@Alex66 I will definitely do that. We are lucky to have such support from our wives :).
  20. Amin Sabet

    Amin Sabet Administrator

    Aug 6, 2011
    Added link to end of the review for those who want to download the RAW files.
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