Sony E 35mm f/1.8 OSS vs Fujifilm FUJINON XF 35mm F2 R WR

In this post I compare the Sony 35mm F/1.8 OSS with the Fuji 35mm F/2 WR lens. Both lenses are for APS-C mirrorless system cameras, they feature the same focal length, virtually the same maximum aperture and they come for a comparable price. There are of course numerous differences to talk about. The Sony has image stabilization while the Fuji offers some level of weather resistance. But the biggest difference is of course lies on the camera system they respectively belong to.

I think it is a good idea to have a deep look into the lens lineup of any system before committing to one. Since I have currently both lenses in my household, I decided to compare them to help those who are considering these systems.

Flawed methodology

It is important to note that despite all my efforts this comparison is inherently flawed.

On Sony side I can use an ancient 16MP Sony Nex 6. While I mount the Fuji lens to the more recent 24MP Fuji XT-2. The resolution difference makes it hard to compare the images side by side at 100%. This could be a slight advantage for the Sony lens because it needs to resolve a bit lower resolution image.

On the flip side the Fuji clearly benefits from the newer generation sensor technology and image processor and of course from the lack of the anti-aliasing filter.

A more even playing field would be if I would be able to use a Sony Alpha 6300 for the comparison, but unfortunately, I don’t have that camera in my bag.

But of course, resolving power is only one parameter of a lens. Contrast, distortion control, flare resistance, bokeh and overall user experience can be compared good despite the differences of the cameras.
Because of a completely scientific comparison was not possible I have not attempted to execute one. I have not shot test charts and brick walls, but I have tried to measure them up against each other in situations in which I normally use these lenses. I also gathered quite some personal user experience with these lenses and thus I can share that as well.


Build and handing 

The Sony lens is very minimalistic in design. It is basically an almost perfect cylinder with very little variations in diameter. There are no external controls on the lens, apart from the focus ring.

The lens is metal (probably aluminum) from the outside, but it is likely to be plastic from the inside. This combination of materials makes the lens very lightweight (154g) and adequate in terms of quality feel. This is indeed a very compact and lightweight little lens despite the relatively big maximum aperture and image stabilization. The compact size and the fast aperture made this lens our primary lens on the Sony Nex 6 over 4 years now.

Both the rear and the front lens caps worn off or broke during this period under moderate family use. I am not very concerned about this as caps can be easily replaced, but it is a bit unfortunate. (The same happened with caps of the 50mm f/1.8 lens as well).

The included lens hood is a petal shaped plastic piece which does its job, but we just stopped using it as it adds to the size and flaring was never in our way with this lens. The filter thread is 49mm which is shared with the already mentioned 50mm f/1.8 lens.

The Fuji lens has a more traditional look with multiple different levels of diameters reducing towards the end. It has a physical aperture ring as well as the focus ring. Because the lens is weather resistant, it has a small rubber gasket at the mount. This lens is also made of metal and it is just as compact as the Sony. It weighs a tiny bit more (154g Sony vs 170g Fuji). Because of this small weight difference and probably because of the tighter and better sealed focus ring the Fuji lens feels more solid to me. The lens caps feel better made as well although I cannot tell yet if they will hold better on the long run.

There is a small screw in plastic lens hood included which I also rarely use, and a nicer looking but pricey metal hood is available separately. The filter thread is 43mm.

Lens mounts 

This has nothing to do with these 2 lenses, but I could not notice the similarities between the lens mounts when taking the pictures about these lenses. I have done a quick research and from the specifications point of view these mounts are very similar indeed. There is a minimal difference in diameter and flange distance. They both have 10 electronic connectors and a similar bayonet with the biggest difference in the angle of the configuration. Even the position of the screws at the back of the lenses are very similar. I am sure that the way the communication between camera and lens is implemented quite differently. It is just an interesting observation which leaves me wondering about a world where these systems are compatible just like in the M43 system and I could test both on the same camera.  

Maker Mount Flange focal distance (mm) Outer diameter (mm) Frame size (mm)
Sony E-mount 18 46.1 35.9×24.0, 23.6×15.6
Fujifilm X-mount 17.7 44 23.6×15.6

Source: Wikipedia

Focus

Both lenses feature an internal focusing mechanism, they don’t extend while focusing. Both lenses are virtually silent when focusing, no noise will be picked up by the internal mic of the camera.

I cannot compare focus speed of the lenses because of the very different camera bodies, but I can give generic observations.

The Sony 35mm one of the first lens which could utilize the phase detect autofocus of the Nex 6 and newer cameras with the stock firmware already. This lens focuses the fastest from our 3 Sony lenses among the 18-55 KIT zoom and the extremely sluggish 50mm f/1.8. It is not a speed demon by any means, but it is alright in good light. Note that running kids will give a hard time for the lens when paired with the Nex 6 or older cameras. I expect to have significantly better performance on a 6300 though.

The Fuji 35mm f/2 have no issues track running kids with high hit rate on the XT-2. I suspect that the result would be a lot worse on an X-Pro1 as focusing is not only depending on the lens. All in all, I am quite happy to use this lens with area tracking mode while the Sony (on my current body) is limited to center focus point and single shoot

Specialties

The Sony lens features optical steady shoot. I can confirm it working by sticking my ear to the lens while half pressing the shutter. It is quite nice when shooting video, but for stills I see little benefit for a 35mm lens.

The Fujinon lens is weather sealed which means it can take some splashes and probably light rain when paired with a similarly sealed body. I have used the lens in heavy snow fall and in some very light rain but honestly, I am trying not to rely on the weather sealing. It is always a slippery territory to judge what is still considered as a light rain. I take it as the lens would be not sealed at all and enjoy the better feel of the built.

Optical design

SONY E 35MM F/1.8 OS FUJIFILM FUJINON XF 35MM F2 R WR
Focal length F=35mm (35mm format equivalent: of 52.5 mm) f=35mm (35mm format equivalent: 53mm)
Angle of view 44° 44.2°
Max. Aperture F/1.8 F/2
Lens configuration 8 elements 6 groups (includes two aspherical and an Extra-low Dispersion element) 9 elements 6 groups (includes two aspherical elements)

The Sony lens has a very unusual concave front element with a surprisingly small diameter. It is hard to believe that it is a f/1.8 lens, but it checks out. The light gathered and the bokeh is both confirming the large aperture.

Wide open

For me, the wide open or close to wide open performance is the most interesting.  I expect good performance from any modern lens when stopped down to f/5.6 and not surprisingly these lenses are delivering excellent results on smaller apertures. On the other hand, wide open is where the character of a lens shows up. The depth of field is the smallest and the bokeh is the most prevalent especially when the subject is close to the camera. But also, this is the point where aberrations are the hardest to be kept under control.

In general, the Sony is a bit soft wide open and shows an average amount of chromatic aberration. Things get already better at f/2 and even more so from f/2.2.

Sony 35mm f/1.8 @f/2
Fuji 35mm f/2 @f/2

I have not much to complain about the Fuji lens.  Images are looking great even at the widest aperture. There is no noticeable softness, coma or other nasty things, and I had to work hard to find situation extreme enough to be able to produce color fringing.

I had no problems with distortion or vignetting with any of these lenses, but I rarely shoot subjects where it would be a problem anyways. Note that according to some sources the Fuji uses in camera magic to correct these issues while the Sony lens does not require such methods.

The right side with the bigger image is from the higher megapixel Fuji camera. Notice the difference of purple fringing at the contour of the face.

It seems that the Fuji also suffered from CA at the edges, but software helped out and desecrated the problematic part thus we can see a dark line at the contour of my shoulder. The Sony just left the lovely psychedelic color mix in place.

Bokeh

The amount and quality of background blur is very comparable of these lenses. The Sony is tiny bit smoother when shoot wide open but on matching apertures the amount of blur is basically the same.

The Fuji has a bit swirl effect if the background allows it to show up which gives some character to the lens.

Sony 35mm f/1.8 @f/1.8
Sony 35mm f/1.8 @f/2
Fuji 35mm f/2 @f/2

Perhaps the biggest difference in terms of bokeh between these two lenses is the amount of color fringing rendered in the out of focus areas. The Fuji have almost no visible color artifacts in the blurred area behind the plane of focus. In contrast the Sony shows some green and purple outlines around bokeh balls when photographing scenes with foliage in the background. Again, the difference is not very big, and I have no way to tell that it is the result of clever software or superior optical design, but this type of aberrations are harder to correct seamlessly with software.

Fuji on the left, Sony on the right

Conclusion and recommendations

Overall both lenses are quite capable, but I find the Fujinon more consistent. While the Sony creates great results for the most part there are occasions when the image falls apart when shoot at f/1.8. It might be due to focusing issues which are not so uncommon with older Nex cameras or because of the many knocks this little lens received during the years.  This is just my observation based on the very small sample size of 1. There is already less of a difference if I consider the Sony as an f/2 lens. It is probably not the highest priority for Fuji to be faster than f/2 in this case as there is an f/1.4 version available for the same focal length.
Both lenses are quite nice, I can recommend both while mentioning some strength and weaknesses.

For still shooters I would recommend the Fujinon because it performs better wide open with less CA and if f/2 would not be enough there is always the f/1.4 version to switch to.

For video shooters the Sony is clearly the better option because of the image stabilization and on video resolutions the softness wide open might not an issue.

If you already committed to one of these systems and want to get a nice 35mm lens these lenses would be on top of my list. The differences of these 2 lenses would not justify the system switch to me in any direction. On Sony side there is a slower Sigma and a pricier Zeiss alternative, while on the Fuji lineup there is the faster, but bulkier and louder f/1.4 version and the same Zeiss Touit as the E mount version.

Samples Sony

Samples Fuji

2 thoughts on “Sony E 35mm f/1.8 OSS vs Fujifilm FUJINON XF 35mm F2 R WR”

  1. Very interesting write up. I like that your Praktiflex got in on the act. I happen to hate Fuji as a company, so Sony all the way for me. Thanks for sharing the test.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t hate any camera brand… But I got rid of my Sony (inclusive the 35mm f/1.8 OSS) because of the high ISO noise, say from ISO 800. Viewing 1:1 Sony gives you some sort of coarse sandpaper while Fuji’s noise is like a very fine polishing paper. Love it!

    Like

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