The Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens ($799.99 direct) is a telephoto prime that is capable of focusing on objects that are as little as 14.4 inches from its front element. It can be used with both full-frame and APS-C Sony D-SLR cameras, providing a 150mm-equivalent field of view on the latter. The lens weighs in at 1 pound, 2 ounces and uses 55mm front filters. It ships with a circular lens hood.
The 100mm f/2.8 Macro is capable of 1:1 magnification and offers a number of features that come in handy when working up close. A focus limiter makes it possible to limit the ranges over which the lens hunts for focus during autofocus, giving you the option of focusing on close objects, distant objects, or hunting for focus over the lens’s entire range. A dedicated button makes it possible to lock focus at a specific point, and when used in autofocus mode the lens’s focusing ring does not move—making it possible to get a better grip on the lens for hand-held work.
The lens uses a screw drive system to adjust focus, which is a bit noisy. Because its design requires it to extend a relatively far distance when focusing close, using the lens in autofocus mode can be a slow process. If you’re in need of a faster-focusing macro lens, consider the Sigma 150mm F2.8 EX DG OS HSM APO Macro—it’s more expensive, but has an internal focus motor and a longer focal length so that you can work a bit further away from your subject and still achieve 1:1 magnficiation.
Macro lenses are optimized for close focus work, and renowned for sharpness and a lack of distortion. This 100mm is no different, as it scored quite well on image quality in Imatest. When attached to the full-frame Sony Alpha 99 the lens was able to record 1,913 lines per picture height at f/2.8, 2,060 lines at f/4, and 2,207 lines at f/5.6. A score of 1,800 lines is used to denote a very sharp image, which the lens exceeds at all tested apertures. As you would expect from a macro lens, there is virtually no distortion.
The Sony 100mm f/2.8 Macro Lens is a perfectly fine macro lens. Its price is not out of line for its optical quality, and it produces sharp images throughout its aperture range. The only real complaint is the focus speed and noise. If you’re shooting a subject that may be disturbed by the sound, like an insect, it’s best to switch to manual focus. If you are in a situation where you’re using it to shoot objects at a standard distance, the focus limiter will help speed performance, but you shouldn’t expect the lens to lock on as quickly as one with an internal focus motor.
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