Lens Test: Sony DT 18–55mm f/3.5–5.6 SAM AF

This kit zoom is among the sharpest and least distorting of Sony’s DT family of DSLR optics.


This new entry level wide-to-moderate-tele kit zoom ($200, street) was unveiled with the Sony Alpha 230, 330, and 380 cameras and is designed for APS-scaled sensors. A 27–82mm full-frame equivalent, it boasts Sony’s relatively new Smooth AF Motor (SAM).

HANDS ON: Slightly more compact than comparable kit zooms from Canon, Nikon, and Pentax, it cast no shadow at any focal length when used with the A330's built-in flash. It sports Sony's Zeiss-inspired extra-fine ribbing on the zoom ring, which, like the manual-focusing ring, has a smooth and adequately damped turning action. Both rings are clad in rubber—unusual for a kit lens. Like most others in this class, however, the lens has no hood or distance and depth-of-field scales. Nor does it have a nonrotating filter ring, making some lens-mounted filters and accessories hard to use. On an A330 body, AF was fast, accurate, and virtually silent.

IN THE LAB: SQF tests of resolution and contrast produced results in the Excellent range at three tested focal lengths—about what we expected.

DxO Analyzer Version 3.2 tests found Visible barrel distortion at 18mm (0.50%), and Imperceptible pincushion distortion (0.02%) at 35mm and 55mm. Strong numbers, but, again, average by today’s standards, and near matches to those of Canon and Nikon’s wide-angle kit zooms. Light falloff left the edges by f/5.6 at 18mm, and we saw no visible vignetting at 35mm or 55mm. This is significantly better than the comparable Canon and Nikon lenses, which vignetted at all focal lengths.

Maximum subject magnification ratios at the constant close-focusing distance of approximately 9 inches were 1:6.7 at 18mm, 1:3.67 at 35mm, and 1:2.37 at 55mm. Good news for close-up fans.

CONCLUSIONS: This kit zoom is among the sharpest and least distorting of Sony's DT family of DSLR optics. That it's also the least expensive just adds to its attraction.