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Sony FE 40mm F2.5 G Review 2021

Sony is paying attention to a neglected focal length with its slim FE 40mm F2.5 G ($599.99). It’s an especially small prime, built for travel and packing light, with an angle of view that’s just a bit narrower than a 35mm lens. An aluminum barrel, weather protection, and tactile controls add to its appeal, as do optics that are sharp and focus close. It faces strong competition from the similar Sigma 45mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary, available for about $50 less, but it’s hard to argue with the results that either delivers. Like the Sigma lens, we’re giving the FE 40mm F2.5 G an Editors’ Choice award, and recommend it especially to photographers who have never warmed to a 35mm prime.

Compact G Concept

The FE 40mm is one of three new lenses from Sony, all with the same basic outward appearance. It sits in between the FE 24mm F2.8 G and FE 50mm F2.5 G in focal length, but all are housed in metal barrels, with (barely) enough room for hands-on controls.

Overall fit and finish is excellent, which is expected from a G series lens. It’s the branding Sony uses for midrange options, those better than basic, but not as high-end as the G Master (GM) lens series.

The FE 40mm is a slim lens, though not quite a pancake. It’s one of three 40mm designs for the Sony system, and is by far the most portable. The Sigma 40mm F1.4 DG HSM Art is a huge lens, originally built for SLRs, and while nobody would call the Zeiss Batis 40mm F2 big, it’s not exceptionally tiny either. Both cost about twice as much as the FE 40mm.

Sigma 45mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary vs. Sony FE 40mm F2.5 GSigma 45mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary vs. Sony FE 40mm F2.5 G

At just 1.8 by 2.7 inches (HD), 6.1 ounces, and around $600, the FE 40mm’s closest competitor is the Sigma 45mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary. The two lenses are millimeters apart in focal length and exterior dimensions, and are otherwise cut from the same cloth or, in this instance, aluminum.

Handling and Controls

Despite being quite slim, Sony manages to squeeze in a good amount of on-lens controls. There’s an aperture ring with the expected third-stop adjustment and, as is becoming expected for Sony glass, click-free operation for video. A programmable function button and AF/MF toggle switch are placed on the left side.

Sony FE 40mm F2.5 G

It’s lovely to have tactile control at your fingertips, but things do feel a little bit cramped. There’s not much separation between focus and aperture rings, so it’s a little too easy to nudge focus when setting the f-stop, admittedly only an issue if you’re not using autofocus. You can also set the aperture control to its A position; when you do the f-stop is set via the camera body.

Internal seals protect against dust and splashes, adding some appeal for travel. The front element omits an anti-smudge fluorine coat, but is quite small—it’d be tough to accidentally fingerprint it. You can opt to add a 49mm filter for protection, or use the included lens hood. It protrudes a bit, but does a good job protecting the front element.

Sony FE 40mm F2.5 G

Autofocus is quick and silent. The lens drives from its closest focus to infinity in a split second, and it does so without adding any noise to your video soundtrack. Manual focus is excellent, with a linear response, another plus for video.

Videographers will be disappointed by the visible breathing effect; the angle of view blooms as focus changes, for a mild visual zoom effect. It’s distracting and not ideal for moving pictures, which is a shame given how well suited the lens is for video otherwise. Conversely, the Sigma 45mm doesn’t offer a declickable f-stop and its ramped manual focus response isn’t as good for video, but it shows very little breathing.

Sony FE 40mm F2.5 G : Sample ImageSony a7R IV, f/2.5, 1/400-second, ISO 100

The FE 40mm focuses pretty close, to about 11 inches, good enough for 1:5.0 macro reproduction with autofocus. You can get a little bit closer when focusing manually, netting 1:4.2 results at best. It’s a useful working distance, but you can’t get quite as close as you can with the Zeiss Batis 40/2 CF (1:3.3) or Sigma 45mm (1:4).

Optical stabilization isn’t included, but it’s not an expected feature either. Sony’s current slate of full-frame models all include 5-axis stabilization. I had no problems getting crisp handheld images with 1/5-second exposures with an a7R IV camera.

In the Lab

I tested the FE 40mm F2.5 G with the 60MP a7R IV and software from Imatest. The pair puts up very good results at wider apertures (3,800 lines), with outstanding results in the center—that’s especially good news for photographers using APS-C cameras who may want to use the lens.

Sony FE 40mm F2.5 GSony a7R IV, f/4, 1/160-second, ISO 100

See How We Test Cameras and Lenses

Resolution jumps to excellent territory at f/4 (4,435 lines) and gets better and better as your narrow the f-stop. It peaks just shy of the 5,000 lines we consider outstanding at f/8 and f/11.

You’ll get a bit less detail at f/16, and diffraction scatters light noticeably at the smallest f/22 setting. You still may want to make images at f/22—the 7-blade aperture is rounded, so backgrounds are pleasing, but it does net decent sunstars at f/22.

Sony FE 40mm F2.5 G : Sample ImageSony a7R IV, f/2.5, 1/250-second, ISO 100

With results this good on a 60MP camera, you’ll enjoy excellent performance with a 24MP camera too, even if it’s one with a physically smaller APS-C format sensor. The FE 40mm will pair nicely with an a6400 or a6600.

The lens relies on some software corrections, as is common these days. They’re absolutely transparent, though. Distortion compensation is always on for this lens, and is applied to Raw photos. There’s a bit of a vignette if you turn off peripheral illumination correction, but leaving it turned on takes care of that too.

Sony FE 40mm F2.5 G : Sample ImageSony a7R IV, f/2.5, 1/160-second, ISO 100

Defocused highlights are circular toward the center of the frame, but give way to a cat’s eye effect when using the lens wide open or at f/2.8. Stopping down to f/4 rounds thing out, though the 7-blade aperture introduces some polygonal imperfection to circular highlights.

Old-School Outside, All the Comforts Inside

The FE 40mm F2.5 G is a fine addition to Sony’s ever-expanding library of mirrorless lenses. Its focal length sets it apart from a dozen competing 35mm primes, and its aluminum construction and aperture control ring make it feel a bit more like a classic lens—with all the comforts of modern technology inside.

Sony FE 40mm F2.5 G : Sample ImageSony a7R IV, f/5.6, 1/100-second, ISO 100

We like its slim, light build, and that it doesn’t make any great sacrifices to achieve its price. It’s sharp, focuses close, and draws photos with pleasingly defocused backgrounds.

There are some drawbacks: controls are a bit cramped, focus breathing is a little limiting for video, and bokeh is not quite G Master quality. Even so, the FE 40mm is a lens that can serve as your go-to prime, regardless of whether you’re a professional looking to carry something lighter or a hobbyist stepping up from the a7C’s bundled zoom lens.

As for alternatives, the Zeiss Batis 40mm F2 is there is if you love the focal length and don’t mind spending twice as much. If you’re trying to spend less, the Rokinon 45mm F1.8 AF has a wider aperture and sells for under $400, but isn’t nearly as well made.

Sony FE 40mm F2.5 G

The stiffest competition for your dollar comes from the Sigma 45mm F2.8 DG DN Contemporary. Its angle of view is fairly close, as do its general look and feel. It really comes down to a matter of personal preference; if your eye gravitates to a slightly wider frame, the FE 40mm F2.5 G is just a little more enticing. Both are fantastic lenses, and Editors’ Choice award winners.

Sony FE 40mm F2.5 G Specs

Dimensions 1.8 by 2.7 inches
Weight 6.1 oz
Filter Thread 49 mm
Mount Sony E
Focal Length (Wide) 40 mm
Optical Stabilization None
Focus Type Autofocus

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