In this review, I’ll share my thoughts on the Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS telephoto zoom lens for Sony E-mount. This is Sony’s only telephoto zoom offering for their lineup of crop-sensor bodies. Retailing for about $350 (U.S.), this lens is designed more for hobbyists than professionals. However, if may have a place in the bag for certain professional photographers. Continue reading to find out more! And overview video is also available at the bottom of the page.
Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS Specifications
- Minimum Aperture: f/22-32
- Maximum Aperture: f/4.5-6.3
- Format: ASP-C
- Field of view: 29°-7°40′
- Minimum Focus Distance: 3.28′ (1 m)
- Elements/Groups: 9/13
- Aperture Blades: 7
- Weight: 12.2 ounces (345 grams)
- Approximate Dimensions: 2.625 x 4.375 ” (63.8 x 108 mm)
- Filter size: 49mm
- MSRP (U.S.): $350.00
The Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS is a telephoto zoom lens specifically built for APS-C (crop-sensor) Sony E-mount mirrorless cameras. For its focal length, this lens has a small footprint. It weighs a few ounces short of a pound, and can fit into a coat pocket in most cases. When attached to a Sony APS-C mirrorless body, the balance is a little front heavy, but still reasonably comfortable.
This lens utilizes Sony’s Optical Steady Shot (OSS), which improves image sharpness when shooting handheld images. As this is a telephoto lens, the Optical Steady Shot image stabilization may not work below around 1/100 of a second (depending on focal length).
The lens comes with a nice lens hood, and front and end caps.
What I Like!
Let’s not pretend that a $350 lens will have top-notch build quality. However, I was surprised to find that the Sony 55-210 does have solid build quality that is almost on par with their Vario-Tessar 16-70mm f/4 that retails for $999. I was not expecting this!
Except for the focus and zoom rings, the entire body is metal, which is good to see. The focus and and zoom rings are plastic, which is fine by me. The plastic doesn’t look quite as nice, but functions just as well as metal for these features. Compared to Canon or Nikon dSLR lenses at this price point, the 55-210 definitely has above-average build quality.
Ease of Use
This isn’t a huge benefit, as almost any Sony e-mount lens is very easy to use. Regardless, I did enjoy the fact that I was able to pull this lens straight out of the box and start firing off shots. Manual focusing works well with the Sony alpha bodies, with a focusing distance scale appearing on screen as the focus knob is turned. The focus and zoom rings both turn smoothly, and the focus ring is nice and big, making it easy to grab a hold of while composing a photo.
Here was the biggest surprise: set the aperture to f/16 or smaller, and this lens produces really nice looking sunstars! Clean and symmetrical, these are much more attractive than the sunstars produced by the more expensive Vario-Tessar 16-70mm lens. In fact, the beautiful sunstars crafted by this lens have been my favorite part about shooting with the 55-210.
What I Dislike!
Poor sharpness is the biggest downfall of the Sony 55-210mm lens. It performs best at 55mm, and as you zoom in the sharpness degrades slightly. If you are a professional photographer, you may want to avoid this lens for this reason. However, sharpness is subjective, and some professionals may find the sharpness of this lens acceptable for their own applications.
Most novice photographers will find this lens sharp enough for their purposes, and as such I do think this a great lens for photographer that are not using their work for professional purposes.
You may want to look at the data for this lens at: dXo Mark
There other attributes to this lens that, given the price point, I see as neither positives or negatives, just factors you should also consider before purchasing this lens.
Size & Weight
Compared to many dSLR telephoto lenses, the 55-210 is a small lens. Of course, compared to lenses of similar price point and quality for Canon and Nikon dSLRs, it’s par for the course. Let’s take the Canon 55-250mm which weighs in at 13.76 oz / 390 g. This is just a hair more than the Sony 55-210mm, with similar dimensions.
However, it’s likely not possible to make a zoom lens of this focal range much smaller than this size. As such, this lens does maximize use of space and material, making for a lens that is incredibly mobile and fits well on the Sony APS-C bodies. As with most telephoto lenses, it is longer than it is wide, so it may feel a little front heavy. Regardless, I was able to carry this lens on my camera in my hand through numerous photo walks without growing tired.
At 55mm, this lens has its fastest aperture at f/4.5, which is rather narrow. If you shoot moving subjects (sports, wildlife, weddings, ect.), especially in low light, this may be problem as your shutter speeds may not be able to keep up with your subjects.
The Sony 55-210 has variable aperture that gets narrower as the lens zooms in. This is of concern if you plan on shooting video, as this can cause inconsistent exposure of the footage if you zoom in and out while filming. It is also a concern if you moving subjects (wildlife, sports, weddings, ect.) as the aperture is especially slow at the longer focal lengths.
If you shoot portraits, weddings, or any other style that includes blurring the background, know that this lens does have a harsh bokeh effect that is not incredibly attractive. Novice photographers may be okay with it, but working professionals will not.
I took the Sony 55-210 to the zoo to see how it would perform shooting wildlife. I did notice that the lens sometimes had a hard time picking up on prominent foreground subjects, and would instead focus on the background. In one particular case, I had to adjust the composition so that the subject was at the edge of the frame to get the autofocus to lock on it. The caveat here is that I did not change any of the autofocus settings in camera when this happened, and had I done so, perhaps the autofocus would have performed better.
That said, for the most part, I was happy with the performance of the autofocus on this lens.
The Bottom Line
Overall, the Sony 55-210mm f/4.5-6.3 OSS lens performed better than I expected. It’s obviously not a lens designed for professional work, but for a novice photographer, will function very well as an introductory telephoto lens. And while its sharpness may be an issue, I do think that professional landscape photographers that shoot still subjects may still want to consider this lens as a viable option for a lightweight telephoto lens on the Sony e-mount format. Portrait, wildlife, wedding, and sports photographers will have to look elsewhere.
Best Use for this Lens: Landscape Photography
Worst Uses for this Lens: Wildlife, Portrait, Sports, or Wedding Photography
Please feel free to leave your own thoughts or questions in the comments section at the bottom of this page!
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