Sony has finally released its new full-frame macro lens, the Sony SEL90M28G (FE 90mm F2.8 Macro G OSS) which fits my Sony Alpha 7R camera. Since I like macro photography but made do with the Marumi Achromat screw-on filters, I got this dedicated macro lens despite its hefty price tag.
There’s little difference in the best pictures I made with either macro filters or macro lens, but its greater efficiency yielded more good pictures. You don’t have to screw on or change filters, and you get better autofocus at close range. You don’t have to remove filters (or swap lenses) for a quick regular photo, either. Without close-range magnification the SEL90M28G acts as a fixed 90 mm lens, i.e. medium telephoto. So the main benefit is more opportunities for good shots due to greater flexibility and speed.
Was it worth it? When I first published this post (2015-08-09) I wrote “probably not,” but upon reviewing all my macro galleries as I switched them to self-hosting (2017-03-09) I must revise myself. Plenty of Marumi shots, already small selections from extensive tours, were not nearly as well-focused as I had recalled. The best Marumi shots are still great but the SEL90M24G produces the same quality much more reliably. So if you have the money it’s worth it.
Braving the oppressive heat, I went on a brief tour through the neighborhood to try out the new lens. You can find the best dozen shots in the gallery at the end of this post. Click on any picture for a full-screen gallery view with descriptions and Exif data. Note that I would usually have cropped some of these shots, but this time I kept the original sizes to clearly show the actual lens magnification.
2017-03-09: Moved gallery from Google Photos to my own host.
Observations & Tips
You can depress the shutter button halfway to start autofocus, then press all the way down while the lens is still attempting to focus. It will immediately take a picture once focus is found. (This probably works with all Sony lenses but it’s an especially nice trick for macro photography of moving objects.)
Make sure to move the distance selector on the lens to 0.5–0.28 meters (nearest setting) when shooting in that range! Sony’s autofocus is somewhat notoriously slow, at least on the A7R – the new A7R II is supposed to feature better and faster autofocus, among other things. When the macro lens was set to full range, I found it was frequently unable to focus at all on close objects.
With a macro lens, it’s important to keep in mind that the minimum focusing distance is measured from the image sensor, not from the front of the lens. The SEL90M28G’s MFD is 28 cm, and the manually selectable smaller distance range is 28–50 cm as noted above. However, since the lens itself is 12.5 cm long and the image sensor sits even further back, the actual practical distance at which I could focus (including autofocus) was somewhat over 10 cm from the front glass. Keep in mind that the upper end of the smaller distance range must be reduced accordingly as well.
Speaking of focus, you’ll generally want to enable autofocus on the lens and then use manual refocusing while autofocus is engaged. Again, that’s normal operation with Sony lenses but especially convenient on a macro lens where manual focusing can be laborious.