The SEL1855, also known as Sony NEX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 lens is currently the best lens for the NEX camera.

This might come up as a surprise since this is a kit lens. However, this lens really performs well for a kit lens’ standard.

Sony 18-55 NEX SEL1855

Lens Score (APS-C Sensor)
Optical Quality: (4 / 5)
Build Quality: (4 / 5)
Value for Money: (4 / 5)

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The best part is that this lens is usually sold in package with the Sony NEX camera so you can immediately enjoy it without having to spend additional money.

It will give you the equivalent of a 27-83mm full format lens when used with the NEX cameras.

The first thing that surprises me is the build quality. It is exceptionally well made for a kit lens. Rather than using cheap plastics, Sony used the magnesium alloy material which makes the build more solid.

In terms of optical performance, this lens is very sharp on the center. Borders are just OK, but still acceptable.

The problem with this lens lies only on two focal length: 18mm and 35mm. On those focal length, distortion and chromatic aberration are not well controlled.

They can easily be fixed in post processing though. Also, I don’t think this will matter for the majority of the crowd using this lens: photographers newbie who wants to step up from their compact camera.

In conclusion, I would say that this lens is very good for the money and should be in every NEX user’s camera bag.

See my full, in-depth SEL1855 review below.

Technical Specs

Official Name:
Sony NEX 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 SEL1855

Focal Length Markings:
18, 24, 28, 35 and 55mm

Features:
NEX – Only compatible with Sony NEX camera. Not compatible with Sony Alpha DSLR camera whether its cropped sensor or full frame.

OSS – Optical Steady Shot – Sony’s In Lens Image Stabilization technology. Usually Sony installed the Image Stabilization on the camera body. However, to keep the camera size small, they decided to move it to the lens for all NEX cameras.

Full Technical Specs (from Sony’s website):

Technical Specifications
Groups / Elements 9 / 11
Angle of View 76 – 29
Number of Blade Diaphragm 7
Minimum Aperture f/22-32
Minimum Focusing Distance 9.8″ (0.25m)
Filter Thread 49mm
Weight 10oz (295g)
Dimension (Diameter x Length) 2 7/16 X 2 3/8″ (62 X 60mm)
Macro Magnification Ratio 0.3X

Optical Performance

Sharpness

I am quite surprised to see that this kit lens is very sharp on the center. Sharpness is excellent throughout the whole aperture range at any focal length.

On the borders, it won’t be the same as on the center, but still very acceptable for a kit lens.

The maximum sharpness on this lens is at f/8.

Sharpness Scale (from Best to Worst):
(5) Excellent
(4) Great
(3) Good
(2) Fair
(1) Poor

Center Sharpness

Focal Length / Aperture f/3.5-4.5 f/5.6 f/8 f/11
18mm Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent
24mm Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent
35mm Excellent Excellent Excellent Excellent
55mm n/a Excellent Excellent Excellent

Border Sharpness

Focal Length / Aperture f/3.5-4.5 f/5.6 f/8 f/11
18mm Good Good Good Good
24mm Good Good Good Good
35mm Good Good Great Great
55mm n/a Good Great Great

Distortion

Being a kit lens, distortion is not controlled very well.

There is a strong barrel distortion at 18mm. At 24mm distortion can be neglected.

However, at 35mm there is a strong pincushion distortion. At 55mm it turns to moderate.

See the distortion test image grid for this SEL1855 lens below.

Distortion Test at 18mm

Distortion Test at 18mm

Distortion Test at 24mm

Distortion Test at 24mm

Distortion Test at 35mm

Distortion Test at 35mm

Distortion Test at 55mm

Distortion Test at 55mm

Vignetting

Vignetting is only visible at 18mm at any aperture. However, it is not so heavy that it cannot be corrected in post processing.

At other focal length, namely 24mm, 35mm and 55mm vignetting is very well controlled and can be neglected safely.

See my vignetting test chart for the SEL1855 lens below.

Vignetting Test at 18mm

Vignetting Test at 18mm

Vignetting Test at 24mm

Vignetting Test at 24mm

Vignetting Test at 35mm

Vignetting Test at 35mm

Vignetting Test at 55mm

Vignetting Test at 55mm

Chromatic Aberration

Chromatic aberration is only apparent at the two problem focal length: 18mm and 35mm.

At 18mm vignetting figures are interestingly high when stopped away from the widest aperture.

At 35mm, this pattern repeats.

For the 24mm and 55mm, vignetting is very well controlled to a degree that it can be neglected safely.

See the chromatic aberration for the SEL1855 lens below.

Chromatic Aberration Scale (from Best to Worst):
(5) Negligible
(4) Very Low
(3) Low
(2) High
(1) Very High

Chromatic Aberration

Focal Length / Aperture f/3.5-4.5 f/5.6 f/8 f/11
18mm Low Very High Very High Very High
24mm Low Very Low Very Low Low
35mm Low High Very High Very High
55mm n/a Negligible Negligible Negligible

Build Quality

Materials

You might expect the build quality to be cheap since this is a kit lens. However, this is not the case. Sony used magnesium alloy in this lens and the overall build is quite solid and tight.

Although the inner lens tube wobbles slightly when tested, I would say that overall, the build quality is very well for a kit lens.

Zoom Ring

Zoom ring is pretty smooth and responsive. The lens extend when zooming towards the telephoto range, which is quite common among kit lens.

The front filter element does not rotate so using a polarizing filter will be quite easy.

Focusing

Autofocus performance is pretty quick and accurate, a typical characteristics for any contrast detection system.

It is also silent. The Direct Manual Focusing (DMF) feature familiar in most Sony Alpha lenses are also available on this lens.

Image Stabilization

The NEX camera is somewhat different from the Sony Alpha DSLR. The Image Stabilization is installed on the lens and not on the body on Sony NEX camera.

This lens feature the OSS – Optical Steady Shot – which is Sony’s Image Stabilization technology. From the test I would say it is quite good and can even beat the Panasonic Mega O.I.S lenses.

Compatibility

Being an NEX lens, this lens is only compatible with Sony NEX camera. It is not compatible with any Sony DSLR camera either full frame or cropped sensor format.

Sample Image

Below are some sample images taken with this SEL1855 lens.

Sample Image 1

Sample Image 1

Sample Image 2

Sample Image 2

Sample Image 3

Sample Image 3

Sample Image 4

Sample Image 4

Sample Image 5

Sample Image 5

Conclusion

Now we have arrived at the conclusion of this Sony 18-55 NEX SEL1855 lens review.

For a kit lens, I would say that this SEL1855 lens perform very well.

You can’t compare this lens to professional lens out there of course. In the lens world, you really get what you pay for.

That being said, this lens is decent enough for beginning photographers who are looking for a much better image quality compared to small compact camera.

Sharpness on the center is very good. Borders won’t match the center sharpness, but still on the acceptable range.

Optical defect on this lens is only apparent on 18mm and 35mm which I refer to as the problem focal length.

On both focal length, the distortion and chromatic aberration is quite high. Vignetting is only high on the 18mm focal length, but can be safely neglected at the other focal length.

Overall, despite all the shortcomings, I would say that this lens is still the best lens for the Sony NEX cameras at the moment.

Drawbacks

  • Barrel distortion is apparent at 18mm
  • Pincushion distortion is apparent at 35mm
  • Vignetting is slightly apparent at 18mm at any aperture
  • Borders are acceptable, but not great at every focal length at any apertures

Positives

  • Very sharp on the center at any aperture and focal length
  • Great vignetting control (except at 18mm)
  • Good build quality for a kit lens
  • Zoom ring is smooth and responsive
  • Autofocusing is fast, silent and accurate
  • OSS – Sony’s Image Stabilization technology works very well and can even beat Panasonic’s Mega O.I.S
  • Excellent value for money

Good For

  • Stay-on-the-camera lens for NEX camera
  • General photography purpose

Not So Good For

  • Any kind of specialized or serious photography shooting such as Macro, Sports, etc.

What Others Are Saying…

by “Bigyuyo”

Excelent Companion for the NEX Sony Camera. A MUST HAVE! The lens is very light despite the size, very sharp image, focus and zoom handle is very comfortable. Images are sharp as any other sony lens…
Click here to see the full review

by “P. J. Conlon”

This lens is the standard kit zoom lens sold with Sony NEX cameras. It’s the incredibly common zoom range of 18-55mm, and so is unremarkable in that respect…
Click here to see the full review

Where to Buy

Sony 18-55 NEX SEL1855

Lens Score (APS-C Sensor)
Optical Quality: (4 / 5)
Build Quality: (4 / 5)
Value for Money: (4 / 5)

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Below are some links that you can use to get the best online deal for this lens:

Alright, as a final words on this post, I’d like to thank you for checking out my SEL1855 review, hope you’ve enjoyed it and I will see you in the next one!

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