In this hands on review of the Sony E-Mount 20mm f/2.8 Pancake Lens (sel20f28), I will show you everything you need to see, using real world photography and my Sony Nex-6.
The Sony SEL20F28 lens is a very thin giving it the well deserved “Pancake” badge. It’s only 13/16 inches (20.4mm) thick which is actually 2mm shorter than the SEL16F28. It weighs in at a very slim 2.4 oz (69g), and is housed in a quality metal exterior with a smooth black finish. The interior is made up of a molded plastic that is extremely lightweight yet durable and ridged. For smooth and quite autofocus, the lens utilizes a stepping motor. That same type of stepping motor is also used for controlling the 7-blade circular aperture mechanism, so you can change the aperture while recording movies with no noise. The 35mm focal length equivalent when you account for the crop factor is ~ 30mm.
The E-mount 20mm F2.8 lens is packing three aspherical lens elements which correct distortions and aberrations. Image quality in corners has been dramatically improved compared to the 16mm f/2.8 lens, as it only has one aspherical lens surface.With a 20mm focal length (35mm equivalent 30mm) and a bright maximum aperture of f/2.8, the SEL20F28 is ideal for a variety of photography such as landscapes, street and urban scenes, and low light indoor family fun. The Sony E-Mount 20mm f/2.8 Pancake Lens (sel20f28) goes for ~$348 US.
I used my Sony Nex-695% of the time for all the photography you will see here, but I did used the Sony Nex-3n for the photo of Howells Cafe, and for a model in the product photography section of this review.
Let’s take a closer look at the Sony E-Mount 20mm f/2.8 Pancake lens first, then some sample photos, followed up by some test shots and the conclusion 😉
Here she is with no lens hood exposing the 49mm filter threads.
Original Sigma E-Mount 19mm Lens vs Sony 20mm E-Mount Lens
Max: f/2.8 Min: f/22
Focal Length (35mm equivalent)
6 groups, 6 elements
AF for Movie Capture
Minimum Focus Distance
7 blades (Circular aperture)
3 aspheric surface
Direct Manual Focus
Focus Ring in AF Mode
Yes (Stepping motor)
Low Noise During Movie Capture
Non-rotating Focusing Ring
Dimensions (Diameter x Length)
2.5 x 0.8″ (62.6 x 20.4mm)
2.4 oz (69g)
Converter Lens Support:
The Sony converter lenses that are available for the E 16mm f/2.8 lens are also compatible with this E 20mm f/2.8 lens which is awesome! Check out the converter lens review below and consider expanding your creative potential with this 20mm lens for a reasonable amount of money.
Real World Sample Photos
I took a bunch of sample photos over the past few weeks with the Sony E-Mount 20mm f/2.8 Pancake Lens (SEL20F28), and I must say it performs really well. See for yourself below, and be sure to click on the 100% crops as well as the full size images for the much larger and crisp high res versions. Photo Exif details just below each image.
Some brick up close.
The rain has really been coming down lately which means the spillways are flowing nicely. I used the Auto HDR feature for this next photo and was hand-holding.
A few more angles from the spillway scene.
Lastly I took this landscape snapshot of a impressive beaver dam operation in progress. The dam can’t keep up with the current rain, but it’s really cool to see nature engineering at work.
First the whole scene so you can see where the 100% Crops are coming from. I used a tripod and 2 second timer for all these test photos. I also shot Raw quality, aperture priority mode, ISO 100, average metering, and added no sharpening beyond the default settings.
With some sharpness added the raw files would crisp up significantly. Looking at the entire test scene, you can see the barrel distortion pretty clearly on the horizontal top row of windows, but the perspective distortion is very well controlled as it relates to the vertical lines.
I added the lens profile correction to this same image below, so you can see the difference. Again, note the curved horizontal lines in the image above vs the straight horizontal lines image below.
100% Crop Test Shots
Since I was shooting raw quality for these test shots I applied the lens correction profile in Lightroom and added medium contrast tone curve adjustment. This is really the bare minimum that needs to be done for a raw file, but you can go way further with sharpening, saturation, ect…
The E-Mount 20mm f/2.8 pancake lens has much better corner sharpness than the 16mm f/2.8 lens. It does suffer from some noticeable vignetting at f/2.8, but that is easily fixable in post, and I personally don’t mind it normally. Sharpness is pretty consistent across the apertures, although f/5.6 seems to be the sharpest overall. The bottom line is this: You’re getting a better quality lens than the 16mm E-Mount if you want to compare one to the other. It’s significantly better in fact, and the higher price of $348 is pretty well justified in my opinion.
I was hoping the lack of OSS would make the price a little lower, but Sony went for several quality optical elements which really makes a difference in the real world, and costs money. It seems a bit expensive though when you consider the Sigma 19mm f/2.8 is only $199, and has about the same, if not better, sharpness, but the Sigma focus is not as smooth or quiet as the Sony 20mm lens. The SEL20F28 is also really slim compared to the Sigma and has better IQ. That is where the extra cash factors in. Sony could have made the lens cheaper, but at the cost of corner sharpness, distortion, and aberrations. The bokeh is nothing really special, but pleasant enough, and does offer nice separation from the background if your very close to your subject. The green tuft of grass in the spillway scene comes to mind 😉
I recommend the Sony E-Mount 20mm F/2.8 Pancake Lens for those in the market for a quality ultra slim wide angle lens. It’s performance and build quality back up the price in my opinion, and in the real world the lens was a pleasure to use. I also like the included lens hood and how the lens cap snaps into that. A smart design by keeping the lens cap further away from the lens glass. Plus, when you want to use a lens filter you can take off the lens hood for a clean 49mm thread connection.
I hope you got what you looking for out of my Sony E-Mount 20mm f/2.8 Lens (SEL20F28) Review. Please feel free to ask questions or comment below as I enjoy the Q&A! Thanks again for your support, and please consider using the links SonyAlphaLab if you plan on shopping 😉 Jay
The bottom line is this: You're getting a significantly better quality lens than the E 16mm f/2.8 lens if you want to compare one to the other. The corner sharpness is far superior which makes the higher price totally justified in my opinion. In addition the converter lenses will also work on this lens, just like the E 16mm f/2.8 lens.