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A common complaint with Sony's NEX camera system is the size lenses need to be due to the large APS-C sized imaging sensor. This new E16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens may be the answer to that issue. It uses a collapsible design and a powered zoom mechanism and only protrudes from the body by 29.9mm when it is collapsed. On top of this, it also sports an optical stabilisation system and a field of view equivalent to a 24-75mm lens on a 35mm camera for quite a reasonable price of around £310.
Does the compact size and low price mean Sony have compromised elsewhere? We'll investigate in this review.
Sony NEX-6 camera used for testing.
As the lens collapses to save space when the camera is switched off, there is a delay of around three seconds as the lens extends before pictures can be taken. This may not be an issue for some, but those who are used to being able to take shots almost instantly may find this frustrating, as shots are missed waiting for the lens to extend.
Once the lens is extended, auto focus is very fast and accurate and the power zoom control located on the left side of the lens is easy to operate. Manual focus adjustments are reasonably easy to apply, thanks to the smooth action of the focusing ring. Although the focusing ring is smooth, it isn't very well damped, which means fine adjustments can sometimes be tricky to apply. Minimum focus varies between 25cm and 30cm, depending on the zoom setting.
As focusing is performed internally, the 40.5mm filter ring does not rotate, which makes the lens ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters. No hood is supplied as standard with the lens.
Thanks to the optical stabilisation system, sharp hand-held images can be taken at shutter speeds as slow as 1/10sec with the zoom set to 50mm. This is roughly three stops slower than the usual rule of thumb for hand-held photography would allow.
Zooming to 28mm results in a slight drop in sharpness in the centre of the frame, but improvements are made towards the edges at maximum aperture, where clarity reaches good levels. Just the same as at 16mm peak sharpness is achieved between f/5.6 and f/8 for this focal length.
Finally, at 50mm overall sharpness is reduced further, as is common with many zoom lenses. Even so, sharpness is still very good in the centre of the frame at maximum aperture, and very good across the frame at f/8.
Resolution @ 28mm
Resolution @ 50mm
How to read our chartsThe blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges. Averaging them out gives the red weighted column.
The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution. The taller the column, the better the lens performance. Simple.
For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony NEX-6 using Imatest.
Chromatic aberrations are well controlled, barely exceeding half a pixel width at most apertures and focal lengths. CAs just exceed three quarters of a pixel width towards the edges of the frame with the lens stopped to f/22 throughout the zoom range and at maximum aperture at 50mm. On the whole, fringing shouldn't pose too many issues, but care may need to be taken with high contrast subjects when using f/22 or shooting at 50mm and f/5.6.
Chromatic aberration @ 16mm
Chromatic aberration @ 28mm
Chromatic aberration @ 50mm
How to read our chartsChromatic aberration is the lens' inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.
Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc. to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.
For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony NEX-6 using Imatest.
Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is reasonable for a lens with a slow maximum aperture. At 16mm the corners of the frame are 1.6 stops darker than the image cetre and visually uniform illumination is achieved with the aperture stopped down to f/5.6. At 50mm the corners are only 1.1 stops darker than the image centre and visually uniform illumination is achieved with the aperture closed down to f/8.
Distortion is well controlled for a lens of this type. Peculiarly, stronger barrel distortion is present at 50mm than could be detected at 16mm. Imatest detected 0.875% barrel distortion at 16mm and 1.86% at 50mm. If absolutely straight lines are required, you'll be glad to know that the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which should make applying corrections in image editing software afterwards relatively straightforward.
Although this lens is reasonably resistant to flare, shooting into the light can result in contrast being visibly reduced. Due to the compact design of the lens, no lens hood is supplied, as this would make the lens more bulky.
Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS Sample Photos
Wide-angle | 1/160 sec | f/6.3 | 16.0 mm | ISO 100
Telephoto | 1/100 sec | f/6.3 | 50.0 mm | ISO 100
Contrast can be reduced when shooting into the light | 1/60 sec | f/5.0 | 32.0 mm | ISO 200
Minimum focus distance varies between 25cm and 30cm depending on the zoom setting | 1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 50.0 mm | ISO 1000
1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 45.0 mm | ISO 800
1/60 sec | f/5.6 | 36.0 mm | ISO 1000
1/80 sec | f/5.6 | 16.0 mm | ISO 100
1/60 sec | f/3.5 | 16.0 mm | ISO 320
Value for MoneyThe price of around £310 seems quite reasonable for a newly developed lens. Although it may be £90 dearer than the 18-55mm standard kit lens, the compact dimensions and 24mm equivalent field of view at the wide end of the zoom range mean this lens represents decent value for money, if either of those features appeal to you.
The compact size alone may make this lens a compelling choice for NEX camera owners, but may also be a curse for some due to the delay the collapsible lens system causes when the camera is switched on.
If portability is the main concern for a standard zoom, Sony NEX cameras owners can't really go wrong with this lens.
|The Sony E16-50mm standard zoom kit lens performs well for its price.
Sony E16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS ProsGood build quality
Compact when collapsed
Effective optical stabilisation
Sony E16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS ConsCollapsible design adds a delay between switching on the camera and being able to taken an image
Loss of contrast when shooting into the light
|VALUE FOR MONEY|
Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS Specifications
|Focal Length||16mm - 50mm|
|Angle of View||32° - 83°|
|Max Aperture||f/3.5 - f/5.6|
|Min Aperture||f/22 - f/36|
|35mm equivalent||24mm - 75mm|
|Box Contents||Lens cap, lens rear cap.|