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Sony SEL P 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Lens Review

Gary Wolstenholme reviews the Sony SEL P 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS lens designed for use with Sony NEX system cameras.

|  Sony E PZ 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS in Interchangeable Lenses
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Handling and features
Sony 18 200 Pz Oss (2)

This lens is an 11.1x zoom lens covering wide angle to super telephoto focal lengths designed for use with Sony NEX system cameras. This lens provides an angle of view equivalent to a 27-300mm lens used on a 35mm camera and sports optical stabilisation, silent focusing and the option to adjust the zoom with a built in servo motor, which should make this lens ideal for recording video. It costs around £1000 - we'll take a closer look at whether the performance of this lens justifies the high price.
Sony 18 200 Pz Oss (3)

Sony SEL P 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Handling and features

As far as build quality is concerned, the way this lens is put together is a cut above Sony's other super-zoom offerings for their NEX cameras. Extensive use of aluminium, coated in a tough black textured finish provides an excellent impression of quality with this lens. It is quite a large lens and it weighs around 649g, which can make it a little cumbersome when combined with some of the more compact NEX camera bodies. The deep finger grip on the Sony NEX-5R used for testing does help to balance the lens better with the camera.

Auto focus is fast and accurate in all but the darkest of lighting conditions. The manual focus and zoom rings are both well damped, which makes applying adjustments by hand a pleasure. A fairly large box on the bottom of the lens contains the mechanism for zoom servo and large switches on the side of the lens are easy to operate. The servo's main function is to provide smooth zoom effects when shooting video.

Three speeds are available to select, all of which are quite slow. This makes the servo less useful for shooting stills, where quick zoom adjustments may be necessary. Minimum focus varies between 30cm and 50cm depending on where the zoom is set. This may cause issues if recomposing using the zoom when in this distance range as you can find yourself suddenly too close to take a properly focused image.

As focusing is performed internally, the 67mm filter ring does not rotate, which makes the lens ideal for use with graduated and polarising filters. A petal-shaped lens hood is supplied as standard, which attaches to the lens via a bayonet fitting.

Thanks to the optical stabiliser this lens is equipped with, sharp hand held images are possible about half the time with shutter speeds as low as 1/20sec at 200mm. This is roughly four stops slower than the usual rule of thumb for hand held image taking would allow.
Sony 18 200 Pz Oss (5)

Sony SEL P 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Performance

At 18mm, sharpness in the cetre of the frame is already outstanding at maximum aperture, with clarity towards the edges of the frame being good. Stopping down only improves sharpness towards the edges fo the frame ever so slightly, with similar performance being achieved between maximum aperture and  f/5.6 for this focal length.

With the lens zoomed to 70mm, sharpness in the centre at maximum aperture still approaches excellent levels and the clarity towards the edges is very good. Peak sharpness across the frame is achieved at f/8 at this focal length, where sharpness is excellent across the frame.

Normally with high zoom ratio lenses, this is a steep drop off in sharpness as you approach the telephoto setting. This lens still performs remarkably well for the kind of lens it is, with very good sharpness in the centre of the frame at maximum aperture at 200mm. Clarity towards the edges of the frame drops to fairly good levels, improving to good levels as the aperture is stopped down to f/11 at this focal length. Excellent sharpness is achieved in the centre of the frame at f/8.

Resolution @ 18mm
Resolution @ 18mm
Resolution @ 70mm
Resolution @ 70mm
Resolution @ 200mm
Resolution @ 200mm

How to read our charts

The 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-5R using Imatest.

Chromatic aberrations are pretty well controlled for the kind of lens this is, barely exceeding three quarters of a pixel width at 18mm, dropping to almost negligible levels in the middle of the zoom range and then rising again to levels that may become noticeable at 200mm towards the edges of the frame.

Chromatic aberration @ 18mm
Chromatic aberration @ 18mm
Chromatic aberration @ 70mm
Chromatic aberration @ 70mm
Chromatic aberration @ 200mm
Chromatic aberration @ 200mm

How to read our charts

Chromatic 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-5R using Imatest.

Falloff of illumination towards the corners of the frame is quite pronounced at 18mm as you may expect for a lens of this type. At f/3.5 and 18mm the corners of the frame are 1.75 stops darker than the image centre. As the lens is zoomed towards 200mm, falloff becomes less of an issue, with only very slight darkening of 0.399 stops in the corners at 200mm and f/6.3.

Imatest detected 4.01% barrel distortion at 18mm, which is enough to cause issues with images containing straight lines parallel to the edge of the frame. At 200mm this is replaced with 0.859% pincushion distortion, which is only a mild amount. Luckily the distortion pattern is uniform across the frame, which should make applying corrections in image editing software relatively straightforward.

The supplied lens hood does a reasonable job of shielding the lens from extraneous light that may cause issues with flare. Without the hood in place this lens is quite resistant to flare and retains good contrast, even when shooting into the light.

Sony E PZ 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS Sample Photos

Value for Money

The £1000 price tag sets this apart from other super-zoom lenses available for the Sony NEX system. This is a premium lens, with performance that matches it's rather high price. Less expensive options include either of Sony's other 18-200mm lenses for the NEX system. Both offer optical stabilisation and costs around half as much as this lens. Tamron also offer an optically stabilised 18-200mm lens for Sony NEX cameras, which costs around £480.

Sony SEL P 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Verdict

The price alone will ensure this lens becomes a niche item, but if money is no object, and you require the best quality, most convenient solution for general picture taking, then this lens could be for you. Although this lens' unique selling point is the servo zoom function for video recording, the performance this lens offers may make it worth the extra money for some, even if that feature isn't required.

  The Sony SEL P 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS has excellent optical performance for a superzoom lens.  

Sony SEL P 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Pros

Excellent optical performance for a superzoom lens
Solid build
Servo zoom useful for video recording
Effective optical stabiliser

Sony SEL P 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS Cons



Sony E PZ 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS Specifications

Lens Mounts
  • Sony E Mount
Focal Length18mm - 200mm
Angle of View8 - 76
Max Aperturef/3.5 - f/6.3
Min Aperturef/22 - f/40
Filter Size67mm
35mm equivalent27mm - 300mm
Internal focusingYes
Maximum magnificationNo Data
Min Focus30cm
Box Contents
Box ContentsLens hood, lens cap, lens rear cap.

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