Sony 16-50mm f/2.8 DT SSM SAL1650
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Lab Test Results
August 24, 2011
by Andrew Alexander
Released with the Sony Alpha A65 and A77 cameras, the Sony 16-50 ƒ/2.8 DT is an APS-C compatible lens with a maximum aperture setting of ƒ/2.8 regardless of the focal length selected. Mounted on a camera body with an APS-C sensor, the lens will produce an effective field of view of approximately 24-75mm. The lens takes 72mm filters and accepts a petal-shaped hood, which is included with the lens. The Sony 16-50mm ƒ/2.8 is scheduled to be available for approximately $800 in October 2011.
The Sony 16-50mm ƒ/2.8 produced some very sharp images, perhaps slightly sharper in the wide angle compared to telephoto. At 16mm and ƒ/2.8, the lens provides very good corner to corner sharpness, approaching tack-sharp levels in the center of the frame. Stopped down to ƒ/4, it's as sharp as sharp gets, with just a touch of softness in the corners. There's no appreciable gain stopping down to ƒ/5.6, and diffraction limiting seems to set in at ƒ/8 where there's a slight overall reduction in sharpness. This softness continues from ƒ/11 - ƒ/16, and finally ƒ/22, where it becomes quite soft indeed.
At 24mm, we note essentially the same results as we found at the 16mm setting, with slightly better sharpness at 24mm. At 35mm, our lens showed some light de-centering at ƒ/2.8, with the area of sharpness appearing in the upper quadrant of the frame; corner softness is a bit exaggerated. Stopped down to ƒ/4, and images become sharp again, even sharper at ƒ/5.6 (arguably, one of the sharpest settings of the lens). Again, diffraction limiting sets in at ƒ/8 and sharpness degrades through to ƒ/22.
Zoomed in to 50mm, the lens is somewhat soft at ƒ/2.8, echoing the de-centering we noted at 35mm; again, stop down to ƒ/4, and the problem goes away. At 50mm and ƒ/4 we're seeing almost identical results for sharpness as we found at 35mm, and this trend continues through to ƒ/22. It's interesting to note that fully stopped-down performance (ƒ/22) is best at the 50mm setting.
The Sony 16-50mm ƒ/2.8 produces some odd results for chromatic aberration. Happily, the lens' best performance occurs where it's most likely to be used - at ƒ/2.8. Between 16mm and 35mm, chromatic aberration increases as the lens is stopped down, becoming more prominent and showing as magenta-green fringing in areas of high contrast. At 50mm, this trend reverses abruptly; now the lens shows a standard amount of chromatic aberration at ƒ/2.8, and improves as it's stopped down. By ƒ/5.6 at 50mm, there is very little CA to speak of.
It's worth noting that while we didn't test the lens on the new A77 body. In his preview of that camera body, Shawn Barnett noted that the camera seemed to correct these levels of chromatic aberration. You may want to read his preview of the A77, here.
Corner shading is fairly light on the 16-50mm ƒ/2.8. It's most prominent at 16mm, where there is always some level of shading; the worst offender is at 16mm and ƒ/2.8, where we note corners which are upwards of 3/4 EV darker than the center. At any other setting, it's less than that; at any other focal length, the only setting which produces any corner shading of note is 16mm, where you'll see corners that are a half-stop darker than the center.
The Sony 16-50mm ƒ/2.8 shows some fairly prominent barrel distortion at 16mm (a full +1% in the corners), but this reduces gracefully as the lens is zoomed in. There is a point of parity around 30mm where there is neither barrel nor pincushion distortion. At 50mm, we note some very light pincushion distortion in the corners; about -0.1%.
On the Sony A350 body, the lens took well under one second to focus from closest focus to infinity, so it is very fast indeed. Small focus changes happen nearly instantly and silently. The front element doesn't rotate, making life easier for polarizer users.
The lens isn't made for macro, but offers a usable 0.2x magnification ratio, at a close-focusing distance of 30cm (one foot).
Build Quality and Handling
The lens barrel is a plastic type with a roughly-textured, black matte finish. At just over 20 oz in weight, the lens is fairly heavy. The lens mount is metal, while the 72mm filter threads are plastic. The lens offers a toggle switch to control focus on the lens (AF / MF), as well as a switch to lock the lens in its shortest focal length of 16mm. A distance scale is present under a clear plastic window, marked in feet and meters, but without a depth-of-field scale or infrared index.
The zoom ring is the larger of the two, 3/4 of an inch in width and composed of rubber with large raised ribs. The ring offers about 80 degrees of turning action to increase the focal length from 16mm to 50mm. While there is a zoom lock switch present, our sample of the lens didn't exhibit any signs of zoom creep, though as the lens is worked in, that could change. There is some lens extension as the lens is zoomed in; the lens extends by about one inch, making its total overall length at that point four and a half inches.
The focusing ring is also composed of rubber, 1/2 inch wide with large raised ribs. The ring offers smooth manual focusing, with soft stops at the close-focus and infinity focus ends (the lens will continue to turn, but an increase in resistance lets you know you can't focus any further).
The ALC-SH117 lens hood is a petal-shaped design that attaches via the bayonet mount. When attached, the hood adds about two inches of additional length. The hood can be reversed for storage on the lens.
Sony 16-80mm ƒ/3.5-4.5 DT Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* ~$750
While the Sony 16-80mm offers slightly more reach, it does so by offering a variable aperture; some people will value the constant ƒ/2.8 aperture of the 16-50mm. The 16-50mm offers slightly sharper performance in some focal lengths, the 16-80mm is sharper in others, but the performance of the 16-50mm is probably more consistent overall.
Sony 16-105mm ƒ/3.5-5.6 DT ~$600
Slightly less expensive than the Sony 16-50mm, the 16-105mm offers much more telephoto range, with the trade-off of a variable aperture. Sharpness results are very good, with a notable exception at 50mm (which may or may not be present in all copies of this lens).
Tamron SP AF 17-50mm ƒ/2.8 XR Di II LD Aspherical IF ~$460
The Tamron 17-50mm was one of the first lenses to appear in this focal length, and offers a similar experience to the Sony 16-50mm. The Sony is somewhat sharper, but without in-camera correction, the Tamron provides better results for chromatic aberration and corner shading. Note that the newer VC version of the Tamron isn't available in the Sony mount, and you wouldn't want it anyway; stabilization is built-in to Sony cameras.
Sigma 17-50mm ƒ/2.8 EX DC OS HSM ~$670
We haven't yet tested Sigma's offering in this category, but it's available in the Sony mount. It offers Sigma's OS technology, which Sigma indicates you shouldn't use at the same time as the built-in stabilization of the camera.
The Sony 16-50mm ƒ/2.8 DT presents itself as a capable walk-around zoom lens; mated with the newer A65 or A77 bodies, which appear to correct its slight issues with chromatic aberration, the combination works to produce excellent photographs.
The VFA target should give you a good idea of sharpness in the center and corners, as well as some idea of the extent of barrel or pincushion distortion and chromatic aberration, while the Still Life subject may help in judging contrast and color. We shoot both images using the default JPEG settings and manual white balance of our test bodies, so the images should be quite consistent from lens to lens.
As appropriate, we shoot these with both full-frame and sub-frame bodies, at a range of focal lengths, and at both maximum aperture and ƒ/8. For the ''VFA'' target (the viewfinder accuracy target from Imaging Resource), we also provide sample crops from the center and upper-left corner of each shot, so you can quickly get a sense of relative sharpness, without having to download and inspect the full-res images. To avoid space limitations with the layout of our review pages, indexes to the test shots launch in separate windows.
Sony 16-50mm f/2.8 DT SSM SAL1650 User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by sflorio (8 reviews)Excellent center sharpnessNeeds to be stopped down more than the tests indicate
I have to say that this lens takes amazingly clear photos at fairly wide apertures. It doesn't hurt that it's connected to my 24 megapixel A77, which itself is an amazing camera. The two together almost never flub a shot; they're almost always clear, sharp, and in focus. The color might be a little warmer than I like (My other camera is a Canon, and their lenses seem to have cooler color temperatures, which I like), but I'm sure I can make any adjustments I need in the camera settings. The widest setting 16mm is excellent, corresponding to 15mm on a Canon. I was able to capture an entire 20 story building from just a couple hundred feet away, and the in-camera distortion correction ensured that it looked nice and square, without curved lines.reviewed December 25th, 2012 (purchased for $750)
I agree with most everything else I've heard others say about this lens; that it's heavy, well built, has distortions that the firmware corrects, and all that. One thing that I disagree with almost all other comments on this subject, is that at 35mm and above I find I have to stop it down to f/5.6 before the corners and edges sharpen up to their best. The center does indeed seem very sharp to me at most settings, but the edges tend to show a bit of smeary fuzz without stopping down. The review at photozone.de seems to bear out my findings. One does have to remember that this is an unusually wide angle lens, and I suppose that they are harder to engineer than more conventional focal lengths.
Update: OK I tried some more shots out my window and can say that the lens does indeed provide very good sharpness from edge to edge at f/4.0 and above, but only at 16mm. This is great for me because the wide focal length is the reason I bought this lens in the first place, and it turns out that it's been optimized for maximum wide. Above that, at 24mm and 35mm, I find that the edges and corners snap into maximum clarity right at f/5.6. As for the center, it seems almost indifferent to the aperture. It's sharp at just about every setting -- maybe a little softer at f/2.8.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by lenslover (3 reviews)Useful range 11-50mm, excellent sharpness, solid built, overall image qualitylittle softness at corner at 50mm
If you are looking for a lens in this range ( 11-50mm ) for your Sony APS-C, try to make some savings and only buy this Sony DT16-50mm F/2.8. Sony did a very good job to produce this kit lens ( I'd say '' a G kit lens '' ) Its performance is well worth the money you spend. Tamron and Sigma also had their beautiful products as alternatives ( also tested at SLRGEAR ) but, you will discover some points that they still cannot match the Sony DT 16-50mm f/2.8 quality.reviewed July 24th, 2012 (purchased for $684)
9 out of 10 points and recommended by translucent mirror (4 reviews)quiet, beautiful colorsnot for full frame cameras
An excellent lens for the price. Silent and good for video as well. Reasonably lightweight unlike the CZ lenses.reviewed May 23rd, 2012 (purchased for $798)
Check out the shots at www.translucentmirror.com
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Beachrider (22 reviews)Light, Bright (f/2.8), Quick/Silent (SSM), High IQ, Primary Zoom for Alpha & NEX (w/EA-2) usersAt the Wide end, distortion & CA correction needed for best results (automatic in JPEG for a77) , plastic body
A very useful APS-C lens for Alpha and NEX. Very useful focal range. Fstop 2.8 is still special vs f/4.5 & 5.6 for more entry-level lenses. It isn't a cheap lens ($615), so the plastic-everywhere (but the back-bracket) is a little surprising (vs NEX's metallic finish on lenses).reviewed April 11th, 2012 (purchased for $615)
Once you have learned the cameras with starter-lenses, this can be a solid second-year purchase. Probably a first-year purchase with NEX7 or Alpha 77.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by infocus (8 reviews)excellent results throughout zoom range and from landscape to close-upa bit stiff zoom ring
In this focal range it is as good as it gets using the Sony a77 to reveal the full capacity of the lens. It is sharp from edge to edge when focused correctly, and only a little flare is seen even when the sun is in front and low. On top of this the lens is quite reasonably priced. The zoom range is extremely useful, with minimal distortion and CA with in-camera lens comp., from a very wide 16mm to a useful 50mm, which can be cropped a bit for further reach thanks to the very high resolution even at 50mm. The Sony DSLR in-camera image stabilisation allows a large aperture construction at a very reasonable price. The lens is comparable to CZ optics in a high quality composite barrel. The AF is fast and precise. The best every-day photographic tool I have used in my 50 years of photographic experience. Regards JvE.reviewed March 27th, 2012 (purchased for $575)
Note spring 2013: As all sorts of flowers pop up now in April, I'd like to mention that this lens on the a77, with the TILTABLE LCD screen and both AF and IS, is very useful in the close-up range zooming in as close as 4 inches from the lens even at the 50mm setting. (Check out Kurt Munger's shot of a US stamp! Click on it for actual 100% view). The results are very sharp indeed, and the background smooth. Placing the camera flat on the ground gives a beautiful view of small flowers - almost impossible to do with a fixed LCD screen DSLR camera.
Note January 2014: Look out for the Sony a77 kit with this lens in the shops now, the price may be extremely favourable. This is one of the best photographic tools I can think of, even at much higher price. Using anything else with a passive optical finder I feel like shooting blindly, having to check the result afterwards. I know what I get when I press the button!!!
10 out of 10 points and recommended by dfwatt (3 reviews)1) exceptional sharpness; 2) great value; 3) firmware correction in A65/A77 virtually eiliminates classic optical distortions 4) fast and quiet focusing1) weight; 2) somewhat stiff zoom ring; 3) not cheap compared to standard 18-55mm kit lens (but faster, sharper and quieter) 4) should be bundled with Sony A65
I think that the review on this website of this lens, although plenty positive, understates its overall excellence. SLR Gear literally drools over Canikon zooms that are less sharp than this lens and that cost twice to three times as much.reviewed January 16th, 2012 (purchased for $699)
This is in fact a very remarkable lens, easily the sharpest 16-50 on the market for any APS-C body. As sharp or in some cases sharper overall than many pro-grade 24-75 lenses for full frame cameras (Canikon, and Carl Zeiss) that cost $1500 and up. Testing on this website confirms what my own shooting shows. Very, very sharp, with just a hint of (only relative) corner softness compared to excellent central sharpness, at just f4.
With firmware corrections in the A65, no CA virtually at all, and no barrel distortion at all. Becomes one of the strongest arguments in favor of the Sony a65 and a77 bodies. It is nothing less than a screaming best value in a pro-quality walk around zoom lens, and at f4-f5.6, it is actually sharper than several Sony primes.
A tour de force in walk around zoom lens optics. If you have an APS-C sensor Sony, you simply should buy this lens, no questions asked. Highly, highly recommended.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Nas79 (3 reviews)Sharp, Fast, Quiet, Smooth, Bright and solid build qualityNo focus hold button (like on the 70400G), Not optimized for full frame
I love this lens, on my A77 I would put it up against any Prime or Zoom in the 16mm to 50mm range from any competitor. I have gotten VERY sharp images from this lens especially when stopped down to F4. This is a fantastic walk around lens and if you need one in this focal range buy it, you will not be dissapointed.reviewed January 2nd, 2012 (purchased for $800)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by pruus (1 reviews)fast, smooth, brightlarge
This lens does mount very well an the body. no twist. Quality. If it had Zeis on it, i would agree. It's an straight forward lens nog only for the A77. Thanks Sony. i like it!reviewed November 10th, 2011 (purchased for $799)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by Vancouver Video (1 reviews)Cost relative to Nikon & Canon, fast f/2.8, parfocal, wide on APSC/Super35mmBarrel extends when zooming
I just love this lens, especially for use on the Sony NEX-FS100 video camera. One of the requirements on video is that the lens holds focus when you zoom out. This is known as parfocal and the SAL1650 16-50mm f/2.8 is parfocal!reviewed November 6th, 2011 (purchased for $786)
Here is my review with some video comparisons to two other lenses:
10 out of 10 points and recommended by ABETTERDJANDPHOTOGRAPHER (2 reviews)blazing fast, extremely sharp, outstanding color, weather sealed, silent when used for videonot great out of flash range
This SONY 16-50MM 2.8 lens goes with our new SONY A77s like peanut butter and jelly. For outdoor shots in good light it is razor sharp through the full range.reviewed October 28th, 2011 (purchased for $600)
Tonight was the first time we shot indoors and the SONY 16-50 lens performed wonderfully except when shooting beyond flash range. We weren't planning on shooting much so we left the external flashes in the bag just to test the lens in low light. After reviewing the photos at home we wished we would have gone ahead and mounted a flash because the photos in range were perfect and most of those over 20' were a bit grainy and not as sharp.
This lens produces excellent color and sharp photos and is well worth the price. This lens could have easily been a "G" lens. We have samples posted under the SONY|MINOLTA tab on our site at http://www.abetterdj.net
If you have been thinking about purchasing a SONY A77 we also highly recommend it, it is a fabulous camera!