Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS SELP1650
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Lab Test Results
June 5, 2013
by William Brawley
The Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS is an E-mount zoom lens that's frequently bundled as a kit lens with several Sony NEX-series compact system cameras such as the NEX-6.
Designed for APS-C sensors, the lens features a field of view range equivalent to a 24-75mm lens on a 35mm camera, covering a healthy span of wide to short-telephoto focal lengths in a small, compact size.
This lens isn't a ''constant'' lens, in that as you increase the focal length, both the maximum and minimum aperture sizes decrease. The following table reflects the aperture changes as you zoom:
The lens features built-in electronic optical image stabilization, as well as a new electronic zooming mechanism controlled using a "wide-to-tele" toggle switch reminiscent of a camcorder's zoom button. The Sony lens also features a single rotating ring that functions either as a traditional zoom ring or as a focusing ring depending on the shooting mode of the camera. Both focusing and zooming on this lens are electronically controlled. Image stabilization is controlled via the camera as well.
The lens is not compatible with a lens hood, but does accept 40.5mm lens filters, and ships with front and rear caps.
At 16mm and f/3.5, the Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS is fairly soft in the corners and across much of the frame, but the very center of the frame remains fairly sharp. As you stop down, f/5.6 and f/8 appear to be the sweet spot with the largest center area of sharpness; however, the far corners still remain relatively soft. Zoomed in to 35mm, overall sharpness improves, and at f/8, the corners start to look pretty good, although still not tack sharp. At 50mm, you'll see the best results at f/8. Based on the numbers, the best results overall are at 35mm at f/8.
Strangely, at 16mm at f/8, we saw the largest difference between sharpness at the center vs. the corners. The center of the frame was quite sharp, but the corners, conversely, were very soft. This is unusual in our experience; normally sharpness becomes more uniform across the frame as you stop down.
At all focal lengths, once you stop down to f/16 and beyond, diffraction limiting sets in, and you'll begin to see significant loss in image sharpness.
Chromatic Aberration appears very well-controlled on the Sony 16-50mm. At both 35mm and 50mm, there is very little difference between CA in the extreme corners of frame vs. the overall average. We do see more CA in the corners at the 16mm focal length, with a slight increase at f/8, but the CA is still quite low for a wide-angle zoom lens. CA is however suppressed by the camera body by default in JPEGs, and during RAW conversion via an embedded lens profile which cannot be disabled in Adobe Camera Raw.
Wide open at 16mm, the Sony lens suffers from pretty severe vignetting, with the corners being more than 1-stop darker than the center of the frame. At f/16-22, we still saw light loss in the corners, at just shy of 0.75-stops. At 35mm and 50mm, vignetting levels are almost identical, with less than a half-stop of light loss in the corners at f/5.6. At all focal lengths, as the aperture is stopped down, vignetting decreases.
Lens design is a juggling act, and optical engineers have to decide how to trade off between sharpness, CA, shading (“vignetting”) and distortion. The ability to correct for some of these shortcomings in the camera, post-capture means that lens designers can allow some parameters to drift, and in the process achieve better results in the other areas. This is common practice for Micro Four Thirds lenses, but the Sony 16-50mm is the first example of this at work we've seen in an E-mount lens, however it probably won't be the last. The uncorrected RAW files show really dramatic amounts of geometric distortion, that's corrected-out by the NEX cameras in their in-camera JPEGs.
At the wide end, we see truly dramatic distortion, with no less than 3.3% barrel distortion in the corners at 16mm. It's literally off our charts. The average amount of distortion over the entire frame is just over 1.5%. As noted, the in-camera JPEG processing does a significant amount of distortion correction, producing almost perfectly-corrected images. If you shoot RAW photos, though, you'll see a big difference between those compared to straight-from-the-camera JPEGs, unless your RAW converter applies a lens profile to correct it automatically. There is not an option to turn off this in-camera correction for JPEGs, at least on any current Sony NEX bodies.
Once you zoom to 35mm, distortion is reduced greatly, and the corners look very similar to the average. At 50mm, the average distortion across the entire frame is very close to zero, while there is a bit of pincushion distortion (less than 0.5%) at the edges of the frame.
The Sony 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS lens can focus very quickly -- it only takes about a second to go through the full range from minimum focus distance to infinity. When shooting with this lens, autofocus felt very fast, quick and it locked onto targets easily.
This lens isn't specifically built for macro, with maximum magnification of 0.215x and a minimum close-focusing distance of around 9.8 inches.
Build Quality and Handling
The E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS lens is quite small and compact at just 117 grams (4.13 oz.) and measuring just a bit over 1-inch when retracted. When the camera is powered on, the lens automatically extends to nearly double its length. It fits nicely on a Sony NEX-6, feels nicely balanced, and is fairly compact, particularly when powered off. It's not heavy or bulky at all. When stored away, this lens and camera combo could easily be put in small bag, cargo pants pockets or a large coat pocket. (If you carried the two separately, though, they could easily fit in regular pants pockets.)
The exterior of the lens is plastic with a smooth, glossy black finish. The lens mount is metal, as is the single dual-function zoom/focus ring. The only button or switch on the lens is the powerzoom slider switch on the left side (think 7 to 9 o'clock position). There are no focal lengths marked, nor is there a manual focusing/depth of field scale.
Inside the barrel sit 9 lens elements in 8 groups, with one ED and four aspherical elements. The aperture mechanism has 7 blades for a fairly circular aperture.
The zoom/focusing ring is about 3/8th inch wide and has an array of small ribs for texture. Very little force is necessary to turn the ring; it's easy to rotate with one finger. The zoom/focus action is very smooth, and rotates indefinitely, as zooming and focusing are electronically controlled. While focusing or zooming, the front element of the lens doesn't rotate, so filters such as circular polarizers work fine. The lens does extend during zooming, though, about 1/4th of an inch.
The Sony 16-50mm is equipped with Sony's Optical SteadyShot image stabilization technology, which worked quite well. See our IS Test tab for more details on this.
There are very few other options for E-mount lenses, particularly those that feature similar specs to the Sony 16-50, such as autofocus and electronic controls. There is the Tamron 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 Di III VC, which provides a similar wide-angle focal length, but offers a much higher telephoto range (as well as size, weight and price). It also features image stabilization technology.
The other option would be to forgo the zoom lens, and buy a set of prime lenses. Sigma makes a set of E-mount prime lenses: 19mm f/2.8, 30mm f/2.8 and 60mm f/2.8, and there's also the recently announced (as of this writing) Carl Zeiss Touit series of primes: 12mm f/2.8, 32mm f/1.8 and 50mm f/2.8 (not yet released). These would allow you to have a similar range of focal lengths with much wider apertures, but at the expense of more lenses to carry and a much higher price.
The Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS is a compact and inexpensive kit zoom lens that produces decent results, although it suffers from heavy barrel distortion at wide angles and produces images that are only super-sharp at the center. That said, it does better than most kit lenses, to the point that you may not feel the need to immediately rip it off and replace it with something better. It's a very serviceable shooter. The big selling points here are its compactness as well as the powerzoom and image stabilization features, both of which come in handy for video shooting.
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 E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS SELP1650 User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by brugj03 (11 reviews)Light weight, fast autofocus, good colorCheapish, flare, jpg only due to massive distortion
This is a very good lens..........for photographers.reviewed May 23rd, 2015 (purchased for $100)
Pixel peepers need not apply. But still good image quality.
Use this lens anywhere cause it turns your nex into a pocket.
Very light weight pancake construction with motor zoom, i like it.
Well it`s not a prime that`s clear from the first shot, but you will get that shot i you want to, cause this lens does it all.
If you want to cary your nex anywhere this one is a nobrainer.
Higly recommended athough it does flare.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Beachrider (22 reviews)Pancake-ish when closed, better than 18-55 kit (with correction), fast focus with some camerasTakes a little time to 'fold out' at startup, corrections are important @ 16mm
This lens is an AMAZING pancake lens on NEX. The size always brings imaging compromise, but the cameras (once getting upgraded firmware) do a great job fixing the JPEGs.reviewed July 31st, 2014 (purchased for $260)
This lens hits another level of performance with A6000's advanced autofocus. It again needs firmware update, for older lenses. The AF response for A6000's hybrid AF is astonishing.
I wonder if the problematic reviews actually had the correct camera/postprocess firmware/settings.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Anaxagoras (3 reviews)Small, light, pretty good IQIQ not outstanding
In absolute terms this lens is good but not outstanding. I also use a Nikon D7000 and that camera's 18-105 kit lens is quite noticeably better than this.reviewed June 7th, 2014 (purchased for $500)
However, I was one of the early buyers of the NEX7. I was a little disappointed with the camera and hugely disappointed with its 18-55 lens. A year or so later, after a lot of thought, I decided to buy this lens. That was indeed a good decision. This 16-50 is dramatically better in every respect of image quality. Plus, it's smaller and lighter; much more suitable for the NEX7 (bought it as a small, lightweight alternative to my Nikon).
Bottom line: it's a pretty good lens, but an absolute no-brainer if you are going for a Sony NEX camera.
6 out of 10 points and recommended by zanxion72 (6 reviews)CompactPowered focus and zoom, distortions, flares like an old tessar.
It is a nice pancake lens that came with my Sony Nex-3N. Although small and compact it fails to deliver what expects a user that has used higher end lenses and cameras.reviewed December 24th, 2013
Too soft at the corners, too much distortion, the power focus and zoom fails to accurately get on what you'd like and in strong light and contrasty conditions it flares like an old tessar lens!
It is going to be replaced. I have bought my Nex for use with M42 and M39 lenses anyway.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by glenwells (3 reviews)size, price,distortion in RAW
I have become increasingly fond of this lens.reviewed August 14th, 2013 (purchased for $180)
Ok it has distortion and vignetting in RAW but one click adjustments are available in Lightroom and Photoshop.
The lens I have is giving good performance across the zoom range and I am satisfied with the performance across the frame into the corners. I feel it does better than the SLRgear report gadget states.
The lens I have does have the querk of being softest in the exteme corners wide open and at F8 as per the review but it is quite tolerable and f5.6 gives good performance.
Sixe is very good and on my NEX-6 it allows me to have the camera in a small belt pouch when out on my bike or walking which is great for an APSC camera with a zoom lens!
For the price it is definitely worth it and does not deserve the negative press. In the past I have had two NEX kit lenses and it is better in my opinion, RAW aside, and has a really useful 24mm wide end.
However, this is the second one I owned as the first one had quality issues but the one I have now is great. Maybe factory quality issues have contributed to its early cool reception.
Spend 90% of the time on the camera.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by byhyew (1 reviews)Good IQ, Compact, Powerzoom, Durable, Dirt-CheapDependent on software correction
This is THE best lens on my NEX-6, period.reviewed June 12th, 2013 (purchased for $150)
I bought it in China lens-only for my NEX-6. Since Chinese market allows for non-stable prices, the lens's street price dropped from us$350 to 150 in merely 2 months, thanks to the initial reviews that trashed this lens. I bought mine new for 150 and couldn't be happier.
This lens became my most used lens on the NEX-6, replacing my 10-18 OSS and Sigma 19 f2.8 for general shooting and the 50 f1.8 OSS for daytime shooting. 16mm is wide enough for most applications, and the compactness is a joy to use.
The sharpness is on par with the much more expensive 10-18 and focusing speed is yet to be beat among other E-mount lenses. The level mechanism is very handing for video.
The lens is highly dependent on software correction. Though resolution-wise
The lens is DURABLE. I was skeptical about the build quality of such a lens. But it took a tough test pretty well. My camera was splashed by a big icy wave on a glacier lake with this lens on when I was traveling in Argentina. Water immediately went into the lens, but caused no malfunction. After a while, some vapor started to form inside the frontal element, but a night on a heater solved the problem. For a full electronic lens, that was a quite respectable result. And who cares if it really breaks? It's only 150 dollars after all.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Perry Rhodan (28 reviews)Small package. Light. Cheap. The 3rd went back to sony and became very good!Had backfocus at 50mm and 5.6 (3 samples)
Incredibly tiny 3 were mediocre IQ. NOT THE walk around lens for now. Still hoping for an F4 version for 600. The 40-50 range was EXTREMELY soft in all 3 samples I tried, due to BF at 5.6 (pdaf/cdaf). The 3rd went back to sony Netherlands and they worked miracles! It is great! Complete new optical pack. Now it is very nice.reviewed May 15th, 2013 (purchased for $299)
5 out of 10 points and not recommended by Ocean (21 reviews)nice idea, small, blackvery weak plastics, not really sharp, no hood
My first one made noises while Zooming.reviewed December 30th, 2012 (purchased for $300)
The second got cracked by letting it fall from 4 inches on the table.
Third wasn't sharp enough.
I would love to have a good 16-60 mm - but this isn't!
It has the quality from cheapest compact-cameras.s
The price is much to high, it's just a cheap-starter Zoom.
Even Panasonic can do it much better.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Gatorowl (4 reviews)Compact size, excellent sharpness through 30mm, fast AFSevere distortion at wide angles, noticeable vignetting, weak at 50mm
This is my first Nex lens and camera. It was part of the Nex 6 kit. I have experience with both Canon and Nikon DSLRs and this kit lens ranks well with those.reviewed December 1st, 2012
What sets this lens apart is its amazingly compact size. The Sony is truly pocketable (albeit, it needs to be a large pocket) with this lens. I can carry the camera in a sleeve or my fanny pack when I go for a ride.
The lens is a marvel of engineering. It expands when powered on and collapses when powered off. It takes a little time--maybe half a second each way--, but it doesn't bother me. Do remember to power off the camera before switching lenses otherwise the lens will remain in its expanded state. AF is fast and pretty accurate. It locks quickly and suredly to its target. This contrasts with the e-mount 50mm lens, which has a habit of hunting.
If you shoot jpg the IQ is phenomenal due to the automatic lens correction. If you shoot Raw, you will need to deal with the heavy distortion and vignetting wide open. The distortion is almost cartoonish (4-5% or perhaps greater?), and the vignetting is heavy. However, there is now a Lightroom profile that deals with this problems nicely. The lens is actually 13-14mm wide open, so after correction, you do get a true 16mm.
Sharpness and contrast are on par with the best lens I have used through 30mm (e.g., I have used Nikon 14-24mm Sigma 17-50mm, and Canon 10-22mm). However, at 50mm, look elsewhere for critical shots. Sharpness and contrast drop off considerably, and the difference from primes at the FL is substantial. However, it is still serviceable. For most shooting at normal (non-pixel peeping) sizes, differences are acceptable.
For a collapsable kit lens that finally delivers on the Nex promise of compactness, I am extremely happy with this lens. It is stellar over the focal lengths that are most important to my shooting. YMMV.
10 out of 10 points and recommended by FrankPhillips (3 reviews)Far exceeds sharpness of 18-55 kit lens, half the size of kit lens, smooth two-way zoom ringtiny little lens cap is difficult to use (needs cap-keeper)
I was one of the early adopters of the NEX system in 2010, but was extremely disappointed in the terrible image quality of the 18-55mm kit lens. Since then, there has not been a decent normal zoom lens offered for the NEX system until the NEX-6 was announced with this 16-50mm kit lens. This lens, along with the mode dial on the NEX-6, sold me on the combination...I put in a pre-order immediately.reviewed November 12th, 2012
I've used it for about a week now, and I have to say that the image quality of the 16-50mm (at least my copy of it) FAR EXCEEDS the pathetic quality of the stock 18-55mm kit lenses (and I've had 3 of 'em). I mean - it's no contest....the 16-50mm wins hands down. I literally can't find any aberration or softness in this lens. Maybe I got a perfect copy of it (which I did a year ago with the PZ 14-42 on the Panasonic...I regret selling that one), but if my copy is representative of others out there, this will be the one to beat as far as kit lenses go.
I rated it a 10 on all counts because the "competition" is other kit lenses I've used from Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, and Sony...so keep that in context. It's not a Canon 24-70/2.8 to be sure, but it's the best kit lens I've ever used.