dfwatt's reviews

  • Sony 70-300mm f/4.5-5.6G SSM SAL-70300G

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    Great reach, sharpness, image quality
    Sometimes not fast enough

    Pros:
    1) good to great sharpness, even wide open, really sharp minimally stopped down at a wide range of focal lengths.
    2) Very well made, with very smooth focus and zoom rings.
    3) Doesn't get much softer all the way out to 300mm like many tele zooms
    4) fast and quiet focusing (SSM is great for movies)
    5) light weight for the covered focal lengths
    6) minimal CA, vignetting, distortion

    Cons:
    1) Not fast enough in some situations.
    2) Not cheap for the aperture range.
    3) Not included in the A77/A65 firmware correction profile - yet. Would virtually remove all classical optical distortions.
    4) Zoom mechanism will suck air (and therefore dust) into lens. Not sealed, and should be for G lens.

    This is a good value, despite its price. Very smooth and quiet lens, and as someone else also noted, makes up in portability and convenience what it minimally loses in speed. Worth the money if you shoot much above 70mm and don't need the speed (and the major weight/cost downsides) of a 2.8 lens. IN general, I love using this lens - outdoors in decent light.

    reviewed January 16th, 2012 (purchased for $775)
  • Sony 16-50mm f/2.8 DT SSM SAL1650

    10 out of 10 points and recommended
    1) exceptional sharpness; 2) great value; 3) firmware correction in A65/A77 virtually eiliminates classic optical distortions 4) fast and quiet focusing
    1) 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.

    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.

    reviewed January 16th, 2012 (purchased for $699)
  • Sony 18-250mm f/3.5-6.3 DT SAL-18250

    9 out of 10 points and recommended
    1) great walkaround lens 2) good sharpness if stopped down, esp at wider end 3) good value
    1) not great sharpness once above 120mm even if stopped down - by 200mm soft even at f11

    Pro:
    1) 14 x range from moderate wide angle to moderate telephoto makes this a very convenient package
    2) good but not great sharpness, esp. if stopped down a bit (f5.6 up to about f8/f11 where it reaches its max sharpness), and sharper at wider angles
    3) good build quality and solid construction - won't compete with either Carl Zeiss or G series pro lenses, but still quite well made and good value
    4) fast focusing (at least for big lens)
    5) Not bad CA, distortion and vignetting (UPDATE - when used with the A77 or A65, these are effectively removed by the firmware-based corrections, which are quite effective in cancelling out CA, and corner shading effects are virtually eliminated too. (See my Amazon review of the Alpha 65)

    Con:
    1) Not impressive sharpness at telephoto end - wouldn't recommend if you plan on shooting a lot there (120-250mm), even stopped down
    2) Some troubles with chromatic aberration, esp. again at telephoto end (but again virtually eliminated by A65/A77 firmware v 1.04)
    3) Heavy (might overwhelm small, light camera bodies like the A55/A33/A33 - works better with bigger bodies like A65 and up)
    4) Wish it traded some of its reach at the telephoto end for going down to 16 mm at the wide-angle end

    I was initially torn between buying this lens with an A55, or buying the 18-55 mm standard kit lens and having a little bit less flexibility but a lot less weight. Although the weight is sometimes a burden, I certainly appreciate the 14 X zoom range, from moderate wide-angle to pretty decent telephoto without having to change lenses. I haven't seen a lot of problems with chromatic aberration, but I haven't shot too many exposures with the lens all the way out (largely because it's just too soft there). These large range zoom lenses are compromises between the convenience of having such a wide range of focal lengths, vs. the sharpness and accuracy of a single focal length lens. Overall, and on balance, I recommend this lens to people who value not changing lenses (nothing worse than missing a great shot while you're fiddling with your equipment), and to those not shooting at the long end of the lens much.
    If you are thinking about getting this, I recommend getting it with the camera and saving some major money over buying it later. At $599 (list), it's not cheap. Its effective cost when bought with the A55 camera body is a lot less (~$300) - this is a great deal (typically $1050 for this lens and the A55). It is a major improvement on its predecessor (the 18-200 mm), and generally pretty sharp for this type of lens.

    reviewed January 16th, 2012 (purchased for $350)