Sony E 16mm f/2.8 SEL16F28
Lab Test Results
December 6, 2010
by Andrew Alexander
The Sony NEX system was announced in May 2010, with three lenses: the 18-55 and 18-200mm zoom lenses, and the subject of this review, the 16mm ƒ/2.8 pancake prime lens.
The 16mm ƒ/2.8 was designed for the new Sony ''E'' mount, with the image circle filling only the APS-C sensor size (it would vignette if used with a full-frame camera, and it's not clear if that would even be possible). The lens gives an effective field of view of 24mm when mounted on a NEX3 or NEX5, and with the addition of bayonet-mount adapters, the lens can be used as a 20mm fisheye lens or a 18mm ultrawide angle lens.
The lens takes 49mm filters, and while a lens hood does not ship with the lens, the hood from the 18-55mm lens is compatible. The lens is available now separately for approximately $250, or as part of a NEX camera kit.
The Sony E 16mm ƒ/2.8 pancake is fairly soft when used wide open at the ƒ/2.8 aperture: around 3-4 blur units on average, with a small sweet spot that is moderately sharper (about 1.5 blur units) in the center. Stopping down does improve results for sharpness, but not incredibly: by ƒ/4, it's 2-3 blur units, and it hits its maximum sharpness at ƒ/5.6-8, where the softer parts of the frame are about 2 blur units, while the center improves to about 1. Diffraction limiting begins to set in at ƒ/11, and the image is quite soft at f/22. (Oddly, even at f/22, the corners are noticeably softer than the center.)
We noted a high level of chromatic aberration present in images shot with the 16mm ƒ/2.8 E, and not necessarily just in the corners. CA is most prominent when the lens is shot wide open at ƒ/2.8, and reduces slightly as the lens is stopped down.
Light falloff is a factor, but not a huge one, with this lens. When used wide open at ƒ/2.8, the corners of the image are 2/3 EV darker than the center; when used at any other aperture, the corners are 1/3 EV darker than the center.
Distortion is usually a factor for wide-angle lenses, and so it's not surprise to find distortion in images shot with the 16mm ƒ/2.8 E. What is surprising is that it's a fairly prominent pincushion distortion - wide-angle lenses usually produce barrel distortion. In this case, there is some slight barrel distortion throughout the image (+0.2%), but in the corners, we note -0.7% distortion.
The Sony 16mm ƒ/2.8 E is quick to autofocus - the lens takes less than a second to slew through the entire range of focus. It is very fast as there is little to move inside the lens when focusing. Small changes in focus are conducted extremely quickly. The ring will turn all the way around with no stops. When using manual focus as you turn the ring the central section of the LCD displays an enlarged (7X or 14X) view of the image. It makes the camera very easy to use for manual focusing with this lens.
Look elsewhere for macro performance - the lens has a magnification rating of just 0.073x. To its credit, the minimum close-focusing distance is short, at just 24cm (a little under a foot).
Build Quality and Handling
A nice looking, very compact, pancake style lens that looks great on either the NEX3 or NEX5 bodies. The lens is very lightweight, weighing in at just 70 grams (2.5 oz). The front element is a tiny dime-size element, and the entire optical design of the lens is made up of just 5 elements, one of which is aspherical. The lens balances nicely on the NEX3 or 5 body, but it's worth noting that with the design of these cameras, the lens is offset to the left, and that does make that side of the camera slightly heavier.
The only control surface on the lens is the focusing ring - there is simply no room on the lens for a depth-of-field scale or anything similar. All other functionality such as enabling or disabling autofocus is conducted on the camera. The rubber focusing ring is 3/8'' wide, and will rotate forever in either direction with no hard or soft stops.
While the lens doesn't ship with a lens hood, the hood from the 18-55mm lens will fit on this lens and function well (however, we don't know whether it's the recommended hood). When attached, the petal-shaped lens hood will add 1 1/8'' to the overall length of the lens, and could be reversed for storage on the bayonet mount.
The other accessories available for this lens are the wide-angle adapters, which we did not have an opportunity to test, but will allow the lens to operate as a 20mm fisheye lens (VCL-ECF1 adapter) or an 18mm ultrawide angle lens (VCL-ECU1 adapter).
Right now, there's precious little in the way of alternatives for the Sony E mount. An adapter exists to allow you to mount standard alpha lenses, but the only comparable lens would be the 16mm ƒ/2.8 fisheye. The NEX kit lens, the 18-55mm ƒ/3.5-5.6, offers almost-as-wide performance, but without the constant ƒ/2.8 aperture.
The size of the lens make a NEX camera system almost pocketable. If you like the idea of a wide prime for your NEX camera, right now there's simply nothing else available. It's an interesting little lens, but its price point and its performance are perhaps limiting it to strictly consumer application.
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 16mm f/2.8 SEL16F28
Sony E 16mm f/2.8 SEL16F28 User Reviews
9 out of 10 points and recommended by Perry Rhodan (40 reviews)Compact, light, at F8 very sharp, price with WA is 200not very sharp corners wide open
Really not bad at all. The 5N does very nice with this one, even with the WA attached. The NEX 6 does even better. Not the best for brick/walls or any other flat surfaces. But this cheap pancake records scenery much better than expected. Using the WA or FE adapters adds great use to the kit.reviewed November 14th, 2012 (purchased for $200)
7 out of 10 points and recommended by FrankPhillips (3 reviews)size and weightmeh....
I've had 2 copies of the 16mm and while it's amazingly small and light, it's pretty mediocre. If you add the wide-angle or fisheye converter, it's a great substitute for more expensive ultra-wide lenses. But it's only a "decent" lens...nothing special.reviewed November 12th, 2012 (purchased for $180)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by brugj03 (14 reviews)Very very light weight, good image quality for the price, fast accurat focus and makes your nex camera truly pocketable.Corner sharpness
I bought this lens for wide angle indoor an architectural shots and also as a platform for fisheye and ultra wide convertors from sony.reviewed November 4th, 2012 (purchased for $240)
The image quality is just fine. Considering the price its better than that.
The colors are crisp and clean, with good contrast.
Center sharpness is great even at wide open, corner sharpness is not for pixel peepers but acceptible.
This lens really stands out in extreme light weight and construction quality, which is great. On any nex camera it provides the lowest profile possible on any high quality photography system. It becomes a pocket camera.
After several months of use i noticed the very fast focus speed and the accuracy of the focus. It never seems to fail.
I think any nex shooter should buy this.
8 out of 10 points and recommended by dugong5pm (52 reviews)tiny! loads of FUN!none
This is not the lens if you're shooting MTF charts. I don't shoot test charts. This is the most used lens (along with the Sigma 30/2.8DN) with my NEX system.reviewed October 12th, 2012
This lens gives me much FUN with it. It almost can be used for everything. events, people, street, landscape, etc. It focuses fast, though the focus hunts sometimes. Colors are good & sharpness are highly acceptable (though it's no tack sharp), but it's ok for daily use, even when used wide open.
Sony should make more of this kind of lenses. It makes my NEX (jacket) pocketable.
3 out of 10 points and not recommended by NVO (2 reviews)Good center QDecentering
Image quality is good in the center (no apparent CA, decent but not great resolution). Good for daylight shooting at F/5.6 to F/11. Contrast and colours are on par with consumer zooms - but no contest for Canon L primes or the Distagons. Highlights are fine, dark areas are not.reviewed January 21st, 2012
NEX3 tends to overexpose with this lens - but this is most likely the camera's fault. AF is consistently good, but then it's hard to miss at 24/5.6.
Unfortunately, Sony seems to have serious QC problems. My kit lens was badly decentered - left quarter of the frame all mushed up. You can see the same bad-left-side defect in slrgear's test shots. Curiously, my "bad left" does not show colour fringing - perhaps it's there but all blurred.
I checked three replacement options, and all had some degree of the same problem. Left or right. Unfortunately, NEX3 does not offer 1:1 aspect ratio (within these limits, the lens is quite decent).
8 out of 10 points and recommended by Beachrider (22 reviews)Very light and quite inexpensive. Pancake lens is tres convenient with NEX5n. Faster focus than alpha-lenses on LA-EA1. IQ is commendable for price and convenience.No distance information on lens (there isn't much room for it, though)
I was wondering why the slrgear review showed sooo much more distortion and CA then I saw. I then found out that NEX5n has lens-specific, in-camera correction for CA/distortion/vignetting.reviewed October 5th, 2011 (purchased for $215)
Those corrections must be the reason that I got much better results than slrgear got.
It is a nice 'pancake' lens that benefits from the very fancy functions of NEX5n. I don't think that it is fair to review it against lenses that are 5x this lenses cost.
8 out of 10 points and recommended by blhablahblah (1 reviews)it's tinynone
Works great. No regrets about this lens. I have the 18-55 zoom also, but never use it. The whole point to this camera is that it's small. Hope they make a little 50 mm soon.reviewed December 13th, 2010 (purchased for $200)
10 out of 10 points and recommended by novak (1 reviews)small great sharpness throughout most of the framevery extreme edges are soft up to 5.6
It is easy to bash this lens as it seems popular item to be negative about, but my experience is quite the opposite - this is wonderful little jewel and beautifully sharp, specially considering its size and the fact that it is APS-C sized lens. It is better than most 24mm 2.8 FF lenses and just joy to use. Highly recommended.reviewed December 8th, 2010 (purchased for $150)
See many original size sample on my dpreview gallery ( http://forums.dpreview.com/galleries/3835186738/photos ) or on my flickr page: http://flickr.com/photos/rogic
or just check this random shot developed in LR3 by using lens profile - gets rid CA and becomes quite sharper - wondering if this review was done with RAW file or JPEG:
7 out of 10 points and recommended by primetime (1 reviews)build, size, f2.8, center sharpness, silent AF, fisheye attachment (sold separately)distortion, corner resolution, CA
Bought as a kit with my NEX-3reviewed October 1st, 2010
From my experience:
@f2.8, center sharpness is great, which all that is needed for blurring out backgrounds and/or available light shots. In real-world practice, I've never felt like corner sharpness is a priority in these situations.
@f8-11, corners are sharpened up and the lens produces good, wide landscape shots.
While I do find the resolution issues somewhat "forgivable", I find the distortion (pincushion) a big shortcoming of this lens. My wish is that a future NEX firmware update can electronically correct the distortion, but until then, it is unpleasant to deal with.
There might be a corrective Adobe Lens profile out there, but the distortion hasn't bothered me enough to find it and post-process my images.
The bottom line: given its speed and focal length, it's a very unique kit offering. Users stepping up from P&S will find a lot to like with the wide perspective and low light capability. Personally, I've used a DSLR for years found this lens/camera combo very refreshing. But anyone who was expecting miracles from a relatively cheap kit lens was fooling themselves.
There are limitations with this lens, but it's not difficult to work around them and produce great images.
9 out of 10 points and recommended by genotypewriter (12 reviews)AF speed, size, weight, build, looks, handlingSee details below
This is a great little lens. It's not as bad as some reviews say it is. See this test I did below:reviewed September 26th, 2010
If you're looking at getting a Nex camera as a great pocket camera, this lens is perfect. If you're looking to replace/match your DSLR for high quality work, maybe this lens isn't for you.
It's perfect in all other aspects. AF is really fast. Almost weightless and the size is very well balanced on the Nex. The build is great, feels solid as it looks. Manual focusing ring (electronically coupled, not mechanical) is as smooth as the best manual focus lenses out there.
This is the only lens I have for my Nex 5 at the moment (I only get primes) and it's a pleasure to use everyday. Sometimes I wish it was made slightly faster, even if a bit longer, like the similar sized Panasonic 20 1.7 which almost covers the APS-C frame. Also the lens doesn't focus as close as some of the 24mm primes on FF DSLRs, but is still quite good for close-ups with blurred backgrounds.
Looking at the other E mount lenses available now (18-55 and 18-200), this is highly recommended.