Monday, December 24, 2012

Sony NEX-6: Initial Impression - Part III: 16-50mm Kit Lens

Continued from Part II.

The Sony 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 lens has two very desirable features: wide angle at 24mm (35mm full frame equivalent), and it's a pancake zoom, thus very small.  I am not a lens snob, but I don't have fondness for kit lenses that come with cameras.  The very worse ones that I have used, unfortunately, are Sony E-mount kit lenses.  They are relatively sharp, but the distortion is horrendous.  This include the 16-50mm f3.5-5.6.

The 16-50mm kit lens has an electric zoom, which I don't care for. I very much prefer mechanical zooms. The zoom action is actually quite noisy and not very precise. It's great for video, but not for still photography in my opinion.  In terms of build quality, I think the 18-55mm kit lens is better.  The 16-50mm lens feels more plastic and cheap, not to mention is has a weird 40.5mm filter thread. Why not make it 49mm like the others?  The lens is not exactly small in diameter.

My particular copy of the 16-50mm kit lens is not very sharp at the wide end of 16mm, even at f8.  At longer focal lengths, it performs much better. What really turns me off, though, is the barrel distortion at 16mm.  Have a look at the picture below:

RAW vs JPEG - NEX-6 & 16-50mm f3.5-5.6 OSS. Click for larger.

On the left, is a thumb nail from the RAW file, and on the right is the jpeg version (I shot RAW+JPEG in B&W).  Just look at how bad the native distortion is.  Yes, correction is easy, and Lightroom 4.3 has a lens profile for it, but after correction, the lens is no longer 16mm wide, as you can see in the picture above in the jpeg version.

The other major defect is how severe the vignetting is at 16mm.  You can see the (very) dark corners in the RAW picture above.  Perhaps that's why the lens doses not come with a hood, as a hood might make it worse. Again, it's easy to correct, but it tells you how much compromise was designed into this lens.

In actual use, if you don't shoot pictures with straight lines, it's not so bad. At 16mm f8, it's almost as good as the 16mm f2.8 pancake at f8, though the 16mm f2.8 is slightly sharper at the center. The wider angle of 24mm equivlant is definitely a plus, but if you are going to use this lens as your everyday, primary lens, you may be disappointed, especially if you care about image quality.

New condos - NEX-6 & 16-50mm kit lens @ 21mm f8. Click for larger.

In Part IV, I will have more to say about this lens.

16 comments:

  1. Enjoy reading your blogs and reviews.

    Happy holidays.

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  2. Thanks for all your blog notes this year and a Happy Christmas to you Yu-Lin (though I realise you don't celebrate it!)
    The 16-50 here looks to be pretty poor, though I didn't find the 18-55 too bad, about on par with Canon kit lenses I've tried.

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    1. Thanks Tim. Hope Santa will be nice to you!

      I wouldn't say the 16-50mm is poor as a kit lens, but I was hoping it would be a bit better than the garden variety 18-55mm lens. The Canon lens is not as bad as the Sony in terms of distortion.

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  3. I have read some on preview and they state that the RAW picture at 16mm is actually more like 15 mm uncorrected. After correction you do get the 16 mm and the vignetting is also vanishing. So the 16-50 is not bad if you take into account that it is much smaller than the 18-55. That being said, I am still waiting for a high-quality standard zoom from Sony. BTW, you can easily sell the 16-50, buy a 18-55 and make money in the deal.

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    1. That's actually nice to hear. I used it more in the last couple of days with a tripod, and I have more to say about the lens in a blog post coming up :)

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  4. The 16-50mm performance is quite disappointing, but having said that, most of the m43 lenses are corrected by in camera software, not the lens itself. For jpeg shooters, I don't think it is a real big deal, though you will lose some sharpness. For the price of convenience and price, I don't think it is a terrible price to pay, as long as you are aware of its limitations. If you need something sharper and undistorted, dig out your Leica Summicron.

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    1. I suppose it's not much worse than other kid lenses, but it is a big more expensive than the normal 18-55mm lens so naturally people will expect better quality. I brought the lens with me to Niagara Falls for a few days and I think it's a nice lens for travel.

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  5. Happy Holidays Yu-Lin, wow that uncorrected 16mm looks like a 16mm Zenitar haha.

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    1. Thanks photopete! Pretty horrible distortion, eh?

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    2. I'm surprised and then I'm not. For the price alone, I'd expect a little better but I do miss my Zenitar.

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  6. Just discovered your site. Thank you for a great blog!

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  7. Hi, thanks for the write up. Actually almost all the std lenses I've used in micro4/3 show exactly the sort of distortion you show in your Sony lens. Panasonic (being smarter than Olympus) have built in the corrections to their lenses so that you never see just how feral it is in the JPG or even using the RAW in PS or LR because the correction profile is attached to the RAW files. They correct for much, including vignetting, so you never see how poor your lens really is if you've never used RAW and a converter which does not 'fix it' for you. I did a comparison of my FD200mm to the 200mm end of the Panasonic 45-200 "kit" zoom.

    http://cjeastwd.blogspot.com/2010/02/panasonic-45-200mm.html

    the two pictures at the bottom really sum it up. The 14-45mm zoom however does much better ...

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  8. Hi !
    I have the same lens for my NEX-5T and the vigneting and distorsion appear only for 16mm !
    You said "Yes, correction is easy, and Lightroom 4.3 has a lens profile for it"
    Could you give me the profil ? I didn't find it. I have to do manually but it's not really good.
    Thank you !

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    1. You can select the profile under Develop --> Lens Corrections in Lightroom.

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