Meditate on 16-50 I will; an update to Sony E PZ 16-50mm lens review

In a rush to publish the Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS review, I omited to mention some important details which are in my opinion actually critical to have in mind if you are considering to purchase this lens. Also an obvious error occurred and I feel I must adjust my conclusions accordingly. This in an update post to the original review with some further elaboration of 16-50′s performance, and why I strongly suggested older NEX body users to stay away from it.

Allow me to show you some examples:

This is a photo of NEX-5 with 16-50 framing a shot. I wanted the top of that tree in upper right corner to be part of my final photograph. Let’s take a shot, and see what we’ve got. Below left is the uncorrected photo, middle one has correction applied, and the image on the right is scaled up to eliminate gray areas. I had to use pretty strong ACR setting of +55 for geometric correction and 118 for “scale” to crop corners.

Where has the top of the tree gone?! Massive geometric correction cropped parts of the photograph I wanted to have.  Maybe I should have framed a shot with that in mind; assumed how far the image must be cropped, but we all know what assumptions are… (in case you don’t, just google it). Maybe if I draw crop markings with pen on my LCD…

…and maybe this is not a good idea. Correction amount required changes with zoom position, so it’s basically impossible to frame a shot and be sure you will be able to correct barrel distortion while keeping all the stuff in corners you saw there when the shot was framed.

Having demonstrated this, I repeat my previous advice: 16-50 is a strong “NO” if you have older NEX camera without in-camera geometric distortion correction. I wanted to buy this lens myself, but with these wide-angle issues, I will not. Pity, it could have been a great little lens, compact and wider than 18-55.

But there is always a “but”

NEX-6 makes geometric correction on the fly, and the preview images on LCD and in EVF always looks corrected. This is so blatantly obvious; I can’t believe I didn’t see it two days ago. In fact, the option can not be turned off when 16-50 is attached; it is simply grayed out in the menu system (pics below).

Basically this allows you to frame a shot with live-view preview of corrected image. If you shoot in RAW it will still have to be corrected in post-process, but this time you will not lose any of information you wanted to have in final image because you already framed looking at corrected image preview.

Here are the examples; on the left pure raw photo, middle +55 on “distortion” slider, and the right one with “scale” slider to 118 for crop. Notice how the top of the tree is more to the center in first picture (it was in the corner of LCD when I framed the shot), so the final corrected image is exactly what I wanted in the first place.

Having this in mind, 16-50 might be recommended to RAW shooters with NEX camera with built in correction. I said “might” for a good reason. Keep in mind you will have to spend extra time correcting photos, build a profile yourself (are you sure you can do it right?) or have the faith in Adobe releasing their on profile (this might or might not happen, and question is how long will you wait for it).

So to make Sony E 16-50 review as clear as possible…

UPDATE 31.12:

Adobe has released updated software a week or two ago (Lightroom 4.3 and ACR 7.3) which include automated profile for this lens. Therefore, correcting geometry now requires only one click of a mouse and I am updating this conclusion accordingly:

16-50 is a “YES” if you:

  • Shoot only JPEG on NEX camera with built-in lens correction. Images will be fixed in-camera and you won’t even notice something is wrong.
  • Shoot either JPEG or RAW on NEX camera with built-in lens correction. Now there’s an Adobe profile and the lens correction is a breeze (you need to start using latest Photoshop or Lightroom though)

16-50 is still a firm “NO” if you:

  • Have an older NEX without lens correction and shoot either JPEG or RAW. Images still can be corrected, but you will have major problems composing shots (correction on PC will crop corners which you intended to have in final shot)


UPDATE No.2 (15.02.2013.):

Sony makes me feel like a Mexican soap-opera screenplay writer… :) This is the third time I need to update 16-50 review in order to make it relevant due to latest firmware update made available for NEX cameras. Sony released firmware update for NEX-7, NEX-5N and NEX-F3 which adds automatic lens correction when using 16-50 lens. Now the list of NEX cameras supporting lens correction is as follows: NEX-7, NEX-6, NEX-5R, NEX-5N, NEX-F3.

Firmware updates can be downloaded from this link. Just type your camera model and a list of updates and manuals will show.

Cameras that DO NOT support lens correction are: NEX-5, NEX-3, NEX-C3.


Please, read the original review with sharpness analysis and comparison with E 16mm f/2.8 and E 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lenses.

If you found this review helpful, please support my work buying anything from Amazon by following links from my blog, as I will receive a small percentage from every item sold although you don’t pay any more than you would otherwise:

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28 thoughts on “Meditate on 16-50 I will; an update to Sony E PZ 16-50mm lens review

  1. Thank you SO much for taking the time to clarify this Ivan. Its much appreciated!!

    I was shocked at the vignetting at wide angle, and was convinced that Sony decided to release the camera in other countries (rather than the USA – where most reviewers are) because there was something wrong with the lens! I got even more suspicious when the 5R + 16-50 combo launched here in India before it has in the USA (and for a slightly cheaper price).

    In short, as long as the camera is one that has got the firmware update, this is a pretty decent kit lens! Will be buying it this week. Thanks!

    PS – Maybe make this update a little more prominent in the main review – perhaps by putting it right at the start?

  2. I just “upgraded” my NEX7 firmware (1.01 t0 1.02) for the 16-50 lens. The problem is that there seems to be no way to disable lens correction so that one can see the uncorrected RAW image in the camera.
    I find this a serious problem as what you see in the viewfinder is NOT what you get in the RAW image.
    Can anyone suggest there is a work around or if downgrading the firmware back to 1.01 is possible?

  3. Thanks for the great review and follow up on the Sony 16-50 lense. I am considering purchasing this lense and was confused by the different complaints about its quality until I read your review.

  4. Looks like Sony have just released last week a firmware update for the Nex-5N and Nex-7 which give it the same live distortion correction as you current have on the 5R and 6. So it’s only the original Nex 5 and the various Nex 3s that suffer from lack of correction now.

    Bit of a pain, but might be worth updating this article a second time to reflect this, for anyone coming to this review for the first time with a Nex 5N or Nex7. I think a lot of those people would be interesting in this as a travel zoom, especially as 16-50mm will start to flood the 2nd hand market as some 5R and 6 users look to shift their kit lenses.

    (Great review by the way!)

    • Thanks for the tip, I’ve been busy quite for the last few weeks and forgot to publish latest firmware announcements… I will update this review very soon and am working on many new articles and reviews. :)

      • “Sony makes me feel like a Mexican soap-opera screenplay writer…”

        Great quote ;-)

        Given how much optical distortion this lens has at 14mm (Opps, i mean 16mm!) – Sony should really have released the firmware updates as soon as lens hit the market before all the reviewers got their hands on it.

        They now have a whole host of online negative reviews complaining about non-corrected distortion but, unlike you, those reviewers will probably never bother to update their articles!

  5. Hi, thanks for such a great article.

    One question (first time shooting raw with the NEX 6 and 16-50), how do you know how much “distortion” to add to correct and (not over correct) a RAW image show with the 16-50 in lightroom?

    I would appreciate any advice SO much.

    • Latest lightroom edition (4.3) has automated profile so you don’t need to worry; it will apply correction by itself… if you really want to do it manually or have older Lr version, best way would be to take a test shot of a brick wall at every zoom setting (NEX6 shows zoom position in “mm” on LCD), correct the images untill all the bricks are straight and write down needed level of correction for your future use.

    • Sorry but no… you could ask on some forum (DPR for example) if anyone used that combination.

  6. If you shoot at 16mm and then have to crop to correct the distortion, then the “equivalent” wide angle end is not so wide any more… Maybe closer to 18mm?

    • No, the lens is actually around 14mm at widest. When you correct it, then becomes 16mm.

  7. Pingback: 1855 gegen 1650 tauschen? - Seite 8 - Systemkamera Forum

  8. As for distortion correction the same is true for NEX 5R with 16-50 lens: it’s grayed out so you can’t turn it off, what you see on the screen is always corrected (both in Live View and after the shot has been made).
    The only thing that puzzles me so far with this combo is that I can’t turn off the Clear Image Zoom as the Zoom setting in the Camera menu is grayed out as well. Digital Zoom and Smart Zoom are off, but in most modes the Clear Image Zoom is present. Does anybody know how to turn if off completely with 5R and 16-50? I’ve never seen it with the kit 18-55, by the way.

    • Sorry for the Clear Image Zoom, I’ve already found how to turn it off. So 5R (white) + 16-50 work seamlessly and b/w combo looks stylish :)

  9. Pingback: SELP1650 16-50mm Retractable Zoom Lens - Seite 34 - Systemkamera Forum

  10. There is profile for this lens if you use lightroom for RAW, just downloaded from Adobe site. Will pickup my NEX 6 today to replace all my A900 and must lens

  11. For people who want to have the RAW information but are not good at correcting distortion by themselves, there is another option available: Use the Sony RAW converter, delivered with the NEX. This converter will also correct distortion and vignetting using the RAW image as input. After basic correction the image can be saved as TIFF 16 bit and be further processed in lightroom, or the application of your choice.

  12. This is a very interesting review, and I agree with most of it. I recently acquired the nex6 with the 16-50 and I took several raw images with it. I confirm your findings but this is mainly valid at 16mm. In fact the raw images are much easier to correct at other focal lengths. I think it’s important to mention that if you avoid the 16-19mm range and wide open apertures, shooting RAW is no longerr problematic. I like the compactness of the lens very much, and quality is pretty decent for JPEG. I hope Adobe releases a lens profile for it very soon, it will make this lens even more interesting. But if high quality of images is a priority, then go prime. The whole compact system idea implies few concessions, and giving up top quality for compactness is one of them. Just look at how big is the Fuji 18-55 f/2.8-4 compared to the Sony 16-50 PZ.

    • I agree, but 16mm at wide end is what makes this lens so interesting (besides small size)… avoiding shooting at 16mm is sensless. Most kit zooms for all systems start at 18mm.

  13. hi
    when do you talk about “old version of nex camera” do you mean also the nex 7?
    i have a nex 7 and i will get this lens basically for the lightweight but i need to know if my nex 7 can fix the lens problems.

    thank you

    • Hi, NEX-7 has the option to correct lenses, but I am not sure if it will have to be updated or it “reads” correction data from the lens itself. Untill I get my hands on NEX-7 or some of my readers try the combination and report findings, I cannot know for sure.

      • This lens is corrected properly on NEX-5R and NEX-6 (I checked it personally in store). NEX-7 and NEX-5N apply some weird profile to it so it corrects light fall off and geometric distortion to some extent but the results are much worse than what you get in NEX-6 or NEX-5R. Basically, 5N and 7 are not using the right profile. I hope Sony will release firmware upgrades for these two cameras that would include the profiles for the newly issued lenses. They did just that for A65 which was released at around the same time as 5N, and included profiles for eight lenses in that update. Arguably, there is larger percentage of users shooting JPEGs with NEX cameras than with Alphas, so if they keep supporting the Alphas they should be doing it for NEX cameras as well. Otherwise the message is that when you are buying a NEX camera make sure you are happy with the (very limited number of) lenses that are currently available, because the ones coming after the camera’s release will not work properly.

        • mmm…
          this thing about lens correction sounds great but i don’t understand if every time a new lens is released it need to be mounted on the last generation nex. that would suck but it seems it could be possible.
          for example. there is the new 10-18 coming and i’m sure it will be load with distorsion. of course one year ago the nex 7 didn’t have the 10-18 profile loaded so what is gonna happen? let’s see

          • Sony has just published the firmware update for NEX-5N and NEX-7 which includes the compensation profile for this lens!

  14. Pingback: Sony E PZ 16-50 f/3.5-5.6 OSS E-mount lens review |

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