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…
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.
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