Sony E PZ 16-50 f/3.5-5.6 OSS E-mount lens review

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Sony E 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS vs. Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS

Many NEX users wonder how much better (or worse) the 16-50 is when compared to classic 18-55 kit lens and should they upgrade.

Again, let’s start with NEX-5 shots (no lens software corrections available in this model), shot in RAW and converted in ACR at all default values. These are closest examples to true optical lens performances:

16mm:

16-50@f/3.5 16-50@f/4 16-50@f/5.6 16-50@f/8 16-50@f/11 16-50@f/16

18mm:

18-55@f/3.5 18-55@f/5.6 18-55@f/8 18-55@f/11 18-55@f/16

16-50@f/4 16-50@f/5.6 16-50@f/8 16-50@f/11 16-50@f/16

35mm:

18-55@f/4.5 18-55@f/5.6 18-55@f/8 18-55@f/11 18-55@f/16

16-50@f/5.6 16-50@f/8 16-50@f/11 16-50@f/16

55mm (50mm on 16-50):

18-55@f/5.6 18-55@f/8 18-55@f/11 18-55@f/16

16-50@f/5.6 16-50@f/8 16-50@f/11 16-50@f/16

At 18mm, both lenses are equally sharp in center, with 18-55 sharper in corners. Aperture stoped down, I am not sure if I can see any differences. At 35mm, both lenses perform the same, except they both have slightly decentered focus; 16-50 is sharper in left corner and 18-55 in right. It’s something that can be expected at this price point, varies with each and every produced example and I wouldn’t worry about it. Most users will never notice it. At maximum zoom – 50mm for SEL1650 and 55mm for SEL1855, the new 16-50 outperforms it’s older cousin wide open at f/5.6. Look at the big yellow tree, 16-50 clearly shows more details in the leaves. All together, performance is similar enough to regard them as equal.

The problems are 16-50′s geometric distortions and corner light falloff, and that’s the main reason that stirred internet rumors and marked this lens as a failure before it even became available for sale in all markets and reviewed properly. 16-50 has much worse barrel distortion at wide angle, but outperforms old 18-55 at 35mm which has visible pincushion distortion. At maximum zoom, they are almost equal.

16-50 distortion @ 16mm 18mm 24mm 28mm 35mm 50mm

18-55 distortion @ 18mm 24mm 28mm 35mm 55mm

The 16-50 needs to be zoomed in to 18mm to loose much of its nasty vignette, and at 20mm it’s completely gone.

And now NEX-6 images (all lens software corrections active for both 16-50 and 18-55), shot in JPEG. Let’s see how good these lenses perform on latest generation camera with software correction:

18mm:

18-55@f/3.5 18-55@f/5.6 18-55@f/8 18-55@f/11 18-55@f/16

16-50@f/4 16-50@f/5.6 16-50@f/8 16-50@f/11 16-50@f/16

35mm:

18-55@f/4.5 18-55@f/5.6 18-55@f/8 18-55@f/11 18-55@f/16

16-50@f/5.6 16-50@f/8 16-50@f/11 16-50@f/16

55mm (50mm on 16-50):

18-55@f/5.6 18-55@f/8 18-55@f/11 18-55@f/16

16-50@f/5.6 16-50@f/8 16-50@f/11 16-50@f/16

Sharpness results are the same as on NEX-5, but this time there is almost no visible geometric distortion on any lens, as is the case with vignette and chromatic aberrations. Optically, they deliver the same performance.

CONCLUSION

Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS is not a bad lens. The main reason for which internet pixel-peeper community marked it as failure is wide angle performance. Barrel distortion and light fallof are really bad at 16mm, that’s true. It is best used from 18mm (preferably 20mm) upward. I don’t understand why Sony had to make it a 16mm lens and provoke an avalanche of criticism. It could sell as good as a 18-50mm or 20-50mm lens, and people would not complain about it; most of photographers know it’s hard to make cheap, compact, optically great zoom lens for such a short flange-to-back distance on a large(ish) sensor.

All put together, I think it’s best to split the conclusion for two type of users:

1. If you shoot mostly or always JPEG and intent to use SEL1650 on the latest generation NEX camera bodies ONLY, go for it without hesitation. Software correction will fix all there’s to fix and you won’t even know the lens has optical problems. E 16-50mm is small and sharp and will perform just fine.

2. If you are a regular RAW shooter or intent to use 16-50mm lens on an older NEX camera which doesn’t have the built-in light fall-off and geometric distortion correction (please check you manual or camera menu to locate these options) think twice (thrice) before swapping your old E 18-55mm for the new E 16-50. Wide angle performance is questionable, and I wouldn’t recommend spending your time trying to fix it in post-process… It is good above 20mm, but what’s the point of having a 16mm lens that must be zoomed in to perform well? You are better off with 18-55, 16mm, and especially 35mm and 50mm prime lenses.

REVIEW UPDATE

I have published an important update to Sony E 16-50 review and you can read it here.

Support this blog, buy the Sony E 16-50mm and other Sony gear following these Amazon links:


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31 thoughts on “Sony E PZ 16-50 f/3.5-5.6 OSS E-mount lens review

  1. Pingback: Sony A5000 review | Camerahoarders.com

  2. Pingback: 16-50mm Test bei Photozone - Seite 8 - Systemkamera Forum

  3. Great review, bought a Nex 3n and I’m very pleased with the performance – particularly given the price, but I can’t seem to find a lens hood for it – a few forums seem to suggest the SH112, but I’ve checked this out and it doesn’t fit – any suggestions welcome!

  4. The 18-55 pictures seems to be better saturated than the 16-50. You didn’t write something about it.
    Is the 18-55 better in this aspect or is there some other reason for the different colors?

    • Yes, those from 18-55 look a bit warmer to my eyes, but this is a very small variation and can probably be seen only when compared directly to 16-50… in real life people will have either 18-55 or 16-50 and won’t notice any difference, so I wrote nothing about it… people were allready confused enough with distortions :) And as you can see, you are the first one to bring it up after alomost 8 months after review was published.

  5. hi there, i was thinking to get myself the NEX 5R, does it has lens correction like the NEX 6? do i need to correct it in the setting or it corrects automatically? and will you recommend me to buy the kit or to buy the body and the 18-55mm lens instead?

    • Yes, it corrects it automatically for JPEG files. Get the kit with 16-50, with all the corrections it is as good as 18-55, yet smaller in size.

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  7. I have old “compact” Minolta Rokkor MD lenses:
    - 50mm, 100 f2, 250 mirror f 5.6
    Can they be fitted on this camera? with good results? transmit aperture?
    Together with 16-50 zoom, does it make good system?
    Advise NEX 6 with viewfinder or Nex 5r?

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  10. Thank a lot for the very informative review. I am waiting for my 5r w/ 16-50 to arrive to use it as an every day camera (when I don’t want to take the A77).
    I find the performance of the 16-50 you showed ok, given its size. I am glad it is 16 instead of 18mm, cause I really like to have that more in wideangle. As you showed taking RAWs might even provide users with about 14mm view. Of course you have to correct some things in post processing then but at least you can take that wider angle.
    So after all I am glad Sony made this lens like it is!

    • Yup, now there’s lens profile in ACR7.3 and it’s easy to correct raw files. I think it might be even usable as pseudo-fisheye when you pronounce distortion in PP instead correcting it, lol. :)

  11. Pingback: Ersteindruck Sony Nex 6 - Seite 9 - Systemkamera Forum

  12. HI thanks for the great review. I bought recently the Nex 5R with 18-55 lens and just noticed its distortion at 18mm. I turned on all the corrections but still the distortions are there. It seems that your Nex6 corrected most distortions even with the 18-55mm lens. Now i am confused whether the problem is on the lens side or body side. And if I get myself the 16-50 lens, would the in-camera corrections work with it? I am in general a Jpeg shooter. Thanks a lot for your opinion!

  13. I have a nex 6 coming tomorrow. After your great review I am not even opening the box. Just returning it. Too much money for that kind of quality.
    I use a canon 1ds mark III. For carry around I was using canon g12. But was not happy with noise and ability to make large prints.
    I thought the nex 6 was a good answer. The rx100 might be ok but still pics I looked at went south when you raised the Iso.
    Do you have a suggestion other than perhaps the Leica.
    Thanks
    Roger

    • Well, if you expect 1D series quality for this price you will never be satisfied. Do you really need zoom lens? NEX-6 is a great camera when used with primes. Try the new35/1.8 and 50/1.8, and especially zeiss 24/1.8. Otherwise you might want to wait for a few days, i am working on a review of Nikon P7700 vs Olympus XZ-2, and RX100 will follow soon. Maybe you will like some of them.

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  15. Pingback: Sony E PZ 16-50 f/3.5-5.6 OSS E-mount lens review … | How To Choose A Camera Lens

  16. Thanks for the great review. What would you recommend to someone who intends to use Nex6 for video shooting at 16mm. Does the software correction work with video?

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  18. Pingback: Plenty of new Sony reviews (A99, NEX-6, NEX-5r) | sonyalpharumors

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  20. Not to be difficult, but what about someone who splits the difference?

    I’m generally a JPEG shooter, who’s looking to pick up an NEX-6 Kit. However, I do minor photography work on the side sometimes when I do try to use RAW to give people the highest quality image I can.

    So…new NEX, mostly JPEG, but sometimes RAW, and when in RAW quality is the highest importance (post-correction isn’t a deal breaker).

    Seems like a “Yes” based on your review, but I’m curious for your thoughts.

    • Billy, it’s a “yes” from me. I will post an update to the review (probably tomorrow) with further elaboration.. in my haste to get it published I overlooked a detail which slightly extends the “recomended” category (your application falls within it).

  21. Very helpful review, many thanks. I’m an NEX-7 owner, having purchased the camera when it first came out. I’ve never shot RAW, only JPEGS, and appreciate the concept of a very compact lens which makes the camera almost pocket sized. I’m trying to figure out whether to swap the current 18-55 for the new 16-50. Question is whether my NEX-7 is a “latest generation camera”, or are you referring only to the new models that came out within the last couple of months?
    Ike

    • Ike, your NEX-7 has the options to correct lens imperfections, they can be found in “Setup” menu and look like this:
      Lens Comp: Shading (Auto/Off),
      Lens Comp: Chro. Aber. (Auto/Off)
      Lens Comp: Distortion (Auto/Off)
      Now the problem is that the NEX-7 came out a year earlier than this lens and it probably doesn’t have the profile required to correct the lens built-in…(there’s a small chance profile is inside lens and camera “reads” it via lens electronic connections) so I guess Sony should release an update for NEX-7 in order for this lens to be corrected. I am sorry I can not give you a definite yes or no, but I don’t have a NEX-7 at hand… if some of my readers have it and allready bought the 16-50 lens I would be grateful for the info… I will try this lens on some other NEX bodies besides here tested as as soon as i can and update review.

      P.S. Ike, if your local camera store has the lens in stock, they might give it to you for a minute to try in on your camera… if it shows huge barrel distortion on widest wide angle allready on LCD or EVF preview like seen in review above, NEX-7 doesn’t have the profile to correct it. This way you might be able try it yourself before buying

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