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

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Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens is a welcomed addition to E-mount lens lineup. It’s a lens most NEX users wanted from beginning – a small collapsible zoom. It is exactly half as big as Sony E 18-55 f/3.5-5.6 OSS lens, has the same aperture range, optical stabilization, but a bit wider angle (24mm vs. 27mm in 35mm equivalent).

SEL16-50 is a good example of tradeoffs; at this price point, being collapsible and covering APS-C sensor, some part of its performance must be below average. And really, as soon as it hit shelves a week or two ago, internet community started complaint threads on 16-50′s performance. You surely know how it looks like; endless trolling, (usually) without samples to back-up stated points and a lot of confusion amongst potential buyers. That’s why I rushed to get it reviewed and clear a situation at least a little bit. So let’s begin with SEL1650 review.

FYI: There is also an important update to this review: read it here.

Sony SEL1650 has the same build quality as all other Sony E-mount lenses. In other words, metal body cover and lens mount with clean and simple design. Zoom is operated in two ways: by classic W-T (wide-tele) sliding button or by circular electronic ring around the lens. Electronic ring has very smart implementation: it operates zoom (speed sensitive), and after the focus is locked, electronic ring becomes focus ring (DMF must be activated). It’s very natural to use it that way; I got accustomed to it in minutes. If manual focus is active, the ring is used only for focusing; zoom must be operated with W-T button. Sadly, there is no lens hood in package (lens arrived as a part of the NEX-6Y package with E 16-50mm and E 55-210mm).

At  startup, lens is extended in second or two. When turned off, sometimes it took 4-5 second to collapse itself on NEX-6, and sometimes it did it in just a second or two. I didn’t find an obvious reason to this occasional delay. Whe used on NEX-5 body, the lens extends and contract within second or two.

Officially, focal length is 16-50mm or 24-75mm in 35mm equivalent. In real life, I have a feeling this lens is a bit wider, at least 14mm at wide end. You will notice that in samples when compared to 16mm f/2.8 lens.

Being what it is (small cheap kit lens on large sensor), Sony opted to correct some of its optical flaws via in-camera software. Usually, I am a fan of such approach; why pay premium for flawless lens when some small imperfection can be corrected in post-process? But this time, Sony has gone too far in my humble opinion. Wide angle performance is a lemon in some aspects (more on that further down the review) and it’s possible to correct it only on latest generation NEX cameras. Users with older models (myself included) must either to learn to live with its flaws, or simply not buy it.

Sony E 16mm f/2.8 vs. Sony E PZ 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS

Let’s start with test images from Sony NEX-5. Examples below show how these lenses perform on an older NEX body without software lens correction feature, and what you get from RAW files in NEX-6 when in-camera lens correction are turned off:

16mm@3.5 16mm@5.6 16mm@8 16mm@11 16mm@16

16-50mm@3.5 16-50mm@5.6 16-50mm@8 16-50mm@11 16-50mm@16

At f/3.5 16mm appears to be sharper, but difference is really hard to spot. At f/8 16-50mm has a slight advantage, but also hardly noticeable. Both lenses show chromatic aberrations to the same degree (more or less). Huge difference is seen in geometric distortions, when 16-50 produces a very strong barrel distortion, amongst the worst I’ve seen. Vignetting is also bad wide open; at f/5.6 SEL1650 improves a lot but needs to be stopped down to f/16 to completely get rid of its dark corners.

Now let’s take a look at test images from Sony NEX-6, shot in JPEG with all lens correction options turned on for both lenses. These are the best results possible without correcting them on PC with third party software.

16mm@3.5 16mm@5.6 16mm@8 16mm@11 16mm@16

16-50mm@3.5 16-50mm@5.6 16-50mm@8 16-50mm@11 16-50mm@16

Results surprised me! 16-50 appears to have a better corner sharpness across the whole aperture range. Not much, but visible. Just keep in mind; it’s because in-camera correction cropped 16-50′s corners by stretching the image, so the “new” corners are part of the frame that did not optically originate in lens’s corner. Anyway, that’s not our problem as long as the result is good. All other imperfections appear to be removed quite well on both lenses. One more thing; 16-50 has slightly wider frame coverage, like it’s a 14 or 15 lens in reality. Keep in mind, 16mm pancake lens can be opened to f/2.8 what provides 2/3 of a stop more light than what’s available on the E 16-50mm.

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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.

  14. Pingback: Sony NEX-6 review | Camerahoarders.com

  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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