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Home » Camera Lens Reviews » Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 Review

Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 Review

Looking to find more information regarding the Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6? Read our latest review to learn more about the Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6, its specifications, and if it’s a good camera lens for you. 

Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 Overview

The Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS PZ is a pancake zoom lens for the Sony NEX system (E-mount). It’s a tiny lens, especially when you consider that it spans such a wide range of focal lengths. That said, there’s more to the story than that. When in “transport mode,” the lens is rather tiny.

The lens extends into its operating position and size-wise, it’s almost identical to a normal lens right after you turn on the camera. There’s at least one more specialty associated with the lens’ handling – it’s a PZ or Power-Zoom lens, as the name implies.

There are actually two types of zoom in this lens. You can use the dedicated zoom slider, or you can turn the focus ring while in AF mode to achieve the same effect. For a small premium, this lens may be purchased as part of a camera kit, as well as separately for about $300. According to the specifications, this appears to be a very good deal for a lens with a field-of-view equivalent to “24-75mm” on full format cameras.

Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 Specifications

The Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 was first announced on 09/12/2012 with a Sony E mount type. Below is a summary of this len’s specifications: 

Indicative Price: $350

Focal Range: 16-50mm

Aperture: F/ 3.5-5.6

Filter Diameter (millimeters): 40.5

Maximum Diameter (millimeters): 66.7

Number Of Lenses: 9

Length (millimeters): 30.2

AF Motor: SAM

Stabilization: OSS

Zoom Type: Ring

Tripod Mount: None Available

Colors Available: Black, Silver

Manual Focus: Wire Focus

Weight (grams): 116

Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 Performance

The Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 is an excellent lens for anyone looking to save some money with good performance. The marked aperture range of F/3.5-5.6 is pretty standard for this type of lens, and there’s nothing out of the ordinary here. Judging by the outer casing, it appears that Sony took care in designing the exterior of this unit – it’s all metal (aluminum alloy).

Build and Handling Quality

The Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 has a good build quality and the focus ring rotates smoothly. The zoom slider is firm and extends at a constant rate, there’s an average amount of resistance as you turn it to go between focal lengths. Zoom creep doesn’t appear to be an issue at all with this lens, which is always nice to see – especially for those who shoot in portrait orientation frequently (and those who don’t want their camera lens flopping around).

Autofocus Performance

In subjective testing, the autofocus seems to be decent. The lens focuses quickly and accurately in a variety of lighting conditions. There’s a brief moment of sluggishness when powering on your camera before focusing is possible, but it’s not a big issue. As expected for an E-mount lens with an internal motor, noise from the AF drive during operation is relatively low under most circumstances. However, there are two points that impact focus speed: firstly, you’ll need to switch to manual focus if your subject isn’t very still (very slow).

Sharpness

The Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS lens and a Sony NEX-6 camera body were used to conduct the sharpness tests in this review, which was mounted on a sturdy tripod with the self-timer disabled to minimize any blur from pressing the shutter release. During the shoot, changes in natural light caused by shifting clouds resulted in tonal and color variations across the crops (100% crops). The full frame is 1/400th of the total frame area represented by the 100% crops.

The Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 has an MTF graph that is quite promising so far, although it’s unclear whether the optical stabilization system plays a role here. When the image center looks good, other parts tend to follow – too bad this isn’t always true. There are some odd one-off results across all focal lengths at certain aperture values which appear both in the lab and field samples, but nothing critical to performance overall.

Vignetting

During our testing we didn’t encounter much in the way of vignetting issues with this camera lens.

Chromatic Aberration

There is some chromatic aberration visible in the image center and mid-frame at 16mm F/3.5 and F/4 (but not much), but it’s practically non-existent by 35mm and beyond. We wouldn’t worry about it unless you’re shooting images with high contrast straight out of camera – although Adobe Camera RAW can easily take care of this problem if necessary (just enable the ‘Remove Chromatic Aberration’ option).

Distortion

There is a significant amount of pincushion distortion present at 16mm, although this gradually reduces from 17-18mm and then just becomes mild to moderate by 35mm. All things considered, the amount of distortion isn’t too bad – photographers who need straight lines in their images should have no issues avoiding any serious image degradation caused by distortion.

Image Quality

Overall, the Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 captures good image quality these days with cameras that have a high resolution, such as higher end DSLRs and mirrorless cameras – it doesn’t utilize the full potential of these units though, since they typically have larger APS-C sensors. If you’re using one of Sony’s earlier NEX camera models with a large APS-C sensor (16 megapixels or more), you’ll definitely see some sharpness issues due to the weak lens elements used in this lens. However, those who own one of Sony’s newer 24+ megapixel APS-C sensors will probably be pleasantly surprised by the results from this kit zoom lens.

Bokeh

Bokeh from the Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 PZ OSS lens is pretty much nonexistent – this isn’t a big issue though, as you’re probably not going to care about bokeh image quality with a kit zoom lens for an APS-C camera unless you want it for portrait work where shallow depth of field can play a role in isolating your subject from background distractions.

Handling

This lens is small, lightweight and easy to use – its rubberized zoom ring is located at the front of the barrel and has a rather tight feel. The manual focus ring seems out of place and is located in an awkward position (behind the zoom ring), but it works fine nevertheless when using AF. Also, there’s no manual focus indicator which makes critical focusing harder than it needs to be under certain conditions.

How Does The Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 Score? 

Below are the lens metric scores we’ve measured for this specific lens: 

  • Performance and Image Quality: 6.8/10
  • Features: 6.5/10
  • Bokeh: 5.5/10
  • Build Quality: 7.5/10
  • AutoFocus Quality: 7.8/10
  • Handling: 8.5/10
  • Value: 7.3/10

Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 Pros and Cons

Below are some of the pros and cons regarding this lens. 

Pros: 

  • Compact
  • Good build quality
  • Good focal range
  • Reasonable price point

Cons: 

  • Some image quality concerns, particularly sharpness

Our Verdict

The Sony E 16-50mm f/3.5-5.6 is  decent for the money – there are certainly better options out there if you want to spend a little more cash, but this lens will do in a pinch. It’s not without flaws though – especially in regards to sharpness when using it with an APS-C camera sensor.

If you’re looking for a decent all rounder E-mount camera lens that can handle most photographic needs then one of Sony’s FE lenses might be what you’re after instead. They may cost more than E-mount bodies, but they are superior lenses which feature much higher quality optics over the cheaper kit zoom lenses like this one. Another option is to buy your body separate from your lens, so look into Sony’s Alpha models or even try some manual  focus vintage lenses on your new E-mount camera.