I’ve been waiting to try out the Sony SAL1650 16-50mm F/2.8 lens since it was announced in August. My interest in this particular lens is for use on my Sony NEX-FS100, for which I had not been able to find a suitable wide zoom lens. There aren’t too many 16-50′s on the market yet (B&H is still not showing any inventory) so rather than wait another few months (like I expect to for Sony LA-EA2 FS100 firmware) for someone else to review it, I decided to see if I could beg, borrow, or buy an SAL1650 that I could test on one of my two FS100s.
I found a single copy in Vancouver and had it shipped to Kerrisdale Cameras, a local camera store in Coquitlam. I bought it today and made a quick video comparing it to a pair of normal zoom lenses that I already own.
I already own a dozen lenses that I can use on my FS100. Most of them are Alpha mount lenses (Sony, Minolta, & Konica Minolta) but all of them are used. All of them require adapters. I do not own any e-mount lenses but my brother owns the kit lens. I have also tested at least 10 current Sony lenses. So at this point I feel pretty comfortable with my criteria, which actually hasn’t changed from before I first bought an FS100.
Because I’m shooting video and not stills and I don’t currently have access to any auto features (although I soon hope to gain some of those abilities with the Sony LA-EA2 adapter) my needs are different from those of a still photographer.
1) I don’t care about weight. The heavier the better in my case as my tripod balances better with a heavier camera.
2) The lens must have a fixed aperture. I can’t have my iris ramping down when I zoom in while recording. If it can’t be fixed then it must have a very small range and be fast.
3) The lens has to be parfocal. This means that it holds focus (in manual) from the telephoto end of the zoom to the wide end. Why? Because I don’t have autofocus and I can’t have the lens go out of focus every time I change the focal length (zoom in and out).
4) Iris control. I need some sort of iris control. Which means for now, Canon lenses are out. Nikon lenses have iris rings on the barrel, Nikon G lenses have iris’ that can be controlled with an adapter that has an iris ring, and Sony/Minolta/Konica Minolta lenses can either be controlled by the body or with an adapter than has an iris ring.
Below is a quick video comparing three lenses that I own:
Sony SAL1650 16-50mm f/2.8
Konica Minolta 28-75 f/2.8
Tokina ATX-Pro 28-70 f/2.6-2.8 (Angenieux designed)
My Test Notes:
- Colour: I didn’t white-balance between lenses to show the different colours the lenses produced. The whites are a bit yellow with the Konica Minolta lens.
- Parfocal: They all did way better than most of the lenses I tested but I already knew going in that the KM and Tokina were almost perfectly parfocal but I had no idea about the Sony and assumed it wasn’t. The Sony SAL1650 is the most parfocal lens I have tested. Again, the Tokina and KM were close but there was a bit of play. I was not adjusting the focus at all once it was set.
- Sharpness: The Sony outperformed the KM and Tokina. The nice thing about a sharp lens is that it makes it easier to manually focus as well.
- Rings: The Sony had evenly dampened rings, which made it easier to zoom in and out.
- Lens Flare: The Tokina is the worst lens that I have ever tested for lens flare.
- The barrel extends when you zoom but it doesn’t rotate.The filter diameter is 72mm.
- The SAL1650 costs $700 in the US and $800 in Canada.
- The SAL1650 is a DT lens, meaning it is not full frame. Because of this it doesn’t carry the G designation, reserved for Sony’s professional lenses, which are all full frame. I’ve read that prototypes displayed the G designation on exif data but ultimately it was a marketing decision to not designate this lens a G lens. I’ve read photographer review that state it otherwise merits the G designation because it is that good.
- The SAL1650 is equipped with the Sony ultrasonic motor, called SSM (Super Sonic Wave Motor), for silent autofocus. I was not able to autofocus with the LA-EA1 adapter.
Buy-it! Every shooter needs a great wide-zoom and this one fits the criteria. The Sony SAL1650 is the best manual wide zoom lens I have tested on the Sony NEX-FS100 as it is parfocal, has a fixed aperture, and is relatively inexpensive. If the Sony LA-EA2 adapter adds autofocus and improved iris controls then I consider this lens a must-have for the FS100.