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Sony seems to have a well thought-out product strategy for their NEX series bodies, which are proving to be a big hit. But their lens strategy is scattered. There is not a simple lens roadmap, but a mixture of lenses from different sources, some probably designed inhouse by Sony, some with the Zeiss name (and big price premium for that name), and other lenses which appear to be made for Sony by specialty third parties. This is partly because e-mount is not just for the NEX consumer cameras but also for Sony's line of high end professional video cameras. This is why Zeiss makes some extremely expensive cinema lenses in e-mount; $21K for a zoom!

But this scattered offering confuses their list of ultra-wide e-mount lenses for the consumer cameras. This compact 16mm f2.8 was the first kit lens offered by Sony. Then Sony added an Ultrawide converter attachment for this (VDL-ECU1) which has an effective focal length about 12.5mm. These two, when attached together, are actually quite good optically, for a total price about 300 bucks if you got the 16 in a kit. In addition, there is the Fisheye Converter (ECL-ECF1) which has a 180° field (distorted) for just 129 more dollars. These were clearly designed as a group and are actually quite brilliant. Unfortunately Sony has not really explained this to the customer base.

Recently Sony came out with the 10-18 mm zoom, f4, with image stabilization, but quite expensive at $850; a completely different approach.

Now having all of these at hand, I performed a direct image quality comparison. To compare the 10-18mm zoom to the 16mm, I set both to f4. Then I added the Ultrawide and matched the field of view by setting the zoom to 12.5mm. I didn't bother to compare the Fisheye to the 10-18 mm zoom because the latter cannot match its field of view.

These were all JPEGs, not RAW. It is important to understand that modern lenses such as both of these Sony's are no longer just hunks of glass; they are designed to be used with the in-camera JPEG processing firmware, which undoes the inherent distortions found in most wide angle lenses. Vignetting is also corrected, and chromatic aberration. It is no longer necessary to depend on the difficult correction of glass elements with additional glass elements, aspherics, etc.. Lenses now can no longer be separated from their software and this is having a tremendous impact on design and cost. This digital image processing can easily be observed in action on both these lenses when one is looking at the LCD and fires the shot and then sees the replay image come up right after, with the whole field jumping to altered shape by software distortion correction. For this reason it would require a lot of skill and Photoshop time to do the same thing manually starting from the RAW images. JPEG's are the way these lenses are designed to be used, so that's how they should be tested.

A summary of my tests of the image quality from the 10-18mm zoom vs. the 16mm (including the converter) is that they are roughly comparable. If I focus in the corners (to compensate for field curvature), the 10-18 is somewhat better than the 16. Surprisingly, the 16mm+Ultrawide converter images are very good.

Which should you buy? Photographers on a budget will do just fine with the 16 mm plus the Ultrawide converter. The 16 is very compact. Of course it's inconvenient to attach the converter if you are in a hurry, but the availability of the Fisheye is also a big plus and can't be matched by the 10-18 zoom. The three pieces taken together constitute an innovative and cost effective set. I don't know why Sony does not do a better job of promoting them.

The 10-18mm zoom is a fine lens but only moderately optically superior to the little guys. It costs three times as much as the 16+converter and is physically much larger. However, it's more convenient and quicker; having a zoom allows you to frame your shots and optimize the sensor area. Also image stabilization, unusual on an ultra-wide, more than offsets the one-stop smaller aperture, permitting slower shutter speeds, and is very much worth having.

The 16 and 10-18 lenses are different in many ways - size, cost, convenience, operational quickness - but image quality is not drastically different. If you can't decide, I recommend the 16mm plus the two converters. I put my NEX in movie mode with the Fisheye attached and walked around a party we were having, stopping for conversations and recording the whole feel of the event - fantastic footage which would be difficult to capture any other way.
22 comments| 79 people found this helpful. Was this review helpful to you?YesNoReport abuse
I have been using this lens with a preproduction loaner NEX-C3. Review on that camera to come soon...

This lens is in a lot of ways a tour de force, showing that a good quality lens and sensor package can be made small. Most casual shooter will probably head for the 18-55mm zoom, but this 16mm lens (crop factor is 1.5, so it's a 24mm equivalent in 35mm land) would make a good carry lens for a sort of retro-rangefinder camera. This could get you all sorts of street shots with a very pocketable camera, and enough resolution to crop to the image you really wanted. With the NEX-C3, low light levels weren't a problem, and that would go nicely with this low profile lens and not using the flash.

Details: 49mm filter thread
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on July 29, 2014
Some people complain about this lens because it is not a pro lens. It does a good job for the price, just don't expect it to be the same as a $1,000 lens. I paired it with a wide angle converter lens to give me two options. On its own, it is relatively short. With the optional converter (about $100) it is rather long. I've read some people think it is too big compared to the 20mm, but it really isn't significantly bigger.

It is a good lens to test out the Sony E-mount system. Be aware that this goes on a camera that makes it an equivalent of a 24mm lens. So it is a wide angle but not super wide angle lens. The optional converter makes it an 18mm.

If you are happy with your kit lens, don't bother buying it. if you are unhappy with the quality of your kit lens, this really isn't an improvement. It is slightly faster with the f2.8 aperture compared to the kit's f3.5 at 16mm. I recommend it if you don't have a lens with your body, or if you want to attach the converter lenses (the wide angle or fisheye).

You can get a better lens for the same price with a Nikon, but if you own a Sony this is a good starter lens.
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on October 21, 2010
I got this lens as part of Sony's special saving on bundle pricing with Nex-5. At first I was hesitant because of some reviews that i had read online about its poor IQ overall. Well, after using it and pixel peeping with the RAW image files i can say that this lens produced outstanding result. Sharpness is on par with Canon's 17-55mm 2.8 lens, which is saying a lot. There is definitely a jump in quality when you go from Sony's own 18-55mm kit lens with this one. This lens gives you a good idea what the Nex's APS-C sensor is capable of- a DLSR-like image quality without the bulk. I can't wait for the other E-mount lenses to come out.

So not only does this lens reduce the overall bulk of the Nex-5 camera system (can put in pockets more easily), it also gives you result that you will be proud of.

ps. low-light is impressive but i think it's combination of sony's low-light capable sensor and this lens' measly 2.8 aperture.
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on April 30, 2013
Overall: This is a very compact lens that allows the NEX to reach 24mm (full frame equivalent field of view). The quality is good, focusing is fast, and the lens handles direct sun in the frame without many noticeable anomalies. Furthermore, the large aperture really helps for low light.

+ Affordable
+ F2.8 for low light
+ Allows attachments like fisheye and wide angle converter
+ Fast focusing
+ Compact size
+ Uses same size filters as 18-55 kit lens

- No visually pleasing sunstars (ie: like the Tokina 11-16)

I bought this lens because of it's compact size and ability to make the NEX F3 pocketable. Despite the fixed focal length, I think I used this lens significantly more during my vacation than the 18-55 kit lens. Consequently, at this low price, this lens is a good complement to the 18-55 kit lens. It's affordable, and really changes your shooting experience. Another plus is that it uses the same size filters.

Sony does not provide a hood or case with this lens package. However, the hood from the kit lens is compatible (but I'm not sure how much it affects vignetting). I didn't use it with the good.

In summary: The lens makes a great complement to the 18-55 kit. It is compact, offers a wide aperture, focuses quickly, and really enhances your NEX shooting experience. I recommend it.

I hope this review was helpful to you.
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UPDATE (replaced previous review):
After using this lens a little longer, I've come to find it has little benefit for me over the kit lens. It is a hair wider (focal), a hair shorter (physical length), and a hair more open (aperture). I have found few cases where 18 mm isn't wide enough and that includes landscape photos. I have also found that any pants or jacket that I can fit my camera in with this lens on, I can also put it in with the kit lens on. It may make it a little more compact, but not enough for it to fit in my jeans pocket. I've also found that the images don't really get sharp until about 2-3 stops down, which kills the low light capabilities I was looking for. If you want a faster lens, pick up the Sony 50mm f/1.8, otherwise just stick with the kit lens. I have read that adding the wide angle converter increases sharpness, but I didnt want to invest another $100 into this and would rather put that towards the Sony 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 (which can be had for $270 new in bulk). I sold my SEL16F28 last week.
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on April 21, 2012
Consumer level; 16 x 1.5 = 24mm (35mm format equivalent) auto focus lens designed to work with the Sony NEX series cameras.
Comments based on using the lens with Sony 5N camera with a lens hood.

Ideal choice for low light situations like indoor birthday parties and where you cannot back up to get everything in the picture like on a boat, etc..
Great for hiking or other situations where keeping weight & bulk down is desired and yet take home some high quality images.

Kit lens hood works fine with this lens, I always use it.
No comparison, the Sony 16mm E lens is the only game in town in this focal length.
There is no Zeiss version and if there was it would cost 4-5X as much.

Does not have nor does it require optical image stabilization thanks to the 5N low light performance.
When combined with the 5N becomes a [jacket] pocket camera.
If you use a 5N, the camera can be configured to correct the lens distortions.

If you already have the kit lens and the 18mm setting is wide enough for your applications, be happy.
I would not spend the money to buy this or any other fixed focal length lens [read my review on the Sigma 19mm].

If on the other hand if you desire a wide angle lens and this lens appears interesting to you then
buy the 16mm and check it out on your camera for a couple of days.
Evaluate the results and if it doesn't meet your expectations return it.

I feel you will not be disappointed.
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on January 22, 2012
Disclosure: I am not a professional photographer but bought this camera to take photographs of my newborn..

I initially bought the 18-55 mm lens but then bought the 16 mm lens as it was 1) brighter (f2.8), 2) much more portable for carrying around and 3) a wider lens.

So far I am very happy with my purchase and I have completely switched to 16 mm lens. My 18-55 mm lens has been lying in the case for last 1 week! The lens seems to take better pictures in dark light so much so that I have removed the external flash from my camera (NEX C3) and have put that away too.

Overall, 5 stars from my perspective!!
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on December 30, 2012
EDIT: TL;DR - It's OK if you want it as "vacation shot" lens and it outperforms phone cameras by a long shot, but below average when compared to a "real" prime lens on DSLRs or mirrorless. I don't need snarky people dismissing my review because I actually went to the effort of providing test examples. This review is meant for people to decide if THEY would be fine with the test shots for decent everyday photos (family, events, etc....not studio work).

I was really disappointed with this lens. My review is based on comparing to my NEX-5R and my Canon 7D with a Sigma 17-50mm 2.8 EX (I've uploaded photos to compare).

Let's set a few things straight: The NEX's use an APS-C sensor like many entry/mid DSLR (same one in some Nikons), so leave the sensor out of the MAJOR equation. Also, sharpness is not the whole of a lens, but a big sum of what it is (I did not do comparisons of color accuracy and contrast).

I'll briefly mention (since most have already stated in other reviews) the 16mm is metal and not plastic (probably aluminum). It's still extremely light (compared to my metal FD and other manual lenses from Yore). The focus ring is narrow and maybe "too smooth" when manual focusing. I say too smooth because being so light, I found it hard to know if I even moved the ring (since often times I was trying to move the barrel instead of the focus ring). Manual focus (MF) lenses tend to have rubber or a knurled texture to know if you were on the focus ring. Also, older manual lenses tend to have a "tighter" pull when rotating the ring than the Sony 16mm since it feels "loose". The focus ring also spins around infinitely in either direction unlike most old MF lenses that stop completely.

"But I have no intention of using crusty, 30+ yr old manual lenses!".
OK...that's fine. But a lot of current lenses have a "slow-down" or heavier friction when you reach the limit of each end of the focus (they still spin around infinitely, but you can tell when you're at the end). With this lens, You have no idea if you are at the extreme end of focus close to you (very critical when trying to figure out how close you can get to your subject). Compound the fact that the ring focuses in the OPPOSITE direction that my Canon lenses do (so I was trying to focus behind the subjects when I was trying to get as close to them as possible).

Enough about the cosmetics and ergonomics of the does it perform? Let's keep in mind the price, because that's the biggest advantage (actually it isn't as I found out). I bought it for about $170 used. That's a lot less than the $600 I paid for my Sigma 17mm-50 2.8. I found the Sony 16mm was soft around the edges wide open (f/2.8) and lots of "halo-ing". These anomalies are to be expected from most cheaper lenses. But even stopped down to f/4, the Sony doesn't fix these issues. The Sigma at 17mm@2.8 had a little bit of soft corners, but still better than the Sony even at f/2.8 (photos above). The Sigma fixes all the soft/halos by f/3.5. I didn't even want to use the Sony 16mm even stopped down because it defeats the whole purpose of shooting wide-open or near that with faster lenses compared to kit lenses.

Speaking of kit lenses, I've seen better performance from other kit lenses than this prime lens. Let me re-iterate the PRIME lens part. You BUY a prime lens for it's faster speed (from f/1.4 - 2.8) and ability to create smooth/blurred backgrounds. A kit lens should in no way shape or form, outclass a PRIME lens! Yes, I spent $600 on my Sigma wide-angle. Yes, I spent $170 on this USED prime Sony16mm lens...but brand new, they want $275+ for this! I only used this two times (one to make these comparison photos) before it went back to the seller (47th Street has great customer service!).

For those photographers serious about getting a good, quality lens...this isn't it. Save your money for something else (I'll find a MF wide-angle). For those that want a pocket NEX with a pancake lens, this definitely fits the bill. It's super light and fits anywhere. If you don't demand mission-critical focus and want something that's far superior to a "camera phone", get this lens. Yes, I said the Sony 16mm is FAR superior to a camera phone because it still DOES show quite a bit of detail that is lost amongst typical cell phones, but not near the lines of a proper prime lens.
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on April 14, 2013
I have a Sony NEX-7 and I've used a handful of lenses, and honestly the 16mm is not among the best.
If you already have the 18-55 kit lens this lens isn't that useful. You already have 18mm with image stabilization with the kit lens.
The 16mm isn't that sharp either.

I would say only buy this lens if you want to make your camera small enough to fit in a pocket, or if you plan on getting the fisheye conversion lens that attaches to the 16mm.
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