Top positive review
141 people found this helpful
Good enough and that's good enough for this class of lens.
on January 29, 2012
I owned the Sony E 55-210 and 18-55 (kit) lenses. Both of them were rather good lenses for their respective classes. The 55-210 was definitely a good deal for its price. However, I hardly ever used either of them. I still wanted a fallback for the cases where my few prime lenses were not suitable (or I couldn't predict what sort of focal length I'd need) so I thought I'd go for a super zoom.
I've put it through its paces. It seems to have better chromatic aberration control than the Sony 18-55. Not quite as good as the 55-210. Distortion isn't noticeable at any focal length unless you're trying to see it, shooting grids or bricks or something. I'd say optically, the lens is just a notch below the 55-210. This is actually par for the course for a super zoom lens like this. The Nikon Nikkor 18-200 VR II for example was an okay super zoom but not quite as good optically as the Nikon 55-200 VR, despite costing quite a lot more. You are paying for convenience with an 18-200 class lens and you get it here. If you are very confident you don't need the 18-55 range, the 55-210 is a better lens, if only slightly.
More importantly, the lens feels good in use. It's only a few centimeters longer than the 18-55 and is actually easier to handle. Of course it's heavier than any other NEX lens except the 18-200 from Sony. It's not too heavy for use but you'll notice it if you're used to the kit lens or similar. The only complaint I have with handling is that the focus ring is a bit easy to turn and if you shoot in MF or DMF mode, you might find yourself accidentally changing focus. That said, it's easy to get used to handling it in such a way that avoids this. The zoom lock is for storage/travel and is necessary. If you point the lens straight down it will creep, but other less extreme angles don't seem to induce any creeping.
The vibration control is the strongest I've seen so far on any lens for the NEX system. It's surreal, it's so strong. If you have engaged the VC by keeping the shutter release button half-depressed, you can notice it requires a deliberately strong movement to adjust your composition. It almost feels like your lens is stuck in the empty air in front of you. It is definitely effective.
Build quality is good for a plastic lens. The zoom and focus rings are rubber/rubberized plastic and feel fine. It has a couple bits that are dressed in metal but it's cheap metal that can barely be recognized as metal. It's not like the Sony E 24mm /1.8 CZ or even the metal quality of the silver lenses. It looks like shiny plastic. Overall, I like that the lens is black as it will be going on my NEX-7 but I won't pretend it looks valuable. It looks cheap. It feels and works fine, but it won't win any beauty contests. At least the lens cap seems to work well, though it's quite thick. It's easy to remove but doesn't feel like it will fall out unexpectedly (like Tokina lens caps do). The lens hood that is included is okay, but as usual, isn't super effective at any focal length due to the large zoom range and the attempt to provide a hood that will not vignette at any focal length.
The maximum aperture values through /5.6 start at similar focal lengths as the 18-55 kit lens, approximates are as follows:
* F/4 begins at 24mm
* F/4.5 begins around 31mm
* F/5 begins at 39mm
* F/5.6 begins at 47mm
* F/6.3 begins at 75mm
All in all, this is not a must have lens. However, if you are after a super zoom for convenience and "coverage" purposes as I was, I would recommend this lens over the Sony 18-200. it's narrower, lighter, and has better optical formula for better CA and flare control, etc. At the end of the day, I am able to make perfectly good images with this lens. It handles most situations gracefully and only breaks down optically in the more demanding situations (like mid-day direct sun or very strongly rectangular subject matter).
A side note: I don't shoot video. However, what I know about lenses being desirable for video says that this lens is not as good as the Sony E 18-200 for that purpose. I can easily hear the VC motor and focus motor without even putting the camera near my head. It's nowhere near as silent as the Sony lenses. It also moves focus more aggressively/sharply which some people find disturbing in video. If video is your plan, I'd reconsider the Sony 18-200 or maybe wait a while for more options.
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Bottom line: It's completely acceptable as a still photos lens, for general purpose and unpredictable scenarios as a kit reducing replacement for the 18-55 + 55-210 lens pairing. It is not optically better than the 55-210. It does seem better than the 18-55, however, I am not equipped to confirm this with lab tests. In practice, I had no trouble making clear, sharp, attractive images. It's noisy so I wouldn't use it for video unless you had an off-camera microphone system.