Sony DT 16–50mm f/2.8 SSM: An Absolute Bargain
The Sony DT 16–50mm f/2.8 SSM is a new pro addition to the Alpha mount lineup. Ambarin Afsar finds out whether it is worth your while.
Fast standard zoom lenses sound like a boon from heaven. They are all-rounder lenses for someone who does not require long focal lengths. On a cropped sensor, in order to get a similar experience, you’d need a lens that starts from 16mm. Almost every manufacturer has an f/2.8 standard zoom for their cropped sensor bodies. Sony eventually followed suit by introducing the DT 16–50mm f/2.8 lens with the A77 and A65 SLT cameras.
A 16–50mm f/2.8 optical construction isn’t easy, there are factors like optical quality along with weight and size to consider and a compromise on any side might end up affecting overall performance and ergonomics.
Additionally, to get a fast kit lens like this would probably solve half the woes of someone who loves doing low light street work and a lot of portraiture. This is why I was all the more interested in figuring out how the lens shaped up.
The Sony DT 16–50mm f/2.8 SSM offers an angle of view equivalent to a 24–75mm lens on a full frame camera. SSM in the lens’ name suggests that it features Sony’s proprietary Super Sonic wave Motor drive. This is one of the first lenses for Sony’s APS-C cameras to feature an AF drive for fast and quiet AF along with fulltime manual focus override. I can definitely say this much, the motor is pretty quiet and unobtrusive. The toplining feature of this lens is its constant fast aperture of f/2.8 across the focal range. The lens features a 7-bladed diaphragm unit and while it isn’t made for macros, it features a usable maximum magnification ratio of 0.2x at a minimum focusing distance of 30cm (one foot).
The one trade-off for a fast aperture has to be size, and the lens is fairly large and heavy. The lens barrel is made of plastic, but feels quite sturdy. The ribbed rubber zoom ring is quite large and smooth to operate. While there isn’t any zoom lock switch, this is one lens that isn’t prone to zoom creep.
The lens also features a switch to lock the lens at 16mm, and Sony has also provided a distance scale. What I wonder is, if Sony could provide a lever to lock down the focal length, why stop only at 16mm?
At f/2.8 at 16mm the lens provided very good corner to corner sharpness, while approaching tack-sharp levels in the centre of the frame. Stopped down to f/4, the lens is as sharp as sharp gets, with slight softness in the corners.
At 24mm, the results are virtually the same, but at 35mm, with the lens wide open, corner sharpness drops. Stopping down to f/4 does the trick over here.
Finally, at 50mm at f/2.8, the lens seems slightly soft, but stopping down does the trick again. The lens stays sharp all the way to f/22 and it is interesting to see that fully stopped down perfomance is best at 50mm.
Basically, f/4 seems to be the best aperture for this lens in terms of critical sharpness. However, if you’re shooting wide, f/2.8 offers you decent results. The lens seems to deal with chromatic aberration fairly well when wide open. However, at focal lengths beyond 16mm, when the lens is stopped down, purple fringing is quite noticeable in high contrast areas.
The lens shows quite a bit of barrel distortion at 16mm, but this reduces as the lens is zoomed in. What impressed me the most about the lens was its AF speed with the Alpha 77 II, which is fantastic. Small focus changes occur almost instantly and very silently, while focus from close to infinity was also quite quick.
Priced at Rs. 44,990, the lens is an absolute steal. It compromises on build quality (especially comparfed to similar lenses from other camera manufacturers), but its optical performance is quite good. Also, getting a proprietary f/2.8 zoom for this price is a steal!
The closest competitor, of course, is the much less expensive Tamron 17–50mm f/2.8. While that is also a very sharp lens, the Sony’s focusing speed will prove to be a deciding factor. The only people who won’t really profit from buying this lens are those who are going to make the shift to full frame, as this is a dedicated APS-C lens. But for every other Sony prosumer out there, this is the one for you.
Super Sonicwave Motor drive, f/2.8 across zoom range, fulltime manual override
Tack sharp at f/4, and quite sharp overall, pleasing, well-rounded bokeh
Sturdy plastic build, no weathersealing
Zoom lock switch functional only at 16mm, no-depth of-field scale
|Warranty & Support
Two years warranty, wide service network
|VALUE FOR MONEY||4/5 Stars|
|Who should buy it?||Anyone who wants a fast standard zoom lens, and is also interested in doing video.|
|Why?||Because it gives you good optical quality for its price. A constant aperture of f/2.8 makes the lens great for portraiture also for those shallow DOF stock shots.|