Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina

Started Mar 31, 2013 | Discussions
Mel Snyder
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Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
Mar 31, 2013

One of the great sports of the technogeeks here is dumping on the 16-50 kit lens. And many neophytes take those dumps to heart.

My impression without comparative tests was to judge from my own experience that it wasn't as bad as the detractors claim. So I decided to test it.

The real advantage of the kit lens, if there is one, is that at 16mm, it is wider than just about any zoom under $600, with a not-too-shabby f3.5 maximum aperture.

And so, my test comparator lenses were the 11-16mm f2.8 Tokina, and the 17mm f3.5 Tokina AT-X Pro. I know all three do really well in real-world photography - I've carried both over the years on trips to the Middle East and Europe, shooting on Nikon D70, Nikon D300, and Nikon D7000.

I have a pretty good test scene right outside my front door. So what follows are images from that test scene. All were shot raw, imported into Photoshop Elements 11 with no adjustment, and saved as jpegs with the same specs:

16-50mm lens, f3.5

17mm Tokina AT-X Pro prime, f3.5

11-16mm f2.8 Tokina, wide open @ 16mm

And just for comparison - and to show you what I think a wide angle lens needs to be to call itself a wide angle:

11mm wide open - light changed, as you can see, but in P mode, the shutter speed changed to accommodate it

I can't judge what they will look like when uploaded to the forum - so you come to your own conclusions. As you can see, the light changed as I was testing, so the shutter speed in the P mode adjusted accordingly

My conclusion from looking at the images on my Dell U2410 professional/calibrated monitor: The kit lens is a whole lot better than the technogeeks here love to bash.

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Ari Aikomus
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Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
In reply to Mel Snyder, Mar 31, 2013

My conclusion from looking at the images on my Dell U2410 professional/calibrated monitor: The kit lens is a whole lot better than the technogeeks here love to bash.

And  it is very true. I don't understand why some people bully this little guy. I also have a very positive experiences about E16-50 lens.

Ari

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Mel Snyder
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Revised/corrected post: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
In reply to Mel Snyder, Mar 31, 2013

Mel Snyder wrote:

One of the great sports of the technogeeks here is dumping on the 16-50 kit lens. And many neophytes take those dumps to heart.

My impression without comparative tests was to judge from my own experience that it wasn't as bad as the detractors claim. So I decided to test it.

The real advantage of the kit lens, if there is one, is that at 16mm, it is wider than just about any zoom under $600, with a not-too-shabby f3.5 maximum aperture.

And so, my test comparator lenses were the 11-16mm f2.8 Tokina, and the 17mm f3.5 Tokina AT-X Pro. I know all three do really well in real-world photography - I've carried both over the years on trips to the Middle East and Europe, shooting on Nikon D70, Nikon D300, and Nikon D7000.

I have a pretty good test scene right outside my front door. So what follows are images from that test scene. All were shot raw, imported into Photoshop Elements 11 with no adjustment, and saved as jpegs with the same specs:

16-50mm kit lens @ f3.5

17mm Tokina AT-X Pro prime, f3.5

11-16mm f2.8 Tokina, wide open @ 16mm

And just for comparison - and to show you what I think a wide angle lens needs to be to call itself a wide angle:

11mm wide open - light changed, as you can see, but in P mode, the shutter speed changed to accommodate it

I can't judge what they will look like when uploaded to the forum - so you come to your own conclusions. As you can see, the light changed as I was testing, so the shutter speed in the P mode adjusted accordingly

My conclusion from looking at the images on my Dell U2410 professional/calibrated monitor: The kit lens is a whole lot better than the technogeeks here love to bash.

Uploading error detected in original post (realized it when I saw the EXIF data) - image for kit lens is now correct - and DEFINITELY GREAT!

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temama
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Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
In reply to Ari Aikomus, Mar 31, 2013

Ari Aikomus wrote:

My conclusion from looking at the images on my Dell U2410 professional/calibrated monitor: The kit lens is a whole lot better than the technogeeks here love to bash.

And  it is very true. I don't understand why some people bully this little guy. I also have a very positive experiences about E16-50 lens.

+1.

This forum has a negative mood. I understand that if there is reason to complain. E16-50PZ is not a reason to anything negative.

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lowincash
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Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
In reply to Mel Snyder, Mar 31, 2013

No doubt there's going to be good and bad copies of the 16-50 kit lens. Same with any kit lens. I've read many people hating on the 18-55 kit lens but the copy I got is very sharp. Same with the 16-50 kit lens, the one I tested suck but glad you guys got good copies. This is the same with the OMD's 12-50 kit lens. There are many people complaining about it's IQ while the copy I had was super sharp.

If one has a good copy of this lens, congrats and enjoy it.

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temama
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Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
In reply to lowincash, Mar 31, 2013

lowincash wrote:

If one has a good copy of this lens, congrats and enjoy it.

And if you get a bad copy, please return it. As is the case if you get a defective product.

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Mel Snyder
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Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
In reply to temama, Mar 31, 2013

Temama:

I'm not sure it has a "negative mood" - it's just a few people who love to find fault. Kind of like Apple stock these days. My concern is that I see people coming onto the forum considering the purchase of a NEX and quoting the nay-sayers before they even purchase the camera!

I see all kinds of "advice" being pontificated, for example, on wide angle lenses - by people with little real-world experience who think wide angles are just for "landscapes" - and then they then try to make the case for some high-priced lens they purchased that isn't really "wide," like the expensive 24mm Zeiss. Well, I do use wide angle lenses for "landscapes"

But I also use them for other situations:

In short, people who preach here rarely demonstrate appreciation for the diverse ways lenses will be used that make lens test data irrelevant

Check out this 2001 shot, with a 2.1mp Olympus C2100. Just how many mp to make good images?

Let's just shoot, share images - and stop pontificating to the newbies.

temama wrote:

Ari Aikomus wrote:

My conclusion from looking at the images on my Dell U2410 professional/calibrated monitor: The kit lens is a whole lot better than the technogeeks here love to bash.

And  it is very true. I don't understand why some people bully this little guy. I also have a very positive experiences about E16-50 lens.

+1.

This forum has a negative mood. I understand that if there is reason to complain. E16-50PZ is not a reason to anything negative.

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Mel Snyder
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Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
In reply to temama, Mar 31, 2013

temama wrote:

lowincash wrote:

If one has a good copy of this lens, congrats and enjoy it.

And if you get a bad copy, please return it. As is the case if you get a defective product.

Perfect response!

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cptrios
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Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
In reply to temama, Mar 31, 2013

I kind of hate to make this post, because I also detest the negativity on this forum...but really? Both the 16-50 and Tokina 17mm samples look pretty bad to me. The centers are fine but the borders are soft enough that it's very visible even at the small in-post size. (I've briefly owned a Tokina 17mm before, and it seems pretty much in line with my copy.) The 11-16 looks good at 16mm, except it seems either decentered (much softer on the right) or perhaps the adapter is a touch uneven (even the slightest misalignment can screw everything up). But it looks just as bad as the other two at 11mm...which is odd, since it seems to perform about 500x better on dSLRs.

I think the 16-50 is a perfectly decent lens for many situations, but it doesn't really do any good to pretend it's something it's not. Same with the 16mm pancake...you want a small lens, you accept the compromises. Nothing wrong with that!

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Astrophotographer 10
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Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
In reply to cptrios, Mar 31, 2013

I have many lenses from different manufacturers - mainly Nikon, Fuji and a few Canon, Contax Zeiss.

The 16-50 is great value for what it is. The power zoom I like as that is very useful for video, its compact and light which most zooms in that category are not and it has stabilisation.

Sharpness is I think acceptable for a general kit lens. I took some landscape panoramas last week with the kit lens and then with a Samyang 24mm F1.4. The Samyang was noticeably sharper but colours were quite warm as well.

Because its an interchangeable lens camera the 16-50 makes a good starting point and you can add some nice cheap manual focus lenses or go the whole hog and get the Zeiss 24mm F1.8.

My Fuji XE1 lenses are in another league but there is a price that goes with that. And there is a Fuji Xmount to Nex adapter as well.

The Fuji 35mm F1.4 and 14mm and 18-55 zoom are in a league at or even above pro Canon/Nikon lenses for much less (I guess because they are for APS). The Fuji 18-55 zoom though costs around $700 or so. The Sony is about half that by itself. So that is a huge factor.

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fotowbert
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Effect of software correction
In reply to Mel Snyder, Apr 1, 2013

Mel Snyder wrote:

16-50mm kit lens @ f3.

Uploading error detected in original post (realized it when I saw the EXIF data) - image for kit lens is now correct - and DEFINITELY GREAT!

The semi-fisheye look may not appeal to everyone.  Have you made any comparison using a software corrected 16mm image?

  • John
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Jefenator
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Re: Revised/corrected post: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
In reply to Mel Snyder, Apr 1, 2013

Thanks for sharing!

I think I'd rather work with a prime or larger zoom and get my wide angle with less distortion.

I wonder how well these lenses render in the corners at f/5.6 or f/8?

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captura
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Re: Revised/corrected post: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
In reply to Mel Snyder, Apr 1, 2013

Mel Snyder wrote:

Mel Snyder wrote:

One of the great sports of the technogeeks here is dumping on the 16-50 kit lens. And many neophytes take those dumps to heart.

My impression without comparative tests was to judge from my own experience that it wasn't as bad as the detractors claim. So I decided to test it.

The real advantage of the kit lens, if there is one, is that at 16mm, it is wider than just about any zoom under $600, with a not-too-shabby f3.5 maximum aperture.

And so, my test comparator lenses were the 11-16mm f2.8 Tokina, and the 17mm f3.5 Tokina AT-X Pro. I know all three do really well in real-world photography - I've carried both over the years on trips to the Middle East and Europe, shooting on Nikon D70, Nikon D300, and Nikon D7000.

I have a pretty good test scene right outside my front door. So what follows are images from that test scene. All were shot raw, imported into Photoshop Elements 11 with no adjustment, and saved as jpegs with the same specs:

16-50mm kit lens @ f3.5

Uploading error detected in original post (realized it when I saw the EXIF data) - image for kit lens is now correct - and DEFINITELY GREAT!

No it's not great! Just look at the curvature of the roadway, compared to all the other images displayed, that were straight. Including the original of this one.

Anyway, this lens displays soft edges and corners, with vignetting at the corners. From what I've seen, the 1650 matches the 18-55 over 20mm, but not below that. Not bad for a kit lens, if kept over 20mm. Certainly a more useful lens than the 16/2.8.

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forpetessake
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Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
In reply to temama, Apr 1, 2013

temama wrote:

lowincash wrote:

If one has a good copy of this lens, congrats and enjoy it.

And if you get a bad copy, please return it. As is the case if you get a defective product.

Since DPR ate my answer, I will be brief. It's never a bad or good copy, it's a distribution -- there is a long tail of different degree of badness. So, it's no wonder many people asking questions here 'is my lens normal?', because nobody knows if the image quality they see corresponds to a distribution plateau or somewhere on a tail. There is only a small percentage (like 5%) of lenses that are outside of the acceptable range as defined by manufacturer and can be called bad (defective) copies, so when you hear many people complaining about image quality, it's very unlikely they all got bad copies.

Secondly, unless there are reliable controlled measurements, there will be no end to arguing about sharpness. What looks sharp to some, looks awful to others. Subjective evaluation of random images depends on so many factors that it is basically meaningless. The standard tests are objective, that's why they are valuable. I wish some labs would offer anybody for a nominal fee (like $10) a full test of their lenses, so people may know with high degree of certainty how bad/good their lenses are.

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Keit ll
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Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
In reply to forpetessake, Apr 1, 2013

I'm not sure why the OP when posting to show how good the kit lens is didn't bother to use distortion correction as the image shown was definitely faulty ?

As others have said lenses can vary in quality but often value judgments are made soon after purchase in a bad fit of buyers remorse & before the user has learnt how to handle his new camera efficiently. Jpegs are shot in a hurry , often indoors in poor light , & no attempt is made to apply any corrections or tweaks to colour or sharpness etc.

Most results can be improved with a little care & attention but no lens is going to equal another which may cost 3X as much ! The supplied kit lenses are good value for money but if you want better than you are going to have to pay much more & this is one area where Sony fails as other options are thin on the ground. 

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ottonis
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Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
In reply to Keit ll, Apr 1, 2013

Keit ll wrote:

I'm not sure why the OP when posting to show how good the kit lens is didn't bother to use distortion correction as the image shown was definitely faulty ?

...

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Keith C

Very simple reason: he wanted to show the "raw" lens performance as it is - totally untouched. That's exactly how it needs to be done when comparing different lenses. The OP did a terrific job at presenting pics from different lenses, although I only partially agree with his interpretation of the results.

As some other Posters already said: if you want an affordable and small, highly pocketable zoom lens, you will have to accept the inherent compromises of that design.

I only wish Sony would sooner rather than later come up with a truly outstanding normal zoom lens (even at the cost of larger size and higher prize)  because I really wish to have an "always on" lens wthout the need to change lenses all the time.

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GaryW
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Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
In reply to Keit ll, Apr 1, 2013

Keit ll wrote:

I'm not sure why the OP when posting to show how good the kit lens is didn't bother to use distortion correction as the image shown was definitely faulty ?

As others have said lenses can vary in quality but often value judgments are made soon after purchase in a bad fit of buyers remorse & before the user has learnt how to handle his new camera efficiently. Jpegs are shot in a hurry , often indoors in poor light , & no attempt is made to apply any corrections or tweaks to colour or sharpness etc.

But at least JPEGs would get distortion correction (at least on newer cameras).

Most results can be improved with a little care & attention but no lens is going to equal another which may cost 3X as much !

It might, particularly if you're willing to use a slightly more narrow aperture.  Take the Sigma 30, selling for $150.  But in general, I agree, you get what you pay for, to some extent. But we quickly run into a case of diminishing returns.

The supplied kit lenses are good value for money but if you want better than you are going to have to pay much more & this is one area where Sony fails as other options are thin on the ground. 

Sony is failing because they're not taking your money for an expensive zoom?  Probably so!  I think they'll get there, soon....

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Gary W.

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GaryW
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Comparisons are tricky
In reply to ottonis, Apr 1, 2013

ottonis wrote:

Keit ll wrote:

I'm not sure why the OP when posting to show how good the kit lens is didn't bother to use distortion correction as the image shown was definitely faulty ?

...

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Keith C

Very simple reason: he wanted to show the "raw" lens performance as it is - totally untouched. That's exactly how it needs to be done when comparing different lenses.

I disagree.  I think the lenses (and resulting photos) should be compared how you use them.  If you intend on always using distortion correction on, then that makes sense to me to compare that way.

To compare without distortion correction only makes sense to me if you are curious what is going on behind the scenes, but since you don't intend on using it that way, it would hardly make for a fair comparison.

As someone else mentioned, there are other things that are unrealistic in the comparison.  Using f3.5 is good for knowing the f3.5 performance, but even if the 16-50 was poor at this aperture, this is kind of a poor use of that setting.  The shutter speed was 1/4000?  At a more realistic f8, it would be even more interesting to see what lenses were different.  Many lenses do not do well at the widest aperture, but are great stopped down.

The OP did a terrific job at presenting pics from different lenses, although I only partially agree with his interpretation of the results.

I'm not sure how to interpret the results.  I found parts of the Tokina image to be sharper, but then the background/infinity seemed sharper on the 16-50, so maybe there was a focusing difference?

As some other Posters already said: if you want an affordable and small, highly pocketable zoom lens, you will have to accept the inherent compromises of that design.

I only wish Sony would sooner rather than later come up with a truly outstanding normal zoom lens (even at the cost of larger size and higher prize)  because I really wish to have an "always on" lens wthout the need to change lenses all the time.

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I agree you should accept compromises given the design, but it seems like the compromises are not that large.

As for a high-end alternative, have you been keeping track of the lens roadmap?

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Gary W.

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Mel Snyder
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Re: Effect of software correction
In reply to fotowbert, Apr 1, 2013

fotowbert wrote:

Mel Snyder wrote:

16-50mm kit lens @ f3.

Uploading error detected in original post (realized it when I saw the EXIF data) - image for kit lens is now correct - and DEFINITELY GREAT!

The semi-fisheye look may not appeal to everyone.  Have you made any comparison using a software corrected 16mm image?

  • John

It doesn't appeal to me, either. But I shoot raw and do correction in Photoshop. I admit that if there are not architectural objects or people in the edges of the frame, I usually don't do correction. Shooting jpeg isn't worth it to me, and I thought not useful in trying to compare lenses.

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C.Eaton
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Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
In reply to Ari Aikomus, Apr 1, 2013

Ari Aikomus wrote:

My conclusion from looking at the images on my Dell U2410 professional/calibrated monitor: The kit lens is a whole lot better than the technogeeks here love to bash.

And  it is very true. I don't understand why some people bully this little guy. I also have a very positive experiences about E16-50 lens.

Ari

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- Ari Aikomus -
'Why should I feel lonely ? is not our planet in the Milky way?'

There is nothing wrong with the 16-50 in the same way there was nothing wrong with the 18-55 on earlier Nex's, both are very capable lenses in the right hands and for the money are an absolute bargain.

Some people are just snobs when it comes to lenses and as I've said before, they'd more rather spend time pixel peeping and criticising than actually behind a camera taking photographs.

Their call I guess but I know which I'd prefer to be doing.

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