How to Evaluate a New Lens? (Sort of Disappointed with the 16-70)

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CameraCarl
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How to Evaluate a New Lens? (Sort of Disappointed with the 16-70)
4 months ago

I just received a new Sony/Zeiss 16-70mm lens which I bought because I was not happy with the corner and edge sharpness of my kit 16-50 on my NEX-6.  Today I went out and shot several hundred images to compare the two lenses.  I used a tripod, OSS off, and the self timer to photograph both a large building and a large bookshelf.  I took photos at 16, 24, 28, 35, and 50mm at apertures from f4 to f11.  I'm comparing both jpegs and RAW images (with lens corrections applied) in Lightroom 5 side by side at 100%.

The results seem to be all over the place. Both lenses seem to be equally sharp in the center.  At some focal lengths and apertures, the 16-70 is better at the edges and corners.  At other focal lengths and apertures, the 16-50 is better at the edges and corners.  What is surprising is that the 16-70 does not knock my socks off in image quality.  In daylight (how I tested it today, both outdoors and indoors) I can see the 16-70 has a slight edge in contrast and color, but in the matter of sharpness, there is no clear superiority.  I'm still sorting through all the images and will post some comparisons tomorrow, both in this thread and in my gallery.  Meanwhile I'm wondering if I am not evaluating the 16-70 properly since I was expecting a lot more from it for $1000.  Any suggestions how to evaluate a new lens?

 CameraCarl's gear list:CameraCarl's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-6 Canon EF 70-300mm f/4-5.6L IS USM Canon EF 24-105mm f/4L IS USM Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS Sony Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm F4 ZA OSS +1 more
Sony Alpha NEX-6
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Ynos
Regular MemberPosts: 182
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Re: How to Evaluate a New Lens? (Sort of Disappointed with the 16-70)
In reply to CameraCarl, 4 months ago

CameraCarl wrote:

I just received a new Sony/Zeiss 16-70mm lens which I bought because I was not happy with the corner and edge sharpness of my kit 16-50 on my NEX-6. Today I went out and shot several hundred images to compare the two lenses. I used a tripod, OSS off, and the self timer to photograph both a large building and a large bookshelf. I took photos at 16, 24, 28, 35, and 50mm at apertures from f4 to f11. I'm comparing both jpegs and RAW images (with lens corrections applied) in Lightroom 5 side by side at 100%.

The results seem to be all over the place. Both lenses seem to be equally sharp in the center. At some focal lengths and apertures, the 16-70 is better at the edges and corners. At other focal lengths and apertures, the 16-50 is better at the edges and corners. What is surprising is that the 16-70 does not knock my socks off in image quality. In daylight (how I tested it today, both outdoors and indoors) I can see the 16-70 has a slight edge in contrast and color, but in the matter of sharpness, there is no clear superiority. I'm still sorting through all the images and will post some comparisons tomorrow, both in this thread and in my gallery. Meanwhile I'm wondering if I am not evaluating the 16-70 properly since I was expecting a lot more from it for $1000. Any suggestions how to evaluate a new lens?

I would print a test chart and some text or put a high detail map with pictures and text, put it on a wall and increase distance between camera on a tripod at least up to 3m to avoid field curvature. Turn OSS off, do Manual Focusing and do focus bracketing if you can - then chose sharpest picture to compare. You have L 24-105 lens as well judging from your gear signature - compare your shots with this lens if possible. Both are zooms of same effective range and constant f4. Then evaluate step by step - corners, edges, midline, center, look at photos and text clarity.

Alternatively, you can print a test chart and manually focus on same part of chart using first center part of lens and then each of 4 corners. Compare them. If corners are equally slightly worse than center - all is good. If one side is worse - there may be a slight decentering. Again judging from how blurred corners are or how hazed they are - you can get an idea how your lens performs. It's a long process and not easy.

My opinion is that people just over expect or expect too much from a zoom. 16-70 is a nice zoom, but it is not much different from 16-50 or 18-55 or any other NEX zoom. Difference is not going to knock your socks off. Try to look at this zoom as more convenient zoom with wider range and constant f4 compared to kit zoom. Better contrast maybe due to T* coating, less flair and so on. But it won't be as sharp as some descent primes can be. It won't be like E24Z or FE55 or Otus or old Zeiss ZM lenses. No. i think if that zoom's price was $599 nobody would complain. People tend to overestimate it due to high price. If 1 car costs 3 times more than the other - it won't drive 3 times faster. Maybe slightly faster. Mostly differences will be in comfort, build, reliability, extra features etc. Same with 16-70 vs kit lenses.

P.S. that is exactly why I created a thread about DxO testing 16-70. Because I knew many people will be dissapointed by having too high expectations. Sometimes reasonable, sometimes not. People will be dissapointed with AF, with 16-70 and so on. What needs to be done - is to better advertise or at least better review a6000 with good explanations of what this camera can do and where its limitations are, including compatible lenses that really keep up to speed of AF. We (users) need that info. Not everyone is a pro and it's not necessary to get the truth only by buying camera and testing it inside out. Otherwise there are going to be lot's of returns (and we already had some threads about returns). Same with 16-70 - sooner the DxO will test it - sooner people will get some idea where this zoom sits and what to expect from it. Let's say it will get score of 16 on A6000 - that means slightly higher than kit zooms, but lower than almost any prime. People will not hold unrealistic hopes and will settle down happily knowing that they got what they wanted. IMHO knowledge and better tests and reviews will never hurt. BTW, a good manual explaining all settings in detail would be nice too (for A6000).

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forpetessake
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Re: How to Evaluate a New Lens? (Sort of Disappointed with the 16-70)
In reply to Ynos, 4 months ago

Ynos wrote:

My opinion is that people just over expect or expect too much from a zoom. 16-70 is a nice zoom, but it is not much different from 16-50 or 18-55 or any other NEX zoom.

Sony produces great sensors and pretty good bodies, and ... pretty average, if not to say mediocre consumer grade lenses. People are willing to pay any money just to get a good lens. It stands to reason that they think paying a grand for the 16-70 they would finally get a great lens and very disappointed when they get pretty much the same image quality just a little bit longer and a little bit faster lens. If the lens were priced according to what it actually offers, say $400 retail and $200 as kit, then there wouldn't be any unreasonable expectations.

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aap292
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Re: How to Evaluate a New Lens? (Sort of Disappointed with the 16-70)
In reply to CameraCarl, 4 months ago

You probably did the best thing you can do when evaluating a lens. Just use it and see if the differences with your other lenses is worth the price tag. Sure you probably don't have access to some special gadgets to make scientific measurements of sharpness or whatever, but just follow your gut. I wouldn't expect anyone here to sway you to keep it or return it, since it's your POV and your money.

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tammons
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Re: How to Evaluate a New Lens? (Sort of Disappointed with the 16-70)
In reply to CameraCarl, 4 months ago

Yup to above, shoot a target throughout the range and you will discover exactly where it is sharp and not and where the sweet spots are. I use one I bought years ago from EDMUND SCIENTIFIC or print your own.

What I am seeing more than not is about 80-85 lp/mm average with zoom lenses on the A6000 but IMO the A6000 will top out at about 100-106 lp/mm or a tad more but I dont have a lens that I am 100% confident will get me beyond that number if possible.

For comparison the 5n topped out at 76 lp/mm with my sharpest lenses, Contax 50mm F1.4, F1.7 and Pentax 50mm F4 macro.

IE You need a really good good lens to max out the A6000 if that is what you are using.

I just tested my 16-50 kit lens on my A6000 and this is what I got.

SONY 16-50MM LENS all in lp/mm

at 16MM

CTR EDGE COR
F3.5 89 56 50
F4 89 56 50
F5.6 89 56 50
F8 100 71 50
F9 100 71 63
F10 89 80 71
F11 89 80 71

at 50MM

CTR EDGE COR
F5.6 92 -- --
F6.3 92 -- 92
F8 92 -- 92

Compared to the....

PETRI 50MM f1.8 CC M42 lens

CTR EDGE COR
F1.8 99 88 79
F2 - - -
F2.8 99 88 99
F4 99 99 99
F5.6 99 99 99

BUT you also have to shoot  a lens in different conditions to see how it performs in real life.

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forpetessake
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Re: How to Evaluate a New Lens? (Sort of Disappointed with the 16-70)
In reply to tammons, 4 months ago

There are mistakes people make when evaluating lenses. The easiest thing to measure is the extinction resolution, but that actually gives very little information about how the pictures will look like. You at least need to look at MTF50 to get some idea about sharpness. But it's still not enough. The maximum resolution doesn't necessary correlate with how sharp the pictures will look. I had some soft looking high resolution old manual lenses. A human eye is more sensitive to the lower spacial frequencies and contrast at those frequencies play a bigger role in perception of acuity.

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tammons
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Re: How to Evaluate a New Lens? (Sort of Disappointed with the 16-70)
In reply to forpetessake, 4 months ago

I just do this to get a general idea of what a lens is doing rather than an absolute and why I said you have to use a lens in different conditions as a part of evaluation.

IE I had one sigma 18-125 lens that drove me nut until I tested it then I was able to use it effectively.

It was tack sharp at 18mm WO. From maybe 20mm up to 40mm it was very soft WO but at 50-80mm very sharp WO then got soft as normal for that type of lens. What threw me off was I would use it at 18mm and 50-80mm WO and get superb photos, but 24-40 were soggy. At any rate I figured it out.

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Jerry R
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Take pictures of things you like and enjoy the images. A few from the 16-70.
In reply to CameraCarl, 4 months ago

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Canon A2E, Sony R1, Panny TZ5, NEX C3 & 5R + Zeiss 24mm E Lens, Nikon D5100

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RonFrank
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Re: How to Evaluate a New Lens? (Sort of Disappointed with the 16-70)
In reply to CameraCarl, 4 months ago

I have been looking at the results of the 16-50mm for quite some time and came to the conclusion that it is a good performing cheap lens warts and all.  Will it stand up to a 50mm f1.8... no.  But it does well against zooms in similar focal ranges.  The 16-70mm is a nice lens but WAY overpriced (that little blue sticker) with its own warts.  This is actually VERY common even if you get into Nikon or Canon.  It is VERY hard to balance a WA zoom lens so it performs well at all FL wide open.

I think the constant aperture and extra reach of the Zeiss are both valuable.  You will have to decide if its worth the $$$.  The kit lens is also a most valuable player when you are going for a hike and photography is not the main objective.  A A6000 in a belt pouch with the 16-50mm attached is a nice option.  If you are a prime junky the 35mm may work better for you, but I like the zoom and have been shooting them for a long time.

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Damovich
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Re: How to Evaluate a New Lens? (Sort of Disappointed with the 16-70)
In reply to CameraCarl, 4 months ago

To me personally any which camera and/or lens that I frequently use must leave me with a good feeling about it, if it doesnt I'll discard it by default. If this lens doesnt wow you, especially considering its hefty price tag, you might want to get rid of it before your coming to regret it. In the end, no matter how much you test it to be sharp and/or contrasty for the justification of the purchase, you will never be happy with it if it doesnt render the images to your personal likings.

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johnznyc
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Re: How to Evaluate a New Lens? (Sort of Disappointed with the 16-70)
In reply to CameraCarl, 4 months ago

I am just getting serious after a long break from photography.  As such, I have no preexisting biases.  Having decided upon an A7r, I am now picking out lenses.  I make my selections based upon cost vs. performance, without putting too much emphasis on subjectives such as "quality control" and "build quality."  Thus, I relied a lot on test data which can be very eye-opening.

For example, the Sony FE 28-70 performs mostly as well as the Sony Zeiss FE 24-70, at a much, much lower cost, $298 vs $998 (sale prices) and at certain ranges, better.

I strongly suggest such research before committing to any lens.

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Frag01
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Re: How to Evaluate a New Lens? (Sort of Disappointed with the 16-70)
In reply to johnznyc, 4 months ago

I had rented a 16-70 and was pretty much wowed by it. Purchased a 'good as new' used lens from the most reputable retailer out there and wasn't nearly as impressed. Wound up buying a star chart (about $30) and found it was decentered. Purchased a new lens, tested satisfactorily, and am as impressed with the new lens as I was the rented one. If you're not impressed with the lens is it possible you've got a bad copy?

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Sony Alpha NEX-7 Sony a6000 Sony Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* E 24mm F1.8 ZA Sony E 50mm F1.8 OSS Sony E 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 OSS LE +3 more
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Jeffrey Ross
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No formal testing but I judged my results from 16 70 to be exceptional
In reply to Frag01, 4 months ago

My first opportunity to shoot my new A6000 and 16-70 was last weekend.  Difficult shooting due to extreme backlighting.  I thought both the camera and lens performed exceptionally.  This is roughly an 1800 x 1400 pixel crop with a little photoshopping.  I think the 16 70 will spend a lot of time on my camera.

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José B
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Gorgeous!!! Extremely happy owner here too
In reply to Jeffrey Ross, 4 months ago

My first opportunity to shoot my new A6000 and 16-70 was last weekend.  Difficult shooting due to extreme backlighting.  I thought both the camera and lens performed exceptionally.  This is roughly an 1800 x 1400 pixel crop with a little photoshopping.  I think the 16 70 will spend a lot of time on my camera.

That's exactly what I did, travelled to SE Asia and did a few model shoots with it. I'm happy like Pharrell:-)

Cheers,

Jose

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Canon EOS-1D Mark III Canon EOS 5D Mark II Sony Alpha NEX-6 Sony a6000 Canon EF 35mm f/1.4L USM +10 more
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Jeffrey Ross
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Re: Gorgeous!!! Extremely happy owner here too
In reply to José B, 4 months ago

José B wrote:

My first opportunity to shoot my new A6000 and 16-70 was last weekend. Difficult shooting due to extreme backlighting. I thought both the camera and lens performed exceptionally. This is roughly an 1800 x 1400 pixel crop with a little photoshopping. I think the 16 70 will spend a lot of time on my camera.

That's exactly what I did, travelled to SE Asia and did a few model shoots with it. I'm happy like Pharrell:-)

Cheers,

Jose

Thanks for the complement.  Not a model though.  Shot at the wedding of a friend of my daughter.  This is the bride.  I was able to bless her and her parents with the photo.  That's the most fun part of the hobby.  Although I have had people appreciate my landscapes, I find that the photographs of their children and grandchildren are the most appreciated and more likely to be displayed.

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ttan98
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Re: 16-70mm costs $1000....I expect
In reply to CameraCarl, 4 months ago

CameraCarl wrote:

I just received a new Sony/Zeiss 16-70mm lens which I bought because I was not happy with the corner and edge sharpness of my kit 16-50 on my NEX-6. Today I went out and shot several hundred images to compare the two lenses. I used a tripod, OSS off, and the self timer to photograph both a large building and a large bookshelf. I took photos at 16, 24, 28, 35, and 50mm at apertures from f4 to f11. I'm comparing both jpegs and RAW images (with lens corrections applied) in Lightroom 5 side by side at 100%.

The results seem to be all over the place. Both lenses seem to be equally sharp in the center. At some focal lengths and apertures, the 16-70 is better at the edges and corners. At other focal lengths and apertures, the 16-50 is better at the edges and corners. What is surprising is that the 16-70 does not knock my socks off in image quality. In daylight (how I tested it today, both outdoors and indoors) I can see the 16-70 has a slight edge in contrast and color, but in the matter of sharpness, there is no clear superiority. I'm still sorting through all the images and will post some comparisons tomorrow, both in this thread and in my gallery. Meanwhile I'm wondering if I am not evaluating the 16-70 properly since I was expecting a lot more from it for $1000. Any suggestions how to evaluate a new lens?

more from this camera... I don't own one but from a number of user reports I believe this lens a very good lens but at $1000 each I expect more. I agree with you.

You see the m4/3 kit lens, 14-45mm costs about $300 this lens is excellent......

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