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Design

The 16-105mm features an attractively minimalist design which is devoid of any cosmetic fripperies. It feels solidly built, with a metal lens mount and barrel constructed from quality plastics; an impression no doubt reinforced by the fact that it is something of a heavyweight for such a small package. It may not be as well made as the professional-grade 24-70mm F2.8 zoom, but it feels like it should stand up to fairly intensive use.

However the utilitarian approach is not without its pitfalls. The zoom and focus rings use the same shallow ribbed grip rubber and are of similar diameter and width, so are impossible to distinguish by touch alone. And disappointingly for a premium lens, the focus ring is extremely stiff and has a very short travel, which makes manual focusing something of a trial. The zoom action is also slightly uneven in feel.

On the camera

The lens is perfectly balanced on the Alpha 700 we used for studio testing; the zoom and focus rings both fall within easy reach of the left hand thumb and forefinger. Thanks to its compact design, it also works well on the smaller entry-level bodies such as the Alpha 350 (which we also used for real-world shooting); here the only slight negative is a risk of flash shadowing at wideangle.

Autofocus

Autofocus is driven by a screw-drive system from the camera body, so AF speed, noise and accuracy is fundamentally dependant on the camera used. On our Alpha 700 test body, we found focusing to be generally fast and accurate under most conditions, although with a distinct tendency to hunt for focus in low light at the telephoto end (which is not surprising given its F5.6 maximum aperture).

Lens body elements

The lens uses Sony's Alpha mount, which is identical to Minolta's A-type. To fit the lens, align the orange dot with that on the camera body, and twist clockwise.

The gold contracts are used for communication with the camera, the black metal lever controls the aperture, and autofocus is driven from the camera body via the screw coupler; just over 2 1/4 turns are required to travel from infinity to closest focus.
The filter thread is 62mm, and does not rotate on focusing, which will be welcome news to filter users.
The bayonet fitting, petal-type ALC-SH105 is supplied as standard. It's reasonably solidly made of black plastic, and reverses neatly for storage.
The zoom ring rotates 70 degrees clockwise from wide to telephoto, with markings at 16, 24, 35, 50, 70 and 105mm. The grip is 18mm wide, but the zoom action somewhat stiff and uneven. The lens extends 52mm on zooming from 16-105mm, and there is a slight lateral 'play' of the lens barrel at full extension; nothing to worry about in normal use.
'The 16mm wide focus ring rotates just 45 degrees clockwise from infinity to 0.4m, and is distinctly stiff in action making precise focusing tricky. A distance scale is provided with markings in both feet and meters, but there's no depth-of-field markings or infra-red correction mark.

As is common with internal focus zooms, the angle of view gets noticeably wider on focusing closer.

Reported aperture vs focal length

Here we show the maximum and minimum apertures reported by the camera at the marked focal lengths.

Focal length 16mm 24mm 35mm 50mm 70mm 105mm
Max aperture
F3.5
F4.5
F5
F5
F5.6
F5.6
Min aperture
F22
F29
F32
F32
F32
F36
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