Is the Sony 16mm/F2.8 really that bad?

Started Nov 7, 2013 | Questions thread
GaryW Veteran Member • Posts: 8,549
Re: This truly is the best answer!

Dan W wrote:

tjuster1 wrote:


Pictures are great--fabulous!--but the logic is terrible. As has been mentioned before, saying and demonstrating a lens is capable of taking good images (certainly when presented at screen resolution for pasting into a forum post) is, for most people, not the same thing as saying or proving it's "good" or even "not that bad". I'm not arguing the merits of the 16mm since I've never tried it. What I am arguing is the logic that says if a good picture can be made from a lens, then the lens is good. You use this logic all the time.

"The proof is in the pudding."

You could also think of it this way:  an object only needs to be as good as necessary for its intended purpose.

I've taken lots of what I consider to be great pictures with inferior lenses. Here's an example (another system, lens unmentioned):

Children and pigeons, Cochabamba, Bolivia

I love this picture (maybe you do, maybe you don't . . . I don't care). But the point is that the lens I used is quite honestly pretty crappy and I've since sold it and replaced it with something better. Could I get good pictures with it? Of course! As you've eloquently argued, the equipment plays a bit role in the production of a great image. But under many conditions this lens just wasn't very good by my standards--wide open it was soft, especially at the edges, and it tended to flare a lot. Purple fringing was sometimes so bad I couldn't correct it in LR. Compared to other lenses in this system or even other systems it just isn't very good, even though it is certainly capable of creating great images.

I have a few inexpensive, mostly used, lenses for A-mount.  I ran into some that were horrid (most of which I tried and didn't buy and one I returned), but the ones I kept are actually pretty nice.  One in particular was rated a bit poorly, and at its widest angle and wide-open aperture, results are indeed pretty crappy.  But one day, I used f8 at the wide angle, and it was pretty sharp with great color! Maybe there's something to the lens after all.  At other focal lengths, I found the lens to be useful, and while the bokeh wouldn't win awards with the typical bokeh fan, I love the character of the sharp bokeh.  How interesting it makes the background, and the colors just popped like nothing else!  Gotta hand it to Minolta.  Need to step it down a bit, though.  I'd say that there are many  modest lenses that are quite good stopped down a bit.  It's possible to make a poor lens that isn't really good regardless.

Having to use f8 doesn't make a lens "crappy" or poor, but it does mean that if you want to get the best out of it, you should know what you're doing and how the lens behaves.  If you want better results at wider apertures or all apertures, then you should be willing to pay for it, in both money and size.

Meanwhile, I just can't get too upset about a lens that gives me good results.  But I do learn whether or not I should use it at its widest aperture.

Perhaps we should be arguing about things other than equipment, since the equipment we use is more than good enough for most of our talents. But what's the fun in that?

I like to think of it as a fun challenge to get the most out of what I have.  I certainly see limitations in the equipment, but overall, the bar has been raised pretty high.

I don't think you have it quite right. It's not that users here have said that it's possible to get a decent photo with the 16mm; they've taken hundreds, probably thousands of good photos with it. It's a small, very light lens without major flaws.

It does have major flaws, but it's more subtle than just that. For example, the corners are extremely soft -- really blurred -- at f2.8. But it's really not often you use the lens at f2.8 and need sharp details in the corners. Using the lens in most conditions, the corners aren't so bad. Using it in daylight, and it's not even an issue. Suddenly what is a horrible flaw is a non-issue.

Even on overcast days where I used f5.6 or 6.3, where I had a tiny bit of corner softness, way in the corners... I go to print at 8x10, and the corners got cropped off. Huh. All that worry about soft corners and now they're gone. Dang, now what I complain about?

CA. The CA is pretty bad. For best results, you really want some corrections run on this. I find that DxO really breathes new life into the 16mm and kit lenses, kind of like a lens upgrade. Maybe that is part of why I'm pretty happy with these lenses.

My point is that as a purely practical matter, the lens has some flaws, but they are pushed into areas where it does the least harm. It's a compromise lens. No one is saying it's perfect. It's the cheapest Sony branded e-mount lens, and one of the smallest. What do you want?

It's not the sharpest lens out there (but it's reasonably sharp), it has to be stopped down to get the best results etc. But it's "not that bad," even "good" to "very good" imo considering its size and weight. Perfect for a bike ride, a hike or many other situations as demonstrated by Mel and others.

The OP was asking if this is a lens that he should consider buying and I think that most actual users of the lens would say that it is.

I would say so, as long as you can live with the corner-softness-at-wide-apertures and want the compact style.  Also consider the 20mm which everyone agrees is better in image quality.

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Gary W.

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