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

Started Mar 31, 2013 | Discussions
Mel Snyder
OP Mel Snyder Veteran Member • Posts: 4,088
Re: Revised/corrected post: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina

Jefenator wrote:

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?

They work much better at smaller apertures. But I think the real issue is the difficulty of manually focusing a superwide on the NEX.

That cause me to consider, "Why did I buy the NEX in the first place?" Answer: to tap into my collection of great legacy glass - 3 Leica lenses (35, 50 and 90mm) and 2 Canon FD lenses, a 24mm f2 and a 85mm f1.2L - all very easy to focus manually.

Result: I will carry my D7000 with the 11-16 in my bag, and the NEX with the 35mm f1.4 in my hand. In places where I expect to be faced with varying challenges, like in a market, I will put the 16-50 zoom on the NEX, and my 18-200 on my D7000. In dark areas, like a cathedral, I will put the 90mm f2.8 on the NEX, for detail, and use the D7000 with the 11-16 for my sweeping interior shots.

The NEX is a wonderful camera, and I can see how those who don't have an inventory of choices to start with will want to build their system around it. However, I must have DSLRs for my business medical videos, and the lenses I must use in that work.

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Mel Snyder
OP Mel Snyder Veteran Member • Posts: 4,088
Re: Revised/corrected post: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina

The curvature results from the images all being shot raw; I ordinarily correct in Photoshop. Then it's fine.

I think Sony has been brilliant in their lens design: Build a lens and camera with cheap in-camera software correction for the majority who will shoot in jpeg, keep correction out of RAW and let the more experienced photographers who know Photoshop to make the fixes manually.

When I bought the NEX-6, the 16-50 was almost an afterthought - I had 5 lenses I wanted to start using, for the first time in 20+ years: A 35mm f1.4 Summilux, a 50mm f2 Summicron, a 90mm f2.8 Tele-Elmarit, and a 24mm f2 Canon FD and 85mm f1.2L Canon FD.

And my objective was realized. The camera is brilliant with all five. I just got plussed by all the negativity toward the 16-50 when I saw it being bashed by people who hadn't even held a NEX yet, based on noise from people here. Used with in-camera correction, as 99% of newbies will, the distortion is gone, the edges are sharp and free of vignetting, and the lens will be brilliant. I might flip to RAW+JPEG to take advantage of that on the road, myself.

captura wrote:

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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Ralph46
Ralph46 Senior Member • Posts: 1,183
Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina

I have wondered about the very contradictung opinions about this lens since getting it 4 months ago and changing from Canon to this forum. After 40 years of Canon FD and EF(-S) lenses I was by no means disapointed by the 16-50PZ. Heck, it starts at 16mm (=24mm equiv.) and is a zoom. Do many people here remember how even expensive 24mm primes for FF performed a few years ago? No distortion and perfect corner sharpness? No!! - forget it. The corrected 16-50PZ image does fine at 16mm compared to even more expensive zooms. Perhaps my copy is better than a lot of others out there. I know QC is a weak point with just about all manufacturers these days.

The electronic operation and the required optical correction may cause discomfort for some of the more traditional minded users. The 16-50PZ is unlikely to be the lens to last a lifetime. But look at the size and the price (and the performance), and you should realize that those days are over (same as for many other appliances).

At 18mm FL and above it is even better and a remains a very good kit lens indeed. Don't forget that 16mm gives you photos that 18mm can't do. So when you compare it with the 18-55mm kit, please start at 18mm.

I have sold my Canon gear, so I can't give a direct comparison with that. But I am posting 3 images. The first is at 16mm and f/8 (slight corner falloff, could easily be sharpened in PP), the 2nd is at 25mm and f/5.6 (corners look great to me), and the 3rd is worst case at 16mm and 3.5 (still not terrible, but the content is harder to judge).

Ralph

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Ralph46
Ralph46 Senior Member • Posts: 1,183
Sorry, no EXIF data although from dpreview gallery

Hey,

I just uploaded a post with 3 photos from my dpreview gallery. Normally the EXIF data is transferred to the post. Not this time. How come? You will have to believe my claims for the photos.

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Mike Fewster Veteran Member • Posts: 6,815
Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina

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 ?

...

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.

I don't agree. All raw images have some sharpening applied to them (and the amount varies from mker to maker and probably isn't even consistent between models from the same manufacturer) . The only way to really compare them is to see what can be obtained from them because the original playing field isn't level. Further, an increasing number of lenses are designed knowing that their results will be adjusted with in camera correction. In these cases (and the Sony 16-50 is one) the shots should be evaluated according to the corrected output. i
Mike Fewster
Adelaide Australia

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bill hansen Veteran Member • Posts: 9,090
Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
1

The important message for me is the very impressive performance of the Tokina 11-16. For a lens in that focal range, it's a great bargain.

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Bill Hansen
Ithaca NY, USA

franzel Contributing Member • Posts: 804
Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina

bill hansen wrote:

The important message for me is the very impressive performance of the Tokina 11-16. For a lens in that focal range, it's a great bargain.

I agree.

Both the 16-50 and the 17mm prime look quite bad; soft even in the center, and significant CA issues .

So , judging by this 'test', the SEL 1650 is indeed crappy . At least shot wide open, and possibly without decent Raw processing, it is a pretty bad lens . In its defence, it also is a crappy test, so maybe there is still hope for the apologists .

nevada5
nevada5 Forum Pro • Posts: 11,955
You might be asking the wrong question
2

Instead of asking how crappy is the lens, you should be asking about how crappy is Sony's quality control.

I don't question those who claim they are getting great results from the lens - why would they lie?  But I bought two of them and had to send them both back due to unacceptable quality loss about two-thirds away from the center of the frame.

I really liked using the lens and I'd like to have a good compact normal-range zoom.

So my question is - How many do I need to buy to get a good one?

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I'm experimenting with Quantum Physics and I just discovered that I can completely destr

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Jefenator
Jefenator Senior Member • Posts: 2,844
Re: You might be asking the wrong question

FWIW I tried the Tokina 11-16 on my NEX last year and quickly found my copy of that lens was unacceptable. (So it's not just Sony... sounds like I was unlucky, though - most user reviews of the Tokina are quite positive with just a very few matching my experience.)

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Keit ll Veteran Member • Posts: 4,313
Re: You might be asking the wrong question

People who make varying claims about equipment are not necessarily deliberately lying but individuals have different perceptions & judgement. I have seen images posted here sometimes which are mediocre but the posters think that they are great , standards vary !

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Keith C

emailsucks98
emailsucks98 Regular Member • Posts: 322
Lens speed?

I’ve had my Nex-6 for 2 weeks, with the 16-50 PZ, and I am struggling to get sharp pictures. I don’t believe it’s the lens though, I’ll take responsibility!

The Nex-6 was an upgrade from my previous camera, a Canon S-90. I’m finding it takes more work to get a sharp picture out of the Sony. I think it is to the lens, only in the sense that the S90 had a brighter/faster lens (F2) compared to the Sony PZ lens (F3.5). The settings that worked great on the S90 are producing soft/blurry/out-of-focus images on the Nex-6. For instance, I am a mountain biker and shoot a lot of  pictures of people riding in the woods (shady lighting, motion in the 10-15mph range).  1/80 or faster in S mode would get me usably clear images on the S90; I’m having to shoot above 1/200 to get comparable clarity on the Nex-6 (assuming auto ISO and aperture). I am experimenting a lot with the various focus and metering modes to see what helps.

The 16/2.8 would probably be a better lens for me, but I’m guessing it’s mainly the learning curve, and my skills & settings are the reason, not the SEL1650. I hope so, because I do expect the sony to put out better images… once I know the camera better.

If anybody has thoughts I’d appreciate it- either confirming my lens speed theory, or tips on settings to get sharper images.

forpetessake
forpetessake Veteran Member • Posts: 4,892
Exactly!

Keit ll wrote:

People who make varying claims about equipment are not necessarily deliberately lying but individuals have different perceptions & judgement. I have seen images posted here sometimes which are mediocre but the posters think that they are great , standards vary !

That is exactly right. "How crappy is ..." -- is a value judgment, the answer is subjective, depends on one's definition of "crappy" at the moment. People are not necessarily knowingly lying, or embellishing, they just differently evaluate the same object. Even that subjective evaluation changes with experience, emotional attachment, buyer's remorse, weather, etc. Sometimes you notice the same people change their evaluation to completely opposite, and that's actually normal, because of all those factors involved. I usually completely disregard this type of "tests" for that reason, they really don't tell anything objective.

Had the subject been "MTF measurements of a 10 copies" of this lens from different batches, it would have been invaluable.

captura Forum Pro • Posts: 25,586
Re: Revised/corrected post: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina

Mel Snyder wrote:

The curvature results from the images all being shot raw; I ordinarily correct in Photoshop. Then it's fine.

I think Sony has been brilliant in their lens design: Build a lens and camera with cheap in-camera software correction for the majority who will shoot in jpeg, keep correction out of RAW and let the more experienced photographers who know Photoshop to make the fixes manually.

When I bought the NEX-6, the 16-50 was almost an afterthought - I had 5 lenses I wanted to start using, for the first time in 20+ years: A 35mm f1.4 Summilux, a 50mm f2 Summicron, a 90mm f2.8 Tele-Elmarit, and a 24mm f2 Canon FD and 85mm f1.2L Canon FD.

And my objective was realized. The camera is brilliant with all five. I just got plussed by all the negativity toward the 16-50 when I saw it being bashed by people who hadn't even held a NEX yet, based on noise from people here. Used with in-camera correction, as 99% of newbies will, the distortion is gone, the edges are sharp and free of vignetting, and the lens will be brilliant. I might flip to RAW+JPEG to take advantage of that on the road, myself.

captura wrote:

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.

I think this is nonsense. The first time around, all your shots were done with in-camera distortion correction enabled in the menu. Then for some reaon, or accidentally, you disabled distortion correction resulting in the curvature. Then, instead of correcting THAT mistake you chose to make up some stories. Enough of this!

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Mel Snyder
OP Mel Snyder Veteran Member • Posts: 4,088
Re: Sorry, no EXIF data although from dpreview gallery

You seem to have blocked viewing of the images in original mode, so it's impossible to judge any issues

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verybiglebowski
verybiglebowski Veteran Member • Posts: 3,971
Re: Exactly!

forpetessake wrote:

Had the subject been "MTF measurements of a 10 copies" of this lens from different batches, it would have been invaluable.

Not necessarely... Most MTF results are calculated by shoting test charts. That involves tons of variables, that I don't want to go through here, but just one to mention - results are relevant for the system, not for the lens.

So,  you can use 10 lens samples from different batches, but you should do the same with camera bodies, test charts, light sources, alligning lasers etc. involving endless number of permutations.

MTF measurement relevant only for the lens could be obtained with expensive devices such as calibrated optical benches i.e.

Theoretical MTF can't consider production flaws, but is probably closer to reality than most of "respected" tests based on shooting charts.

But nothing can't beat user tests with an exterior scene (light change, wind, haze, heat, nothing can stop our tester) OOC jpeg, "slightly" sharpenned in post processing at f11, clearly showing how even the cripiest lens is super sharp in reality. Those are my favorite tests (I don't mean OP here, his shots are at least taken in RAW, not sharpened and wide open).

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Mel Snyder
OP Mel Snyder Veteran Member • Posts: 4,088
Re: Revised/corrected post: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina
2

captura wrote:

Mel Snyder wrote:

The curvature results from the images all being shot raw; I ordinarily correct in Photoshop. Then it's fine.

I think Sony has been brilliant in their lens design: Build a lens and camera with cheap in-camera software correction for the majority who will shoot in jpeg, keep correction out of RAW and let the more experienced photographers who know Photoshop to make the fixes manually.

When I bought the NEX-6, the 16-50 was almost an afterthought - I had 5 lenses I wanted to start using, for the first time in 20+ years: A 35mm f1.4 Summilux, a 50mm f2 Summicron, a 90mm f2.8 Tele-Elmarit, and a 24mm f2 Canon FD and 85mm f1.2L Canon FD.

And my objective was realized. The camera is brilliant with all five. I just got plussed by all the negativity toward the 16-50 when I saw it being bashed by people who hadn't even held a NEX yet, based on noise from people here. Used with in-camera correction, as 99% of newbies will, the distortion is gone, the edges are sharp and free of vignetting, and the lens will be brilliant. I might flip to RAW+JPEG to take advantage of that on the road, myself.

captura wrote:

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.

I think this is nonsense. The first time around, all your shots were done with in-camera distortion correction enabled in the menu. Then for some reaon, or accidentally, you disabled distortion correction resulting in the curvature. Then, instead of correcting THAT mistake you chose to make up some stories. Enough of this!

Go back to the original post, and look carefully - I accidentally uploaded the 17mm Tokina image twice, once for the 16-50 and again for the 17mm. That;s why there was no correction on the first comparison - it was the same image!

Upon looking closely, I saw no expected distortion, edge softness or vignetting - as would be expected from a RAW image. So I went back and checked the EXIF data and re-uploaded the post with the right image.

I don't know who the hell you are, because you don't have the guts to post under your real name - but here's a suggestion - Google me - check my LinkedIn endorsements. Check www.melsnyder.com.  You don't go as far as I have in either business or photography by faking it. Ever.

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RichRMA Veteran Member • Posts: 4,073
Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina

The Tokina seems to do the best job of sharpness, contrast and control of chromatic aberration.  BTW, compare them all against Nikon's underrated 16-85mm if you get a chance.

ottonis Contributing Member • Posts: 765
Re: Revised/corrected post: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina

captura wrote:

Mel Snyder wrote:

The curvature results from the images all being shot raw; I ordinarily correct in Photoshop. Then it's fine.

I think Sony has been brilliant in their lens design: Build a lens and camera with cheap in-camera software correction for the majority who will shoot in jpeg, keep correction out of RAW and let the more experienced photographers who know Photoshop to make the fixes manually.

When I bought the NEX-6, the 16-50 was almost an afterthought - I had 5 lenses I wanted to start using, for the first time in 20+ years: A 35mm f1.4 Summilux, a 50mm f2 Summicron, a 90mm f2.8 Tele-Elmarit, and a 24mm f2 Canon FD and 85mm f1.2L Canon FD.

And my objective was realized. The camera is brilliant with all five. I just got plussed by all the negativity toward the 16-50 when I saw it being bashed by people who hadn't even held a NEX yet, based on noise from people here. Used with in-camera correction, as 99% of newbies will, the distortion is gone, the edges are sharp and free of vignetting, and the lens will be brilliant. I might flip to RAW+JPEG to take advantage of that on the road, myself.

captura wrote:

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.

I think this is nonsense. The first time around, all your shots were done with in-camera distortion correction enabled in the menu. Then for some reaon, or accidentally, you disabled distortion correction resulting in the curvature. Then, instead of correcting THAT mistake you chose to make up some stories. Enough of this!

Haha, what have you smoked, dude? No reason to be offensive. The OP has put a lot of effort in this nice comparison, so he has my respect.

What's wrong with disabling lens correction? The aim of this test was to compare LENSES and not what can be done in postprocessing. I don't care for distortion because this can almost always be corrected in post. However, lens SHARPNESS or lack thereof is a different story. The smeared image corners from bad lenses can NOT be corrected by ANY software, and enabling in-camera  distortion correction will only further soften the image corners.

In sum, the methodology of the OP was spot on.

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captura Forum Pro • Posts: 25,586
Re: Just how crappy is the 16-50 kit lens? Test vs 17mm prime & 11-16 Tokina

RichRMA wrote:

The Tokina seems to do the best job of sharpness, contrast and control of chromatic aberration.  BTW, compare them all against Nikon's underrated 16-85mm if you get a chance.

Yes it does. And it's quite obvious that the 16-50 is soft and distorted at the edges and corners, at least when wide open. There is vignetting, too. Hopefully someone will do a comparison with an 18-55 kit lens.

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captura Forum Pro • Posts: 25,586
Re: You might be asking the wrong question

The older NEX kit lens, the 18-55 which was made in Thailand had a lot of sample variation. The newer made-in-Japan black lenses are supposed to have better quality control. I wonder if there will be a Made-in-Japan version of the 16-50.

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