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

Started Nov 7, 2013 | Questions
tjuster1 Senior Member • Posts: 1,930
Re: This truly is the best answer!
3

Mel,

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.

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.

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?

 tjuster1's gear list:tjuster1's gear list
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Sonyshine
Sonyshine Veteran Member • Posts: 8,892
A bad workman always blames his tools!

Maybe Mel is great workman who always gets the best out of his tools?

Not a bad workman always blaming his tools...

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Dan W Veteran Member • Posts: 3,401
Re: This truly is the best answer!

tjuster1 wrote:

Mel,

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.

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.

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 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'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.

 Dan W's gear list:Dan W's gear list
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Habs Fan27 Contributing Member • Posts: 739
Re: This truly is the best answer!

tjuster1 wrote:

Mel,

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.

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.

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?

This is a good argument for sure.  I think what most people say when they 'defend' this lens (myself included) is that it's pretty good for the price and it's size.  It's when people expect it to be sharp corner to corner at 2.8 that is unrealistic.  If you want to travel light and shoot wide, this is a great little lens as long as you don't expect it to be as sharp as proper landscape lenses costing 5x as much that have lens caps that are bigger than this lens.

boardsy Senior Member • Posts: 2,215
Re: This truly is the best answer!

tjuster1 wrote:

Mel,

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.

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.

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?

It's one thing to take a nice shot in spite of a lens's flaws, and another to take a decently sharp, contrasty, nicely coloured shot with a lens that others claim isn't sharp, has lousy contrast and poor colour! The latter refutes the claims, surely?

This is only 1365 x 2048px, but that's surely large enough to see decent performance (and not making any great claims for my photography or the lens)? Can a poor, bad, crappy lens really take photos like this? (vignette added in pp, btw!)

ttp://www.flickr.com/photos/59079068@N02/9270642851/

-- hide signature --

--

Regards,
Alan
my Flickr

Mel Snyder
Mel Snyder Veteran Member • Posts: 4,088
Re: This truly is the best answer!

tjuster1 wrote:

Mel,

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.

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.

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?

This is a fabulous image that most anyone on the forum would be proud to claim. Henri Cartier-Bresson would love it. I love it.

If the lens used to make this image has problems, you learned how to shoot around them.

I've owned mine less than 3 months, and have yet to be disappointed. Yes, I know it flares - I find myself cupping a hand out-of-frame to kill off-axis lights (must get a proper lens shade for it). But the beauty of the EVF is that I can see when it's challenged.

My 1982-era pre-aspheric 35mm f1.4 Summilux M went largely unused during the film era because I could not see its problems. It is my go-to manual lens on my NEX-6 because I spent a lot of time learning how to avoid its issues.

You killed your point by showing us a great image 

But it's taken.

 Mel Snyder's gear list:Mel Snyder's gear list
Sony Alpha NEX-6 Sony Alpha a7 Sony E 16mm F2.8 Pancake Leica Summicron-M 50mm f/2 Sony E 55-210mm F4.5-6.3 OSS +12 more
forpetessake
forpetessake Veteran Member • Posts: 4,892
cliches are rarely useful

Sonyshine wrote:

Maybe Mel is great workman who always gets the best out of his tools?

Not a bad workman always blaming his tools...

It's true that a bad workman tends to blame everything, including his tools for failures. But it doesn't follow that the good workman doesn't blame the tools, because the tools can and often are the reason for failures. It only stands to reason, in case of a bad workman the reason for failure is likely himself and in case of a skillful one it's more likely the tools. Also, if you gained expertise in any field, you know that a good workman would always try to use the best tools available to him.

forpetessake
forpetessake Veteran Member • Posts: 4,892
Re: Yes, BUT can still be used with good results
2

viking79 wrote:

The lens is not good optically, even Sony MTF charts show the extreme corner dropping to near zero contrast at the corner. However, it is acceptable across a majority of the frame. On the NEX7 it basically acts like an AA filter, so it is a bit like using a Pentax Q where the entire image is uniformly soft so you don't really notice.

I imagine JPEG shooters won't have any issue as sharpening will hide most issues.

So, yes, the lens is that bad, but the photographer makes the difference in most of the complaint cases or if the viewing size is not too large.

Discounting Photozone.de is silly, as all the reviewers say about the same thing. They didn't all get bad samples, and many (like Photozone) know how to identify a bad sample when they get one.

Here is my review: http://erphotoreview.com/wordpress/?p=1186

On my charts for the NEX 3, the level of decency for photographs is about mid yellow on MTF 50 chart and low/mid green for MTF 20. (say 1500 and 2400 lw/ph)

So my charts show that it exceeds the level of decency across most of the frame from f/5.6-f/11, and the center is very good. When I say level of decency, I am meaning at f/16 on most lenses, so this is not good by anymeans, but will give decent results as others are stating.

I am not as harsh on the lens as Photozone is, but he rightfully is harsh on it.

Eric

Now this is a valuable post. This whole long thread should have been stopped right here.

forpetessake
forpetessake Veteran Member • Posts: 4,892
congratulations ...

... and no, it's not THE answer, it's not even AN answer. I'm surprised the people don't see that it's irrelevant to the subject.

Mel Snyder wrote:

prime instinct wrote:

Or how you want your photos to be enjoyed.

Some works of art are about the physical attributes of the pictures - the stunning color, sharpness, contrast, fine details, tonal range, etc. Don't use this 16mm pancake for that! It just can't deliver the optical quality demanded by this type of work.

Others are about telling a story, an experience. And yes, do use this lens for that! Its ultra wide attitude can capture both the subject and the environment in good details, reproducing the story or experience that can perfectly be enjoyable.

My new grandson Nico - as captured by the under-rated SEL16F28. Color from the heat element under which he got his first sponge bath.

Tell me any other lens that brings such joy! (shot by my daughter with her iPhone as I took the photo above). Born into a photographer's family - grandfather, deceased great-grandfather, father and mom all photographers - little Nico knows from the first day to look into the lens pointed at him. Even if it's an SEL16F28.

And while we're dealing with myth busting, how about this from the much-maligned 16-50mm PZ?

forpetessake
forpetessake Veteran Member • Posts: 4,892
And the answer is YES ...

boardsy wrote:

... You know it yourself. And that's why this whole thread is meaningless.

Can a poor, bad, crappy lens really take photos like this? (vignette added in pp, btw!)

ttp://www.flickr.com/photos/59079068@N02/9270642851/

-- hide signature --

Regards,
Alan
my Flickr

Sonyshine
Sonyshine Veteran Member • Posts: 8,892
Re: cliches are rarely useful

forpetessake wrote:

Sonyshine wrote:

Maybe Mel is great workman who always gets the best out of his tools?

Not a bad workman always blaming his tools...

It's true that a bad workman tends to blame everything, including his tools for failures. But it doesn't follow that the good workman doesn't blame the tools, because the tools can and often are the reason for failures. It only stands to reason, in case of a bad workman the reason for failure is likely himself and in case of a skillful one it's more likely the tools. Also, if you gained expertise in any field, you know that a good workman would always try to use the best tools available to him.

I'm a good workman  and I'm always blaming my tools - or my apprentice! 

 Sonyshine's gear list:Sonyshine's gear list
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GaryW Veteran Member • Posts: 8,642
Re: This truly is the best answer!

Dan W wrote:

tjuster1 wrote:

Mel,

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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Sony E 16-50mm F3.5-5.6 PZ OSS Sony E PZ 18-105mm F4 G OSS Sony Cyber-shot DSC-V3 Sony Alpha DSLR-A100 Sony Alpha NEX-5 +8 more
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