Review: Sony SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS power zoom


The SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS power zoom is Sony’s kit lens for most NEX cameras. It more or less replaced the SEL1855 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS, which is larger and offers less wide angle on the short end.

The SELP1650 is very light and ultra compact for a zoom with only 30 mm of length in the retracted position. Autofocus is reasonably fast when using hybrid-AF, but the lens feels very plasticky. Especially the zoom drive has a cheap sound to it and is a common reason for complaints. Handling on a NEX-5T is very synthetic when using manual focus or focus override, because the focus speed seems to be non-linearily linked to the rotational velocity of the zoom/focus ring. On the plus side, the power zoom lever allows smooths zooms in movie mode. Taking into account the effective focal length range of 24 – 76 mm on APS-C cameras, the SELP1650 is a compact and very versatile zoom for every day carry with a slightly cheap feel to it.

 

Condition of my copy

Optics: Excellent. No dust, no scratches – new.

Mechanics: Excellent. Focus ring uniform with minimal damping, aperture clean and fast.

Exterior: Excellent. Like new.

 

Optical performance on NEX-5N / 5T

The following evaluation is based on uncorrected RAW images. Please keep in mind that all Sony E mount lenses are electronically corrected in camera (vignetting, distortion, CA) and JPEGs of these shots therefore look very different.

 

16 mm

Test shots at 16 mm are not possible with the current setup.

 

20 mm (-> jump to test charts)

Sharpness at 20 mm f/4 is good with very consistent performance across the frame. Stopping down to f/5.6 raises central sharpness to very good, but the corners surprisingly deteriorate. This behavior actually intensifies at f/8, leading to very soft corners with the center staying very good. At f/11, the corners improve again and diffraction kicks in very lightly in the center. Softness increases when going to f/16 and most details are blurred away at f/22.

There is only the slightest idea of red/cyan CAs at f/4. On all other apertures, there are no visible CAs. Either this is an excellently corrected apochromatic lens, or the electronic retouching of CAs in-camera cannot be deactivated.

Vignetting is about 2/3 of a stop at f/4, improves to 1/2 a stop at f/5.6, but never disappears. The effective T-stop at 20 mm f/4.0 is approximately T4.3 (-0.2 EV), according to the DxOmark review. At this focal length, the lens also exhibits a massive, complex, moustache-like barrel distortion of -4.8%. Under-corrected vignetting and distortion are typical for modern, electronically corrected lenses as the designers usually trade these errors for better sharpness and less CA.

 

28 mm (-> jump to test charts)

Sharpness at 28 mm f/4.5 is good with very consistent performance across the frame. Stopping down to f/5.6 raises sharpness to very good. At f/8, we start to see the same behavior as at 20 mm with the center staying very sharp and the corners softening up. At f/11, this trend continues and diffraction kicks in very lightly in the center. Softness increases when going to f/16 and f/22 is – as always – very soft.

There is only the slightest idea of red/cyan CAs in some shots when looking at the files at 200%.

Vignetting is about 1/2 a stop at f/4.5, improves to 1/3 of a stop at f/5.6, but never disappears. The effective T-stop at 28 mm f/4.5 is approximately T5.1 (-0.4 EV), according to the DxOmark review. At this focal length, the lens  exhibits a medium, moustache-like barrel distortion of -1.4%.

 

35 mm (-> jump to test charts)

Sharpness at 35 mm f/5.6 is good in the center with rather soft corners. At f/8, central sharpness improves slightly with the corners catching up fast. At f/11, performance is consistent across the frame with diffraction kicking in lightly in the center. Softness increases when going to f/16, reaches visible levels at f/22 and just nukes the image at f/32.

There are hardly visible red/cyan CAs in all shots.

Vignetting is 1/3 of a stop at f/5.6 and improves to negligible levels when stopping down. The effective T-stop at 35 mm f/5.6 is approximately T6.1 (-0.25 EV), according to the DxOmark review. At this focal length, the lens shows a minor barrel distortion of -0.4%.

 

50 mm (-> jump to test charts)

Sharpness at 50 mm f/5.6 is acceptable overall. At f/8, the whole image sharpens up strongly to good, close to very good levels. Stopping down to f/11, diffraction starts to slightly soften the whole image again. Softness increases when going to f/16, reaches high levels at f/22 and just nukes the image at f/32.

There are hardly visible red/cyan CAs in all shots.

Vignetting is about 1/3 of a stop at f/5.6 and disappears when stopping down. The effective T-stop at 50 mm f/5.6 is approximately T6.2 (-0.3 EV), according to the DxOmark review. At this focal length, the lens shows a strong pincushion distortion of 2.9%, which mostly affects the extreme borders of the image.

 

So, how does it stack up against the crowd? Well… not bad. At 35 mm and especially 50 mm, it is outperformed by both versions of the Minolta MD 35-70 mm f/3.5 (the MD-III Zoom and the MD-II Zoom Rokkor) in terms of sharpness and resolution. But this is kind of an unfair comparison, considering the Minolta Zooms are about three times the size of the SELP1650 and are stopped down one and a half stop further than the Sony in relation to their widest aperture.

Against Sony’s own SEL20F28, the kit zoom doesn’t stand a chance in terms of sharpness up to f/8, when the center finally catches up. But this is not surprising, as the SEL20F28 is an excellent performer. The sweet spot of the SELP1650 actually is 28 mm, where it even holds up against the stellar Minolta MD-III 28 mm f/2.8, despite the Minolta having more than a stop of advantage and being a prime.

In conclusion, you don’t buy the SELP1650 for it’s excellent optics. The strong points of this lens are the extreme compactness when retracted, the very useful zoom range and of course the OSS – you won’t get that with any vintage lens on a NEX.

 

Test charts

The following images are pixel-level crops from the test chart. They may appear scaled in your browser window. Click on them to view the crops in full size and cycle through them easily. For more info on the test setup, visit the details page.

 

Overview

Test chart overview

(Cropped areas marked in orange)

 

 

20 mm

 

f/4.0

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 20 mm f/4.0

 

f/5.6

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 20 mm f/5.6

 

f/8.0

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 20 mm f/8.0

 

f/11

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 20 mm f/11

 

f/16

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 20 mm f/16

 

f/22SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 20 mm f/22

 


 

 

28 mm

 

f/4.5

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 28 mm f/4.5

 

f/5.6

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 28 mm f/5.6

 

f/8.0

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 28 mm f/8.0

 

f/11

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 28 mm f/11

 

f/16

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 28 mm f/16

 

f/22

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 28 mm f/22

 


 

 

35 mm

 

f/5.6

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 35 mm f/5.6

 

f/8.0

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 35 mm f/8.0

 

f/11

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 35 mm f/11

 

f/16

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 35 mm f/16

 

f/22

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 35 mm f/22

f/32

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 35 mm f/32

 


 

 

50 mm

 

f/5.6

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 50 mm f/5.6

 

f/8.0

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 50 mm f/8.0

 

f/11

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 50 mm f/11

 

f/16

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 50 mm f/16

 

f/22

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 50 mm f/22

 

f/32

SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 @ 50 mm f/32

 


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2 thoughts on “Review: Sony SELP1650 16-50 mm f/3.5-5.6 OSS power zoom

  • Jerry

    Congratulations on the excellent web site!!!
    Did you make the photograph of extended 16-50 on this page youself?
    I consider using my SELP1650 for macro and I need to extend it before mounting on the bellows, but I’m afraid that unmounting the lens without switching the camera off first may damage the lens. Do you think it’s safe? I suppose that after “hot” unmounting the apperture stays at the value set before unmounting?

    • Benjamin Post author

      Hi Jerry and thanks for the positive feedback 🙂 Yes, I did take this photograph myself and no, I wasn’t very comfortable with unmounting the lens while the camera was on. I don’t think that this will damage the lens as I suspect Sony will have covered this scenario in the design of camera and lens although it is not recommended – there’s just too many people out there who are used to switching lenses ‘hot’ on a DSLR. But I’m absolutely not sure it’s safe!
      Concerning aperture and focus: Both are actuated electrically and I didn’t check if they change when unmounted ‘hot’. I know for a fact that the guys at lensrentals.com had to fix up some pretty odd Frankenstein-type mount because the focus changed when unmounting a lens this way (see http://www.lensrentals.com/blog/2015/10/sony-e-mount-lens-sharpness-bench-tests). As the 16-50 is internally focused (IF) I don’t even know if it’s usable on a bellows. It may be easier to use extension tubes with electrical contacts or to get a good manual macro for the job.