TGWK’s Review – Sony SEL16F28 Prime Lens for the Sony NEX Series

A few weeks back, I reviewed the VCL-ECF1 fisheye converter lens which attaches to the 16mm f/2.8 lens that is offered by Sony [SEL16F28]. This is one of Sony’s prime lenses for the NEX series of cameras and one of the earlier lenses that was developed for the Nex series. One of the reasons I decided to add this particular lens to my collection was because of its extremely small size compared to the 18-55mm kit lens and the fact that I needed to purchase this lens in order to use the VCL-ECF1 fisheye conversion lens. I also purchased the lens because I wanted something a bit more speedier than the kit lens and at the time, this was my only option I could go with that was available.

Features and Specs

Like the 18-55mm kit lens, the SEL16F28 lens has an aluminum outer shell. It has only a focusing ring on it which turns very smoothly with a decent amount of tension. It allows for pretty accurate manual focusing. Like most of Sony’s e-mount lenses, this lens fits tightly and securely on the NEX-5N. There is no give to the lens so once it’s on, it feels like it is part of the body. In my opinion, it is a very well made lens that is surprisingly light. The lens itself is only 22.5mm thick and weighs only 2.5 oz. When combined with the Sony NEX-5N, it makes for a very compact system that is much easier to carry and handle.

Optics/Lens

  • Aperture (Max.) : f/2.8
  • Aperture (Min.) : f/22
  • Filter Diameter : 49mm
  • Lens Groups-Elements : 5 groups, 5 elements (1 aspheric surfaces)
  • Minimum Focus Distance : 9.4″ (0.24m)
  • Aspheric Elements : 1 aspheric surface
  • Non-rotating Focusing Ring : No rotation
  • AF for Movie Capture : Yes
  • Angle of View : 83°
  • Aperture Blade : 7 blades (Circular aperture)
  • Dimensions (Max. Diameter x Length) : 2-7/16 x 7/8″ (62×22.5mm)
  • Direct Manual Focus : Yes
  • Exterior Finish : Metal
  • Focal Length (35mm equivalent) : 24mm
  • Focus Ring in AF Mode : No rotation
  • Internal Motor : Yes (Stepping motor)
  • Lens Weight : 2.5 oz (70g)
  • Low Noise During Movie Capture : Excellent
  • Maximum Magnification : 0.073x (APS-C)
  • Mount Material : Metal

The lens also accepts the lens hood from the 15-88mm kit lens, which is a plus as this helps in bright daylight and keeps the glare off the lens. It also accepts 49mm threaded filters, although I’m choosing not to use any filters with it because it is a pain having to remove the filter if you like swapping the fisheye converter or super wide angle converter on and off.

Usage

Like I said above, if you want to travel light, the SEL16F28 makes the NEX-5N a very compact shooter. Up until recently, I’ve only really been using the 18-55mm kit lens or the SEL16F28 when attached with the fisheye conversion lens. I never really tried to just use the 16mm lens, that was until this past weekend when I decided that it was time to force myself to use a 16mm wide angle lens to shoot everything that day. That meant taking everything in my environment  into consideration as well as physically moving myself to frame my shots.

Sony NEX-5N w/ 16mm f/2.8 lens

Taking landscape shots with this lens is a joy as the 16mm wide angle lens allows you to capture quite a bit of the environment in each shot. Now, if you are trying to take pictures of people or objects, you’ll have to get significantly to them. By closer, I mean at less than 10-feet away. I was using this lens at the Gold Coast Railroad Museum and if I wanted to get detailed images of something close up, I literally had to be 2-3 feet away from what I was trying to shoot. I found that when shooting people however, being inbetween 5-10 feet was optimal.

Sony NEX-5N w/ 16mm f/2.8 lens

As you can see from some of these test shots, the quality is quite good. The center of the image is quite clear and crisp but there is some blurring at the edges. I honestly do not mind the blurriness at all as it really adds to the photo I think. If you want to see more test shots, check out my Flickr page here where you can check out the entire set.

Sony NEX-5N w/ 16mm f/2.8 lens

On a side note, I took most of these photos using the NEX-5N’s built in High Contrast Black and White mode. Paired up with the SEL16F28, I think it did a great job of capturing the mood and feel of a creepy train museum and their small graveyard of old steam trains and passenger cars.

Conclusion

I found the SEL16F28 quite enjoyable to use. The wide angle forced me to shoot in different way than I would normally shoot and it made me more aware of my surroundings. I’m also really happy with the results it got in wide open daylight and in the dimly lit passenger trains. The speedy f/2.8 aperture isn’t the fastest out there, but I think it did a terrific job, considering how dark some of these trains were inside.

Do I recommend this lens? Yes, if it’s a secondary lens. If this is going to be your main lens, you may not really be that happy with it because of how wide it is. If you’re trying to capture a close up of something, you’re going to have to get fairly close to your subject matter in order to capture it, otherwise they are going to look quite small in your photos. This lens however is perfect for landscapes, low light situations, and for traveling light.

The SEL16F28 retails for $249.99, although prices vary greatly on the open market. I picked mine up on EBAY for around $185 but I’ve seen this lens for as high as $350 on Amazon. I highly suggest shopping around before buying this lens.

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