Sony/Carl Zeiss 16-80mm lens (f/3.5-4.5)

The choice

When I bought the α700, there was a choice between 3 lenses.

The short version of why I got this one is simple: wide angle and Carl Zeiss.

16mm here is what 24mm was for film format (35mm). That, I have found, is so useful compared to the other option – 18mm (27mm) that I really didn’t need to think further. Especially since I do a lot of indoor photos (both the simple ‘at home’ shots as well as architectural) and I like cities with all their big buildings crammed on top of each other, a wide angle lens is indispensable. Then the lens being made by Carl Zeiss was the clincher.

Standard lens, not standard quality!

Standard lens, not standard quality!

The normal kit lens (Sony 18-70mm)  just felt cheap and plasticky (I had in in my hands briefly in the shop when testing this lens), and had not just the 2mm less reach at the short end but also 10mm at the long end, so that was a no-brainer.

The third lens (the Sony 16-105 mm f/3.5-5.6), although having 16mm at the short end, too, had problems at the far end: it goes all the way to 105mm. A more than 6-fold range in my book, especially starting at such a wide angle, means a lot of distortion across the range. A brief look at a few reviews confirmed this. And since I have both a proper telezoom (the trusty old Minolta 70-300mm) and a full-frame Tamron 24-135mm, I have no need for that long a range on my standard lens. 80mm is just right.

How good is it?

That is difficult for me to say, because I have very little to compare it to. All previous lenses that I have ‘enough’ experience with I only used on 35mm film, so I can’t directly compare them with this one. And I am surely not going to bend over backwards to do so! The only fairly comparable lens, range-wise, is the Tamron 24-135, which is also really good, so that doesn’t help.

I do simply like the photos I get from it, though. Can’t say much more. One thing I found I didn’t like is the way the lens deals with bright light sources just outside of the view of the lens – I got more light pollution than I like. Several of these photos were taken at 16mm or close, so I think part of the blame should rest with the lens hood, which it seems simply doesn’t cover the sides well enough.

The long and short of it is this: the kit lens is the lens you will take most of your pictures with – all if you don’t buy another. So it is worth getting a proper one! Yes, this one was quite a bit more expensive than the other options, but it pays off easily, I think.

Pros:

Image quality, image quality, image quality
Zoom range covers 90+% of needs
Amazing flare resistance
Fairly fast (f/3.5 up to 24mm, for instance)
Looks the business

Neutral:

Build quality not great, not bad

Cons:

Slightly expensive

The problem with sample images is that I take like two thirds of my photos with this lens and there are so many awesome shots to choose from… but I’ll give it a try soon!