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Introduction

Sony E 16mm f/2.8 was one of the three lenses that Sony officially announced with the release of its new NEX system. Along with Sony E 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6, it was also offered as one of the kit lens options for the original Sony NEX-3, NEX-5 and later NEX-C3 and NEX-5n. The lens is widely available these days and retails at ~$249. Used copies go for ~$190.

At 22.5x62mm (2.4x0.9in), the E 16/2.8 lens is tiny - one of the smaller pancake lenses out there (not counting the rangefinder crowd). The build quality of the lens is identical to all Sony E lenses - lightweight aluminium alloy barrel, plastic focusing ring and plastic filter thread ring. The optical formula consists of 5 elements in 5 groups with 1 aspherical surface. The weight is a meager 70g (2.5oz). The minimum focusing distance is 24cm (9.4in). The aperture is fully electronic and is set from the camera. Min supported aperture is f/22. The lens accepts 49mm screw-in filters.    

 

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The lens is designed to work only with APS-C type Sony NEX system, where it gives an EFOV of 24mm. The manufacturer's box includes Sony E 16/2.8 lens, front and rear caps, manual/registration card. Within the scope of this review, the lens was tested on 16Mp NEX-5n camera. 

 

Summary

Lens Composition 5 elements in 5 groups
Angular Field 84 degrees
Minimum Focus 24cm/9.4in
Focusing Action AF/MF
f-stop Scale f/2.8-f/22, electronic
Filter Size 49mm
Lens Hood Plastic ALC-SH112 (optional)
Weight 70g/2.5oz
Dimensions 22.5x62mm/0.9x2.5"
Lens Case N/A
Retail Price $249 (2012)
Depreciation -$50 (2012)


Handling

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Sony E 16/2.8 is one of the smaller pancake lenses currently being manufactured. Not a lot of lens designers fancy pancake format these days (at least for rectilinear designs) due to the optical constraints such small formats typically impose. I think only Pentax still manufactures a number of pancake lenses that are equally or maybe slightly smaller than E 16/2.8. But, Sony E 16/2.8 is an AF lens with the electronic motor inside the lens! That must take some additional space and so miniaturization of this lens probably was no easy task. It probably also explains why the lens has no optical stabilization (OSS) - while some would argue that an OSS for ultra wide lens like E 16/2.8 (EFOV of 24mm) is probably not even necessary (I'm actually one of these people), having an OSS is still useful in video mode as well as at night-time when you would not need to crank up the ISO to get reasonably high shutter speeds. Bottom line is that OSS would have been nice, but it's not there, period...

The lens handles quite well on Sony NEX-5n - being small and light, it is very unobtrusive and can be used in street photography quite efficiently, as nobody even pays attention to such a small camera/lens combo. The AF is pretty good, again thanks to the built-in electronic motor - it takes sub-second for the lens to focus on a target, even when going from infinity to the MFD. Focusing is completely silent. However, like most other AF systems, the lens would hunt a little bit in darker/low-contrast environments. Manual focusing as well as manual focus assist are possible, although you need to switch your camera into DMF mode if you want to use manual focus assist, otherwise the focusing ring would remain decoupled from the AF system. The lens does not have a limiter at infinity or MFD, so the ring can rotate endlessly. The focusing ring itself is fairly narrow, but there's not much can be done here due to the overall size of the lens.

There's not much to add here about the lens though. Like all E mount lenses, 16/2.8 lacks distance scale, but given its large DOF even wide open, this is not much of a problem. The only time I wish I had a distance scale or window was when shooting at MFD only to discover that the lens does not focus because I got too close to the subject. This can get annoying sometimes, but not as much as with longer focal length lenses.