Fun with the Sony NEX-5 and E 16 f/2.8 wide angle lens

Just for fun…some Sony NEX-5 and 16mm images…

There seems to be a ton of interest in these Sony NEX cameras, and I have gotten many emails asking me to post more from this little camera, and more specifically my opinions on the 16mm f/2.8 prime lens.

OK, I admit it! I am now a little bit bit smitten with the Sony NEX-5 and have been shooting with it and having fun with it for a few weeks. Even though its output is generally soft (with either of the Sony lenses) it’s a fun and fast camera to use. I now have both Sony lenses on hand, the 16mm f/2.8 and  the 18-55 zoom and while they are not the best lenses around, they can provide acceptable results if your print sizes are going to remain small. BUT, out of both lenses I am preferring the 16mm for photos by far. It’s smaller, it’s faster and it can give a cool perspective on things 🙂 It may be a bit wide but this allows you to get closer and sometimes that is a good thing 🙂

The 18-55 is the better lens for video though as its AF is silent. Sony will soon be releasing their 18-200 mega zoom for the NEX system, so that should be interesting. I think a Zoo trip will be in order for that one, maybe I’ll take a drive to San Diego. Love that Zoo and it’s been about 7-8 years since I have been there. But today I wanted to talk more about the 16mm and show some more samples from this lens.

It’s a little slow right at this moment on the review front. Not many new things out worth talking about except the Panny LX-5 which I will have soon. Coming this week I will have THREE new film camera reviews! The plastic Diana medium format camera, A Bronica 645 and a write up on shooting ISO 1600 B&W film with a little Contax T2. Yes, I still LOVE film…just took a small break from it as it was getting a bit expensive 🙂

But anyway, here are some shots all with the NEX-5 and Sony 16 f/2.8 lens. Sony says they are committed to the NEX series and I would think so as the NEX-5 is sold out worldwide according to Sony (though B&H has the silver in stock), so it appears they have a hit on their hands. Click on any image for a larger view!

ISO 6400, in cam B&W with some contrast tweaks in CS4. Arm length Self portrait..obvious lens distortion on the edges, but remember this is a 16mm lens that costs $249 🙂

another at ISO 6400 in low light…

iso 640

iso 200 f/3.5

iso 200 f/5

iso 1600, closest focus – plenty of distortion which makes my sons face look oddly shaped, so I would avoid portraits with the 16 up close 🙂

What I like about the Sony 16mm E mount lens? It’s small, it’s light, it’s price (Only $249) and it’s a wide angle, which can be fun if you like that sort of thing. What I do not like about it? It’s a cheap feeling lens, it has plenty of distortion, and its soft and lacks that sparkle I am so used to with Leica, but again, this is a $249 lens, not a $3500 lens 🙂


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  1. Is there a similar lens in terms of size and portability but something even better for picture quality like this pancake lens? I love my NEX-5, but still find myself a bit lazy carrying it around but really would change that if I could find another pancake lens that was better.

  2. To answer my own question, the 16mm NEX Sony lens under the glass at Best Buy was a mock-up display lens with a plastic mount. The real thing is aluminum.

  3. Hi Steve, I thoroughly enjoy your “reviews” of the NEX. That camera has not been long out down here at the bottom of the world (New Zealand) and I find your reports very valuable. Can I ask if you have yet determined whether or not Leica or Olympus OM lenses for that matter work on the NEX at “diaphragm level”? I understand the relatively easy work-around with regard to manual focusing but understood that adapted lenses will only operate at their widest f stop. If that is true then the usefulness of good Leica or OM lenses would be greatly reduced. What is your understanding of this possible problem?

  4. The 16mm NEX Sony looks like it has a plastic mount when view through the glass case at BestBuy. In your video it looks chrome. Which is it?

  5. Yo Steve,
    Was looking to get a small point and shoot to round off my D3s and Leica M9.
    Found it.
    The Sony Nex5 rocks!!
    Looking forward to coupling it with some of my Leica lenses.
    Any recommendations for the best converter?


  6. WIll pick one up this weekend. Does anyone know if I can use Sony Carl Zeiss 16-35mm f/2.8 with an adpter on the nex-5? We have this lens available to our employees, i think I would be in heaven. Great lens, and decent camera. Plus cheaper than any Leica option I can think of. [img][/img]

  7. Thanks for the preview. I got my 16mm f/2.8 yesterday and have not yet given it a whirl. Will be doing so this weekend. The advantage with the 16mm is that it weighs just 70gms (as opposed to the 18-55 zoom weighing in at 194gms) and when fitted onto a sub-300gms NEX5, the combo weighs next to nothing too. Of course both of these lenses have a built-in ring-USM motor, in the absence of which (like in a manual-focus lens), the lens could have been a lot more compact.

    Not too bad for a product that contains an APS-C sensor ! I am itching to buy a good RF 35mm lens but due to the hit-and-miss nature of RF lenses, when it comes to performance on such mirror-less bodies (lens telecentricity related), I want to have some confirmation before plunking down the cash. Two lenses that caught my eye are the ZM Biogon 35/2 and the Voigtlander 35mm f/1.4 Nokton, with a preference for the Nokton but have no idea how well the combo would perform.

  8. On the DPR review the sony 16mm looks crispier (better resolution) than the pentax 15mm ltd, a dearer and appreciated lens. Well I must say I didn’t appreciate it very much… (IMHO). Yes it’s much more corrected for distortion, but soft and lacking detail out of the center. And it’s an f4…

    Would you say it’s worse than leica but fully enjoyable, or really cheap?


    • The Sony 16 to me, is soft and lacking in micro contrast. ANY Leiva lens will blow away the sony, but for $249 its a decent wide angle.

  9. For street photography I usually use my Elmarit 28mm with the NEX (42mm equivalent), much better image quality than the Sony kit lenses of course, I tend to use pre-focus just like my M camera but when I need precise focus I have no problem using the LCD screen (and the Manual assist function when needed). Nevertheless, a 24mm lens (which would be 36mm equivalent) with auto focus would be welcome (I have used the Panasonic 20mm f1.7 on the GF1 and it is just a superb lens!!!)

  10. Steve, would you recommend to fit M lens onto NEX-5 using M-mount adapter? Will it be difficult to focus with just LCD screen?

  11. Apple released a new update for RAW, now supports NEX, did a few quick tests and no surprise the RAW files a sharper and much cleaner. Looking forward to working with the raw files, never did like jpegs but wasn’t going to just leave the NEX in the box. I believe you will be feeling much better about the NEX Steve.

  12. Steve, do you know of a more specific release timeframe for the LX5 besides the vague “Late August” information?

  13. Thank you Steve and glad to know you’ll be reviewing the SEL 118200, hopefully it will have less distortion.

  14. I am also starting to like the NEX-5 a lot. I think it is an impressive little camera and if the black model 2 lens kit wasn’t sold out, i would have gotten it already. The output shown so far has a natural and pleasing look imho. I realize this is a highly subjective qualification and i am probably making up rationalizations to square this upcoming deal in my mind. I know how this works.. For all of us..
    But lately i am starting to use Adobe Light Room more and more and really liking the control it gives me. So far i have found that when i compare RAW output from different camera’s, many differences in picture quality, such as sharpness, tend to disappear or become really small.
    Concluding, i’m not that much bothered by the softer picture quality coming straight from the NEX-es as i am pretty sure that a lot of that can be attributed to the in-camera processing, which falls away when using RAW. Not saying that it wouldn’t be really nice if Sony would give us a high quality pancake lens equivalent to Panasonic’s 20mm f1.7 for just $249,- ;-))

  15. Hi Steve,

    You’ve gotten me interested in the NEX-5, but not for use with Sony lenses. My impression is the camera works well with M Mount lenses (as I suspect Sony uses offset microlenses on the sensor, as Leica does with the M, because of the small flange to sensor distance of the camera). So a sweet little system could be put together with the NEX-5 and 3 or 4 Voightlander lenses, saving the kit zoom for video, all for less than $2500 or $3000. Not perfection, but I believe it could be a lot of fun for less than the price of most Leica lenses.


    Ted Johnson

  16. Just a comment on the page layout. The way you write the accompanying text for a photo, it’s very difficult to figure out whether it’s for the photo appearing above the text or below.

    • Well, it has always been text up top, photo underneath. Always…but maybe I can lay it out better in the future. Im working on some new enhancements so I will add it to my list! Thanks!

  17. Hello sir.
    What do you think about the focusing speed? is it fast and accurate?
    I am really interested to get a Sony Nex-5 for my mum.

    • One of my favorite features of the NEX is the direct manual focus, have the camera get close or sometimes dead on, then twist the smooth like butter focus ring and the huge screen zooms way in to show you how close you are and allows you to focus dead on, so nice, top of the list on my favorite features.

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