Review: Sony E-mount Lens SELP1650

Sorry guys, really busy to catch up my school projects schedule which I lost track when sending the laptop to repair for 3 weeks. The SELP 1650 kit lens will be the first lens I review in my blog although it might not be so new in the market. The reviews for SEL24F18Z and SEL35F18 will be followed and posted soon and perhaps the new Carl Zeiss Touit 32 mm (if I’m able to get it). So, stay tuned and enjoy today’s review!

Introduction

The Sony E-mount SELP1650 is the new kit lens which comes along with the new NEX cameras like the NEX-5R, NEX-6, and NEX-3N. It has a filter size of 40.5 mm, and it implements the internal focusing mechanism which means the lens barrel remain unchanged such that using a filter on it is easy.

SELP1650 - Attached on Sony Alpha NEX-6
SELP1650 – Attached on Sony Alpha NEX-6

The SELP1650 covers a 24 mm – 75 mm of focal length in 35mm equivalent which is enough for the basic daily shooting. The maximum aperture are F3.5 and F5.6 and the minimum focus distance are from 25 cm to 30 cm on the wide angle and telephoto side respectively. It comes with the power zoom feature which provides extremely smooth zooming during the video recording; a focus/zoom ring is found in the front of the lens, it is smooth to turn and there is no end point to stop turning the focus/zoom ring; it also has a built-in OSS which is a great and powerful for low light shooting or video recording.

This lens is retractable like a point and shoot camera. When the camera is power on, this lens will need a few seconds to extend itself before ready to use. When it is not in used, it collapsed itself and the height is only around 3 cm! It’s so compact and looked like a pancake lens. It makes the NEX camera become more compact and portable without having a cheap feel. However, this lens had been criticized even before it is officially available on the market due to its fish-eye-effect like barrel distortion on the wide angle side. So how is its optical performance? Does it worth your money to buy it for the compactness? Let’s look at the following review.

Pros and Cons

  • + Compact and lightweight
  • + Smooth focus/zoom ring
  • + Built-in OSS image stabilization
  • + Power zoom for smooth video recording zooming
  • + Internal focusing, lens barrel remain unchanged
  • – Fish-eye effect distortion on the wide angle
  • – Need few seconds to extend the lens before ready to use
  • – Plastic feel of body built
  • – Relatively small diameter of the filter size compare to other E-mount lenses (49 mm and 62 mm) hence sharing of those mounted filters (e.g. CPL) is not possible
  • – Power zoom is a little too sensitive, not easy to adjust to specific focal length

Specification

Focal Length

  • 35 mm equivalent focal-length (on APS-C): 24 ~ 75 mm
  • Lens groups / elements: 8 / 9
  • Angle of view (on APS-C): 83′ ~ 32′

Apeture

  • Minimum aperture (F): 22 – 36
  • Number of aperture blade: 7
  • Circular aperture: Yes
  • Minimum focus distance: 0.25 m
  • Maximum magnification ratio: 0.215 x
  • Filter diameter: 40.5 mm

Others

  • Dimensions (Diameter x Length) 66.7 x 30.2 mm
  • Weight (approx.): 116 g

Look & Feel

The first impression of the lens is … compact! It is retractable, works like a compact camera – extends when power on and collapses when the power off. The black finish of the lens body is beautiful and match with my NEX-6 black matte finish body. Detach it from the camera, it feels so light in weight and only half the size of the SEL1855 kit lens. However there will be a plastic sound and feel when you use your fingernail to knock at its body.

SELP1650
SELP1650

There is a typical focus/zoom ring on the lens barrel. The ring will be a zoom ring in AF  focus mode, and be a focus ring in MF mode. In DMF focus mode, the ring acts as a zoom ring at first and then become a focus ring when you half-pressing the shutter button. This focus/zoom ring combo works smoothly and the resistant is feel right. It is easy to adjust the focal length for even 1 mm difference once you get used to the focus/zoom ring.

SELP1650
SELP1650 – Focus/zoom ring

The power zoom slider is at the left hand side of the lens body. It is responsive, a bit too responsive. It does not mean that the power zoom is bad but if you intend to use the lens at specific focal length like 24 mm, 35 mm then the front focus/zoom ring will be a better choice to adjust the focal length than the power zoom button. But if you use this lens for video recording, the power zoom slider will give you a perfectly smooth and joy experience.

Sharpness

For the sharpness comparison, I cropped the part from center and the bottom right corner (as the red boxes indicated)

Sharpness at 16 mm

From the center crops comparison, the max sharpness is hit at F 5.6 and the sharpness is started to drop at F 8. Sharpness at F 16 and F 22 are dropped significantly.

SELP1650 - Center Sharpness Comparison
SELP1650 – Center Sharpness Comparison

The corner crops look sharp from F 5.6 to F 16.  Sharpness at F 22 corner seems better than the sharpness at F 22 center.

SELP1650 - Corner sharpness comparison
SELP1650 – Corner sharpness comparison

Sharpness at 24 mm

The center sharpness is boosted up at F 5.6 and the sharpness is max out at F 8. Sharpness start to drop from F 11 and the object is going to disappear from F 22 onward.

SELP1650 - Center Sharpness Comparison
SELP1650 – Center Sharpness Comparison

The corner sharpness is also looked the best at F 8 while the sharpness at F 5.6 and F 11 look good as well. Sharpness start to drop significantly from F 16.

SELP1650 - Corner Sharpness Comparison
SELP1650 – Corner Sharpness Comparison

Sharpness at 35 mm

The sharpness maintains at a good details level at its largest aperture F 5.6, and achieves the best at F 8 then start to drop at F 11. Sharpness at F 16 and F 22 are still acceptable while the shot at F 32 lost a lot of details.

SELP1650 - Center Sharpness Comparison
SELP1650 – Center Sharpness Comparison

The corner sharpness hits the max at F 8 while F 11 and F 16 corner sharpness are quite closed to it too. Sharpness at F 22 is dropped slightly and becomes worse at F 32 which likes its center sharpness performance.

SELP1650 - Corner Sharpness Comparison
SELP1650 – Corner Sharpness Comparison

Sharpness at 50 mm

The center sharpness is looked sharp enough from the beginning and hit the max at F 8. Sharpness at F 11 is good too and not bad at F 16 either, it starts to drop from F 22 and lost its details significantly at F 32 and F 36.

50mmCenterSharpness
SELP1650 – Center Sharpness Comparison

The corner sharpness at F 5.6 is not as sharp as the F 8 corner sharpness as what we had seen from its center sharpness. The sharpness at F 8, F 11, and F 16 are closed to each other which are the best among all the apertures. The sharpness also dropped significantly at F 32 and F 36.

SELP1650 - Corner Sharpness Comparison
SELP1650 – Corner Sharpness Comparison

Macro Performance

This lens has a maximum magnification ratio of 0.215x which can be achieved at 50 mm with a minimum 30 cm focus distance. The following are the macro samples at various focal length.

SELP1650 - Macro shots at different focal length
SELP1650 – Macro shots at different focal length

The close-up capability at 16 mm and 24 mm is not impressive at all. When change the focal length to 35 mm, the close-up shot boosts up its magnification ratio which is very closed to the max magnification ratio at 50 mm. Let’s see the 100% crops comparison for the close-up shots:

SELP1650 - Macro 100% Crops at different focal length
SELP1650 – Macro 100% Crops at different focal length

From the 100% crops above, the close-up shot sharpness of SELP1650 is quite good enough for a kit lens. The magnification ratio at 35 mm is really closed to the lens maximum magnification ratio at 50 mm and their sharpness are pretty good.

Distortion

Distortion at 16 mm

SELP1650 - 16 mm Distortion Comparison
SELP1650 – 16 mm Distortion Comparison

At 16 mm, the lens suffer a lot from the barrel distortion. The camera distortion compensation is forced to enable by default once this lens is attached to the camera. When shot as camera built-in JPEG format, the camera distortion compensation did a great job here.

Distortion at 24 mm

SELP1650 - 24 mm Distortion Comparison
SELP1650 – 24 mm Distortion Comparison

At 24 mm, the barrel distortion is found here but it is much better than the distortion at 16 mm.

Distortion at 35 mm

SELP1650 - 35 mm Distortion Comparison
SELP1650 – 35 mm Distortion Comparison

At 35 mm, there is almost no distortion can be found.

Distortion at 50 mm

SELP1650 - 50 mm Distortion Comparison
SELP1650 – 50 mm Distortion Comparison

At 50 mm, minor pincushion distortion is found. There image has not much different between RAW and JPEG (after lens correction).

Vignetting

Vignetting at 16 mm

SELP1650 - 16 mm Vignetting Comparison
SELP1650 – 16 mm Vignetting Comparison

Vignetting at 24 mm

SELP1650 - 24 mm Vignetting Comparison
SELP1650 – 24 mm Vignetting Comparison

Vignetting at 35 mm

SELP1650 - 35 mm Vignetting Comparison
SELP1650 – 35 mm Vignetting Comparison

Vignetting at 50 mm

SELP1650 - 50 mm Vignetting Comparison
SELP1650 – 50 mm Vignetting Comparison

The SELP1650 exhibits heavy vignetting at 16 mm, the vignetting still appears significantly at F 5.6, stopped down to F 8 will reduce the vignetting a lot but still not able to completely remove it too. Vignetting of the rest of the focal length are much better than the vignetting at 16 mm. Significant vignetting still spotted at F 5.6 but greatly/completely reduced from F 8 onward. All these were taken without the shading compensation hence the vignetting control will be better if the compensation is turned on.

Chromatic Aberration

SELP1650 - CA Comparison
SELP1650 – CA Comparison at 16 mm

The SELP1650 did a good job for CA control. It is really hard to find any CA problem here.

Ghosting and Flare

There are some blobs found around the sun. The ghosting and flare are well controlled and the contrast is nicely hold up too. Only a few blobs spotted near the sun.

SELP1650 - Flare Comparsion
SELP1650 – Flare Comparsion

Bokeh Effect

This lens claimed to have the circular aperture which allow the bokeh remains circular after 2 stop down from its largest aperture, so how good is it? Let’s look at the comparison at different focal length with different aperture.

Bokeh at 16 mm

SELP1650 - Bokeh at different focal length
SELP1650 – 16 mm Bokeh

Bokeh at F 3.5 and F 4 are in good circular shape while the some of them become polygon after 2 stops down to F 5.6.

Bokeh at 24 mm

SELP1650 - 24 mm Bokeh
SELP1650 – 24 mm Bokeh

Bokeh remains circular at its largest aperture F 4 at  24 mm. Most of the bokeh at F 5.6 are still remained circular but few of them are in the polygon shape (somewhere near the top center).

Bokeh at 35 mm

SELP1650 - 35 mm Bokeh
SELP1650 – 35 mm Bokeh

The bokeh at F 5.6 are circular enough and some polygon bokeh appear after 1 stop down to F 8 at 35 mm. Bokeh quality drop significantly from F 11 and onward which is normal as they are such a small aperture.

Bokeh at 50 mm

SELP1650 - 50 mm Bokeh
SELP1650 – 50 mm Bokeh

At 50 mm bokeh performance are similar to 35 mm bokeh performance. Bokeh after F 8 are in polygon shape significantly.

From the comparison above, the circular aperture does not work so great as advertisement in this lens. They usually remain circular after 1 stop down from its largest aperture and the edges become obvious after 2 stops down. However, we do not expect  the zoom kit lens provides such a creamy smooth bokeh as those prime lenses like SEL35F18, SEL24F18Z did. The SELP1650 provides reasonable good circular bokeh at its largest and 1 stop down aperture.

Handheld Low Light Performance

The Sony SELP1650 has a built-in OSS image stabilization which is really helpful for shooting in low light condition.

Two little toys as handheld night shot models
Two little toys as handheld night shot models

OSS Off

Handheld without OSS
Handheld without OSS

Without the OSS, I still manage to get a clear and sharp image at 1/13 second. Any shots slower than 1/13 second will result in a slightly blur image.

OSS On

Handheld with OSS on
Handheld with OSS on

Blur free image can be achieved easily at 1/10 second, 1/6 second blur free image is still possible if your hand is firm and steady enough. 1/5 and any slower shutter speed are really a challenge for me to take a blur free image even the OSS is on. More handheld night shots are shown after the bottom line below.

Bottom Line

As a kit lens, the Sony SELP1650 performance is still acceptable. It is compact, lightweight, and has a decent appearance. Although it suffered a lot from the barrel distortion and light fall-off (vignetting/shading) at the wide angle (at 16 mm), but if you only shoot in JPEG format then the problems would not bother you at all. Its power zoom offers a smooth zooming experience for video recording while the OSS is useful for shooting in low light condition and help a lot for stable video recording as well. The sharpness of photos may not pleasure everyone here but it won’t let you down (so much) neither.

For those who own the Sony SEL1855, you may keep it currently unless you would like to go for the SELP1650 compactness and power zoom by sacrifice a little image quality (or just equal to the SEL1855). Whoever own this lens as a come along kit lens, simply set the focal length to 20 mm onward in order to get rid of the terrible fish-eye like distortion then you may use it happily as at the price it bundles with the camera (around SGD 200 +), we can’t really say much. Below are some shots from the SELP1650 to show you how this lens performs in real life shooting.

You’re welcome to share your mind or experience about the SELP1650 here. Thanks for reading and hope you enjoy it 😉

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6 thoughts on “Review: Sony E-mount Lens SELP1650

    1. Thanks Peter! Yes, you’re right. However, the 16 mm still manage to produce usable result with the lens profile correction applied, and I like its UWA effect that is so different than the 24 mm.

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  1. Hi! I’m new here, I recently got myself a nex 5t which comes with the SELP1650 kit lens. I’m thinking of getting another lens to accompany the kit (for scenary/landscape shots) when I travel. So far I’ve been reading on the Sel35f18 and the Sel50f18. Which would you recommend? Or should I get a zoom lens instead? (sorry as I’m still clueless ?_?)

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    1. Hi Kim, for prime lens and zoom lens, if you always have to shoot at night or in low light situation, then get the prime lens. If you like to use it in travelling, the kit lens is enough, or you can look at the Zeiss SEL1670Z F4 constant aperture zoom lens for better low light handling, better image quality and slightly longer focal length coverage (of course cost you much more than the kit lens).
      Both the prime lenses you asked are excellent, but the question is, which focal length fit you better? If you shoot portrait, street photography, the SEL50F18 is better (it is 75mm equivalent); if you shoot landscape and more indoor event like party, SEL35F18 (50mm equivalent) may be more comfortable.
      Since you got the kit lens, you may try at the specific focal length to find out which of them you are more comfortable with.
      Let me know what is your decision or you need any other help, cheers =)

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