Review: Sony SEL18200LE

Introduction

Sony had introduced 3 full range zoom lenses into its E-mount camera system, they are the SEL18200, SEL18200LE, and the SELP18200. The SEL18200 is the largest and heaviest among the other 2 brothers and it comes with silver chrome body; The SEL18200LE is the light edition of the SEL18200 which is smaller and lighter and come in black colour body; Both of them are using mechanical zoom ring while the SELP18200 using the power zoom which come in black colour body as well.

SEL18200LE
SEL18200LE

The lens that we are going to review today is the SEL18200LE. Due to the full focal length coverage by the SEL18200LE, this review is extremely long and please be patience and ready to go through the rest of this post to see how does this lens perform 😉 I provided a brief conclusion at the top of each testing section in case you want to get the result in a glance.

Pros & Cons

+ Full range focal length from wide angle to telephoto

+ Well built quality

+ Mechanical Zoom

– Distortion found at the entire focal length range

– Focusing issues from focal length 100mm and longer

– Not constant aperture, small aperture from 100mm and longer

Specification

Aperture (Max.) F 3.5- F 6.3
Aperture (Min.) F 22 – F 40
Focal Length (35mm equivalent) 27mm – 300mm
Filter Diameter 62mm
Lens Groups-Elements 13 groups, 17 elements (4 aspheric surfaces, 2 ED)
Minimum Focus Distance 1.64ft (0.5 m)
Aperture Blade 7 blades (Circular aperture)
Dimensions (Max. Diameter x Length) 2-3/4″ x 3-7/8″ (68 mm x 96.7 mm)
Exterior Finish
Internal Motor Yes (Stepping motor)
Lens Weight 16.3 oz (460 g)
Maximum Magnification 0.27x
Mount Material Rubber

Besides the official specification of the lens, I also include the largest and smallest aperture for each focal length that is stated on the lens.

Focal Length Largest Aperture Smallest Aperture
18 mm F 3.5 F 22
35 mm F 4.5 F 29
50 mm F 5.6 F 36
70 mm F 5.6 F 36
100 mm F 6.3 F 40
200 mm F 6.3 F 40

Look & Feel

The SEL18200LE is a well built piece of glass, it is solid and heavy. It well fit on my NEX-6 and the black colour on both lens and camera body match each other nicely. The focus ring is located quite close to the camera body and it is buttery smooth.

SEL18200LE on Sony NEX-6
SEL18200LE on Sony NEX-6

The zoom ring is larger than the focus ring and there is focal length indicator below it. It is quite stiff so that you will need some strength to rotate this mechanical zoom ring. There is a zoom lock switch for you to lock the lens at its widest angle (18 mm) to prevent the lens barrel from extending during carrying.

Zoom Lock Switch and Focal Length Indicator
Zoom Lock Switch and Focal Length Indicator

The lens come with a petal shape plastic hood and plastic lens cap as well.

SEL18200, Lens Hood, and Lens Cap
SEL18200, Lens Hood, and Lens Cap

Handheld shooting with this lens provides certain arm muscle training as the combination of the SEL18200LE and NEX-6 is heavier than most of the other E-mount lens combination. The lens extends and collapse as show below.

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Sharpness (Infinity)

In overall, the center sharpness reach its peak at F 8 among the entire focal length range while the corner sharpness got perform well in the mid range (50mm – 100mm) from its wide open till F 16.

18mm 

Center sharpness at 18mm is boosted at F 5.6 and maintain good details until F 11, center sharpness at other apertures are quite soft.

18mm Center Sharpness
18mm Center Sharpness

Corner sharpness at 18mm is pretty soft from the wide open till F 5.6, sharpness is getting better from F 8 onward.

18mm Corner Sharpness
18mm Corner Sharpness

35mm

Center sharpness at 35mm is boosted at F 5.6 and reach the peak at F 8, it maintains good details at F 11, becomes acceptable at F 16, and drops significantly from F 22 onward.

35mm Center Sharpness
35mm Center Sharpness

Corner sharpness at 35mm is acceptable from F 8 onward, the details slightly drop from F 16 onward.

35mm Corner Sharpness
35mm Corner Sharpness

50mm

Center sharpness at 50mm is good from its wide open, reach its peak at F 8/F 11, maintain good details at F 16 and F 22, and drop significantly from F 32 onward.

50mm Center Sharpness
50mm Center Sharpness

Corner sharpness at 50mm is good from its wide open until F 22, and drop significantly from F 32 onward.

50mm Corner Sharpness
50mm Corner Sharpness

70mm

Center sharpness at 70mm is soft at its wide open, getting sharper at F 8 and reach the peak at F 11. Sharpness drop at F 16 and F 22 and becomes very soft at F 32 onward.

70mm Center Sharpness
70mm Center Sharpness

Corner sharpness at 70mm is good from its wide open till F 22, then drop significantly from F 32 onward.

70mm Corner Sharpness
70mm Corner Sharpness

100mm 

Center sharpness at 100mm is good from its wide open, reach its peak at F 8, sharpness slightly drop at F 16 and F 22, and drop significantly from F 32 onward.

100mm Center Sharpness
100mm Center Sharpness

Corner sharpness at 100mm is good from its wide open till F 22, then slightly drop from F 32 onward.

100mm Corner Sharpness
100mm Corner Sharpness

200mm 

Center sharpness at 200mm is considered soft overall. Sharpness at F 6.3 is acceptable, F 8 and F 11 show the best sharpness among other apertures while the rest are pretty soft.

200mm Center Sharpness
200mm Center Sharpness

Corner sharpness at 200mm show the best sharpness at F 11, F 16, and F 22 while the rest of them are pretty soft.

200mm Corner Sharpness
200mm Corner Sharpness

Macro Performance

In overall, the SEL18200LE has the maximum magnification ratio at 200mm while the best sharpness is shown at 70mm.

18 mm

Macro sharpness at 18mm is soft.

18mm Macro
18mm Macro

35 mm

Macro sharpness at 35mm is acceptable.

35mm Macro
35mm Macro

50 mm

Macro sharpness at 50mm is at good level.

50mm Macro
50mm Macro

70 mm

Macro sharpness is the best at 70mm.

70mm Macro
70mm Macro

100 mm

The macro sharpness at 100mm has dropped slightly compare to 70mm.

100mm Macro
100mm Macro

200 mm

At 200mm, the SEL18200LE has the maximum magnification ratio but the sharpness is similar to 100mm.

200mm Macro
200mm Macro

Distortion

In overall, the SEL18200LE shows heavy barrel at its widest angle while exhibits slight pincushion distortion for the rest of the focal length.

18 mm

18mm exhibits heavy barrel distortion.

18mm Distortion
18mm Distortion

35 mm

35mm exhibits slight pincushion distortion.

35mm Distortion
35mm Distortion

50 mm

50mm exhibits slight pincushion distortion.

50mm Distortion
50mm Distortion

70 mm

70mm exhibits slight pincushion distortion.

70mm Distortion
70mm Distortion

100 mm

100mm exhibits slight pincushion distortion.

100mm Distortion
100mm Distortion

200 mm

200mm exhibits slight pincushion distortion.

200mm Distortion
200mm Distortion

Vignetting

In overall, except the 18mm and 200mm exhibit heavy vignetting at its wide open and need to stop down 2 stops to remove the vignetting, the SEL18200LE exhibits little to slight vignetting at other focal length and usually only need to stop down 1 stop to eliminate the vignetting

18 mm

18mm exhibits heavy vignetting at its wide open, stop down to F 5.6 then will barely see the vignetting.

18mm Vignetting
18mm Vignetting

35 mm

Visible vignetting at F 4.5, stopped down to F 5.6 will slightly removed the vignetting.

35mm Vignetting
35mm Vignetting

50 mm

50mm exhibits little vignetting, stopped down to F 8 will remove the vignetting.

50mm Vignetting
50mm Vignetting

70 mm

70mm exhibits slight vignetting at its wide open, stopped down to F 8 will eliminate it.

70mm Vignetting
70mm Vignetting

100 mm

100mm exhibits little vignetting at its wide open, stopped down to F 8 will eliminate the vignetting.

100mm Vignetting
100mm Vignetting

200 mm

200mm exhibits heavy vignetting, stopped down to F 8 will greatly reduce the vignetting.

200mm Vignetting
200mm Vignetting

Chromatic Aberration

In overall, the SEL18200LE tends to have purple fringing at its center and magenta fringing at its corner at those high contrast areas. Center CA will be eliminated after 2-3 stops down while the corner CA remains at any aperture.

18 mm

18mm center exhibits slight purple fringing at its wide open till F 5.6 , stopped down to F 8 will eliminate that fringing.

18mm Center CA
18mm Center CA

18mm corner exhibits purple fringing from its wide open till F 22.

18mm Corner CA
18mm Corner CA

35 mm

35mm center exhibits some purple fringing from its wide open till F 8, stopped down to F 11 will eliminate the fringing.

35mm Center CA
35mm Center CA

35mm corner exhibits magenta fringing from its wide open till F 29.

35mm Corner CA
35mm Corner CA

50 mm

50mm center exhibits little purple fringing from its wide open till F 11, stopped down to F 16 will eliminate the fringing.

50mm Center CA
50mm Center CA

50mm corner exhibits little purple fringing at its wide open and F 8, then it turned into magenta fringing for the rest of apertures.

50mm Corner CA
50mm Corner CA

70 mm

70mm center exhibits little purple fringing from its wide open till F16, stopped down to F 22 will eliminate the fringing.

70mm Center CA
70mm Center CA

70mm corner exhibits little purple fringing at its wide open and F 8, stopped down to F 11 will eliminate the fringing.

70mm Corner CA
70mm Corner CA

100 mm

100mm center exhibits little purple and magenta fringing from its wide open till F 22, stopped down to F 32 will eliminate the fringing.

100mm Center CA
100mm Center CA

100mm corner exhibits magenta fringing from its wide open till F 40.

100mm Corner CA
100mm Corner CA

200 mm

200 mm center exhibits purple fringing from its wide open till F 22, stopped down to F 32 will eliminate the fringing.

200mm Center CA
200mm Center CA

200mm corner exhibits magenta fringing from its wide open till F 40.

200mm Corner CA
200mm Corner CA

Ghosting and Flare

In overall, the SEL18200LE handles the flare quite well in the entire focal length range and at any aperture. Sunlight is well controlled and does not spread across the frame.

18 mm

18mm Flare Comparison
18mm Flare Comparison

35 mm

35mm Flare Comparison
35mm Flare Comparison

50 mm

50mm Flare Comparison
50mm Flare Comparison

70 mm

70mm Flare Comparison
70mm Flare Comparison

100 mm

100mm Flare Comparison
100mm Flare Comparison

200 mm

200mm Flare Comparison
200mm Flare Comparison

Bokeh Effect

The lens largest aperture is F 3.5 at its widest open and F 6.3 at its telephoto end. The overall circular bokeh effect is beautiful but not that smooth, you can find the onion ring bokeh effect throughout the entire focal length range regardless of any aperture you use.

18 mm

18mm Bokeh
18mm Bokeh

35 mm

35mm Bokeh
35mm Bokeh

50 mm

50mm Bokeh
50mm Bokeh

70 mm

70mm Bokeh
70mm Bokeh

100 mm

100mm Bokeh
100mm Bokeh

200 mm

200mm Bokeh
200mm Bokeh

At the telephoto end, the SEL18200LE render a nice defocus background even its largest aperture is only F 6.3.

Bokeh @ 200mm, F 6.3
Bokeh @ 200mm, F 6.3

Handheld Performance

The SEL18200LE built-in with Sony OSS which provide excellent image stabilisation in previous few E-mount lenses test, so how does it perform in this lens? Due to the F 6.3 largest aperture from 100mm onward, the lens test had to be carrying in good light condition in order to get the safety minimum shutter speed, and only the 200mm was tested.

With OSS

With OSS
With OSS

Without OSS

Without OSS
Without OSS

Interestingly, the SEL18200LE at 200mm with/without the OSS on performed closely from 1/320″ to 1/80″, the shots below 1/60″ with OSS turned on result clearer than the one without OSS turned on. Besides, the live view on the camera LCD screen and EVF did not volatile so terribly when the OSS is turned on.

Nonetheless, I was standing and holding the camera extremely steady, and it was very good light condition and the subject is perfectly still. In general, I prefer to use above 1/100″ or ideally 1/250″ when shooting with this lens at its telephoto end from 100mm to 200mm.

Bottom Line

In my opinion, the SEL18200LE performs better at its midrange from 50mm-100mm while there is a sweet spot at 70mm where most of the optical performance result in the best here. The sharpness of this lens is good at its center but soft at corner, once you got the subject in focused properly then you will get the fair overall sharpness. The distortion can be found throughout the entire focal length but they can be fixed easily in post processing. Handheld shooting at the telephoto end is not an issue as you are able to get blur-free result at 1/100″ or slower if you got a steady hand.

When I was shooting with this lens, I really missed the large aperture of my prime lens. With the wide open of F 6.3 from 100 mm and longer, you need very good light condition or raise the ISO the prevent the shutter speed drop to 1/60″ or below (ideally to get above 1/100″).

While many other websites mentioned that this lens is soft, the issue that is more irritating me is the focusing at its telephoto end — the focusing from 100mm to 200mm is slow. The autofocusing does not respond sometimes, you have to manually rotate the focus ring (only when you are using DMF mode) so that the lens will begin to do the autofocusing.

Besides, due to shallow DoF from 100mm to 2oomm, it is advised to enlarge and examine your shots most/all of the time, especially when the light condition is not that great, because the camera focus predictor/colour focus peaking is not always nail to your intended focus area in this focal length range.

Well, the SEL18200LE provides the convenience of having one lens that cover from wide angle (27mm in 35mm equivalent) to telephoto (300mm in 35mm equivalent), with a price tag of SGD 1,199, small in size, well built lens body and fair optical performance, it is worth the consideration for the all-in-one solution for travelling. If you are always shooting in low light environment or live subject such as sport, wildlife, and etc, you may have to look for the prime lens or the constant aperture zoom lens somewhere else, this lens is not for you.

Before the end of the review, there are some sample shots from this lens as shown below.

Speed
Speed @ 34mm
Mystery Space
Mystery Space @ zoom in effect
Deep Thinking
Deep Thinking @ 106mm
The Black and the White
The Black and the White @ 142mm
Bird
Bird @ 200mm
Green House
Green House @ 18mm
Drop
Raindrop @ 192mm
Flowers @ 200mm
After the Rain @ 200mm
Blossom Balls
Blossom Balls @ 200mm
Swans
Swans @ 200mm
Mum's Love
Mum’s Love @ 71mm
Texture
Texture @ 18mm

That’s all for the review. Hope you enjoyed it and thanks for reading.

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Contact me by email: jamesphotography2013@gmail.com

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3 thoughts on “Review: Sony SEL18200LE

    1. AWESOME write up – just what I needed. I bought a A6300 a week ago and I am now looking for “The Lens” that will work on all general travel, sports etc. I’m looking for light somewhat – direct connection to camera. Yes I could buy a Metabones adapter for adapting my canon lens but still holding out.

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      1. Hi Russ, the SEL18200LE is a good all in one travel lens. However, I was more enjoyed and prefered to shoot with the SEL1670Z which I’m writing review on it. Stay tuned =)

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