Sony Alpha Geeking Is The Title

I found the new Sony 16-105mm F3.5-5.6 DT in Boeing, LG floor, Sungei Wang Plaza!

This lens was supposed to be the kit lens for the Sony A700, but in Malaysia we get the Sony 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DT as a kit lens instead. Perhaps such a high-powered zoom speaks to Malaysians more. (It focuses faster, has circular aperture blades and different coatings compared to the Tamron version.)

Plus sides:
Great sharpness and obscenely high contrast, like the Carl Zeiss 16-80mm F3.5-4.5. I did not compare it with a CZ 16-80mm so a direct and fair comparison cannot be made. Tracking is doable, not super, but more than capable in good light. Focusing is fast with the focusing screw taking about 3.5 turns only.

It also looks remarkably like the Carl Zeiss, but with two parts in the extension instead of one.

If what some guess is right, it is probably Sony’s own ripoff of the CZ, based on CZ designs.

16mm F3.5 1/50s ISO200, focused on the stack of magazines.

105mm F5.6 1/100s ISO1600. On the full-size image I can see wrinkles on the back of his right ear. Sharp indeed.

Minus sides?

Sony 16-105mm F3.5-5.6 DT apertures:
F3.5 from 16mm onwards
F4.0 from 17mm onwards
F4.5 from 22mm onwards
F5.0 from 35mm onwards
F5.6 from 55mm onwards

Yes, F5.6 at 55mm!

If I didn’t love 16mm on APS-C so much already, I’d go for the Sony 24-105mm F3.5-4.5 full-frame lens.

The CZ looks a lot better, at F4.5 at 80mm. F3.5-4.5 sounds almost like F4 anyway. The price is honestly not that much more expensive, either!

Personally, I like my zooms at F4 or F3.5-4.5, as paying for a constant F2.8 doesn’t seem worth it. F2.8 to me is not bright enough, while F2 is sweeet. Hence I’d pick the CZ over the Tamron 17-50mm F2.8 DT. Blistering sharpness over 1 stop which is nothing, given the A700’s superb high-ISO performance.

Bokeh is good, but not super-creamy, kinda like the CZ, too. This claim is not verified with a CZ owner. Note: Look not just at the big circles, but how the dark areas transition to the bright areas.

I didn’t get to test it with my Minolta Dynax 7 for full-frame usability. However, if it’s anything like the CZ, there will always be a black circle around the frame.

If you have the CZ, keep it and get a 1.4x teleconverter to bring it to 120mm F6.3.

On a side note, the CZ is one of the better (and yet, surprisingly cheaper) professional-image-quality lenses one can get for APS-C. It comes close in price to the Canon EF 17-40mm F4L USM, without the full-frame support but with Super SteadyShot, of course. Nikon doesn’t have a non F2.8 DX lens in that focal range that gives top performance (unless you stretch the Nikkor 18-70mm into that definition.)

And now, for part two of this post.

Good job Sony Style The Curve!

They had the Sony Alpha 700 on display, a hands-on unit! It was equipped with the new Sony 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DT.

Shot this with the Sony 35mm F1.4G. Can’t say I particularly like the output, though it does have the liquid color I like (cyan/green CA around lights), there are minor artifacts in the back where there’s a kid sitting on a chair.

You can also find hands-on units at Sony Style Midvalley and Sony Style KLCC. (Interestingly the Sony Style in Gardens Midvalley has a lot of Sony 11-18mm F4.5-5.6 DT and Sony 100mm F2.8 Macro lenses all locked in glass display units.)

If you want to feel and touch what I’ve been raving about, please head down to the Sony Style outlets I have listed. 😀

A huge display! Each side has a drawer that slides out.

Bags bags bags. The left two are the A100’s bag; it comes with an A100 battery. The better buy is still the one second from the right; the more ergonomic A700 bag, with the A700 battery, which can fit in the A100 (but the A100 battery cannot fit in the A700.)


Lenses. From left, I think: Sony 1.4x teleconverter, Sony 2x teleconverter, Sony Carl Zeiss 16-80mm F3.5-4.5 DT, Sony 500mm F8 Auto-focusing Reflex Mirror lens, Sony 75-300mm F4.5-5.6, Sony 135mm F2.8/T4.5 Smooth Transition Focus, Sony 11-18mm F4.5-5.6 DT, Sony 24-105mm F3.5-4.5, Sony 50mm F1.4, Sony 18-200mm F3.5-6.3 DT, Sony 28mm F2.8, Sony 55-200mm F4-5.6 DT, Sony 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 DT, Sony 20mm F2.8.

Sorry, the circular polarizer I used didn’t help much at this angle.

From left: Sony HVL-F56AM, A700 vertical grip (kickass), Sony Carl Zeiss ZA T* 135mm F1.8, Sony Carl Zeiss ZA T* 85mm F1.4, Sony A100 with what looks like a Sony Carl Zeiss 16-80mm F3.5-4.5 DT on, and another CZ behind it.

Notably missing were the Sony 70-200mm F2.8G SSM and Sony 300mm F2.8G SSM lenses. However, the first big white can be found around shops in Sg. Wang and Sony Style KLCC.

I first tried the new Sony 55-200mm F4-5.6 DT, a Tamron rebadge with circular aperture and Sony coatings, and possibly faster gearing too. 55mm F4 1/50s ISO1600. Looks clean, but quite blocky bokeh.

200mm F5.6 1/60s ISO1600. Decent sharpness wide open, very minor CA on the buttons on the radio.

200mm F5.6 1/80s ISO1600. OOF lights on the tree are decently rendered. Nothing super.

What’s super about the 55-200mm though, is its size; it’s only a bit bigger than the Sony 18-70mm kit lens, itself a decently sharp bargain.

Then, I tried the Sony 20mm F2.8. 20mm F2.8 1/30s ISO250. Looks like I won’t be using this for macro. Note the brightline bokeh at the back.

Minor but simple barrel distortion.

Of course, distortion is not meant to be tested at close range, as lenses get more distorted there. A better test would be to focus on infinity. If you still get distortion there you’ll have a problem being a landscape shooter with such a lens. 🙁

Despite all this, it is sharp, has nice tones, and has excellent background separation. (In Xian Jin’s words.) 20mm F2.8 1/30s ISO500.

And then, the Sony 35mm F1.4G. I like the focal length, but for me, I find it a bit hard to love. At F2.8 I presume that I’d be more in focus. 35mm F1.4 1/60s ISO400.

Next, the Sony 135mm F2.8/T4.5 STF. I dodged my face though because DRO was off when Xian Jin took this picture of me. Bokeh is superb and is one of two reasons this lens is sold; the other is sharpness. 135mm (at T6.7) 1/60s ISO1600.

135mm T4.5 1/60s ISO1600. Note the sphere-like rendition of OOF lights on the tree.

Out of curiousity I put my Minolta 70-210mm F4 beercan (also highly regarded for liquid colors and creamy bokeh) against it. 150mm F4.5 1/100s ISO1600.

In retrospect, I should’ve checked the focal length again after shooting because it wasn’t exactly 135mm. Also, a 135mm F2.8 would be a fairer test as the STF gives F2.8-like bokeh, but at F4.5 to F6.7 speeds (hence the T rating instead of F for aperture.)

The T number also affects how much darker OOF spots become at the sides.

The Sony 135mm STF at 135mm T4.5 1/125s ISO1600.

The Sony 135mm STF at 135mm T6.3 1/50s ISO1600. I’m sure I set the T to 6.7 but the camera EXIF reports F6.3 errorneously. Also the shutter speed looks like it shot at F6.7 equivalent light.

135mm F6.3 1/40s ISO1600. This was in Aperture Priority with the T ring set to Auto.

135mm F6.3 1/40s ISO1600. This was with the T ring set to T6.7.

I then walked out, and found this. Shot with the Sigma 17-35mm F2.8-4 EX just to compare. Aaa attack of the brightline bokeh!

All shots shot with Auto ISO (200-1600 depending on focal length rule) and Auto White Balance, for those who wonder how the Sony A700 fares.

And now, for part three of this post:

Lens Envy

I do envy certain lenses that don’t come in the A-mount, like the Sigma 50-150mm F2.8 EX DC. Some say it is available for the A-mount, though. Having held one, this baby is the same weight and diameter as the Minolta 70-210mm F4 beercan, and is just a bit shorter. Internally it looks the same; internal zoom elements can be seen from the outside.

This is great for the event photographer who doesn’t need a chunky 1.5kg 70-200mm F2.8 (which had great focal lengths for full-frame film but goes too far in APS-C crop bodies.) A 50-150mm F2.8 is under 800 grams!

Apparently, it gets LCA, as explained by David Kilpatrick (though the post talks about the Carl Zeiss 85mm F1.4):

Of course, I like the modularity of having a 50mm F1.4, 2x teleconverter (to get you to 100mm F2.8), and perhaps a Carl Zeiss 135mm F1.8 (at 1050 grams, though, but still very holdable).

The new Tokina 11-16mm F2.8 Pro DX only comes in Canon and Nikon flavors. The Tokina 10-17mm F3.5-4.5 Fisheye comes in Canon, Nikon, and Pentax’s own version of it.

Then there’s the Sigma 4.5mm EX DC Circular Fisheye for APS-C cameras.

Finally, I think it’s just cool that a digital camera can have a wireless flash controller. What?

Olympus SP-560UZ gains wireless flash through firmware 3.1

Okay, back to my allegiance. Check out Digital Camera Resource Page’s excellently-written review of the Sony Alpha 700!

6 thoughts on “Sony Alpha Geeking Is The Title

  1. Albert Ng Post author

    Asyraf Lee: A pity, I thought you’d wanna skodeng with it. Then again it’s not too subtle or easy to carry.

    Nicholas C: Come to think of it, a lot of F3.5-5.6 zooms reach F5.6 at half the maximum focal length e.g. Sony 18-70mm F3.5-5.6 DT becomes F5.6 at 35mm and the Tamron 18-250mm F3.5-6.3 DT becomes F6.3 at 135mm.

  2. Albert Ng Post author

    STF stands for Smooth Transition Focus; it is a special lens with a special apodization filter that makes out-of-focus points become gradually darker towards the edges. This makes for very smooth, liquid, creamy bokeh. It’s not the same as soft focus (overlays the picture with a soft glow), or just having a big aperture. It actually ‘blends’ the out-of-focus areas.

    Check out this link:


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