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Sony Vario-Sonnar T* DT 16-80mm f3.5-4.5 ZA Gordon Laing, August 2007
 
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Sony DSLR-A100 with 18-70mm lens





Click here for the Sony DT 16-80mm video tour
Sony DT 16-80mm design and build quality

The Sony DT 18-70mm and DT 16-80mm lenses are pictured below, left and right, in their physically shortest positions. This occurs when the DT 16-80mm is zoomed-out to its widest 16mm focal length, and when the DT 18-70mm is positioned approximately mid-way through its range.


Sony CZ 16-80mm and kit lens - zoomed out

 


In terms of physical dimensions, the two lenses are actually quite similar. The DT 16-80mm and DT 18-70mm measure 72x83mm and 66x77mm respectively (diameter x shortest length), so while the Carl Zeiss model is certainly bigger, it’s not by a great deal.

Zoom both lenses to their longest focal lengths though and the DT 16-80mm extends further by 42mm compared to the modest 17mm of the DT 18-70mm. Both lenses are pictured below zoomed-into their longest focal lengths, again with the DT 18-70mm on the left and the DT 16-80mm on the right.


Sony CZ 16-80mm and kit lens - zoomed in


The Carl Zeiss zoom may be only slightly larger than the standard kit lens when both are in their shortest positions, but the former is much heavier, weighing 445g to the 235g of the DT 18-70mm. The extra weight gives the DT 16-80mm a greater air of confidence, but it’s still relatively light compared to other premium zooms of a similar specification and feels well-balanced mounted on the A100 body.

Much of the extra weight is down to a greater number of optical elements (14 compared to 11) and a brighter focal ratio when zoomed-in: f4.5 compared to f5.6 on the kit lens. The DT 16-80mm also employs a metal lens mount compared to the plastic mount on the kit lens and the overall build quality feels better, although not by a significant degree – it’s certainly not like upgrading, say, a Canon or Nikkor kit lens to one of their premium models. So while the Sony DT 16-80mm may be sturdier and more substantial than the kit lens, in terms of general look and feel, the difference is not as great as you may hope.

The Sony DT 16-80mm has a 62mm filter thread and comes supplied with a carrying pouch and a petal-style lens hood which can be reversed over the end of the barrel for transportation.


Sony DT 16-80mm focusing

The Sony DT 16-80mm features internal focusing and a front element which (unlike the kit lens) doesn’t rotate or extend. The AF motor remains within the Alpha body though, and in terms of focusing speed and noise, the DT 16-80mm is roughly similar to the kit lens. So it’s not especially quick, and you’ll also hear it in action.

This is a disappointment for anyone hoping for significantly faster or quieter auto-focusing from this premium lens – and we have a demonstration of this in our Sony DT 16-80mm video tour where it’s clear the focusing is nowhere near as quick or quiet as lens-based AF motors like Canon’s USM, Nikkor’s SWM, or indeed Sony’s own SSM systems.

On the upside there is a proper manual focusing ring, and a window showing distance, although there’s no full-time manual focus option - you’ll need to switch the Alpha body to manual focus. As you turn the manual focusing ring you can also feel the gearing behind it – again this is not as smooth or step-less as rival systems.

All words, images, videos and layout, copyright 2005-2014 Gordon Laing. May not be used without permission.

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