Review of the Sony DT 16-105mm f/3.5-5.6 lens
Not many standard zooms extend to focal lengths in excess of 100mm, and the fact that this lens manages such a feat in a package that is no larger than Sony’s companion 16-80mm ZA makes it worthy of serious attention.
Like the 16-80mm ZA, this has a substantial zoom ring that drives a continuously extending mechanism. And like the Zeiss lens, it also has a forward-positioned manual-focus ring (with a slightly longer throw) and an internal-focusing system. Sadly, the aperture descends to f/5.6 from its f/3.5 maximum, but the lens is comfortable to hold and this means that longer exposure times might be possible, even without image stabilisation. It’s also worth pointing out that f/5.6 is the widest aperture only beyond about 50mm, whereas the cheaper 18-70mm f/3.5-5.6 hits f/5.6 at about 35mm.
Resolution curves show a gradual improvement from maximum aperture to about f/8 followed by the usual drop-off as the aperture is reduced still further. Numerically, the results are good in the range 16mm to 35mm, especially from f/5.6 to f/11, but the figures are noticeably weaker at 105mm. Although some distortion can be detected, switching from barrel to pincushion as the lens is zoomed, this is not a huge problem in a lens that tries to offer so much.
Overall, this is an ambitious lens that is good in parts. Compared against standard zooms offering more .typical zoom ranges it fares well and may be the best choice, but it is let down by trying to reach too far. Provided that it is used modestly – and its maximum focal length is not employed beyond f/11, it is definitely worthy of further consideration.
In the often-used f/5.6 to f/11 range the resolution results are very acceptable but both wide-open and at maximum focal length with smaller apertures the fall-off in performance is noticeable
The 16-105mm looks like a great all-rounder and works well across often-used aperture settings, but its performance at the longer focal lengths leaves something to be desired, which rather defeats the point of having an extended zoom range! The lack of a fast-aperture alternative is also regrettable.