“poor man’s SEL1655G”

Ever since Sony created it’s APS-C line of mirrorless cameras there where people demanding a fast standard-zoom. The full frame lineup got two f4 (24-70/24-105) versions from Sony and one f2.8 (24-70).
The years brought quite a range of standard-zooms for APS-C, as finally there where seven of them if i’ve not miscounted (18-55, 16-50PZ, 16-70Z, 18-200 (2 versions, not counting the tamron-version), 18-105, 18-135). Alas, only two of those can be called fast in the broadest of senses with a constant aperture of 4.

But in August 2019 that changed when the eighth standardzoom was announced: The SEL1655G with a constand aperture of f2.8. Everyone was in uproar. Finally, Sony has heard the calling and now it will deliver. And it did, indeed. It’s fast, considering the aperture it’s also light and compact and image quality leaves little to be desired.
It did bring a few caveats, though… First of all, the price: current going rate here is about 1250 EUR, which is pretty steep. And on top of that: No OSS. If you want this fast zoom stabilized you’ll clearly also spring for the new A6600 (about 1400 EUR). Which would be 2650 EUR combined. An A7III plus the 2470Z costs less(!).

Needless to say I was at first excited about the new lens, but after it hit the market? Not so much. I already stressed my budget with the A6400, so the 1655G is a bit out of my price range. I got me a 18-135 instead which is in fact a very good lens. But not a fast one…

But when I look at older pictures of mine, a lot of them were taken with 24mm focal length on my A7 (either the Minolta MD 24-35 or my 20 EUR Tokina 24 f2.8). So being restricted to 18mm I began to look for something in that range.

Being extremely satisfied with my Sigma 30 f1.4 the 16mm version naturally springs to mind. It reportedly combines excellent image quality with a very fast AF. So after some consideration I ordered one at amazon for about 370 EUR.
So how went that? Well first of all: It wasn’t as sharp as I expected. Don’t know really why, in fact I suspect a bum copy, but it’s nowhere near as sharp as my 30mm Sigma. Next is the size: It feels really enormous on a small mirrorless camera. And it’s quite heavy, too. So after two days I decided to return it.

What now? If it’s gonna be so big and heavy, I can also go the zoom way, so I acutally considered selling all my lenses to spring for the 1655G after all, but not only is it ultimately over budget, for this price I kind of expect an OSS.
But then I realized something: For about 1000 EUR less you can get a good copy of the old, fast standard zoom e-mount users were always jealous of: the SAL1650f28. I did some digging and bought an LA-EA3 Adapter for 100 EUR and a SAL1650 for 180 (with a minor scratch on the front element). I then also bought a SAL55300 for 105 EUR. So for about 30 EUR more than the Sigma, I got a fast 16-50 standard zoom (and a telezoom, to boot).

After a few days of using the SAL1650, here my thoughts:
It’s heavy and feels a bit unwieldy at first, but not very different from the Sigma. It clearly isn’t the daily driver you take on the occasional stroll with you, but handling is surprinsingly good. On the 6400 you get nearly all the AF goodies including tracking and Eye-AF, both of which work very well. Only in very dim light the AF starts to hunt, other than that it’s fast and silent. One drawback is the lag you experience when shooting stopped down. Like on the A-mount bodies the focus is aquired whide open and the aperture only closes directly before the exposure – but there’s no lag if you shoot at f2.8. Which you can do a lot, because: image quality is generally excellent already wide open. Only the corners need a bit stopping down and never reach excellent levels.
Of course: Still no OSS so in the dark my Sigma 30mm f1.4 still reigns supreme.

Till now? Im quite satisfied with this whopper…

SAL1650 on A6400

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