Sony E PZ 18-110mm f/4 G OSS Lens Review

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Pros
  • Excellent sharpness throughout
  • Very high quality manufacture
  • Many features can be customised
  • Highly resistant to flare
  • Very low central CA
  • Super Smooth operation
  • Very efficient lens hood
  • Silent operation for video shooting
  • Designed for 4K video
  • Excellent ergonomics
Cons
  • Very high price
  • High edge CA
  • Obvious distortion

Sony E Pz 18 110mm F4 Front Oblique View

Designed for the APS-C format, this Sony E fit lens seems to cater for many different aspects of both still and movie photography. It is bulky, complex in construction and offers many different ways it can be set up. Let’s see who it might be aimed at, how well it caters for the various styles implied and how well it actually performs.

Handling and Features

Sony E Pz 18 110mm F4 Left Side View

This huge lens weighs in at a fairly hefty 1105g, but combined with the Sony A6500 body used for this review it is surprisingly well balanced and does not feel particularly cumbersome. 18-110mm equates with a 35mm-format equivalent of 27-165mm, in other words from a decent wide angle to a useful telephoto. The aperture is a constant f/4, and for a lens which implies video use by many of its design features, perhaps it is surprising that it is calibrated in f/stops as opposed to T/stops. The lens is billed by Sony as being designed for high quality 4K movie making and having Super Smooth Optics.

As we start our tour of the lens, the huge lenshood shouts video by its robust design and its barn-door closing mechanism. A flick of a switch closes the hood, a very efficient lens cap built in. There is a 95mm standard filterthread.

Sony E Pz 18 110mm F4 With Hood On A6500

Next in, a large ring with plenty of grip is the manual focusing ring. Its action is indeed super smooth. Pushed forwards, this ring is set to AF/MF and can be used for either focusing method. At this setting the minimum focus distance is 0.4m (1.31 feet) at 18mm and 0.95m (3.12 feet) at 110mm. Pulled backwards, this sets MF only. At this setting minimum focus is 0.95m (3.12 feet) over the whole focal length range. The maximum magnification is 0.122x.

As regards focus, with video in mind, this is a parfocal zoom of high order. That is, once the distance is locked zooming does not alter the focus position at all. An object stays in perfect sharp focus as we zoom. A less well known point is axial shift, where the position of an object may shift slightly to one side whilst zooming. With this lens the object position stays firmly put.

Sony E Pz 18 110mm F4 Right Side View
Further towards the camera body we find another ring, this time for setting focal length. We have the choice of manual shift and power zoom, the latter being switched on and off by a switch we will describe shortly. The zoom ring when used manually is again super smooth, aided if needed by a small lug that can be removed or placed on the opposite side of the lens barrel. Not only that, but following the instructions provided, the direction of zoom can be altered, depending upon what we are used to. This can be useful to match the lens with other makes as, for example, traditional Pentax and Nikon users will be used to an opposite direction of zooming to Canon users. Those using this Sony can choose as they wish. The power zoom is also smooth, with just the merest hint of sound when operated. It is highly unlikely that the power zoom will be heard over the ambient noise when making movie recordings.

Moving further towards the camera body the aperture ring is very substantial and clearly marked in one third stop click stops. The click can be switched off using one of the switches that lie around the barrel, just behind the aperture ring. On the right side of the lens we have the Iris Lock switch. This enables the lens to be locked onto the A setting, or when freed allows any setting between A, f/4 and f/22. Below the lens is the on/off switch for the aperture click stops. On the left side of the lens we have the OSS switch, and below this the power zoom control. There is a final switch under the lens that switches between manual and servo (power zoom on) zoom settings.

Dust and moisture resistance is always welcome and enables this lens to be used more freely in poor weather conditions. It also has OSS (Optical Steady Shot) built in, which offers at least 4 stops advantage at slower shutter speeds. The diaphragm is made up of 7 circular design blades.

Needless to say, the optical design is a complex 18 elements in 15 groups, of which 6 elements are Aspheric and 3 are ED (Extra Low Dispersion). Finally, there is a removable tripod foot.

Sony E Pz 18 110mm F4 Rear Oblique View

Performance

The resolution tests show an excellent level of sharpness. At 18mm the centre is excellent from f/4 to f/11, very good at f/16 and only becoming soft at f/22. The edges are excellent from f/4 to f/8, very good at f/11, good at f/16 and again soft at f/22.

35mm sees both centre and edge being excellent from f/4 through to f/11, very good at f/16 and only becoming soft at f/22.

By 70mm the centre is excellent from f/4 to f/11, very good at f/16 and soft at f/22. The edge performance is falling away slightly, but is good at f/4, very good at f/5.6, excellent at f/8, very good at f/11 and f/16 and soft at f/22.

At 110mm the centre is very good at f/4, excellent at f/5.6 to f/11, very good at f/16 and soft at f/22. The edges are still falling away, being soft at f/4, good at f/5.6, very good at f/8, good at f/11 and soft beyond that at f/16 to f/22.

The overall sharpness is a fine performance, and even the weaker edges at 110mm could be useful for portraiture.

Sony 18-110mm Super 35mm f/4 APS-C MTF Charts

MTF@18mm

MTF@35mm

MTF@70mm

MTF@110mm

How to read our MTF charts

The blue column represents readings from the centre of the picture frame at the various apertures and the green is from the edges.

The scale on the left side is an indication of actual image resolution as LW/PH and is described in detail above. The taller the column, the better the lens performance.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony Alpha A6500 using Imatest.

CA (Chromatic Aberration) is very well controlled at the centre of the field, measuring values that will be of little photographic significance. At the edges, CA is quite visible throughout the range, although is is better dealt with at the middle zoom settings. There are many shots where this might not be a problem anyway, but any bright light sources at the image edges, or branches against bright sky, will show fringing. This can of course be dealt with in software, whereas for testing purposes all corrections are switched off.

Sony 18-110mm Super 35mm f/4 APS-C Chromatic Aberration Charts

CA@18mm

CA@35mm

CA@70mm

CA@110mm

How to read our CA charts

Chromatic aberration (CA) is the lens’ inability to focus on the sensor or film all colours of visible light at the same point. Severe chromatic aberration gives a noticeable fringing or a halo effect around sharp edges within the picture. It can be cured in software.

Apochromatic lenses have special lens elements (aspheric, extra-low dispersion etc) to minimize the problem, hence they usually cost more.

For this review, the lens was tested on a Sony Alpha A6500 using Imatest.

Distortion can also be corrected in software, but when switched off is quite obvious in, for example, architectural shots. At 18mm we see -3.64% barrel distortion. By 35mm we have moved into pincushion distortion, measuring +1.74%. As we zoom, this pincushion effect becomes +2.02% at 70mm and +2.07% at 110mm.

Control of flare is excellent, with no problem being observed. Perhaps a slight loss in contrast can be seen in the most challenging against-the-light shots, but nothing that could be of photographic concern.

The bokeh of the lens is pleasant and smooth and never becomes too “fussy” in appearance. It is not in the same league as super smooth lenses with apodization elements, but it is very acceptable and easy on the eye.

Sample Photos

Against The Light | 1/20 sec | f/22.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 100 

Arley Chapel | 6 sec | f/22.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 100

Arley Entrance Courtyard | 1/500 sec | f/8.0 | 25.0 mm | ISO 100

Garden Landscape | 1/500 sec | f/11.0 | 25.0 mm | ISO 200

Oss Tulips | 1/320 sec | f/4.0 | 110.0 mm | ISO 200

Widest Angle | 1/40 sec | f/22.0 | 18.0 mm | ISO 100

Aperture range

Bokeh At F4 | 1/250 sec | f/4.0 | 82.0 mm | ISO 100

Bokeh At F5,6 | 1/160 sec | f/5.6 | 82.0 mm | ISO 100

Bokeh At F8 | 1/80 sec | f/8.0 | 82.0 mm | ISO 100

Bokeh At F11 | 1/40 sec | f/11.0 | 82.0 mm | ISO 100

Bokeh At F16 | 1/20 sec | f/16.0 | 82.0 mm | ISO 100

Bokeh At F22 | 1/10 sec | f/22.0 | 82.0 mm | ISO 100

Specifications

Manufacturer Sony
General
Lens Mounts
  • Sony E Mount
  • Sony FE Mount
Lens
Focal Length 18mm – 110mm
Angle of View No Data
Max Aperture f/4
Min Aperture f/22
Filter Size 95mm
Stabilised Yes
35mm equivalent 27mm – 165mm
Internal focusing No Data
Maximum magnification 0.122x
Focusing
Min Focus 40cm
Construction
Blades 7
Elements 18
Groups 15
Box Contents
Box Contents No Data
Dimensions
Weight 1105g
Height 167.5mm
Value For Money

The Sony E PZ 18-110mm f/4 G OSS is priced at £3299/$4948, quite a hefty tag for a still photography lens for APS-C format. However, it is also a video lens and that may well change the VFM equation.

The nearest alternative is arguably the Zeiss 21-100mm f/3.5-6.3 T2.9-3.9 LWZ3 at £8484/$12,726, or maybe, albeit with a reduced zoom range, the Tokina 16-28mm T3 Cinema lens at £4199/$6178. Other alternatives are not really exact ones, but we have the Sony E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS (£779/$1168), the Sony E 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 OSS LE(£579/$868), the Sony E 18-200mm f/3.5-6.3 PZ OSS (£949/$$1423) and the Sony FE 28-135mm f/4 G PZ OSS (£2099/$3148).

Verdict

This is a lens that crosses the requirements of two worlds of photography, stills and video. It can quite easily be used for both, with the proviso that to do so for stills could be quite an expensive option.

Having said that, it is very well made, very versatile, can be set up to suit the purpose and handles like a dream. Regardless of the price, it has to be Highly Recommended.

(ephotozine.com, https://goo.gl/WCb3Jt)

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