Sony NEX-7 55-210mm and THAT lens.

Sony NEX-7 16mm and 55-210mm lenses
Sony NEX-7 16mm and 55-210mm lenses

Sony NEX-7 16mm and 55-210mm lenses
Sony NEX-7 16mm and 55-210mm lenses

An afternoon out with the NEX 55-210mm lens and the lens that probably comes in for more criticism than any other NEX native lens, the 16mm f/2.8 pancake.

Sony NEX-7 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens

Sony NEX-7 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens
Sony NEX-7 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens

Sony NEX-7 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens
Sony NEX-7 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens

Sony NEX-7 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens
Sony NEX-7 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens

Sony NEX-7 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens
Sony NEX-7 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens

Sony NEX-7 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens
Sony NEX-7 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens

Sony NEX-7 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens
Sony NEX-7 16mm f/2.8 pancake lens

The 16mm f/2.8 is very small and very light. It has decent sharpness when stopped down past f/5.6, but it suffers from two flaws. Firstly the edges are slightly softer than the centre, even at optimum apertures, and it suffers very badly from fringing and chromatic aberration. Even the Adobe Camera Raw lens profile for it doesn't help much.

However its not (quite) as bad as its made out to be, The CA and fringing is not always there and can generally be removed and the edge softness is not that severe at f/8 and f/11. It is visible at 100%, if you look closely, but generally isn't that much of a problem. However, having said that, Sony do need to get out a wide-angle zoom of decent quality ASAP. This is such a useful focal length, and NEX users really do need a decent wide-angle option. The a-mount  11-18mm isn't that great either, apparently, and though I've got the Sigma 8-16mm, Sony really need to sort this out.

Sony NEX-7 55-210mm lens
Sony NEX-7 55-210mm lens
Sony NEX-7 55-210mm lens
Sony NEX-7 55-210mm lens
Sony NEX-7 55-210mm lens 
 Sony NEX-7 55-210mm lens

Sony NEX-7 55-210mm lens
Sony NEX-7 55-210mm lens

I've always likes the 55-210mm lens. Its a sleek metal barrel that is much lighter than it looks. As with most of the NEX lenses its very well engineered and handles beautifully. The real problem with it is the very slow aperture at the longest end. f/6.3 is pretty slow, and you need pretty good light to use it hand held at ISO 100, even with its built in image stabilisation. In terms of shapness its decent enough, with the usual problem of slight softness at its longest end. Again like most of the NEX lenses its built to be as light as possible, and if it was any faster, then it would obviously be a lot bulkier. 

Again this is something that Sony need to address. The only options available for telephoto shooting, apart from the a-mount versions, are this and the 18-200mm zoom, both of which are very slow and slightly soft at the telephoto end. Sony need a telephoto prime also asap, and while something like the 50mm f/1.8 is supposed to be a very good lens, its just not long enough. Image stabilisation is only useful when photographing static subjects and again this is a huge hole in the NEX lens range.

At the moment I'm using the 85mm f/2.8 a-mount lens plus mirrored adapter, and that gives excellent results. A NEX version of that lens would be very useful. The a-mount version is pretty small and light and I see no reason why Sony can't get an e-mount version of that out pretty quickly.

So both lenses perform adequately, and neither are "embarrassed" by the NEX-7's huge sensor, but then neither are as useful as they should be. They are not particularly different to similar lenses on other systems. The 16mm is very similar to the Panasonic 14mm f/2.5 pancake, and the zoom also has its Panasonic and Olympus equivalents, all of which perform in a similar fashion.

The problem is that the NEX-7 is such a good camera, that expectations of lenses capable of using the sensor to its optimum are high. Sony are rumoured to be bringing out more pancake lenses. Personally I'd like them to concentrate on working on some quality options, rather than concentrating on getting lenses as small as possible. Yes I can use a-mount lenses, but I'd prefer a native NEX version. 

I believe the NEX-7 is going to attract all sorts of serious and professional users, and they like myself, aren't going to be satisfied with whats on offer at the moment. In terms of the wide-angle end we can't use m-mount lenses anyway, because of the vignetting / colour cast problem. A-mount is an option, but surely Sony can make some efforts to expand their lens range pretty swiftly, and surely what is needed is a "professional" type product line, alongside what is there already. 

It seems that Sony originally intended the NEX system as a "hobbyist" and "point and shooter" upgrade option. To their credit they have made it so good, that many other, more demanding, photographers have been attracted by its combination of high quality and small size. I would include myself in this, and I (and we) are eager for some higher quality, faster lenses. So how about it Sony??