Earlier in the year I switched my go to cinema camera system from the canon c100 and 5ds over to the sony as7ii. Immediately I became obsessed with having lightweight gear. The freedom that a small, lightweight camera gave was liberating to say the least. The next step was to find a solid small lens to match. I found that Sony’s SEL 16mm f/2.8 was perfect for my needs. The following article contains my reasoning for this conclusion.
When choosing camera gear, it is incredibly important to know your specific needs and expectations. When I first got into photography and videography I did all my research on specifics of camera and lens specs, and weighed them to price and specific brand reputations. I knew how cameras and lenses worked, so I understood what I needed my tools to be able to do. What I wasn’t putting into account were the things you only really learn in the field. Things like camera weight, size and accessibility, how camera settings and lenses help to tell the story.
I won’t go deeply into the details of all the gear I have owned and gotten rid of, but I will tell you why I purchased this particular lens. I was photographing a lot of fashion photography and portraiture at the time. My go to setup consisted of a Canon 5ds and a sigma 24-70mm art lens. In the studio, and on location shooting, the weight of this set-up was acceptable because I could put it down between looks. However, when I started to get into travel photography (urban & nature), this specific setup just didn’t resonate with me. Weight is one issue, however a big flashy camera and lens is also something I wasn’t all that comfortable pulling out in some urban areas.
When I purchased my Sony A7s ii and Sony A6300 I became obsessed with the small and lightweight builds of the cameras. I knew eventually I would need to have large lenses like a 70-200mm or 85mm prime, however prioritizing my style, I wanted my first purchase to be a (preferably cheap) wide angle prime.
Why I purchased the Sony 16mm SEL f/2.8:
The first reason, which seems to be the obvious, it is super tiny! I wanted a smaller pancake lens. Something that doesn’t stand out in a crowd, or get in the way of things. I love not drawing attention, especially if I’m shooting street photography. It’s funny, I am ok with people viewing me as a tourist, as long as they don’t see me as a professional photographer.
The second reason for purchasing is that it was extremely affordable. Amazon is selling them for $248.00 currently, which is a steal for what this little guy can do. Lenses can get wildly expensive. I believe there are a few lenses that every photographer/videographer should own, and they aren’t cheap; like the 70-200mm or 24-70mm for example. However, if you have something you specifically need, these cheap little lenses come in handy!
The third reason I purchased the Sony 16mm prime is because I needed a lightweight lens I could use for selfie style vlog recording. A very common style for run and gun vlogging, is to have a camera attached to a gorillapod pointed at you. You can talk to your audience while walking around, or then have the legs of the pod stand out and use it as a tripod, etc. In order for this to capture you and your surroundings though, you need a wide angle lens. Now, this little lens is equivalent to a 35mm with a crop sensor, which was exactly what I was looking for. On my A7s ii, I go into the menu and change my full frame down to a crop sensor and start shooting. Note: I am normally shooting on my crop sensor because the A7s ii defaults to that when shooting 120fps. Almost all of my b-roll is filmed at 120fps for that buttery smooth footage, and dream like look. Would I love to have to have a pancake 35mm lens that I can capture on my full frame sensor, absolutely. However there just isn’t an affordable option at this point, and this little lens is perfect for the job.
Because I was looking for a cheap wide angle lens that was built for Sony, has great auto focus, and is extremely low profile, the Sony SEL 16mm f/2.8 lens is perfect for my run and gun vlogging. The image quality is sharp enough for everything I am looking to capture. It is lightweight, and in my opinion, the perfect focal length if you are exploring a new city or park and you want to only take one lens.
Browse my whole video production kit here, and if you have any questions, please let me know!