Sony 18-110mm Review – One-Of-A-Kind Versatile Video & Cine Zoom

May 15th, 2017

The conveniently-named Sony E PZ 18-110mm F/4 G OSS lens has been on our radar ever since it was announced in September, as it is one of the only lenses of its kind made for large sensor video cameras. In my Sony 18-110mm review, I will be looking at all the benefits and limitations of this lens. See the video review summary above, or read on for the details.

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

Sony 18-110mm Review

When looking at the new Sony E PZ 18-110mm F/4 G OSS, it makes sense to first look at its predecessor, the FE PZ 28-135mm F/4 G OSS (Review HERE). Back when Sony introduced their first lens in this series, it was the only “affordable” video lens made for large-sensor cameras with video functionality. Unfortunately, some aspects about it were not ideal: while it gave us a great focal range on full-frame cameras like the Sony a7S and Sony a7S II, the field of view was too narrow on crop sensor cameras (super35) like the Sony FS7, which it actually shipped with as a combo package. Also, the electronic zoom functionality was a big downside for many.

Fast forward to 2016 when Sony introduced the E PZ 18-110 F/4 G OSS, the subject of this 18-110mm review. Tailored to super35, it introduced a manual zoom functionality alongside several other improvements. Now this lens is finally on my desk and, even though the Sony FS7 is out for a shoot, I have no reservations to slap it onto our  Sony a6500 to take it for a spin.

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

First Impressions

As mentioned in the 18-110mm review video (see above), we took this lens to Las Vegas for our NAB coverage and used it to shoot some of our videos. I’ve spent a number of days with it, and by now I can safely say that I really liked working with it and look forward to using it more. Not only is it easy to handle and favours most of my shooting needs, but when viewing the footage I found that the 4K image this lens delivers is really outstanding.

As seen in my a6300 vs a7S II test (same sensor and image quality as a6500) the image quality of this little camera is impressive, so it was the right choice for my Sony 18-110mm Review.

Sony 18-110mm Review - F/4 E PZ G OSS Lens Front CloseUp

Lens Quality

Sony’s integrated lens compensation functionality really gave the full-frame Sony FE PZ 28-135mm F/4 G an edge over other lenses in my review, as its communication with the camera means the lens’ defects are immediately corrected in-camera. The same is true for the new Sony E PZ 18-110mm F/4 G OSS, which delivered quite clear and undistorted 4K footage, even at F/4.

Here’s a screenshot of the lens at 18mm and F/4 and with lens compensation disabled:

Sony 18-110mm F/4 @ 18mm F/4 | Lens Compensation: Disabled

Even at the small web resolution of the image above, we can already spot some chromatic aberration and pronounced distortion. It seemed to me like 18mm is really where the lens performs at its worst. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a chance to take a second shot of the chart with lens compensation enabled. Judging from my experience shooting outdoors though, I believe that most defects completely disappear with Sony’s digital correction.

Here are two stills of my outdoor shot with lens compensation on and off:

Sony 18-110mm Lens Compensation Enabled

Sony 18-110mm | Lens Compensation Enabled

Sony 18-110mm Lens Compensation Disabled

Sony 18-110mm | Lens Compensation Disabled

In terms of build quality, the Sony E PZ 18-110mm F/4 G OSS seems quite robust. While I don’t think that it is made of metal, it has a compact, self-contained design that has weather sealing and appears reliable.

The lens construction allows you to zoom in and out without a shift in focus point – an essential benefit over many photo lenses. In my video review I say it’s “parfocal”, but I was told the lens only achieves the stable focus via electronic servos, so in all technical correctness, “parfocal” is the wrong term.

On top of that, the design of the internal mechanism of the lens minimises focus breathing, focus shifting, and other anomalies that would otherwise be noticeable when adjusting the lens during recording.

In terms of optical quality, Sony really takes a completely opposite approach to other high-end cine glass manufacturers. While cine glass is made to optical perfection in manual mode, Sony’s design is based on all sorts of digital science and electronics to counteract optical flaws. Deciding which approach is the “the right one” might be debatable – I can see how cine glass fans despise the digital methods of improving a lens. At the end of the (shooting) day, though, I think many people will simply appreciate the quality they see on the screen. After all, analogue is on its way out, isn’t it?

Usability

In my 18-110mm review video I mention the manual zoom functionality – a great improvement that works very well. What is also new is the option to reverse the zoom not only electronically, but also mechanically. I was very surprised to see this. If you’re used to rotating your zoom in a particular direction, and irritated when using lenses that zoom the opposite way, then this feature is for you.

Switch to reverse the zoom direction on the Sony E PZ 18-110mm F/4 G OSS Lens

Switch to reverse the zoom direction on the Sony E PZ 18-110mm F/4 G OSS Lens

The electronic servo zoom is nice to have, but to be honest, it is not smooth enough – the flimsy built-in rocker didn’t let me achieve a single zoom I felt was usable. While it may work for fast-paced news stuff, if you want to make sure that the viewer forgets the camera then you may need to look at a different zooming option.

Move the focusing ring to switch between autofocus and manual focus

The lens has built in autofocus and also gives you the option to switch to manual focusing, just as with the previous lens model. The focus ring itself has built-in cinema-standard gearing (MOD 0.8) for follow-focus tools, which is new in this lens and frankly an essential attribute if you want to call your lens “cine”.

Detachable quick release tripod mount shoe

Underneath the lens is a new detachable quick release tripod mount which is a much better solution than that on the 28-135. The front of the lens features a cine lens support – needed when the lens is used with follow focus accessories.

Sony E PZ 18-110mm F/4 G OSS Lens Bottom

Lens Support with 1/4″ thread

The lens also comes with a front cap (an accessory that was lacking in the 28-135) as well as a sun hood that I did not use during my review. It might be worth mentioning that the lens is compatible with Sony’s 1.4x and 2.0x teleconverters. [UPDATE: I was informed that the compatibility to teleconverters was cancelled by Sony shortly before sales started.]

Unfortunately, I found the lens’ minimum focusing distance of 0.95m (37.4″) very inconvenient. I wish Sony had improved this point over their first G lens, but it was not the case. There is one way to achieve a slightly closer minimum focusing distance: switching to autofocus when close focusing at the wide end. Sony made sure this information is cryptographically secured on the front of the lens, where it says: “0.40m/1.31ft-0.95m/3.21ft”.

Conclusion

Whether you’re working in video, cinema or something in-between (as most people do nowadays), I think this lens is really worth a close look. There’s currently no other lens that compares to it in terms of versatility, price and physical design. Furthermore, I found the optical quality achieved in tandem with Sony’s internal electronic solutions and automatic lens compensation to be really impressive. Even though you could simply adapt a lens like Canon’s 18-80mm, or use an entirely manual lens like the Fujinon 18-55mm, the Sony E PZ 18-110mm F/4 G OSS will probably always give you better quality, simply because it is built for their own cameras with the digital in-camera improvements.

That said, both the close focusing limit as well as the flimsy electronic servo zoom functionality could still be improved to make this lens perfect. Maybe in the future Sony will overhaul this lens one more time. Until then, I believe that this lens is one-of-a-kind in terms of versatility and could find its way into many shooters’ standard video and cinema kits. It will certainly work for me on many shoots.

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

Pros and Cons I found during my Sony 18-110mm review:

Pros

  • Stunning 4K at F/4 – Very good optical quality with Sony cameras due to lens compensation
  • No focus shift during zoom
  • Lens elements are internal
  • Almost no breathing
  • Manual operation of focus, zoom and aperture
  • Good optical image stabilizer
  • Quick-release tripod mount is convenient
  • Cinema-standard gearing on focus ring
  • Lightweight and robust
  • Very small in comparison to other lenses with similar functionality

Cons

  • Near limit of 0.95m (37.4″) is very inconvenient
  • Servo zoom rocker is flimsy and not smooth enough

I hope you liked my Sony 18-110mm Review and that it was helpful to you. If you have any questions or thoughts please let me know in the comments.

The Gear I Used

Because so many people ask which equipment we use and why, I’ll take this opportunity to share my gear list. Another reason is that I really enjoyed working with this small package of great gear, which for me is the best affordable way to shoot high quality 4K right now:

  • Camera: Sony a6500 (small, affordable, high quality 4K, not so good in HD, no heaphone jack, strong rolling shutter)
  • Lens: Sony E PZ 18-110mm F/4 G OSS
  • Monitor: SmallHD FOCUS (I really enjoyed working with this one. Due to its high bright display I could see the image clearly in bright daylight. It’s lightweight and the included mount is wonderfully convenient)
  • Audio: Saramonic SmartRig2 (gives me XLR audio and a headphone jack for monitoring)
  • Microphone: As needed
  • Cage: LockCircle a600 (to mount the XLR adapter and a microphone

I didn’t use the cage when working with audio on this camera because we had a wired XLR microphone for our NAB coverage and went with the Sony XLR-K2M instead. During the yard shoot, I simply took the lens with the camera, the SmallHD FOCUS monitor and a tripod.

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Joe Camera guy
Joe Camera guy
Guest
December 18th, 2019

can you put this lens on the new Sony fx9 ?? Would yo need a metabones adapter ?

 Miklos Nemeth
Member
December 3rd, 2019

The lens is available for 2600 – 3000 EUR today.

 Jason Lees
Jason Lees
Member
September 7th, 2017

I think you mentioned a variable ND could you let us know what filter set up you use?

 Jason Lees
Jason Lees
Member
September 11th, 2017

Thanks Seb! Just a quick one for folk to think about, if using this lens with the a6500 be warned mounting things underneath can get difficult because of the way the lens flares out… here I am 700 miles from the nearest camera shop a mixpre-3 and an assortment of equally useless conversion plates :)

 Jason Lees
Jason Lees
Member
September 11th, 2017

Do you use a step down ring and slr magic (vignetting?)or the Bower?

 Dan Hyman
Dan Hyman
Member
May 22nd, 2017

Why Sony? WHY?

We switched from Sony to Canon this past year and although the Canon optics are amazing, I do miss the A7S II.
The low light was unmatched, BUT, MOST IMPORTANTLY, the FULL FRAME.

SONY- YOU HAVE THE ONLY 4K FULL FRAME CAMERA ON THE MARKET. ITS A PROVEN, GROUND-BREAKING, POPULAR CAMERA. WHY ON EARTH WOULD YOU NOT MAKE THE ULTIMATE RUN N’ GUN KIT BY MAKING THIS FLIPPIN’ LENS FULL FRAME???!!!

This lens + the A7s II, A7R II or A9 would have been a match made in heaven.
With the ability to switch to a APS sensor, run n’ gun shooters could have extended their focal range
and then gone back to full frame with the press of function button for amazing FULL FRAME 4K.

Darren Streibig
Guest
May 17th, 2017

Dat spin move

 Ajit Patel
Ajit Patel
Member
May 16th, 2017

Got this lens last week and used it on a shoot. I was using the kit Sony FS5 lens(18-105) previously and I can say the new 18-110 is streets ahead in all respects, particularly in resolution. The image when using the focus magnifier on the FS5 with the old 18-105 was really bad and a lot of guess work was involved putting the focus where I wanted. But not with the new 18-110. Now the image is really good and clear in the magnifier mode. A very happy user…

 David Patterson
David Patterson
Member
May 16th, 2017
Reply to  Ajit Patel

Ajit – Are you using “center scan” or “image zoom”? Center scan uses the central portion of the sensor, while image zoom is a digital zoom. I find center scan to be the better of the two, and would imagine the results with a high quality lens like the 18-110 would be very useful.

Do you have any video samples shot with the 18-100?

 Ajit Patel
Ajit Patel
Member
May 16th, 2017

David,

I was actually referring to the Focus Magnifier, the no 5(I think) button on the hand grip and not of the image quality when the digital zoom kicks in. But as the lens has a high resolution it would always translate to a good image quality using the digital zoom.

As far as video samples go, you would see the difference if viewed side by side with the older lens(that I have sold) rather than by itself.

 David Patterson
David Patterson
Member
May 16th, 2017
Reply to  Ajit Patel

Ajit – I understand what you’re saying. The focus magnifier (function 5 button) is a handy feature. I find it very, very soft and pixelated in 4K mode, but I think that is a limitation of the camera and/or the low resolution LCD screen, not the lens. I really wish there was a larger, sharper LCD screen on the FS5. I use a Shogun Inferno when possible for easier focusing and exposure control.

 Ajit Patel
Ajit Patel
Member
May 17th, 2017

David,
I fully agree that the quality of the evf and lcd are not great..i wish they address both on the mk2 whenever it comes out. Unfortunately the conditions I shoot in dont allow the luxury of any kind of external device mounted on the camera-I find cables etc just get in the way. So I will have to just sit tight and HOPE the mk2 has these issues addressed..

 Bernard Shaw
Bernard Shaw
Member
May 15th, 2017

Well balanced and helpful review, well done!

For me, if it had 2.8 or better I would instantly buy the 6500 and this lens! I shoot in low light often and simply need the lower ISO it affords and the shallow depth of field for backgrounds that cannot be avoided. Shame shame shame

Keep moving forward Sony. I am waiting.

James H
James H
Member
May 15th, 2017

Sebastian!
Thanks for the review of this lens. What gets me in reviews of this lens is no one ever compares it to the now forgotten Sony 18-200 power zoom lens! Sure it’s not parfocal which is a big plus and a bit slower, but the range is way better and it was originally designed to be used with video centric cameras (like the FS700), albeit from years ago. We’ve been using it with the A7S for 3 years and about 120 weddings and its performed admirably. Perfect? Not even close. But that 200mm range is a huge asset. Yes, I’m sure the new lens is better optically but at like 3 times the cost, it’d be great to see HOW much better it REALLY is and then judge if that price is worth it.

 David Patterson
David Patterson
Member
May 15th, 2017
Reply to  James H

The 18-110 has all the features that make it a true, multi-purpose video lens. Par focal, constant aperture, power zoom, manual focus, centered zooming, and focus/aperture/zoom gear rings are the type of features that add to the cost. Of course, I would expect expensive lenses to have superior optics, but often times the difference is not that great. I wish the 18-110 had longer zoom range, was F2.8 and only cost $2500-2800, but SONY lenses tend to be slow expensive. That said, there aren’t a lot of options in this lens category, and as far as I know, the others all cost more. Maybe the price will be adjusted in time, or if SONY ever releases an improved version of this lens. It IS much improved over their 28-135 lens, but the price jump is a bit hard to swallow.

NDT
Member
May 16th, 2017

It seems to be Sony’s new business model. Make something, listen to the changes people want. Release the new model for way more money.

 Misha Engel
Misha Engel
Member
May 15th, 2017

Thanks for the review. Good lens for sony s35 shooters.

Chris Cheek
Guest
May 15th, 2017

How did you get your hands on the Focus small hd already> I pre-ordered mine 3 days ago, but is shipping in June..

Sebastian Wöber
Guest
May 15th, 2017
Reply to  Chris Cheek

Hehe, somehow a very early beta unit made it into my review. I can’t comment on its features at such an early stage, but it still worked very nicely for me.

Chris Cheek
Guest
May 15th, 2017
Reply to  Chris Cheek

Yea,I know all what it does etc. Jealous you have it already thou..lol

 David Patterson
David Patterson
Member
May 15th, 2017

There is a lot to like about this lens, but I feel it is somewhat over priced. If the lens is largely plastic, I suspect this will impede longevity. The maximum F4 limits its “cinematic” and creative use. I like the image samples I have seen from this lens, but I feel it is best suited for non-cinematic use. If this lens was F2.8 or faster, it would be a fantastic choice for documentary work when shooting in run & gun mode without time to light the environment. I own the 18-105 “kit lens” and find it too slow and too short for event work. The 18-110 has much better optical performance and better features, but at 6 times the price, it should be a F2.8 lens. If the 18-110 was a $2500-2800 lens, I’d buy it. $3500 gives me pause.

Member
May 15th, 2017

“In my Sony 18-110mm review, I will be looking at all the benefits and limitations of this lens.”

What gets me is how we test equipment with a continual critical bent, as if at some point in the past there was a perfect camera/lens/etc. upon which we judge all others. It’s really strange. We see this in automotive testing as well. While it’s probably largely subconscious, it’s a testament I think to how spoiled and unsatisfied we’ve become.

Yanni Juan John
Guest
May 15th, 2017

They’re just begging me to kick Canon to the curb for good. They better release one fuck of a c200 with a similar lens and shoulder system. No mas Canon

Rafael Molina
Guest
May 15th, 2017

Parfocal?

Sebastian Wöber
Guest
May 15th, 2017
Reply to  Rafael Molina

Yes, as I wrote, it is a parfocal lens.

Shawn Edström
Guest
May 15th, 2017
Reply to  Rafael Molina

They answer that in the review.

Bud Gallimore
Guest
May 17th, 2017
Reply to  Rafael Molina

Not traditionally parfocal – it electronically micro adjusts to become effectively parfocal. Looking forward to using this. Just wish it was 2.8 all the way through, but hey! Love the Sebastian Wober trademark spin too! ??Great review.

Sebastian Wöber
Guest
May 17th, 2017
Reply to  Rafael Molina

:D hehe – I’m glad you noticed

Sebastian Wöber
Guest
May 17th, 2017
Reply to  Rafael Molina

Yes, you’re correct, I was wrong. The lens is not actually not parfocal. I corrected it in my review the other day.

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