Sony 10-20mm f4 PZ G Review: A Simple Little Ultra-Wide

The Sony 10-20mm f4 PZ G crams both the ultra-wide and the wide-angle perspective into one lens. That’s not entirely uncommon, but this lens weighs just over six ounces. Designed for Sony’s APS-C cameras, the new optic incorporates weather sealing and tons of controls onto a rather tiny lens.

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But, the new Sony 10-20mm f4 trades the OSS of the 10-18mm f4 for PZ, or Power Zoom. While the toggle is nice for shooting video, it’s not a photo-centric feature unless using the Bluetooth app to shoot. There, the PZ allows the lens to zoom remotely. Does the lack of stability and the narrower f4 aperture make this lens a bad choice? I tried out the new lens to see where it stands.

The Big Picture

Pro

  • It’s tiny!
  • Versatile zoom range from ultra-wide to standard wide, 15-35mm equivalent
  • Very sharp, especially at 20mm
  • Weather-sealed
  • Lots of controls, despite the smaller size
  • Good color, with no noticeable chromatic aberration

Cons

  • Only an f4
  • Technically great, but lacks characters

The Sony 10-20mm f4 PZ G is an incredibly small lens for crop sensor E mount cameras. It boasts a lot of technical greatness, including excellent sharpness and minimal distortion. Weather-sealing adds another reason to consider the lens, along with the ultra-wide versatility and a price under $800.

While the Sony 10-20mm f4 PZ G is great for landscapes and travel, the f4 isn’t ideal for other types of shoots such as lifestyle photography and environmental portraiture. It’s also not the lens for photographers looking for lots of cool flare. But, there’s little to complain about outside the narrower aperture and more limited character. It’s a decent choice for photographers that would shoot with a narrower aperture anyway for added sharpness.

I’m giving the Sony 10-20mm f4 PZ G four out of five stars.

Gear Used

I used the Sony 10-20mm f4 PZ G with the Sony a6600. The review sample is a rental provided by Sony.

Innovations

The Sony 10-20mm f4 PZ G is the world’s smallest and lightest ultra-wide power zoom, but even Sony admits there aren’t that many power zoom lenses. Sony likes to make a lot of “world first” claims and then add a bunch of quantifiers to it. But, that doesn’t change the fact that this lens is quite small and lightweight. On the a6600, it’s easy to wear around your neck all day, making it a good option for travel.

Tech Specs

Sony provided the following key specifications for the 10-20mm f4 PZ G:

  • Format: Sony E APS-C
  • Construction: Two ED glass elements, one ED aspherical element
  • Power Zoom
  • Focus: Dual linear autofocus motors, linear manual focus
  • Dust and Moisture resistant
  • Weight: 6.2 ounces
  • Length: 2.16 inches

Ergonomics

Mounted on the Sony a6600, wearing the 10-20mm f4 PZ G felt like carrying an oversized point-and-shoot. The lens weighs just 6.2 ounces and is shorter than 2.5 inches. It’s a tiny lens that’s going to appeal to travel photographers or anyone who shoots for long stretches.

While there’s little real estate available on such a small lens, Sony uses the space wisely. Closest to the mount, there’s a bank of controls that starts with the power zoom. Sony’s been launching a few PZ zooms lately. This lever allows for smooth, controlled zoom. It’s primarily a video feature, but the PZ also allows photographers to adjust the focal length using Bluetooth and an app.

Underneath the PZ toggle is a customizable function button. Below that is an autofocus to manual focus switch.

Next up is the zoom ring. At the front of the lens is the focus ring. Because the lens is so small, both of these rings are quite narrow, with the focus ring being slightly smaller. They also both have the same texture. That makes it a bit more difficult to blindly reach for the right ring: you have to do it by the position of the ring, not the size or texture.

The front of the lens does have quite a bit of plastic around the glass. The lens accepts 62mm filters. And it ships with a plastic, petal-shaped lens hood.

Build Quality

As a member of the G series, the Sony 10-20mm f4 is weather resistant. I gave the lens and body a good splash and both continued functioning normally. I also didn’t detect any dust on the sensor.

The lens has a plastic build, but it doesn’t feel terribly cheap, just really light. The feel is consistent with the feel of the a6600 body.

Autofocus

The Sony 10-20mm focused just fine on landscapes, architecture, and street photography, which is where this lens really excels. It’s also capable of focusing pretty close for such a wide angle. An ultra-wide isn’t a common lens for action, but the lens did okay moving keeping the focus locked on a dog towards the camera. It will do just fine for some wide-angle motion.

Ease of Use

The 10-20mm f4 feels a bit like an ultra-wide kit lens. There are a good amount of controls, yet it’s not going to be terribly daunting for newbies. Once you spend a few minutes differentiating the rings and buttons, operation is straightforward. The trickiest part is customizing the button since Sony’s menus are not as intuitive as I’d like.

My only struggle with this lens is differentiating between the two rings without pulling my eye from the viewfinder. They both have the same texture and almost the same size, so I did this more by position than feel. More advanced users will still find enough controls to make adjustments quickly.

The trade-off for the Power Zoom on this lens, however, is the lack of OSS, which is included in the Sony 10-18mm f4 OSS. The OSS is ideal for photographers, while the PZ is a nice feature for remote shooting and video. However, I did handhold shots easily at 1/10 using the in-body stability on the a6600. With stability on the body and with such an ultra-wide angle, the lack of OSS isn’t a major dealbreaker.

Image Quality

The Sony 10-20mm f4 PZ G covers a fun range, with the ability to get both the 35mm equivalent of an ultra-wide and a standard wide in one lens. The lens delivers the sharpness and flare suppression I’ve come to expect from Sony. But, as an f4 on a crop sensor, there’s not a ton of bokeh unless you get in real close. For landscape photographers who want the whole scene to be sharp though, the lens delivers a good amount of sharpness and versatility.

Bokeh

There’s nothing to see here. An f4 on a crop sensor and in an ultra-wide lens means there’s not a lot of bokeh. The short minimum focus distance does help some. Up close, the lens does get some softer backgrounds. But, the mix of sharpness and background blur that I love from Sony’s brighter lenses isn’t here.

Sharpness

This lens is unsurprisingly sharp, particularly at 20mm. At full zoom, the lens is still sharp at the corners, with only a slight softness compared to the center. At 10mm, the corner softness is more pronounced. But, this would only be noticeable photographing subjects at the very corners or a flat surface on the same focal plane, like a wall of art.

This sharpness with the f4 aperture is great for things like architecture, landscapes, and street photography. But, I’d personally want more background blur for lifestyle photography and environmental portraits. With the limited background blur and the sharpness of the subject, there’s too much detail that can be distracting for genre thoses.

Lens Character

The Sony 10-20mm f4 PZ G does surprisingly well at managing barrel distortion. Lines are pretty straight on JPEGs as well as RAW files with the manufacturer profile applied. Vignetting is minor enough that it’s easy to edit out if you don’t want it there.

Flare is also heavily suppressed. The best way to get some flare with this lens is to place the sun on the edge of a building or the edge of the frame. However, the optic is made to prevent flare-ups, not embrace it. The sun will overexpose the sky, but it doesn’t create any ghosting dots.

The character from this lens simply comes from the ultra-wide to wide perspectives. The lens will exaggerate the distance between objects. Shoot objects at an angle and the edges will have that classic perspective distortion of an ultra-wide. If you don’t hold this lens straight on, you’ll get curving lines.

Color Rendering

The colors from this lens are consistent with what I’ve come to expect from Sony. I didn’t spot any chromatic aberration. With flare suppressed, colors don’t wash out easily.

Extra Image Samples

From day one, The Phobographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the lens can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.

Edited

Unedited

Who Should Buy It?

With the lightweight and excellent sharpness, the Sony 10-20mm f4 PZ G is a good choice for landscape, street, and architectural photographers. The ultra-wide to wide zoom range is very versatile, allowing for a more exaggerated perspective or a more standard one. The lens favors technical correctness more than character, with solid sharpness and suppressed flare.

Low light photographers as well as those shooting genres like lifestyle and environmental portraits would be better off choosing a brighter prime lens. The sharpness and narrower aperture work great for landscapes, but in other genres, it leaves too much of the image sharp. A brighter ultra-wide prime is the best choice for these genres. Others will want to stick with the Sony 10-18mm f4 OSS because of the stability.



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