Sony E PZ 18-110mm f/4 G OSS Lens Review
The ENG Maker
Made for Sony Super 35mm and APS-C E-mount systems, the Sony E PZ 18-110mm f/4 G OSS (SELP18110G) lens works best with the PXW-FS7 (Mark I and II), and the PXW-FS5 cameras. It can also be used with several Sony stills cameras. The Sony E PZ 18-110mm f/4 is a game changer in that it represents the first quality ENG lens option for the ubiquitous FS7, transforming it instantly into an ENG-style camera.
ENG stands for “Electronic News Gathering” which is a quick, ergonomically practical style of shooting employed by news and sports videographers, and non-fiction shooters for years. Throw a camera on your shoulder and go. In my opinion, it is the purist form of shooting. A good ENG photographer becomes one with his camera. When it happens, it’s fun.
In short, the Sony E PZ 18-110mm lens is what the Sony FS7 has been waiting for.
Turns your FS7 into an ENG camera
Useful 27-167mm full frame equivalent range
Smooth servo zoom function
Quick-snap auto to manual focus ring
Inexpensive and lightweight for a professional cine zoom ($3498)
Nifty lens hood includes a protective door
Expensive and heavy for a stills lens
There is some axial shift present on my copy of the lens
Minimum focus distance is rather long at 3.12 ft in manual focus
6.1x zoom ratio and a very useable 27-167mm full frame equivalent focal length
High resolution suited to professional 4K movie production
Smooth Motion Optics (SMO) design and construction to minimize unwanted focus and image shifts while focusing or zooming
Advanced operability including three separate focus, iris and zoom rings for professional operation
Optical SteadyShot™ in-lens image stabilization
Compact, lightweight design with dust and moisture resistance
One Aspherical & Two ED Elements
Switchable Manual and Servo Zoom
Sony E-mount for Super 35mm and APS-C
7 circular aperture blades
Zoom: Both manual and powered
Length: 167.5 mm
Weight: 39 oz. (1105g) without tripod mount
MFD: 1.31 (W) –3.12 (T) ft (AF/MF); 3.12 ft (Full MF) (0.4 (W)–0.95 (T) m (AF/MF); 0.95 m (Full MF)
Manual focus works well. Simply pull the focus ring back to enter manual focus or grab it in autofocus mode to take control. There is a 0.8 pitch gear built in for follow focus systems.
The autofocus feature works remarkably well on the FS7 given it’s a cine camera. Naturally, autofocus is faster and more refined on stills systems like Sony’s a6300 and a6500. I rarely use auto focus when shooting video, but I can envision a scenario when it could be helpful. I have tested the tiny Sony PZ 16–50 mm F3.5 – 5.6 OSS stills zoom on the FS7 and it is actually a bit faster, although not nearly as sexy as the 18-110mm.
You can zoom manually or by using the servo motor. The latter is one of the main reasons you should buy this lens. The motor is smooth and can be operated by the T/W power switch on the left side of the lens. On the FS7, zoom can be operated by the small T/W switch on the handle, or by the larger T/W switch on the remote grip. The grip rocker offers the best control over the lens. However, I would like to see Sony develop a “Pro ENG” style grip with a larger, more sensitive zoom rocker switch that would fit onto an existing FS7 for better control. For manual zoom, switch from servo to manual on the lower left side of the lens.
The aperture ring is located at the rear and ranges from f/4 to f/22. It can be operated manually, or from the camera’s iris controls when the ring is placed in the “A” position.
The auto iris feature works well on the 18-110mm, however, on the FS7 it works only in Custom Mode, not in the much beloved Cine EI mode. For run and gun shooting, change your FS7 to Custom Mode anduse auto iris, auto white balance, etc. There are actually some nice gamma settings in the FS7’s Custom Mode, but that’s for another article.
Yes, it is parfocal. All professional cine zooms are. Zoom in, set focus, zoom out and everything in between remains in focus. This is how ENG shooters set up focus and is the beauty of a parfocal zoom lens.
There is very little focus breathing.
There is some axial shift on my copy of the lens even though Sony’s promo video says, “There is no axial shift while zooming.” With cross hairs activated on the FS7, it is easy to see. However, when the marker is turned off, it’s very difficult to detect.
Yes, there is bokeh. Bokeh is Japanese for “haze.” It has become a trendy term used to describe the area of an image purposely placed out of focus, usually behind the main subject, which is (hopefully) in focus.
Sharpness is solid. I cannot find any sharpness issues on my copy, even wide open at f/4.
The ergonomics are very good. The lens rings have a nice, silky feel to them. The focus ring at the front snaps back and forth between auto and manual focus. There is an iris lock switch and a click on/off switch on the right side of the lens, and a tripod mount under the rear of the lens which is detachable. There are ¼” – 20 threads beneath the front of the lens for support use. The square plastic lens hood features a clever open/close door to help protect the front element. It essentially acts as a hood and cap.
You can use a matte box or 95mm round filters. I’m a big fan of protecting my lenses with a screw on filter, either clear or UV. For the Sony 18-110mm, I selected a 95mm Firecrest Superslim UV MC by Formatt-Hitech in the United Kingdom. The filter came in a beautiful, high-end box, wrapped in paper with a handwritten seal and stamped inspection date. The filter arrived clean and is noticeably well made. Very impressive. Bravo, Formatt-Hitech for your commitment to quality!
Suggestions for Sony
Develop a “Pro ENG” style grip with a larger, more sensitive zoom rocker that can fit onto an existing FS7 for better control with servo zooms like the 18-110mm. Allow the auto iris feature to work in Cine EI mode on the FS7. Presently, it will work only in Custom Mode.
The Sony E PZ 18-110mm f/4 G OSS is a “must have” for any FS7 user, either as a purchase or a rental. If shooting ENG style is important to you, then this is the best option currently available. Overall, I think this bordering on an amazing lens considering how much it improves the FS7, and possibly even the FS5. You can do a lot with the Sony E PZ 18-110mm f/4, especially if you add a couple fast primes to your bag to compliment it.
Gear mentioned in this review:
Suggested prime lenses to compliment the Sony E PZ 18-110mm f/4 G OSS zoom lens:
Suggested zoom to compliment the Sony E PZ 18-110mm f/4 G OSS
Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 zoom for Canon EF on a Metabones Canon EF Lens to Sony E Mount T CINE Speed Booster ULTRA 0.71x (Fifth Generation). This combo would offer you an appx. focal length of 19mm-37mm at f/1.2.
About the Author
Martin Lisius is a producer, director, cinematographer and president of Prairie Pictures, an award-winning media production company based in Texas. He is also founder of StormStock, one of the longest established stock footage brands in the world.
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Cameras I have shot with, in chronological order, starting when I was 12 years old:
Various Sony, Panasonic, JVC and Hitachi ENG Cameras