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The widest lens available for Sony’s Alpha 100 DSLR, this digital-only (DT) zoom, the 11-18mm f/4.5-5.6 AF ($580, street), isn’t recommended for use on older Konica Minolta Maxxum film cameras. But Alpha users may love its 16.5-27mm equivalent focal length, even if that is a narrow range by today’s standards.

HANDS ON: Compact and lightweight, with Sony’s now-familiar finely ribbed focus and zoom rings, the lens has well-marked subject distance scales (feet in orange, meters in white). The AF is moderately fast and rather loud. The zoom action is very well damped, and the manual-focus action is relatively loud, with a rough feel. As you might expect, when used with the Alpha’s built-in flash, this ultrawide zoom, even without its lens shade, casts a noticeable shadow at all focal lengths except 18mm.

IN THE LAB: Lens bench test data showed Excellent sharpness and contrast at the three tested focal lengths, in keeping with the majority of performances among today’s digital-only ultrawides. In DxO Analyzer 2.0 tests, barrel distortion was in the Visible range at 11mm (0.49%), and in the Slight range at 14mm and 18mm (0.27% and 0.13%, respectively). These are among the best distortion performances in the digital-only ultrawide category.

Light falloff was gone from the corners by f/5 at 11mm, by f/6.3 at 14mm, and by f/8 at 18mm — one of the top showings, especially at the wider focal lengths. At the uniform close-focusing distance of approximately 9.5 inches, maximum magnification ratios ranged from 1:12.6 at 11mm to 1:7.13 at 18mm, placing it ahead of comparable Nikon, Tamron, and Tokina ultrawides, and second only to the Sigma 10-20mm f/4-5.6 among those we’ve tested.

CONCLUSIONS: Especially useful at close-focus distance for dramatically contrasting large foreground subjects with distant backgrounds, this lens controls distortion so well that it would probably be our first choice among DSLR optics for architecture.

• 11-18mm (11.19-17.48mm tested), f/4.5-5.6 (f/4.76-5.95 tested), 15 elements in 12 groups. Focusing turns 100 degrees counterclockwise. Zoom ring turns 70 degrees counterclockwise. Focal lengths marked at 11-, 12-, 14-, 16-, and 18mm.
Diagonal view angle: 104-76 degrees.
Weight: 13.1 oz.
Filter size: 77mm.
Mounts: Konica Minolta Digital AF, Sony AF.
Included: Lenshood.
Street price: $580.