Just how good is the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Vario-Tessar T* Lens?

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All test images below shot with a Sony A7s. ISO 100. 

Top 16mm Bottom 35mm

From Raw file with sharpening in Photoshop.

Edge and corner comparisons above are out of camera jpgs.

A few tests to show how the Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Vario-Tessar T* Lens performs with regard to distortion and centre and corner sharpness. As you can see this is pretty impressive and somewhat different to other Sony zooms. There is some fall-off in the corners but this is minimal and processing raw images and adding some reproduction sharpening makes for a very crisp file.

In terms of how much 'correction' is going on I processed a file in Photoshop ACR (CS6) with the lens profile automatically added (It's in the latest camera raw update) and also in Rawker, my dcraw mac programme. There is some barrel distortion and colour / CA / fringing removal, but as you can see not very much at all, demonstrating that the lens is well designed and engineered.

This just confirms what I found when I took it out yesterday shooting some 'real' pictures. It shows that the Sony / Zeiss combination CAN make top class zoom lenses when they want to. Which of course begs the question, why has the 24-70mm f/4 lens received such 'mixed' reviews? (And that's being polite!!) As far as I'm concerned that doesn't particularly matter, since this 16-35mm is much more useful for me and I prefer it over the 24-70mm. But others may feel the opposite and the 24-70mm does seem to be a disappointing lens. I haven't actually used one, but a while ago a reader sent me a large number of raw files and I was somewhat surprised at how soft some of the edges were. The centre was nice and sharp, but this 16-35mm is much better at achieving sharpness across the frame, which is surprising since the wide-angle zoom is a more complex and difficult construction. Odd.

But this post is about the 16-35mm and I'm pleased to report that it is an excellent wide-angle zoom and Sony FE users have another top class performer to take advantage of those amazing sensors. It is a f/4 lens, though this is fixed and I can see the logic behind that. Because there is an a-mount f/2.8 version. (Though the adapter light loss makes that less useful than it seems) I think Sony are wanting to market their a-mount monsters as options for the FE cameras for high-end pro use and that makes sense rather than duplicating lenses for a-mount and e-mount. The f/4 versions are smaller and lighter, though the 70-200mm f/4 is still pretty chunky. 

I still haven't really got a telephoto alternative, since that 70-200mm is too heavy for me to carry around and I'm still using my a-mount 85mm and Nikon Series E 100mm f/2.8. For my uses the 24-240mm would be a good option, but I've yet to see any specs. on that and I suspect it won't be light. 

However, I'm 'sorted' in terms of my wide-angle needs and after the great pictures I got yesterday with the 16-35mm, I'm looking forward to using it again. 





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Many Thanks

David Taylor-Hughes