Review: Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f4 FE OSS (Full Frame E-Mount)

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review product images (2 of 8)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 4.0

When Sony first announced their mirrorless full frame E mount system, the 24-70mm f4 was mentioned as one of the first lenses to be offered. Fast forward a bit, and it has hit the retailers and is receiving reviews. As one of the first zooms offered to a brand new system, there is a lot riding on the 24-70mm f4 FE OSS due to to the fact that it will help to keep the system afloat in its infancy. So with that in mind, Sony made this lens splashproof and dustproof–whatever that really means.

Despite the build though, folks purchase a lens for its image quality. And boy, does it exhibit some pretty good image quality–emphasis on pretty good. This lens doesn’t seem to be the company’s sharpest zoom lens, and to be honest it’s very much more of a jack-of-all-trades and master-of-none. But in the hands of the right creative, it can do some great work.

Pros and Cons

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review images (10 of 12)ISO 1001-1600 sec at f - 4.0

Pros

– Very sharp

– Fairly compact lens for what it is

– Splashproof and dustproof

– Will have lots of appeal to many photographers

– Nice color rendition

Cons

– The bokeh is “meh” at best

– Should have had a faster aperture

– Expensive

– You really need to the A7r to take the most advantage of it for landscape photography and the A7s or A7 for event shooting.

– We don’t really think that the full frame E-mount system needs a lens like this. Instead, it needs really fast aperture and high grade pro zooms. This lens isn’t really one per se.

Gear Used

We tested the Sony 27-70mm f4 FE with the Sony A7 and the Adorama Flashpoint 180 WS light kit.

Tech Specs

Tech specs taken from Adorama’s listing of the lens

Lens Type E-mount Full Frame
Aperture (Max.) f/4
Aperture (Min.) f.22
Filter Diameter 67mm
Lens Groups-Elements 10/12
Minimum Focus Distance 15-3/4 inches (.40m)
Aspheric Elements 5
Magnification .2x
Dimensions (Approx.) 2-7/8 x 3-3/4 inches (73 x 94.5 mm)
Weight (Approx.) 15.16 oz. (430 g)

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review product images (7 of 8)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 4.0

When you first look at the Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f4 FE OS, you’ll notice a couple of things that immediately mark it as a Zeiss lens. For starters, consider the fact that it’s marked with the Vario-Tessar wording along with other Zeiss nomenclatures. Indeed, if Zeiss were to make an autofocusing zoom lens, this is what it would look like except that they’d probably opt more for rubber focusing rings than the metal ones that you see on this lens’s exterior.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review product images (5 of 8)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 4.0

This lens is like many of the company’s other offerings that don’t include a power zoom functionality. The lens is characterized by a big zooming ring more or less smack dab in the middle of the product with a focusing ring in front of that. The rings themselves are a bit too loose for our liking and we wish that they were smoother.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review product images (4 of 8)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 4.0

On the side of the lens you’ll be able to spot the Zeiss branding. With this said, you also can easily notice that it lacks any sort of switches on the lens. To go to manual focus or another focusing mode, you’ll need to access them in-camera. Depending on who you are, this can make the experience annoying as hell or really simplistic.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review product images (6 of 8)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 4.0

When the lens is zoomed in fully, it still doesn’t become super large or unwieldy–which is really nice for the user. We really see street and event photographers reaching for this lens so the low profile is very important.

Build Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review product images (3 of 8)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 4.0

Sony’s 24-70mm f4 FE OSS is honestly built quite well. It’s compact, devoid of any major switches, and overall just feels solid in the hands. Granted though, we’ve felt better lenses despite the metal build of this one. We wish that the rings were smoother and that it felt weather sealed–but alas it doesn’t.

Ease of Use

When it comes to using this lens, it’s very straight forward–or at least it will be more many users. All you need to do is slap it on the camera, point, shoot, and enjoy. But if you want to switch focusing modes, you’ll need to enter Sony’s menus. And depending on what camera you have, Sony’s menus can either made you want to scream for the bloody murder of things and people or really appeal to you depending on which side of the mental sickness line you identify with.

Where we found a perfect medium is with turning on continuous autofocus, using the center point, and recomposing when combined with focus tracking. Of course with street photography though you’ll want to just capture the entire area and hope to whatever you pray to that the camera and lens combo nail the subject that you’re trying to capture.

Autofocusing

During our tests, we were pleasantly surprised with the focusing abilities of the 24-70mm f4. It focused quickly at all times, barely ever misfocused, and overall just did a solid job that most pros would come to expect from their gear. In fact, we dare to say that it focused as fast as Olympus’s lenses on their cameras. To be clear, we found this to be true in lighting conditions both great and terrible.

For folks that decide to spring for this lens, they can surely know that at least it will focus well. In some situations, we actually thought that this lens was faster in focusing than some of the company’s primes.

Image Quality

AS ALWAYS, EXIF DATA IS PRESENT IN THE IMAGES. SIMPLY CLICK AND IT WILL APPEAR IN THE IMAGE URL.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review images (6 of 12)ISO 1251-80 sec at f - 5.6

Sony’s 24-70mm f4 FE OSS lens overall really has some solid image quality, but it doesn’t do anything that makes it stand out more from the company’s already positively brilliant prime lenses. Sure, you can a number of focal lengths at a constant aperture, but the quality isn’t something to weep tears of joy about. The lens exhibits some very great sharpness and really nice coloring, but not much else to be honest.

Bokeh

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review images (9 of 12)ISO 1001-1600 sec at f - 4.0

Here’s where we were disappointed: even at f4 (which is wide open) and at 70mm (the lens’s most telephoto focal length) the bokeh is very hazy and disappointing. You won’t want to use this lens for glorious bokeh then in that case and instead it will be relegated to full on photojournalism and event shooting.

Seriously, we’re really, really sad about this.

Color Rendition

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review images (1 of 12)ISO 1601-125 sec at f - 5.0

Given the fact that this is a Zeiss lens, we were expecting lots of nice saturation out of this lens–and we got it. The 24-70mm f4 FE OSS gives us beautiful colors and some of the best skin tones that we’ve seen in a zoom lens of this type. For that reason, we once again think that event photographers will want to reach for this lens and otherwise work with the uber versatile Sony RAW files to get more out of their images.

Sharpness

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review images (5 of 12)ISO 32001-160 sec at f - 4.5

We’ve come to expect top notch sharpness from Sony Zeiss optics–and for the most part we totally get it. We found the sharpness of this lens to be best exhibited with use of a flash in a studio setting though. Additionally, it doesn’t get much sharper once you stop down, so you’ll more or less want to shoot it wide open all the time unless you want a more narrow depth of field.

Granted, we’ve also seen sharper competitors. And again, we think that you’ll get the best sharpness from this lens with the A7r.

Color Fringing

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review images (7 of 12)ISO 1001-1250 sec at f - 4.0

In our tests, we didn’t find very much purple fringing even at the highest of contrast areas. When we worked the files even more in Adobe Lightroom, it was still tough to get any fringing. For JPEG shooters, we think that this is a major plus.

Extra Image Samples

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review images (8 of 12)ISO 1001-500 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review images (11 of 12)ISO 10001-100 sec at f - 2.8

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review images (4 of 12)ISO 32001-2000 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review images (3 of 12)ISO 32001-2000 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review images (2 of 12)ISO 1601-125 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review images (12 of 12)ISO 4001-250 sec at f - 4.0

Conclusions

Likes

– Compact, fairly solid build

– Very sharp

– Fast to focus

Dislikes

– That bokeh…

– Really, really wish that it was fully weather sealed.

four-star-Phoblographer-Star-rating

The Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f4 FE OSS is a damned good lens. In a compact package you get splash/dust proofing, fast focusing, and decent image quality. However, it isn’t the strongest at any one parameter and does nothing very special for the system except provide a more affordable constant aperture zoom lens. It’s nice, but we think that you should hold out for whatever other zooms Sony may be working on–or reach for their primes instead.

We give the Sony 24-70mm f4 OSS four out of five stars.

Want one? You can pick one up at B&H Photo, Adorama or Amazon for $1,198.

Recommended Cameras and Accessories

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 24-70mm f4 full frame lens review product images (8 of 8)ISO 4001-100 sec at f - 4.0

Sony A7r: The Sony A7R is the camera that will give you the best sharpness that you can possibly get from this lens. But be prepared for autofocusing problems.

Sony A7: Sony’s A7 has the fastest focusing of any of the A7 series cameras out there. So if you want to shoot events, look to this camera.