Review: Sony Zeiss 16-35mm f4 OSS (Sony Full Frame E Mount)

 

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 16-35mm f4 product photos (5 of 7)ISO 1601-50 sec at f - 4.0

Wide angle zooms are amongst some of the most sought after lenses by the photographers that love to shoot wide. Combine that with a constant aperture and you’ve got a photographer that will be happy for days. So when Sony announced their 16-35mm f4 OSS lens for the E mount system, we knew that it was going to be a hit. Due to the company’s collaboration with Zeiss for many years, the two have worked together to produce better and better lenses.

But while this lens will be highly sought after by many photographers, it probably shouldn’t be in everyone’s camera bags.

Pros and Cons

Pros

– Super sharp from edge to edge

– Excellent color rendition

– Overall distortion is kept down as well we possible, but at times was a bit too much for us to handle

– Fairly compact body

– Solid build quality

– Image stabilization will prevent even the most jittery coffee fiend from not getting a blurry shot

Cons

– Only f4

Gear Used

We reviewed the Sony Zeiss 16-35mm f4 lens with the Sony A7 and A7 Mk II along with the Metz 64 AF-1 flash.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the B&H Photo listing

Performance
Focal Length 16 – 35mm
Comparable 35mm Equivalent on APS-C Format Focal Length: 24.5 – 52.5 mm
Aperture Maximum: f/4
Minimum: f/22
Camera Mount Type Sony E (Full-Frame)
Format Compatibility 35mm Film / Full-Frame Digital Sensor
Angle of View 107° – 63°
APS-C Picture Angle: 83° – 44°
Minimum Focus Distance .92′ (.28 m)
Magnification 0.19x
Elements/Groups 12/10
Diaphragm Blades 7, Rounded
Features
Image Stabilization Yes
Autofocus Yes
Physical
Filter Thread Front:72 mm
Dimensions (DxL) Approx. 3.07 x 3.88″ (78 x 98.5 mm)
Weight 18.27 oz (518 g)

Ergonomics

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 16-35mm f4 product photos (1 of 7)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 4.0

The Sony Zeiss 16-35mm f4 OSS is in some ways a beastly lens. It isn’t huge at all, but instead it is actually very well balanced and suited to the hands.

We start our ergonomic tour with the overall body. It is comprised of metal and you can tell just by touching it. Dominating most of said body are a zoom ring and a manual focusing ring right in front of that. Additionally, there are markers for focal lengths but no sort of distance scale.

We’re really sad about the latter.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 16-35mm f4 product photos (4 of 7)ISO 1601-50 sec at f - 4.0

 

The lens is also one with a very large front element that can be prone to finger prints and other issues at times. We recommend putting a UV filter on this bad boy–though maladies like this will barely phase your image quality.

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 16-35mm f4 product photos (7 of 7)ISO 1601-25 sec at f - 4.0

 

Around the lens you’ll find no controls due to the fact that OSS and focusing types are controlled by the camera.

Build Quality

This lens doesn’t feel like anything Sony would typically produce. Like their very amazing 50mm f1.4 released last year, this lens feels more like something that Zeiss would create if the company were more into zooms and autofocus offerings than they currently are. When you hold the lens, you realize that it is incredibly solid with a bit of weight to it–but not overwhelming in any way or form and in fact incredibly well balanced with the A7 bodies.

Additionally, the lens is splashproof: and we took it out into the rain one day. It faced the shower challenge like a complete champ.

Ease of Use

The Sony 16-35mm f4 has no controls at all on it with the exception of the zoom ring and a manual focus ring. Want to access any of those features? You’ll need to go through the camera. It is devoid of any buttons. Because of this, you’ll basically just attach it to your camera, point, shoot, and stare in awe at the image you just created.

Autofocus

During our sessions with the lens at a religious ceremony, we were not only impressed with how silently the lens focused but also how accurately. Granted, this is a 16-35mm lens with an f4 aperture and it’s tough to get something out of focus. But when working in conjunction with the A7 and A7 Mk II, we rarely had any missed focusing situations.

Manually focusing the lens requires you to turn the small ring towards the front of the lens. We wish it were a bit beefier, but we can totally settle for the leaner chicken soup instead.

Image Quality

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 16-35mm f4 review extra images (3 of 4)ISO 2001-500 sec at f - 6.3

Sony and Zeiss have worked together for many years to create lenses together, and this latest offering has to be one of the best fruits of their partnership. The lens performs admirably and with it being an f4 constant aperture offering, we barely ever found a big reason to want to stop it down. This lens is designed for the photographer that loves to shoot wide. Whether its for landscapes, products, real estate, events, or creative portraits–this lens is highly capable due to its super wide angle to semi-wide angle at 35mm.

We’ve already talked about the build quality, but there is also lots to love about this lens in terms of how it renders images. The colors are solid, bokeh is…bokeh (and you can’t expect a lot due to the focal lengths and minimum aperture range) and the sharpness is spot on solid.

Bokeh

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 16-35mm f4 review images (1 of 3)ISO 4001-200 sec at f - 4.0

Due to the nature of the focal lengths being on either the 35mm or 16mm end of the spectrum, it’s very tough to get any sort of bokeh. In fact, if you want bokeh, don’t buy this lens. If you’re a landscape, architecture or real estate photographer, then you won’t have an issue. But otherwise, we think that the lack of bokeh is actually very good for the experienced documentary photographer because it forces the user to put an emphasis on getting as many important details into a scene as they possibly can.

Sharpness

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 16-35mm f4 review documentary type images (2 of 3)ISO 8001-40 sec at f - 4.0

Holy jeez…

When we used this lens with a flash, we were able to get some of the best sharpness from a wide angle lens that we’ve ever seen. The sharpness from this lens beats the Rokinon 14mm f2.8, 24mm f1.4 and 35mm f1.4 altogether. Plus, it even starts to edge out to best some of Zeiss’s native prime lens offerings with perhaps the exception being the 15mm f2.8 and their 25mm f2.

If you get your hands on this lens and you’re creating images that aren’t sharp, then you’re probably doing something wrong. This lens is very, very sharp.

Color Rendition

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 16-35mm f4 review documentary type images (1 of 3)ISO 8001-40 sec at f - 4.0

Mmmmmmm, colors…

When working in combination with the Sony sensors, we were very impressed by how this lens rendered colors. Not only is it very accurate, but it also simply looks great.

The colors indeed don’t look anything like what Zeiss offers–nor does it look like anything that Canon or Nikon have. But instead, Sony has their own colors that still look great and in fact may satisfy the largest consumer market base due to just how life-like they are.

Color Fringing

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 16-35mm f4 review extra images (4 of 4)ISO 2001-80 sec at f - 6.3

In our tests, we didn’t find any color fringing happen with images right out of the camera. When the contrast was bumped up, then we saw very trace amounts–but we have to come to expect that.

Don’t worry trolls from DPReview’s forums or R/Photography: you can chill.

Extra Image Samples

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 16-35mm f4 review extra images (2 of 4)ISO 2001-400 sec at f - 6.3

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 16-35mm f4 review extra images (1 of 4)ISO 4001-500 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 16-35mm f4 review documentary type images (3 of 3)ISO 8001-40 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 16-35mm f4 portrait images (1 of 2)ISO 2001-200 sec at f - 4.0

Model: Asta Paredes

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 16-35mm f4 Melissa photo (1 of 1)ISO 6401-60 sec at f - 4.0

Model: Melissa Perry

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 16-35mm f4 review images (3 of 3)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 4.0

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 16-35mm f4 review images (2 of 3)ISO 4001-50 sec at f - 4.0

Conclusions

Likes

– Oh man, that image quality

– Great build

– Dat sharpness…

Dislikes

– Dat price… $1,348

The Sony Zeiss 16-35mm f4 OSS is a lens that not everyone needs, but can’t hurt a lot of different photographers. We strongly recommend it for the more photojournalistic type of shooters due to the versatile zoom range. However, we had a heck of a lot of fun with it.

four-star-Phoblographer-Star-rating

We award the Sony 16-35mm f4 OSS four out of five stars. Want one? Check out B&H Photo for the latest listing.

Recommended Cameras and Accessories

Chris Gampat The Phoblographer Sony 16-35mm f4 product photos (6 of 7)ISO 1601-25 sec at f - 4.0

A7r: When it comes to needing lots of resolution, the A7r is your absolute best bet.

A7s: Due to the F4 aperture, you may need or want to crank up the ISO settings. The A7s has the cleanest high ISO output in the business.