Having a separate camera for photos and videos is one of my generation’s “uphill both ways” moments. Photo and video are now so ingrained into one device that it’s getting difficult to remember the days of carting along a separate camcorder. While camera bodies can now shoot video just as well as stills, some lenses are designed more with video in mind. The Sony 28-135mm f4 G PZ OSS is one of those lenses. It’s an E-Mount lens that can shoot video or stills, but the biggest features (quiet, floating autofocus motors and the power zoom) are designed for video.
That doesn’t mean the Sony 28-135 f4 G PZ OSS is a slouch regarding stills. While there are other lenses with an as wide to telephoto zoom range, few have a constant aperture throughout the lens. Add in the weather-sealing and beefy controls, and it’s easy to see why this lens has some allure for still photographers too. So, what happens when you use a video-focused lens for still photos? I spent some time with the Sony 28-135mm f4 G PZ OSS to find out.
The Big Picture
The Sony 28-135mm f4 G PZ OSS mixes a versatile zoom with a constant aperture, weather-sealing, and plenty of physical controls. While it’s a video-first lens, for still photographers the lens delivers photos that aren’t too sharp and a blank slate RAW file with lots of room for play in post.
The lens is good, but it’s a pricey choice for photographers who won’t care about how non-existent the noise is from the autofocus motors. There are also brighter zooms out there, though they either sacrifice range or that constant aperture. The lens also focuses more on technical savvy than character, which could be a good or a bad thing depending on how you look at it.
I’m giving the Sony 28-135mm f4 G PZ OSS four out of five stars. Want one? Check them out on Amazon.
- Versatile zoom range
- Constant aperture
- Lots of controls
- Sturdy, weather-sealed build
- Sharp, but not too sharp
- Good color
- Quiet performance
- Pricey for an f4
- More of a blank slate than a character builder
I used the Sony FE 28-135mm f4 G PZ OSS with the Sony a7 IV. Both the camera and lens were temporarily loaned to us from Sony through LensRentals.
The Sony 28-135mm f4 G PZ OSS is a cinema-focused lens that can also be used for stills. The lens is set apart by its wide zoom range, going from wide to telephoto in one lens while maintaining an f4 constant aperture. But, it also uses curved aperture blades to give bokeh a more rounded appearance.
Immediately after opening the box, I knew the Sony 28-135mm f4 G PZ OSS was designed for video. The beefy, grippy controls are designed to gradually pull focus in video or smoothly adjust the aperture mid-recording. The controls make the lens feel a bit large, but it’s also a 4.8x zoom, so the larger size is expected. The lens weighs 2.68 pounds, takes up a 6.4-inch slot in a camera bag, and takes 95mm filters at the front.
Close to the mount, the lens has a removable collar for tripod mounting. There’s not much clearance between the lens and the collar, so I preferred to work with the collar removed for easier access to all the controls.
The first bank of controls is a set of switches. Within reach of the left hand, a large power zoom control sits towards the top of the lens. Below that, a switch changes between zooming with the ring and zooming with the Power Zoom. Below that is the switch for the stabilization. On the opposite side, the lens houses an iris lock and an aperture de-click switch.
The rest of the controls are rings. First up is the aperture, with a click or de-click. Next is the zoom, followed by the focus ring. The focus ring is nicely labeled: not typical of Sony’s still lenses. The lens switches between autofocus and manual focus with a pullback ring at the front of it. This pullback ring regularly gets accidentally pulled in a bag.
The front of the lens, which takes 95mm filters, doesn’t turn when zooming or adjusting focus. The lens ships with a rectangular lens hood.
The Sony FE 28-135 f4 G PZ OSS is weather-sealed. I took this lens out in the rain, mounted on the a7 IV, and didn’t experience any issues with operation. The Sony a7 IV didn’t end up with dust spots on the sensor, though there were a few specs on the inside of the lens near the mount.
This feels like a G lens. It’s well built, mixing metal and plastic to balance quality and weight. Pieces of the lens feel like they are built with metal, while the areas around the switches and rings feel like plastic. For normal use, this lens should hold up well. However, cosmetically, the lens may show some wear. On my rental lens, there’s a small chip in the paint where the tripod collar attaches.
I can’t hear the autofocus motor in this lens. It uses floating elements in the motor, which make it super quiet. There’s a slight noise to the Power Zoom, but you can focus this lens in a library or wedding ceremony to your heart’s content.
The Sony 28-135 f4 G PZ OSS had an autofocus hit rate right where I expected for this lens and the Sony a7 IV. Photographing a dog running toward the camera, only about 15 percent of shots were soft.
I did wish, at times, for closer focusing capabilities. The minimum focusing distance is about 1.3 feet. Even with the a7 IV’s top burst speed, subjects coming towards the camera did seem to exit the focus range a bit quick. But that’s to be expected for a lens with such a wide range.
Ease of Use
With so many large controls, the Sony FE 28-135 f4 G PZ OSS will look a bit daunting for newbies. Then again, any lens priced over two grand isn’t aimed at beginners anyway.
I needed a bit of time to get acquainted with this lens. I had to find the manual focus pull control, and learn that the servo switch doesn’t have to do with focus (like on a Canon camera) but activates the zoom ring.
With all those controls, it will take a bit of time to reach for the correct one without pulling your face from the viewfinder. Thankfully, each of the rings has a slightly different texture to them. With some time, I think advanced photographers and videographers will like the plethora of controls.
The OSS in the name means there is stabilization built in. The photo above was shot at 28mm at 1/20. With a good grip, I could push the shutter speed down to 1/5 of a second at 28mm. The stabilization is decent, but because of its weight you can’t push the stabilization quite as much as you could a wide prime.
I wasn’t sure what to expect with the Sony 28-135 f4 being a video-focused lens. But I was pleasantly surprised. It’s sharp, but it’s not the look-at-my-pores, knock-you-over-the-head sharpness I typically find from Sony’s G lenses. It’s more of a blank slate than a character builder. But the versatility is likely going to be a draw for some photographers.
As an f4 lens, there are better bokeh builders out there. But the Sony 28-135mm isn’t lacking bokeh, particularly when getting in close and using that 135mm focal length. There’s a good amount of background separation using the longer end of this lens and shooting wide open.
Points of light are rendered into round bokeh balls. These points of light are slightly less round at the edges but don’t cat-eye as harshly as some lenses. I didn’t spot onion ringing or soap bubbling in those bokeh balls.
Setting my white balance in the camera, I didn’t feel an overwhelming need to edit the colors. Of course, that could be tied to the time of year — light bouncing off orange trees and an orange carpeting of leaves isn’t going to leave the green tint that’s more common over the summer. That said, the lens didn’t seem to skew the colors away from a typical Sony. Colors were slightly more vibrant than in real life but overall a relatively neutral starting point.
Sony is known more for technical superiority than character, and the 28-135mm only has a minor deviation. The lens does have some slight chromatic aberration on RAW files around the backlight. There’s also some minor pincushion distortion at 135mm that’s corrected in JPEgs but slightly noticeable in RAW files.
Flare is largely suppressed. But I could get a soft bloom when pointing the lens directly at a lightbulb. I was hoping for some cinema-style flare, but you don’t get much with this lens.
This lens is sharp, but not Sony sharp. For me, that’s a good thing. I think this lens requires less skin smoothing than some of their other lenses. It’s still plenty sharp, even towards the edges, but it isn’t hurt-my-eyeballs sharp. If you picked Sony because you’re a pixel peeper, you might not like this lens as well as others. Still, look at how sharp this tight crop is, catching the details of the tiny water droplets:
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the product can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
Who Should Buy It?
I’ve been toying with the question of who this lens is for throughout my review. It’s a video-first lens with features like quiet autofocus and power zoom. That makes it an easy choice for hybrid shooters since it doesn’t sacrifice still image quality. Outside of hybrid shooting, what does this lens offer for stills?
The key is its versatility, from 28mm to 135mm, while maintaining the same aperture throughout the zoom range. There are other lenses with a similar wide zoom range, like the Tamron 28-200mm f2.8-5.6. But those other lenses don’t have a constant f4 aperture, with the Tamron having a narrower f5.6 on the long end.
Still, it’s a $2.4k f4 lens when Sony has f2.8 zooms available at that price. And it’s pretty heavy. I’d prefer an f2.8 without as wide of a zoom range, or even the Tamron 28-200mm because at least the wide end has an f2.8 for shooting indoors. It’s not because it’s a bad lens, but because I prefer the versatility of shooting in low light with an f2.8 over the versatility of a wide zoom range.
LensRentals lists the following specifications for the Sony FE 28-135 f4 G PZ OSS:
- Angle of View: 54° – 12°
- Aperture: f4-22
- Autofocus: Autofocus
- Brand: Sony
- Compatibility: Full Frame and Crop
- Diameter: 4.0”
- Dimensions Length: 6.5″
- Filter Size: 95.0mm (nonrotating front element)
- Focal Length: 28.0-135.0
- Hood Included: Yes
- Image Stabilization: Yes
- Item Type: Lens
- Length: 6.4”
- Lens Type: Cine
- Low Dispersion Elements: 3
- Max Aperture: 4.0
- Minimum Aperture: 22.0
- Minimum Focusing Distance: 1.31 feet
- Mount: Sony E
- Weight: 2.68 lbs.
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