Sony Zeiss 16-35mm

Full-Frame FE Vario-Tessar T* OSS

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Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm

Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* 16-35mm f/4 FE OSS (fits Sony NEX only, metal 72mm filter thread, 18.4 oz./520 g, 0.9'/0.28m close-focus, about $1,248). bigger. I got mine at B&H. I'd also get it at Adorama, at Amazon or at Crutchfield.

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Sony and Zeiss do not seal any of their boxes, so never buy at retail or any source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, dropped, damaged or used lens, a customer return or if the warranty has already been registered to someone else online! The approved sources I use ship from secure, remote automated warehouses where salespeople or other customers never, ever get to touch your lens before you do, and they have the best prices, selection, service and return policies.

 

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How to use ultra-wideangle lenses

Full-Frame Ultrawide Lenses Compared

 

Sample Images

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Christmas Lights, 14 November 2015

Christmas Lights, 14 November 2015. Sony A7R II, Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at 16mm at f/8 for 30 seconds at ISO 100. bigger or full-resolution © JPG to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display these at full resolution).

 

Japan at f/4, 13 November 2015

Japan at f/4, 13 November 2015. Sony A7R II, Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at 26mm at f/4 at 1 second hand-held on table, ISO 100. bigger or camera-original © JPG to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display these at full resolution).

 

Japan at f/8, 13 November 2015

Japan at f/8, 13 November 2015. Sony A7R II, Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at 26mm at f/8 at 5 seconds hand-held on table, ISO 100. bigger or camera-original © JPG to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display these at full resolution).

 

Katie at Lulu's

Luminous Floating Toroid, 13 November 2015. Sony A7R II, Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at 16mm at f/4 at 1/25 hand-held at ISO 800. bigger, full-resolution JPG or camera-original © file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display these at full resolution).

 

Jewelry Store, 14 November 2015

Jewelry Store, 14 November 2015. Sony A7R II, Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at 35mm at f/8 at 1/500 at Auto ISO 100. bigger or camera-original © JPG to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display these at full resolution).

 

ACS Discovery Shop, 14 November 2015

ACS Discovery Shop, 14 November 2015. Sony A7R II, Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at 34mm at f/6.3 at 1/160 at Auto ISO 100. bigger or camera-original © JPG to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display these at full resolution).

 

Mangia Bene Cucina, 14 November 2015

Italy, 14 November 2015. Sony A7R II, Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at 16mm at f/4 at 1/10 hand-held at ISO 400. bigger or full-resolution JPG to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display these at full resolution).

 

Mollie's Chickens, 15 November 2015

How not to use an ultrawideangle lens, 15 November 2015. Sony A7R II, Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at 16mm at f/4 handheld at 1/30 at Auto ISO 200. bigger.

 

Katie at Lulu's

Katie at Lulu's, 14 November 2015. Sony A7R II, Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS at 35mm at f/4 at 1/125 at Auto ISO 2,000, Perfectly Clear V2. bigger.

 

Introduction

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Until the introduction of the Sony 16-35/2.8 G, the Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 f/4 OSS was the world's best ultrawide lens for full-frame Sony NEX cameras like the A7R II.

While other state-of-the-art lenses like the Canon 16-35mm f/4 L IS, Nikon 16-35m f/4 VR and LEICA SUPER-ELMARIT M 21mm f/3.4 are fantastic when used on their own cameras, this Zeiss is far better than any of them when used on Sony's cameras.

While it's easy to adapt anything to Sony's NEX cameras, adapted ultrawides work poorly. Adapted ultrawides don't interface well at random acute angles of incidence at the sides of sensors, making them both much softer and far more susceptible to ghost images than this native Sony Zeiss FE lens. See my comparisons where I show this; other ultrawides work poorly when adapted to Sony, while this Zeiss looks awesome.

This Zeiss also handles much better than adapted lenses, with autofocus and auto aperture control and EXIF communication you can't get with an adapted lens.

While the similar Nikon, Canon and LEICA full-frame ultrawides are at least as good as this made-in-Thailand Zeiss lens optically, only this Zeiss lens actually works properly on Sony cameras, with sharp corners and no phantom ghost images in the corners.

It has plastic innards covered by a metal outer shell.

It has an electronic manual focus ring, that if activated in the camera, can allow manual focus.

 

Compatibility

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It only works on Sony's NEX series of cameras.

 

Format

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It's a full-frame lens and I'm reviewing it that way.

it works great on cropped-sensor cameras, but it's a complete waste of money, considering that the 16-50mm OSS does the same thing — and more — on a cropped-sensor camera.

You're paying the big bucks for this lens to get great performance over a large sensor, which you don't need with a cropped-sensor camera.

 

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm

Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* 16-35mm f/4 FE OSS. bigger.

 

Specifications

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Name

Sony calls this the Zeiss Vario-Tessar FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS T*.

    Zeiss: Brand name of famous German lens company. (Lens is actually made by Sony under license in Thailand; it's not made by Zeiss.)

    Vario-Tessar: Zeiss' trade name for a zoom lens.

    FE: Full frame coverage lens for Sony's NEX cameras.

    ZA: Solidarity with South Africa.

    OSS: Image Stabilization. lets you leave the tripod at home.

    T*: Zeiss' trademark for multicoating, standard on all camera lenses of all brands since the 1970s;

 

Optics

Sony Zeiss internal construction

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 T* OSS internal diagram. Aspheric elements and ED elements.

12 elements in 10 groups.

Five aspheric elements, one of which (the front element) Sony calls "Super Aspheric."

Three ED glass elements.

Internal focussing.

Pumper zoom; front section moves in and out as zoomed.

It's multicoated, which Zeiss calls T*.

 

Close Focus

0.92 feet (0.28 meters) from the image plane.

 

Maximum Reproduction Ratio

1:5.3 (0.19x).

 

Diaphragm

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS. bigger.

7 rounded blades.

Stops down to f/22.

 

Coverage

Full frame, as well as smaller formats.

 

Focal Length

16~35mm.

When used on an APS-C camera, it sees angles of view similar to what a 24-50mm lens sees when used on a full-frame or 35mm camera.

 

Angles of View

107º ~ 63° diagonal on full-frame.

83º ~ 44° diagonal on APS-C.

 

Hard Infinity Focus Stop?

No.

You have to let the AF system focus at infinity.

 

Focus Scale

No.

 

Depth-of-Field Scale

No.

 

Infra-Red Focus Index

No.

 

Aperture Ring

No.

 

Filter Thread

72mm.

Metal.

 

Hood

Sony ALC SH134 Hood

Sony ALC SH134 hood. bigger.

ALC SH134 hybrid metal & plastic bayonet hood, included.

 

Case

Sony Zeiss 16-35mm bag

Included unpadded drawstring vinyl sack. bigger.

 

Size

3⅛" (78 mm) diameter by 4" (98.5 mm) extension from flange, at 35mm setting.

It gets longer at 16mm setting:

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm

Zeiss FE 16-35mm at 16mm. bigger.

 

Weight

18.350 (520.3 g), actual measured weight.

Rated 18.3 oz. (518 g).

 

Included

Lens.

Caps.

ALC-SH134 hood.

Sack.

Big folded multilingual instruction sheet.

Paperwork.

 

Quality

Made in Thailand.

 

Sony's Model Number

SEL1635Z.

 

Announced

15 September 2014.

 

Price, USA

June 2017: $1,248.

November 2015: $1,348.

 

Box

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm box

Box, Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm. bigger.

Microcorrugated cardboard box.

Lens in bubble wrap, put in case, and that's put in more bubble wrap

Microcorrugami insert to hold this at one end.

 

Performance

Top   Sample Images   Intro   Compatibility   Format   Specs

Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

Overall    Autofocus    Bokeh   Distortion   Ergonomics

Falloff    Filters   Lateral Color Fringes   Macro   Mechanics   

Sharpness   Sunstars   Image Stabilization

 

Overall

The Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm has superb optics and handles well.

 

Focus

Autofocus

Autofocus is fast and accurate, no worries here.

 

Manual Focus

It focuses by wire, and since autofocus is so great, I don't know why I'd use manual focus for anything other than to keep the focus locked for some reason.

 

Bokeh

Bokeh, the quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to the degree of defocus, is only fair, but it doesn't matter since it's nearly impossible to get anything out of focus with a lens as slow and as wide as this.

Here are samples shot wide open from headshot distance. Click either for the camera-original file to explore on your computer (portable devices rarely can display the full resolution of these files):

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm  f/4 OSS Bokeh

Shot on A7R II full-frame at 16mm at f/4 at 1/640 at ISO 100. bigger or camera-original file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display the full resolution).

 

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS Bokeh

Shot on A7R II full-frame at 35mm at f/4 at 1/500 at ISO 100. bigger or camera-original file to explore on your computer (mobile devices rarely can display the full resolution).

While you're here, notice how the spider webs are exceptionally sharp are in the center where they are in focus. The sides are out of focus; this isn't shot straight-on.

 

Distortion

As shot on the Sony A7R II, the Zeiss FE 16-35 has moderately strong barrel distortion at 16mm and moderately strong pincushion distortion from 24mm through 35mm.

Thankfully it's mostly low-order distortion, so these values in Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool will completely remove it. These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.

 

at 3m (10')

16mm

+3.4
20mm
-0.7
24mm
-2.1
28mm
-2.0
35mm
-3.0

© 2015 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

Ergonomics

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm

Zeiss FE 16-35mm. bigger.

This is an easy lens to shoot. The big zoom ring moves smartly and smoothly.

The focus ring turns well, but it only does something if you set your camera just right.

If feels like it is: a metal shell over a plastic lens.

 

Falloff

Falloff is completely invisible as shot on the Sony cameras.

It's not a problem even in the extreme case of exaggerating it by shooting a gray field and showing it on a gray background:

Zeiss FE 16-35mm falloff, full frame

 
f/4
f/5.6
f/8
16mm Nikon MMmm f/FF falloff Nikon MMmm f/FF falloff Nikon MMmm f/FF falloff
24mm Nikon MMmm f/FF falloff Nikon MMmm f/FF falloff Nikon MMmm f/FF falloff
35mm Nikon MMmm f/FF falloff Nikon MMmm f/FF falloff Nikon MMmm f/FF falloff

© 2015 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.

 

 

Filters, use with

On full-frame; two stacked normal filters work with no vignetting as wide as 18mm.

Go ahead and use your standard rotating grad filters, but if you have a very thick one, it may pay to use a thinner one like the Tiffen HT grads.

Don't use polarizers on ultrawide lenses; nature looks funny through them. This is the case for all ultrawides.

 

Lateral Color Fringes

There is just a little bit of blue/violet fringing on a 42MP A7R II.

I wouldn't worry about it.

 

Macro

Macro doesn't get very close, considering how wide is this lens. Here's as good as you can get on full-frame:

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm macro performance

Longines 23ZS at close-focus distance at 35mm at f/8. bigger.

 

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm macro performance

Crop from above at 100%. If this is about 8" (20cm) on your screen, printing the complete image at this same high magnification would result in a 50 x 80" (125 x 200 cm) print!

It's super-sharp at f/8, but it's not so hot at f/4 at macro distances.

 

Mechanics

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm f/4 OSS. bigger.

The Sony Zeiss FE 16-35 is a metal shell protecting plastic innards. Yes, the mount really is a little pink.

 

Filter Threads

Anodized aluminum.

 

Hood Mount

Anodized aluminum.

 

Front Barrel

Anodized aluminum.

 

Focus Ring

Anodized aluminum.

 

Zoom Ring

Anodized aluminum.

 

Internals

Seem like all plastic.

 

Rear Barrel

Metal.

 

Identity

Engraved on metal ring inside filter threads.

 

Dust seal at mount

No.

 

Mount

Chromed metal.

Slightly pink.

 

Markings

Engraved and filled with paint.

 

Serial Numbers

1.) Engraved on front identity ring.

2.) Sticker from Sony with a different printed number glued to the bottom of the barrel..

 

Date Code

None found.

 

Noises When Shaken

Moderate clunking.

 

Made in

Thailand.

 

Sharpness

Image sharpness depends more on you than your lens, and lens sharpness doesn't mean much to good photographers. It's the least skilled hobbyists who waste the most time blaming fuzzy pictures on their lenses, while real shooters know that few photos ever use all the sharpness of which their lenses are capable due to subject motion and the fact that real subjects are rarely perfectly flat.

This Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm is super sharp from edge-to-edge at all apertures, whoo hoo! There's no problem here.

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm MTF at 200mm
Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm MTF at 200mm

MTF at 16mm at f/4 at 10 cyc/mm, 20 cyc/mm and 40 cyc/mm.

MTF at 16mm at f/8 at 10 cyc/mm, 20 cyc/mm and 40 cyc/mm.

 

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm MTF at 200mm
Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm MTF at 200mm

MTF at 35mm at f/4 at 10 cyc/mm, 20 cyc/mm and 40 cyc/mm.

MTF at 35mm at f/8 at 10 cyc/mm, 20 cyc/mm and 40 cyc/mm.

 

Sunstars

Sunstars are great! We get good sunstars at just about every aperture:

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm sunstars

Sunstar at f/5.6. bigger.

 

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm sunstars

Sunstar at f/8. bigger.

 

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm sunstars

Sunstar at f/11. bigger.

 

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm sunstars

Sunstar at f/16. bigger.

 

Sony Zeiss FE 16-35mm sunstars

Sunstar at f/22. bigger.

 

Image Stabilization

Image Stabilization (OSS) isn't critical for ultrawide lenses, but its nice to have.

It's not smart; it doesn't know when you're already on a tripod.

If you're on a tripod or resting on a table, turn it OFF otherwise it will blur images made with exposure times around one second!

 

Compared

Top   Sample Images   Intro   Compatibility   Format   Specs

Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

 

See also Full-Frame Ultrawide Lenses Compared.

 

The Sony 16-35mm f/2.8 GM is bigger, heavier, faster, tougher, more expensive and adds a focus-lock button, but lacks image stabilization. Get this Zeiss for lighter weight and hand-held images of things that hold still, like interiors, nature and landscapes, but get the 16-35mm f/2.8 GM for sports, news, action or if you're going to abuse it physically or if you want the ultimate optical performance (both of these are superb) and don't need stabilization.

 

Adapting other brands to a Sony give poor results:

Canon 5DSR vs. Sony A7 II 17 October 2015

Sony A7R II & LEICA 21mm f/3.4 ASPH versus Canon 5DSR & 20mm f/2.8 USM

Sony A7 versus LEICA M240 vs. Canon 5D Mk III w/LEICA 21mm f/3.4 ASPH& 20mm f/2.8 USM

 

Recommendations

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Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

This Zeiss is optically superb. It is far better when used on Sony than any other lens adapted to it.

The very best protective filter is the 72mm Hoya multicoated HD3 UV which uses hardened glass and repels dirt and fingerprints, and is also multicoated.

For less money, the B+W 72mm 010 is an excellent filter, as are the multicoated version and the basic multicoated Hoya filters, but the Hoya HD3 is the toughest and the best.

Filters last a lifetime, so you may as well get the best. The Hoya HD3 stays cleaner than the others since it repels oil and dirt.

 

Where to Get Yours

I got mine at B&H. I'd also get it at Adorama, at Amazon or at Crutchfield.

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live. Sony and Zeiss does not seal its boxes in any way, so never buy at retail or any source not on my personally approved list since you'll have no way of knowing if you're missing accessories, getting a defective, dropped, damaged or used product, a customer return or if the warranty has already been registered to someone else online! The approved sources I use ship from secure, remote automated warehouses where salespeople or other customers never, ever get to touch your lens before you do, and they have the best prices, selection, service and return policies.

Thanks for helping me help you!

Ken, Mrs. Rockwell, Ryan and Katie.

 

More Information

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Performance   Compared   Recommendations   More

 

Zeiss' 16-35mm page

 

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24 June 2017, 16 November 2015