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Zeiss T* FE 35mm f/2.8
Full-Frame E-Mount (NEX, A7 etc.)

Sample Images   Intro   Specs   Performance

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Sony ZEISS 35mm f/2.8 FE

Sony Zeiss T* FE 35mm f/2.8 (Full-frame and crop-sensor coverage, 49mm filters, 4.2 oz./119 g, 1.15'/0.35m close focus, about $698). enlarge. I got mine at Adorama; I'd also get it at Amazon or at B&H.

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's Zeiss boxes are not sealed 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, store demo, damaged, returned or used product. My approved sources ship from remote automated warehouses where no salespeople or lookie-loos can ever get their greasy fingers on your new lens or drop it before you do. Buy only from the approved sources I use myself for the best prices, service, return policies and selection. Thanks for helping me help you! Ken.


October 2015    Sony   Zeiss   Minolta   Nikon   Canon   Fuji   LEICA   All

Why Fixed Lenses Take Better Pictures


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Red Mercedes, 10 September 2015

Red Mercedes, 10 September 2015. Sony A7R II, Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8, f/8 at 1/320 at Auto ISO 100. Full-resolution image from camera's JPG.


Golf Course Ocean View, 10 September 2015

Golf Course Ocean View, 10 September 2015. Sony A7R II, Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8, wide-open at f/2.8 at 1/1,250 at Auto ISO 100. Camera-original © JPG file.

Can your Sony A7R II do this? Not with most lenses; this is among the sharpest lenses I've tested, and this sample is shot wide-open at f/2.8, where most lenses are softest.


Introduction         top

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Adorama pays top dollar for your used gear.

B&H Photo - Video - Pro Audio

This Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 is a compact and ultrasharp wide lens for Sony's NEX and A7 series of cameras.

It's so sharp that it can excite aliasing on a 42MP Sony A7R II, even wide-open in the corners. Look in the windows of the houses on the upper right at the camera-original © JPG file above (you'll need to see this at 100% on your desktop computer), and you'll see green-magenta color aliases caused by slats in their window blinds — from 1,500 feet (450 meters) away!

This new satellite-grade lens uses three aspheric elements in a insanely new optical design. Its concave front element is the first tip that this isn't your father's 35mm f/2.8.

This lens takes full advantage of the lack of an SLR mirror, putting its rear elements much closer to the image plane than an SLR lens can.



This works on all full-frame and crop-sensor Sony E-mount cameras, which are the NEX and A7 series, among others.

It will not work on any Minolta MAXXUM or Sony A-mount SLRs or DSLRs.



This is a full-frame lens and is reviewed as such.

You may make the usual inferences for use with crop-sensor cameras.



Stellar optical quality.

Metal exterior.

Fast, silent auto and manual focus.



Not priced like your father's 35mm f/2.8.


Sony ZEISS 35mm f/2.8 FE

Sony Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 T*. enlarge.


Specifications         top

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Name       top

Sony calls this the Carl Zeiss Sonnar FE 2,8/35 ZA T*.

   Carl Zeiss: Name of a German lens design company.

   Sonnar: Zeiss' trademarked brand name for some of their lenses back in 1932. Means nothing today, but since it's registered as a trademark, no one else may use it today. Back in 1932 the Sonnar wasn't as good as the Planar normal lens, but used fewer lens groups for more contrast back before lens coatings were invented.

   T*: Zeiss' trademark for its multi coating.

   FE: Full-frame coverage lens for Sony E mount.

   ZA: Solidarity with South Africa.


Optics       top

Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 internal construction

Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 internal construction. Aspherical.

7 elements in 5 groups.

3 aspherical elements.

Linear stepper motor internal focus; nothing moves externally as focussed.

No Fluorine coatings on outer surfaces, no extra ability to repel water, dirt or fingerprints.

Claimed dust and moisture resistant housing.


Diaphragm       top

Sony ZEISS 35mm f/2.8 FE

Sony Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 T*. enlarge.

7 rounded blades.

Looks straight from about f/8, but has poor sunstars.

Stops down to f/22.


Close Focus       top

1.15 feet (0.35 m).


Maximum Reproduction Ratio       top

1:8.3 (0.12x), rated.


Focal Length       top


On APS-C (aka DX or 1.5x or crop-frame) cameras, it gives angles of view similar to what an 50mm lens would give on a 35mm or full-frame camera. See also Crop Factor.


Angles of View        top

63º diagonal on full frame.

44º diagonal on APS-C.


Hood       top

Sony ZEISS 35mm f/2.8 FE

Hooded Sony Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 T*.

Sony ZEISS 35mm f/2.8 FE

ALC-SH129 Hood for Sony Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 T*.

ALC-SH129 plastic bayonet hood included.

If you use it, it has a 40.5mm filter thread.

It is more a filter adapter to use 40.5mm filters instead of 49mm; it offers very little light shielding.


Case        top

None included.

Honestly, the bubble wrap that is included is actually a much better case than the vinyl sacks that come with other Zeiss lenses.

The included bubble-wrap envelope both protects the lens, and lets you see what's inside.


Size       top

2.42" (61.5 mm) diameter x 1.44" (36.5 mm) long.


Weight       top

4.213 oz. (119.45 g), actual measured, without hood.

Sony specifies 4.3 oz. (120g).

Zeiss specifies 4.6 oz. (130g), probably with hood.


Sony Part Numbers        top

SEL35F28Z (complete lens kit).

ALC-SH129 (replacement hood).


Announced       top

January 2014.


Includes       top



ALC-SH131 plastic bayonet hood.


Price, USA        top

$698, September 2015.

$798 at introduction in January 2014.

Sony ZEISS 35mm f/2.8 FE

Box, Sony Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8.


Performance         top

Sample Images   Intro   Specs   Performance

Compared   Recommendations   More

Overall    Autofocus    Bokeh   Distortion

Ergonomics   Falloff    Filters   Focus Breathing

Ghosts   Lateral Color Fringes   Macro   Mechanics

Sharpness   Spherochromatism   Sunstars


Overall     performance      top

The Sony Zeiss FE 2,8/35mm is an optically superb gem.


Focus     performance      top

Focus is via a linear stepper motor, the same thing as Canon's STM lenses.

AF is fast, silent and accurate.


AF Speed

Autofocus is very fast on an A7R II.


Auto/Manual Switching

Just grab the focus ring anytime for instant manual-focus override — but only if you've set your camera to DMF focus mode.


Bokeh     performance      top

Bokeh, the quality of out-of-focus areas as opposed to the degree of defocus, is superb.

You won't often see anything out of focus unless you're close and shooting at f/2.8, but if you are, it's very smooth.

Here's a full-frame sample shot wide open from headshot distance. Click for the original © file:

Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 FE bokeh

Shot at f/2.8 on full-frame on an A7R II. Camera-original © file.


Distortion     performance      top

The Sony Zeiss 35 2.8 has no visible distortion as shot on the Sony A7R II, which is probably correcting it.

For more critical photogrammetric, reconnaissance, mapping and surveying, use a value of +0.40 Photoshop's Lens Distortion tool to remove any residual distortion shot at 3m (10'), although there is some minor waviness left over.

These aren't facts or specifications, they are the results of my research that requires hours of photography and calculations on the resulting data.


Ergonomics     performance      top

Sony ZEISS 35mm f/2.8 FE

Sony Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8 T*.

It's a metal shell covering plastic guts.

The focus ring isn't connected to anything; it's just an encoder which hopefully will be interpreted properly by your camera to drive the electronic focus motors.

On my A7R II manual-focus is mediocre. It works, but it feels disconnected because it is.


Falloff (darkened corners)     performance      top

Falloff is completely invisible as shot on the A7R II, which I presume is correcting much of it.

I've greatly exaggerated the falloff by shooting a flat gray target and presenting it against a gray background:


Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 falloff on A7R II

Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 falloff
Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 falloff
Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 falloff
Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 falloff

© 2015 KenRockwell.com. All rights reserved.



Filters, Use with     performance      top

There's no problem with vignetting even with a huge stack of many filters.

There's no need for thin filters; any regular thick or rotating filters work great.


Focus Breathing     performance      top

Focus breathing (the image changing size as focused) is mostly of interest to cinematographers who don't want the image changing size ("breathing") as the lens is focused among different subjects.

Focus breathing is minimal. The image gets only very slightly larger as focussed more closely. I wouldn't worry about it, this is about as breathing-free as you can get.


Flare & Ghosts       performance     top

Flare resistance is excellent. I see no ghosts:

Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 ghosts

Bright light on right.

I see no ectoplasm.


Lateral Color Fringes     performance      top

There are almost no lateral color fringes, at least as shot on the A7R II. There may be a fraction of a pixel of blue-yellow, but you won't see it outside the lab.

There will be some spherochromatism if you aren't in perfect focus, but that's a completely different aberration.


Macro     performance      top

Macro doesn't get that close. Here's the best you'll get on full-frame:

Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8  macro performance

Genuine Rolex Submariner at close-focus distance at f/8 on full frame.


Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8  macro performance

Crop from above at 100%. If this is about 6" (15cm) on your screen, printing the complete image at this same high magnification would result in a 80 x 55" (6.5 x 4.5 feet or 2.1 x 1.4 meter) print!

This is super-sharp. At f/2.8 you usually will get some color fringes due to slight defocus and spherochromatism.


Mechanics     performance      top

Sony ZEISS 35mm f/2.8 FE

Sony Zeiss FE 35mm f/2.8. enlarge.

The Sony Zeiss 35/2.8 is mostly metal on the outside and mostly plastic on the inside. It feels nice compared to plastic, but not as nice as an all-metal lens


Filter Threads



Identity Ring



Hood Mount



Front Barrel

Anodized aluminum.


Focus Ring

Anodized aluminum.



Mostly plastic.


Rear Barrel



Moisture seal at mount




Mostly engraved.


Serial Number

Sticker glued on bottom of barrel.

It's simply stuck on the flat of the barrel; there is no indentation.

— also —

Engraved and filled with paint on front of lens.

Sony ZEISS 35mm f/2.8 FE

Made in Japan — with a stick-on serial number!



Chromed metal.


Noises When Shaken

Very light clicking.


Rear Light Baffle



Made in



Sharpness     performance      top

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 Zeiss 35mm is extremely sharp throughout all of the full frame image at every setting. If you're not getting sharp images, you're doing something wrong.

It's super-sharp wide open, and diffraction will dull the image at the smallest apertures.


Sony's Zeiss MTF curves:

Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 MTF

10 cyc/mm, 20 cyc/mm and 40 cyc/mm.

MTF at f/2.8

Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 MTF

10 cyc/mm, 20 cyc/mm and 40 cyc/mm.

MTF at f/8


Spherochromatism     performance      top

Spherochromatism, erroneously called color bokeh by laymen, isn't usually seen in slow wide-angle lenses, but I can see some in this lens.

Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 spherochromatism

Senal ASM-5: Spherochromatism at f/2.8. bigger.

Out-of-focus highlights just behind the plane of focus might have green fringes, and out-of-focus highlights closer than the plane of focus will have magenta fringes at the largest apertures.

This makes for very smooth background bokeh when plants are behind your subject, but also often visible color fringes near the plane of perfect focus if you have sharp white/black transitions.


Sunstars     performance      top

Sony Zeiss 35 2.8 sunstars

Sunstar, f/11. bigger.


Sony Zeiss 35 2.8 sunstars

Sunstar, f/16. bigger.

With its 7-blade rounded diaphragm, this Sony Zeiss 35mm f/2.8 makes crummy sunstars, if any at all. Good luck, this is the best I could do.


Compared         top

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This is a unique lens.

No other 35mm f/2.8 lens has anywhere near the optical technology of this lens. It is significantly sharper wide-open than anything from Canon or Nikon.


Recommendations         top

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This 35/2.8 is significantly sharper than any zoom for Sony, so it you really want to get all the pixels for which you paid with Sony's latest cameras, you need this lens.

Like taking a foreign-language class for a language in which you are already fluent, this lens gets an easy A+ for anyone shooting with the Sony system.

There are very few lenses native to Sony's unique E mount, whose short flange focal distance lets lens designers design superior lenses like this that cannot be made for SLRs. Because there is no flipping reflex mirror to clear, this lens has all the sharpness advantages of rangefinder lenses.

If shooting a Sony E-mount camera, you need one of these, and there are no real substitutes other than the significantly bigger and heavier Sony Zeiss FE 35mm f/1.4. Attempting to adapt a Sony or Alpha or MAXXUM lens will work, but be bigger, clunkier, and lack the optical performance.

If you're reading this, just get one. Like a Porsche, there is no substitute, unless you prefer the faster Sony Zeiss FE 35mm f/1.4.

This ad-free website's biggest source of support is when you get yours via these links to it at Adorama; I'd also get it at Amazon or at B&H. When you use those or any of these links to approved sources when you get anything, regardless of the country in which you live, it helps me keep adding to this free website — but I receive nothing for my efforts if you take the chance of buying elsewhere. Unlike a bottle of milk or a CD, Sony and Zeiss don't seal their boxes at all, so you have no idea if you're getting a used, returned, incomplete or damaged product if you risk buying at retail. Never buy at retail. I use the sources I do because they have the best prices, service, return policies and selection— and they ship from secure remote warehouses where no customers or salesmen can get their sticky hands on your new camera before you do.

Thanks for helping me help you!



More Information         top

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Zeiss' 35/2.8 page.

Sony's 35/2.8 page.

Another Sony 35/2.8 page.


© Ken Rockwell. All rights reserved. Tous droits réservés. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.


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September 2015