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Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA

Introduction

The Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS is a new wide-angle zoom lens for the Sony full-frame FE-mount cameras (A7/A7R/A7S). It features Optical SteadyShot image stabilisation, has five aspherical elements including a large diameter AA (advanced aspherical) element and three ED (extra-low dispersion) elements, is dust- and moisture-resistant, and has a minimum focusing distance of 28cm with a maximum magnification of 0.19x. It has a near-circular 7 blade diaphragm which creates an attractive blur to the out-of-focus areas of the image, while an internal focusing mechanism means the lens barrel doesn’t move, and a ZEISS T* anti-reflective coating minimises flare. The Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS lens is available for around £1289 / $1350 in the UK and the US, respectively.

Ease of Use

Weighing in at 518grams, the metal-bodied Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS feels very well-constructed. It's overall size and weight makes it feel well-balanced on the Sony A7R body that we tested it with, as shown in the photos below. Note that the length of the lens does increase slightly by 2cm when you set the focal length to 16mm.

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZAThe Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS lens mounted on a Sony A7R

The Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS lens mounted on a Sony A7R, set at 16mm

The Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS lens mounted on a Sony A7R, set at 35mm

The Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS lens alongside the Sony A7R

The Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS has a sealed dust and moisture resistant design and is therefore a natural partner for the A7/A7R/A7S cameras.

Side of the Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS lens

The Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS lens boasts built-in Optical SteadyShot image stabilisation to help ensure clearer, sharper handheld shots. This is important as the A7/A7R/A7S bodies don't have a built-in image stabilisation system. In practice we found that the Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS reliably offered around 3-stops of compensation.

The wide and ridged zoom ring and the narrower manual focus ring are the only external controls of note. Manual focusing is possible via the textured focus ring when set on the specific camera body. The lens utilizes double linear motors to produce quiet and smooth focusing, making it well-suited to shooting video.

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZASide of the Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS lens

Front of the Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS lens

Rear of the Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS lens

The Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS lens has a metal lens mount. It accepts 72mm filters via plastic threads.

The Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS lens in-hand

The Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS lens with the ALC-SH132 lens hood fitted

The Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS lens is commendably supplied with both a soft case and a fairly good quality plastic petal-shaped lens hood.

Focal Range

At the 16mm focal length the angle of view is 83 degrees.

Field of view at 16mm

At the 35mm focal length the angle of view is 44 degrees.

Field of view at 35mm

Focusing

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZAThe Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS lens has quite a wide focus ring. There are no hard stops at either end of the range, making it a little more difficult to set focus at infinity. Polariser users should be pleased that the 72mm filter thread doesn't rotate on focus.

When it comes to auto-focusing, the Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS zoom is a quiet and fairly quick performer on the Sony A7R that we tested it with, taking about 0.25 seconds to lock onto the subject.

We didn't experience much "hunting", either in good or bad light, with the lens accurately focusing almost all of the time, and it's also a quiet performer thanks to the linear motor driven internal focusing, making it ideal for movie shooting.

Chromatic Aberrations

Chromatic aberrations, typically seen as blue or purple fringes along contrasty edges, were almost completely absent from our test shots. The examples below show the worst-case scenario.

Light Fall-off and Distortion

With the Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35 mm F4 ZA OSS lens set to its maximum aperture of f/4, there is very obvious light fall-off in the corners, requiring you to stop down by at least 3 f-stops to prevent it. There's quite a lot of barrel distortion evident at 16mm, and at 35mm there's some obvious pin-cushioning too.

Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA Carl Zeiss Sonnar T* FE 55mm F1.8 ZA


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