Carl Zeiss E 4/16-70 ZA OSS for Sony Nex Review

9922599423_77816c68ee_o.jpg

 

Introduction

The Carl Zeiss 16-70mm 1:4 made by Sony is an expensive standard lens for the Nex / APS-C E-mount line of cameras. It combines a very useful focal range with a decent moderate speed and size.

All in all I think it is an interesting lens but it has some weaknesses which will be a deal breaker for some photographers.

You can buy the Zeiss 4/16-70 at Amazon.com for $998or for 799€ at Amazon.de (affiliate links)

About this review

I am a landscape and nature photographer and focus more on aspects which are important to me.

All images are taken with a Nex-6, processed with Adobe Lightroom 4 and can be found in full resolution at flickr by clicking on the image.

Specifications

Size (diameter x length): 66mm x 75mm
Filter Thread: 55mm
Weight: 308g
Cose Focusing Distance / max. Reproduction Ration: 0.35 m / 1:4.35

Visit Sony to get the full specififcations.

 

9922459396_c68bd897ce_o.jpg

 

Size & Weight

You can see the images above, the lens it not much bigger than the average 18-55 Kit lens and therefore a perfect match for the Nex. It weights about 300g. Comparable DSLR lenses weight about 450gwhich is a very noticeable difference.

Build quality

Is quite nice and the lens feels like a premium lens but it does not feel as robust as a professional lens to me (as for example the Sony 70-400G SSM does).

The zoom-ring is made from metal and is perfectly damped and feels a little better than the SEL1855’s.

It is the same for the focusing ring, manual focus works quite well with a nice transmission.

The inner barrel and filter thread are made from plastic, play is minimal (which is less than with the SEL1855).

AF

AF is pretty snappy and noiseless. I don’t own many E-Mount AF lenses but it is much quicker that the 50/1.8, hunting is rarely seen.

The precision was pretty high, I got 3 or 4 misses while taking 1200 pictures.

Image stabilizer

It works well and is noiseless.

As I did not perform a test series I can not tell you about how effective it really is.

I got sharp images @70mm with a shutter speed of 1/25 sec, see the image below.

10056503256_1d65c8287a_c.jpg

70mm_f56_SEL1670F4Z_FullResolution by reevedata, on Flickr

Optical performance

When I ran some initial tests I was quite disappointed by the lousy corner sharpness at 50mm and above.

It turns out that Sony had sent me a severely decentered copy. So while one corner turned in a lousy performance another one was  okay.

For my testing I decided to use the best corner and assume that a correctly centered copy would perform as well or better in all 4 corners.

10056892783_7367d0d7e3_o.jpg

Flare resistance

If the full sun is in the frame the image won’t be usable

9965004754_8beaa335ee_c.jpg

SEL1670Z_FullResolution (5 von 12) by reevedata, on Flickr

But when it is partially shaded the lens performs quite nice

9977892343_aef39cc033_c.jpg

Bokeh

The bokeh is really nice with pretty smooth transitions an not defined highlight disks. Exceptional for a zoom.

Sometimes minor onion-rings can be seen.

9965108693_3265e7277c_c.jpg

SEL1670Z_FullResolution (1 von 12) by reevedata, on Flickr

9818753014_0235d2c16f_c.jpg

ZEISSHD by Phillip Reeve, on Flickr

9965006374_41fbc422c0_c.jpg

SEL1670Z_FullResolution (3 von 12) by reevedata, on Flickr

10056581903_7fcc15b210_c.jpg

31mm f5.6 SEL1670F4Z FullResolution by reevedata, on Flickr

Colors and Contrast

I was really happy with the colors and contrast, but that is a subjective impression and not based on any methodical testing. I think this can be attributed to the Zeiss T* coatings.

Distortion

As I mostly do landscapes so I didn’t check it, unlike with the 18-105 or 16-50PZ distortions are not so severe that you have to correct them.

If it helps I took some photographs of a A4 sized sheet of paper.

16mm | 35mm | 70mm

Sharpness

Please remember that my lens was decentered, a perfectly centered lens might perform better!

Please click on the images to see them in full resolution.

16mm
16mm

Analysis
The outer corners are never really good.

The rest of the frame is sharp from f/4 with a slight improvement when stopping down once.
Diffraction results in a small drop in sharpness at f/8 and a bigger drop at f/11.

9964981505_415a4618bb_c.jpg

SEL1670Z_FullResolution (2 von 12) by reevedata, on Flickr

10056556563_83371aafdd_c.jpg

16mm_f8_SEL1670F4Z_FullResolution by reevedata, on Flickr

9852650836_3e3e3884fd_c.jpg

16mm_f11_SEL1670F4Z_FullResolution (2 von 8) by reevedata, on Flickr

9817810676_552d8f7448_c.jpg

16mm_f9_SEL1670F4Z by reevedata, on Flickr

19mm
19mmCenter

19mmMidframe

19mmCornerR
Analysis
The center of the image is great even at f/4, diffraction sets in at f/8 and becomes really obvious at f/11.

The midzone benefits from stopping down to f/5.6 .
Corners are better than at 16mm but not perfect. They improve a little bit when one stops down 1 or 2 stops.

10056575443_5d702828b1_c.jpg

mm_f_SEL1670F4Z__FullResolution (6 von 16) by reevedata, on Flickr

10056559893_ffb07c2acb_c.jpg

21mm_f8_SEL1670F4Z_FullResolution by reevedata, on Flickr

28mm

28mmCenter

28mmMidframe

28mmRightCorner

Analysis
Center: excellent from f/4, small drop at f/8. significant drop in sharpness at f/11
Midframe: f/5.6 is optimal here
Corner: stop down to f/5.6 for best decent, f/8 is about the same.

35mm

10056511346_00a59bcb93_c.jpg

39mm_f_SEL1670F4Z__FullResolution (7 von 16) by reevedata, on Flickr

10056544283_9732e68c78_c.jpg

34mm_f8_SEL1670F4Z_FullResolution by reevedata, on Flickr

9817806976_30ebec5ae2_c.jpg

34mm_f9_SEL1670F4Z34mm_f9_SEL1670F4Z by reevedata, on Flickr

50mm10056517176_0b58a9217f_c.jpg

53mm_f_SEL1670F4Z__FullResolution (5 von 16) by reevedata, on Flickr

Analysis
Center:  the image is somewhat soft at f/4. This softness is gone at f/5.6 which is the optimal aperture.
Midframe: f/4 is significantly worse than f/5.6  which is the opimal value
Corner: the corners never become really shar, performance is best at f/8 and f/11

70mm

please remember that the lens is decentered! It is most obvious at the long end.

Analysis
Center:  the image is somewhat soft at f/4. This softness is gone at f/5.6 which is the optimal aperture.
Midframe: f/4 is significantly worse than f/5.6  which is the opimal value
Corner: soft at f/4 they reach acceptable sharpness once stopped down.

10056541563_1f40540d01_c.jpg

70mm_f8_SEL1670F4Z_FullResolution by reevedata, on Flickr

10056479855_28cb6719c7_c.jpg

70mm f8 SEL1670F4Z FullResolution by reevedata, on Flickr

9965099143_f3138dd015_c.jpg

70mm f/5.6 SEL1670Z FullResolution by reevedata, on Flickr

Conclusion

If we look at the sharpness of the images we get mixed results: The center sharpness is excellent at all focal lenghts, only above 50mm I would stop down to f/5.6 for best results.
The corners are not very good at the wide end of the focal range, demanding landscape photographers won’t be happy with this performance.

Photographers who do not print big will like the lens a lot as a great one lens solution: It is fast, small, versatile and the images are very punchy. And the OSS is a handy feature.

I have since reviewed the Zeiss 4/24-70 on my Alpha 7 and I had much more fun with the SEL1670z which is probably the reason why I got better results out of it.

The biggest weaknesses of the lens I see is the really steep price, if it was priced at 600$/€ I would recommend it to every one.
At the current price one has to consider whether it’s worth it. After all the kit lenses are not that much worse optically.

Affiliate Links

It took me many hours to complete this review, if you would like to support my blog please consider using one of my affiliate links:

Zeiss 4/16-70 at Amazon.com | Amazon.de

Some more samples

You can find more samples by visiting my flickr account.

Even more samples

These are optimized for web-display and can’t be enlarged.

9970961184_d332e21489_o.jpg

9977752715_1cd4358222_o.jpg

9977892343_ea487dbe7d_o.jpg

9977892843_dc895122e2_o.jpg

10001611294_a046177aa3_o.jpg

 

Other interesting articles

Sony 4/24-70 Review

Manual lenses on the Sony Alpha 7 – A beginners guide

The following two tabs change content below.
I like to be outside with my camera and I am also a gear head with a love for manual lenses.

Latest posts by Phillip Reeve (see all)

38 thoughts on “Carl Zeiss E 4/16-70 ZA OSS for Sony Nex Review”

  1. Hi Phillip
    Your review helped me a lot .
    After saw your review of, I am very disappointed with the new zeiss zoom lens,
    and stop my shopping plan …..
    Do you think the 18-105 f4 will have better corner img at 70 than zeiss 16-70?
    I am still not sure to buy this 16-70 zeiss or waiting for the new 18-105 G
    Best regards!
    Thanks you

    1. if they can’t perfect a shorter zoom, how are they going to perfect a longer zoom?.
      in fact the 18-105 is cheaper than 16-70. do you expect the 18-105 to out perform a more expensive lens?. that is 16-70

  2. Hi Phillip,

    Great review, it helped me. Can we assume you are in the process of having the company replace the decentered lens? If so, it would be nice to follow up this review with an update to address the issues mentioned.

    Regards,
    Matt

    1. Hey Matt,
      I returned the lens and didn’t get another copy because of the a7 announcement.
      Now I use a a7 exclusively, my Nex-6 is sold.

      Maybe there will be a chance to revisit it in the future but don#t expect anything soon.

      Phillip

  3. Hi Phillip,

    Thanks for the review (I read the original on FM forums), it was very helpful. Unlike Zhi, I ended up buying the lens – your work shows that it is a very capable lens, just that the buyer should be careful to pay attention to de-centering issues. Despite having a decent stable of Canon FD SSC glass, this lens is my go-to now. I much appreciate its’ rendering and combination of size + small minimum focusing distance. One would be hard pressed to get this in any other 24-105 equivalent lens!

  4. Hello Philip,
    A big thanks indeed for your review, I found it rather helpful indeed. I bought this lens right on last Christmas… To treat myself after buying everyone-else’s present! It replaced the well regarded Sony SAL1650F2.8 + LA EA2 adapter combination, which was simply too cumbersome and unwieldy on my Nex7.

    Despite all reviews mentioning the soft corners, I actually found my copy of this lens to improve upon the corner performance of my Alpha mount 16mm – 50mm f2.8 lens with both set to their optimal f5.6 stop.

    As a compact walk-about lens, this lens reign supreme for Sony E mount users. Nothing is perfect, but having this lens on my Nex 7 makes me want to keep it with me everywhere I go unlike the SAL1650F2.8 + LA EA2 on the Nex 7 which not only weighs the same as typical DSLRs, and lacks optical stabilization as well.

    While I do have most of the E mount primes, my daily walk about ensemble now comprise the SEL1018F4, this SEL1670F4, and the LA EA2 + SAL55300 (55mm – 300mm) tele zoom. The entire ensemble from 10mm UWA to 300mm telephoto fits into a tiny Domke F10 sling bag!

    Finally, as with any other photographers, I am anxious to expand towards the A7R, but for now I am contend to wait for Sony to fill up their FE lens program before going FF.

  5. Thank you for the review. Was wondering how this lens compared to the 24 1.8? I have budget for just one lens and it boils down to the 24 1.8 and 16-70 4. Do you have any thoughts comparing these two lenses? Thank you! (I’m going to be using it on the a6000)

    1. Sorry, I have never used the 1.8/24 but it isn’t the greatest lens when it comes to landscapes, so I would expect it to be only marginally better than the 1670

  6. I think that problem is that this review is making me have doubts on the lens. Sony should hand you a good one to do a review! 🙁

  7. How does one know if a lens is “decentered”? I have a chance to purchase a used f/4 16-70 for an A7 and would like to know how to test this. Also, the current zoom lens advertised for the A7 and A7R is either a f/3.5-5 28-70 (kit) or f/4 28-70. The latter has a higher price tag than any f/4 16-70 I’ve seen. Is it because it’s better glass?

  8. Great review. Very helpful since the 1670f4 doesnt seem to be widely reviewed.
    I’m considering this lens to go with my new a6000, but am concerned about the large amount of bad copies that Sony is selling.

    I didnt quite understand how you tested the lens to rule out that you received a bad copy. Can you explain this again? as an amateur, what should I look for when i buy the 1670 to see if I have a good copy or not?

  9. Your pictures could sell me any lens! In one off your shots it says “stitch from five images – what do you mean by that? Just ordered one of these 🙂

  10. Thanks for a good review this will help me a lot . A6000 and 16-70 on order from B & H. Was thinking about the Zeiss a Touit 2 package deal but I decided to stick with the 16-70.

  11. Thanks for the review, Philipp.
    When I first read it last year, I was a disappointed and stopped thinking about buying the lens, because of the corner issues.
    But I came back to the review and concentrated on the pictures and found some of them irresistable (ok most due to the photographer, but coulors, contrasts and even center sharpness look pretty good) . So I bought the lens and I’m happy with it. Haven’t made a test for decentering, yet, but the lens is way better then the kit-zooms (both). And some corner weakness seems to be common with all zooms.

    For me NEX6 or a6000 and the 1670 is the perfect travel-unit, leightwight and pretty good quality.

    1. Hi Günter,
      thats describes my feelings towards the lens as well, I wasn’t impressed by the technical performance at first but the I came to like the lens quite a bit.
      I have rewritten the conclusion to make my opinion somewhat clearer.

  12. Hi,
    I want buy a Zeiss 16/70 F4 for a Sony alpha 6000
    I don’t use a zoom ,only a fixe lens
    but I need a second camera and I find a set 6000 + zeiss
    whit a good price
    I see you picture and test is very helpful
    can you say is good lens for the price I work in B&W most of time ,have got two zeiss 24mm f1.8 and 55 mm
    but I need a second camera my question what is a good choice
    for a zoom

    best regard
    GILLES

  13. Hi Philip,

    Thanks for this review, and the great pics you posted. I love the sunrise shots! Your review was one of the reasons I decided to buy this quite expensive lens. Although it’s expensive I really love it. Luckily my Zeiss isn’t decentered like yours is, if mine had the same problem I would return it.

  14. Pingback: Anonymous
  15. hi, this is my only lens that I am using. what to do Zeiss is known for its sharpness and clarity and also its high price. This is only reason I bought the Sony Nex-6. Early I was using the Sony Nex 5N but it broke down after a month. i bought it second hand and the cost of repair can buy me another second hand Nex 6. Since the mirror less camera came out there is no reason to use the SLR, because at that time SLR came out the reason is pervious camera were rangefinders. To correct the error of rangefinder the SLR were born. Now they are obsolete at least to me. Mirror less is the way to go. I don’t
    like Sony lens so I end up buying the Cal Zeiss zoom 16-70mm . It is expensive and it is one time purchase. If I don’t like I call sell it off. Many people all looking for this lens. So What I can say it is not the best but best in the market.

  16. hello !

    I’ve got first the Zeiss 24mmF1.8 which is an expensive but great lens.
    Because the price , I wait a long time.
    After reading a lot of tests, and because we can got it at a better price, finaly I v’ got one….
    Use : mainly landscape with a A6000

  17. Thanks for the review of the 1670z. Very useful info. I found a used one with warranty for a good price and I’m anxiously waiting to receive it. Hopefully I’ll get one without the “decenter” issues. If not, I have 14 days to return it and look for another one.

    On a completely different subject: if one were to buy only one prime lens for an a6000 what would one choose? I know it depends on what you photograph, personal preference, subject matter, etc. Just curious what people would choose. My first thought is the Sony SEL35F18 35mm f/1.8

        1. It has nicer bokeh and better value. It is also bigger, focuses a bit slower and a tad less sharp in the corners but bokeh and value are more important to me.
          35mm is a bit more universal than 50mm but if I had a 16-70 I would prefer the more shallow DOF of the 50

          1. thanks again. I bought a 16-70, haven’t received it yet. Will decide on either a 35mm or 50mm after that, but not both. I hear you on the price. Guess I should take a bunch of pictures at 50mm focal and 70 focal on the 16-70 and see which I would use the most.

  18. Hi Phillip,
    I could like to have your advice on this. I own a Sony A7 II and I saw a Sony NEX 24mm f 1.8 Zeiss Sonnar T (APS-C) for sale. Is this lens useful on a full frame camera?

    Jean

  19. very good Pictures!
    I think i am going to buy that lense for my a6000,
    have you shooted a Video with this lense?
    what is your opinion about the lens for shooting Videos?

    René

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *