Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens REVIEW
JULY 29, 2023
In September of 2014, Sony introduced a new lens called the Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS. At the time, this was a well received lens in the growing Sony lineup. However, does this lens still hold up in 2023? In this review, I will look at the build quality, image quality and then present my conclusions. The tests were conducted with the Sony a7 IV and the Sony a7R III camera bodies.
Coming in at over a pound, the lens is not lightweight, however, that weight does pay off big in construction. The strong alloy construction of the lens housing, made me feel like I was holding a true quality piece of glass. Focus and zoom rings were dampened to about perfection, and the focus ring was pure "butter." The finish of this lens is a black finish that is easily scratched. Even the copy I received for testing had braising in various spots. So, cosmetically, over time, it will become scratched and look more abused than it actually is.
The lens comes with a lens shade, front cap and rear cap. I would also note, that although the lens shade is plastic, it is one of the most sturdy pieces of plastic I have had my hands on. Just to give some perspective, when compared to my Rokinon 24mm, the Rokinon shade feels very cheap.
Sony a7 IV, f13, 10 seconds, ISO 80, 16mm
Image above is of Soco Falls in North Carolina. The overall image is pleasing and perfectly acceptable to most photographers. If you are a hyper discerning photographer, read on...
The image quality of this lens is quite good throughout the range of focal lengths. The center of the image is very sharp, while the edges definitely suffer from distortion. This distortion results also in unsharp corners. See the 100% images below to few the distortion and sharpness. To the untrained eye, I don't think most would even notice the distortion when viewing a photograph printed. To some photographers, this is completely unacceptable. If your image is good enough, no one is going to be looking at the corners. Let that one sink in.
The lens was designed by the famed Zeiss optics company and there is no doubt that even with unsharp corners, the attention to optical detail is very good. The sharpness held up well, even with the 42 megapixel Sony a7R III.
The photograph above is a 100% view of the upper left corner of the waterfall image. Note that distortion and focus.
The center is quite sharp. Also note that this lens was setup to the hyperfocal distance by focusing on a foreground object and letting the depth of field control the focus to the background.
Date of Introduction: September 2014
Mount: E, Full Frame, APS-C
Lens Elements: 12 elements in 10 groups
Aperture: f4 to f22
Aperture Blades: 7
Rounded Aperture: Yes
Filter Size:72 mm
Min Focus: 11 inches
Weather Sealed: Yes
List Price: 998 (Amazon)
Used Price: 500-600 (KEH)
For those looking for a lower cost alternative to the expensive Sigma ART and Sony GM lenses, look no further than this little gem. Yes, you will not have sharp corners, but this can be mitigated by creative cropping or just leave it in as part of the image.
I see this lens as a great lens for a wildlife photographer who does very little scenic work, but from time to time needs this lens for waterfalls, or other scenics while out and about.
There are certainly better 16-35mm modern options out there, like the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM lens. However, coming in at a whopping $2,198.00 US it will not fit everyone's budget.
Although possible, I also do not see this as a good astro-photography lens. In fact, I only tested the video at f4 and it looked "pretty good." If you want to see video from this lens, take a look at my YouTube video on the a6700. It really is a landscape lens in my opinion.
The Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4, with a street price of only $998.00 and a used price of $500.00, will not break the bank. This is a professional quality lens that is in reach of most photographers. I do recommend this lens and if I had to put rating on it, I'd say 4 out of 5 stars.