Sony Carl Zeiss 16-35mm F2.8 ZA SSM Vario-Sonnar T* A-mount lens review by Capetown

reviewer#11550 date: Dec-20-2013
sharpness: 5
color: 5
build: 5
distortion: 5
flare control: 5
overall: 5
tested on:
  • film camera:Film camera
  • APS-C: 6MP6 MP; 10MP10 MP; 12MP12 MP; 14MP14 MP; 16MP16 MP; 20MP20 MP; 24MP24 MP
  • full frame: 12MP12 MP; 24MP24 MP; 36MP36 MP; 42MP42 MP; 61MP61 MP
ownership:I own this lens
compared to:Sigma 12-24 first Version zoom
Minolta 20 2.8 prime
Minolta 28-135 zoom
Carl Zeiss Distagon 35 2.8 prime
Leica R 28 2.8 prime
Leica R 35 2.8 prime
price paid:1300€ Used
I do not use my prime lenses anymore!

negative:Nothing: the price?
I miss the Minolta colors
comment:The Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 16-35mm f2.8 ZA SSM is the best ultra-wide lens since the introduction of the Alpha system. In fact it's also one of only two full format ultra-wide zoom lenses for Sony Alpha available today - the other one is the Sigma AF 12-24mm f3.5-5.6 EX DG HSM or the older version without HSM.

The build quality of the Vario-Sonnar is very good based on a combination of metal and high quality plastic parts.

At 16mm it is easily among the very best lenses out there with an exceptionally high center quality and very good borders. The extreme corners are good at f2.8 - the peak quality setting at 16mm. Diffraction effects aren't noticeable till beyond f11.

The center quality remains great at all other focal lengths but the border and corner quality needs higher f-numbers. You should stop down to f5.6 to reach very good results across the frame. The 35mm setting is clearly the weak spot with soft borders/corners at f2.8. For pixelpeepers, stopping down to f/5,6 makes sense here. I terms of sharpness there are huge differences between the CZ 16-35 and the Sigma 12-24. Ok, the sigma have 122° degrees - but the corners are very very soft at all aperatures (I have 3 copys over the years) and therefor there is no advantage for the sigma.

Here are some information about my copy in case of landscape photography:

With minor less quality in the edges
Very good sharpness 16-20mm >f3.5
Very good sharpness 20-28mm >f3.5
Very good sharpness 28-35mm >f4.0

Sharp from corner to corner
Exellent sharpness 16-20mm >f4.0
Exellent sharpness 20-28mm >f4.5
Exellent sharpness 28-35mm >f5,6

The bokeh at 35mm f2.8 (remember we discuss a ultra wide lens) is very good in my opinion.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 57
  • sharpness: 4.66
  • color: 4.95
  • build: 4.86
  • distortion: 4.47
  • flare control: 4.42
  • overall: 4.67 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania