Sony Carl Zeiss 24-70mm F2.8 ZA SSM Vario-Sonnar T* A-mount lens review by ColiNiloK

reviewer#11120 date: May-16-2013
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 used to own this lens
compared to:- Sony DT 16-50mm f2.8 SSM
- Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8 L USM
- AF-S Nikkor 24-70mm f2.8 G ED
- Tamron SP 24-70mm f2.8 DI VC USD (Canon mount)
- Canon EF 24-105mm f4 L IS USM
- Sony 28-75mm f2.8 SAM
- Sony 70-200mm f2.8 G SSM
- Sony 35mm f1.8 SAM
- Sony 50mm f1.8 SAM
price paid:
missing
positive:- Zeiss colours and contrast
- Useful focual length and constant f2.8
- Quick SSM focusing
- Sharp
- Very well build
- AFD on A99
- Great to pair with A99 and A900 in both weight balance and look.
- Looks better than all the other 24-70mm and equivalent lenses out there (IMHO)
negative:- No zoom lock
- Bokeh rings can be a little busy sometimes
- Some many find this lens heavy
- Not cheap
- Metal hood can get dirty easily
comment:Build, pricing and general thoughts:

From the look of this lens, it is enough to tell this is lens a meant to be a professional use with serious performance, quality and a serious price tag. No doubt, this is a lens that did not just wear the legendary Zeiss logo for its look, it's optical performance, colour rendition, contrast and quality speak for it self. However, by no means anyone should think the blue Zeiss logo means this is a lens without fault, no it is far from it. In fact I do think a lens at this price should come with simple features like a zoom lock( although my copy does not zoom creep) and fully weather sealed, and the metal lens hood can get dirty very easily, but IMHO, this is still one of the best standard lenses I have ever used so far.

Sharpness, colours & bokeh:

Simply put, if you want to find the sharpest standard zoom lens for the Sony A mount at the moment that renders wonderful neutral and contrasty colour and crisp micro contrast, this is the one that will satisfy your wish.

However,I understand not everyone like the Zeiss colour rendition, the Minolta 28-70mm G lens and the Sony 70-200 G, and the Beercan produces warmer and rich Minolta styled colours and personally I like both rendering to create different mood. Compare to other Sony standard lenses, the Sony 28-75mm ( Still produce very good colours) and DT 16-50 lens appears to produce flatter colour and less contrasty compared to this lens.

Compare to Canon and Nikon's standard zooms in turns of colour rendition, I admit I 'm not a fan of Nikon's 24-70's rendition, it gives a yellow and greenish cast, Canon's 24-70 and 24-105 gives a pleasing softer cast that gives out very nice skin tone, but overall I find it is not vivid enough. The new Tamron 24-70( Canon mount), when combo with a friend's 5D3 produce decent colours that is a little warm like the Sony lenses, but I still like the Zeiss and Minolta rendition better.

Sharpness wise, I find this lens is ones of the sharpest zoom I have used, infact is as sharp as Sony's 35 f1.8 and a little sharper than 50 f1.8 at f2.8 at the same focal length( due to field curvature, the extreme corners as a little soft)

The Nikon 24-70, Canon 24-70 Mk 1, 24-105 and Sony's own 28-75 and 16-50 lens, are all very sharp lenses and when comobed with respective camera bodies, it is hard to tell which ones are sharper, but it seem the Zeiss 24-70 is little bit sharper than all those when compare to the following combo:

Sharpness:
CZ 24-70 + A99 > Cannon 24-70 L Mk 1 & 24-105L + 5D2
CZ 24-70 + A99 > Sony 28-75+ A99 ( just a tiny bit) =16-50 + A57= Nikkor 24-70 G + D700 = 5D3+ Tamron 24-70 @ 70mm (Just a little)
CZ 24-70 + A57 > Sony 50 f1.8 @ f2.8
CZ 24-70 + A57 = Sony 35 f1.8 @ f2.8

I also find this when paring A99 with this lens, the sharpness also beats the new Tamron 24-70 with 5D3, at 70mm wide open, very hard to tell at the other focal length.

So far, I can say none of the above standard lenses from all those brands produce buttery smooth bokeh in every situation unlike Sony's 70-200 G lens, the Zeiss 24-70 is no exception, while the out focus rendition is smooth, but in bright day light the bokeh rings wide open can be a little busy, the Sony 28-75 and 16-50 seem to do a slightly better job here.

AF:

In general, AF is very silent, quick and accurate both outdoor in good lighting and low light. But when shooting fast moving objects in AFC mode and continuous burst all Sony lenses tend to mis-focus more especially in low light. AFD in A99 helps in this regard. This lens also has a better close focus and low light focus ability than the Sony 28-75 lens.

Distortion, CA, vignetting & flare:

Much better distortion control than the 16-50 on A57 and a little better than the 28-75 on A99, CA is very well controlled in fact even wide open at any focal length pointing towards the sun you won't get it, and the flare control is relatively good, much better than Sony's 16-50 and similar to 28-75 in this regard. I generally didn't find much vignetting wide open as well.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, if price is not a problem and you don't mind the Zeiss colour rendition, here is an excellent lens for you, though not perfect but in every regard is very good indeed with no major flaws. However, with the new Tamron A mount coming and second hand 28-75 SAM lens, you may find that both are also good value for your full frame A mount body. APSC users, I still think the 16-50 is a better choice for both the focal length, size, and weight balance with your camera bodies.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 140
  • sharpness: 4.84
  • color: 4.91
  • build: 4.84
  • distortion: 4.75
  • flare control: 4.61
  • overall: 4.79
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