Sony Carl Zeiss FE 24-70mm F4 ZA OSS Vario-Tessar T* E-mount lens review by artuk

reviewer#34775 date: Feb-4-2017
sharpness: 4
color: 5
build: 4
distortion: 4
flare control: 5
overall: 4.4
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:Minolta 24-105mm
Minolta G 28-70mm
Sony FE 16-35mm f4
Sony E 16-70mm f4
Other zooms
price paid:n/a
positive:centres always sharp
good contrast
flare resistant
negative:corners and edges can be softer round 24-28mm
knurling on the zoom ring traps dirt
distorts, but is automatically corrected
comment:This lens receives so much bad publicity on the internet, and I have never quite been able to understand why, except that it has "Zeiss" in the name, and the price.

On my 12Mp and 24Mp cameras, from 28-70mm the frame is sharp when stopped down (e.g. f8 and beyond). At around 35mm or 50mm stopped down I would say it has near prime quality with a slightly loss of "bite" when looking at high magnification. Some people complain the 70mm is very soft, but I haven't seen this on my copy, which perhaps isn't bitingly sharp wide open but appears to offer fairly consistent performance across the frame when stopped down. Wide open it's always good in the centre, maybe not quite so good in the outer frame. Between 24-28mm it is harder to characterise - sometimes the results stopped down are very good, at other times the very outer ends on the long end of the frame never really "come in" and always look a little soft. At open aperture, the edges of the frame can look soft, but this is exaggerated by the generally always very good central core of the frame.

Contrast is very good, and flare resistance seems good too, even with sun in the frame. Any flare tends to be point source rather than contrast reducing.

As far as I can tell, colour is good (I find this type of phrase fairly meaningless on digital with modern lenses, though comparing models side by side can reveal colour signature differences - I've not made side by side comparisons to other models, so cannot comment). Generally colour seems good, perhaps neutral or a little cool - certainly not warm.

As with many E mount lenses, the design includes a profile embedded in the lens ROM, which is used in camera to correct distortion. Most modern raw development software will read this data from the raw file and automatically correct the image (Capture One, SilkyPix) - Adobe never used to, but that's a problem of the software, not the lens.

Focus is quick and silent.

Build seems quite solid though lens rentals reported one/some of theirs failing AF because the linear motor is glued to the focus actuator, and the glue failed. The external fit and finish is very nice, except for the knurling on the focus and zoom rings which like other E mount lenses is very finely ribbed, and attracts dust and dirt which can be hard to remove. The finish seems to scuff and mark despite fairly careful handling during 2 years use.

I purchased mine at a significant discount, at a price around what I think the lens is actually worth, rather than normal "list" price, which is too high in my opinion where I live.

Overall, I would rate this lens as a solid 4 stars - maybe 4.5 - on the A7s (12Mp) and A7/ii (24Mp) where I find the performance solid - it's nothing remarkable, it won't blow your socks off, but it's mostly consistently sharp and turns in decent images, especially stopped down. Wide open it's entirely usable too, especially where the outer field and corners are not so important (like most zooms at open aperture).

Maybe on 36-42Mp it's not so good - the 36Mp A7r sensor is particular "difficult" with some lenses in the outer field by all accounts, so maybe that explains a poor reputation. Independent third party bench tests I read always showed a fairly decent, competent lens, just one that isn't exceptional and so is perhaps a little over priced.

Overall, my most used lens on E mount, and one that I mostly trust to get the results I want.

rating summary

lens image
  • total reviews: 23
  • sharpness: 4.43
  • color: 4.78
  • build: 4.78
  • distortion: 3.96
  • flare control: 4.70
  • overall: 4.53 - Home of the alpha system photographer
In memory of Cameron Hill - brettania