First Look: Sony FE 16-35 f/4 ZA OSS Lens

Written by: Colby Brown / 26 Comments

*UPDATE – The full in-depth review of the Sony FE 16-35 f/4 is now live. LINK

Over the last two years Sony Imaging has continued to push the boundaries of the photo industry. Between the dynamic range found in the a7r (In Depth Review) to the incredible low light performance of the a7s, there is a lot of reasons to love what Sony has been up to. However regardless how impressive Sony’s new cameras are, the native lens line for the FE camera mount has had relatively slow growth. While nearly ever one of the FE lenses available today are very impressive, the glaring hole in the lens lineup has been in the wide angle department, until now.

Sony-a7r-with-16-35-f4-fe-lens

Sony a7r w/ Sony FE 16-35 f/4 ZA OSS lens

On September 15th, 2014 Sony finally unveiled the Sony fe 16-35 f/4 ZA OSS lens, which has easily become the most sought after lens for the a7 series cameras (a7,a7r, a7s). Having partnered with Sony over a year ago, they were kind enough to give me early access to the lens while working on a project on The Big Island of Hawaii, where I am currently writing this blog post from. For the next 10 days, I will be pushing this lens to its limits in a variety of situations to see what it is capable of, but I need your help. In the comments below, leave what ever questions you have about the lens and I will make sure to cover as many of them as I can when I release my full in-depth review in the first week of November here on the blog.

Specs

Sony fe 16-35 f/4 ZA OSS Press Image via Sony

Sony fe 16-35 f/4 ZA OSS Press Image via Sony

  • Optics/Lens

    • Lens Mount Type : Sony E-mount (35mm full frame)
    • Lens Stabilization : Optical SteadyShot
    • Minimum Focus Distance : 11″ 0.28m
    • Lens Groups-Elements : 10 groups, 12 elements
    • Filter Diameter : 72mm
    • Lens Type : Full-frame E-mount Wide-angle Lens
    • Lens Weight : 18.3 oz (518g)
    • Aperture (Max.) : f/4.0
    • Aperture (Min.) : f/22
    • Maximum Magnification : 0.19x
    • Focal Length (35mm equivalent) : 16-35mm (35mm) 24- 52.5mm (APS-C)
    • Aspheric Elements : 5 aspherical, 1 advanced aspherical
    • Aperture Blade : 7 blades (Circular aperture)
    • Angle of View : 83°-44° (APS-C) 107°-63° (35mm)
  • Weights and Measurements

    • Dimensions (Approx.) : 3-1/8″ x 4″ (78 x 98.5mm)
    • Weight (Approx.) : 18.2 oz (518g)

Initial Thoughts

One of the first things I noticed about the Sony fe 16-35 f/4 ZA OSS lens was the build quality. Like the other Sony Vario-Tessar lenses for fe-mount cameras, this Zeiss made lens is built with very high standards. When you hold it in your hand, it doesn’t feel cheap. It feels solid. Why? Because instead of using plastic like many camera/lens manufacturers these days, they use a metal finish, both for the lens body itself and for the focus ring, which truly does make a difference when you are holding it in your hands. On top of this, the lens is listed as dust and water resistant, a feature I plan on putting to the test since a hurricane is currently moving through Hawaii as we speak.

Hand Holding Sony 16-35 f4 fe Lens
In addition, it is incredibly light weight, especially for a 16-35 wide angle lens. Until this lens came out, I had to use the Sony/Zeiss 16-35 f/2.8 ZA lens (for Sony A Mount cameras) along with the Sony LA-EA4 adapter. That combination easily weighs 1020g or 2.25lbs. In contrast, the new Sony 16-35 f/4 FE lens weighs just 518g….or in other words, nearly half the weight of my Sony 16-35 f/2.8 a-mount lens setup. In a mirrorless world where I am always looking to lighten my overall load, this weight savings of nearly 1lb is very much welcome.

Another important observation is the 72mm lens filter diameter. As a landscape photographer filters are an important accessory I use quite often, especially CPL and ND filters, both of which are available via the Colby Brown Signature Edition Landscape Photography Filter Kit that I created with Formatt Hitech. The problem with using filters on wide angle lenses is the increased vignetting and general lack of the ability to stack filters when shooting near 16mm. If I could use a 105mm CPL at 16mm, this lens would be a game changer for many landscape photographers. The 72mm filter opening on the lens looks promising and I can’t wait to further test my filter with this setup here in Hawaii.

Front-Lens-Element-Sony-16-35-f4-fe

The front lens element of the Sony FE 16-35 f/4 ZA OSS

Behind the Scenes

Over the course of the next 10 days, I will be exploring much of The Big Island of Hawaii as a teach a photography workshop to 10 of my clients. During that time, I will also be testing the Sony FE 16-35 f/4 ZA OSS lens. As time goes on, I will continue to update this section to include new behind the scenes images of me testing the lens out in the field so that you can get a feel for the kind of conditions the lens is being put through.

Rainbow Falls with Sony a7r and 16-35 f4 fe Lens

Sony a7r w/ the FE 16-35 f/4 OSS lens at Rainbow Falls near Hilo, HI

Akaka Falls with Sony a7r and 16-35 f4 fe Lens

Sony a7r w/ the FE 16-35 f/4 OSS lens & CPL fliter at Akaka Falls near Hilo, HI

Filters with Sony 16-35 f4 fe Lens

Waiting for Sunset near Kona, HI with the A7r, 16-35 f/4 FE and Formatt Hitech Circular Polorizer

Sunset with Sony a7r and 16-35 f4 fe lens 2

Finding reflecting tidal pools as the sunset lit the sky on fire

Sunset with Sony a7r and 16-35 f4 fe lens

One of the most incredible sunsets I have seen in Hawaii over tidal blow holes north of Kona, HI

The Sony 16-35 f/f4 fe at work on the a7r at sunset view the Kona shoreline

The Sony 16-35 f/f4 fe at work on the a7r at sunset view the Kona shoreline

Sunset Over Lave Holes on The Big Island

Sunset Over Lave Holes on The Big Island

Sony a7s being pushed to 10k ISO with the Sony 16-35 f/4 fe lens

Sony a7s being pushed to 10k ISO to capture the Milky Way over an active volcano with the Sony 16-35 f/4 fe lens

Sony a7r with 16-35 f/4 fe wide angle lens capturing a lava hole outside Kona

Sony a7r with 16-35 f/4 fe wide angle lens capturing a lava hole outside Kona

Submit Your Questions

One of the biggest problems I see with most reviews is that the review doesn’t always answer all of the questions you as a reader have. This is why I am opening up my review to you. In the first week of November, I will release a full in-depth review, but in the meantime please leave your comments, questions, concerns and or tests you would like to see done and I will do my best to include as much as I can into the review itself when it is released. Enjoy!

Tags: , ,