The Sony-Zeiss 16-35 F/4 OSS Lens Review By Steve Huff


The Sony-Zeiss 16-35 F/4 OSS Lens Quick Review

By Steve Huff

A few weeks ago Sony sent me the 16-35 F/4 Zeiss OSS lens to review and seeing that I rarely shoot wider than 35mm, I knew it would be a while before I could really evaluate the lens. I do not get a review item and go on the street, take 10-20 snaps and come in and write a review. I prefer to USE the gear I review for a few weeks as this way it feels like I own it. This is why when I started this site seven years ago I called my reviews “Real World reviews” as they are written by a real guy who really loves and is passionate about photography AND I despise technical tests with charts and nonsense. Testing with charts personally tells me nothing about a camera or lens, but the results and photos do, and for me, THAT is what matters.

So by really using the gear over an extended time, I can see what my feelings are on longer term use which is always good because if the lens or camera ended up sitting on my shelf most of the time instead of being used, then it would not be so good 🙂


With the Sony 16-35 that did not happen. I used it any time I could and evaluated it on the A7s and A7II. For me, Lens reviews are pretty easy to write as I will just be sitting here to tell you about my experiences with the lens and how I feel it compares to other wide-angle lenses I have shot with. I will share most of the images I snapped while using it as well so you get an idea of the IQ from the lens. You will not see resolution tests as this does not matter. As I said above, the photos and results matter and tell me MUCH more than any resolution chart ever will.

To make a long story short, the Sony/Zeiss 16-35 is a hell of a lens for your A7 system. If you shoot wide-angle and LOVE the 16mm-35mm focal lengths…this is about as good as it gets for the A7 series, or any system for that matter.

These three were all shot on the A7s – A&s review is HERE




Long ago I shot with a D700 and 14-24 Nikon lens. Even back then, not being a really wide-angle guy I was unsure about the lens purchase but with the raves coming in for it back then I knew it was a masterpiece..and it was. While it was large with a huge bulbous front piece the image quality was stunning and that combo of D700 and 14-24 had some magic going on with it. That lens brings back very fond memories of a unique time in life. As I go over the old photos I see my son, much younger..I see where I lived, as well as the fun me and him had with that wide-angle lens,  and I start to remember that just maybe…I AM a wide-angle guy! (just a little).

I always tell myself that I am a 35 and 50mm shooter as that is what I love to shoot with most of the time but there is a beauty to be seen with certain wide-angle lenses and the word at 16mm or even 21mm can be pretty cool. I still feel I am not skilled enough to pull off masterful shots with an ultra wide but with time, patience and passion I think I can get there. The Sony 16-35 may be the lens to push me in that direction as it is a stellar lens for image quality, flare control and distortion control.

While very large (and this I do not like) for a mirrorless system, I can not fault the lens quality or feel. It’s sharp, provides color that is bold and behaves like an ultra wide should. I have used the manual Voigtlander 15mm f/4.5 on many occasions over the past 4-5 years but on most of the Sony full frame bodies (A7, A7r, A7II) it suffers from color issues and massive vignetting. On the A7s, it works much better as do most wide-angle M mount lenses. But with the Soy 16-35 there are no problems..though the lens is about 10X larger than the tiny 15mm Voigtlander 😉

There are shots with this lens in my A7II review as well..



Impressive. The shots below were shot directly into the sun and NO FLARE. This lens has outstanding flare control. 



The Info:

Here is the lowdown on the lens from Sony:

“With a dust and moisture resistant design, the compact and lightweight Sony Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS Lens covers your wide-angle zoom needs and is designed for full-frame FE-mount cameras but can also be used on APS-C E-mount cameras as well. A constant f/4 maximum aperture offers consistent performance throughout the zoom range. Benefiting working in dim light is Optical SteadyShot image stabilization, which serves to minimize the appearance of camera shake by up to four shutter speed steps.

The optical construction incorporates five aspherical elements, including a large diameter AA (advanced aspherical) element, and three ED (extra-low dispersion) elements to help reduce chromatic aberrations throughout the zoom range as well as contribute to a compact overall form-factor. A Carl Zeiss T* anti-reflective coating has been applied to the lens elements to minimize lens flare and ghosting while providing enhanced contrast, clarity, and color fidelity.”


The lens is well made, and when I look over the images captured with it I see rich color, medium to high contrast and share details. There are no weird issues with the lens and the AF is fast and accurate as can be on the A7s and A7II. For video, this lens is also quite fabulous and with the A7II, the 5 AXIS really makes your video appear smooth as butter.

Usually my lens reviews are short, sweet and to the point and with the Sony 16-35 I really found nothing I disliked about the lens besides the larger size, so this review will be low on words and heavy on the images captured with the lens. The IQ, for me, beat the Leica Wide Angle Tri Elmar (When used on the A7s and A7II) which is a VERY expensive lens at 3X the cost. The Zeiss lens is larger but not so heavy and if I were a wide-angle guy this would be the wide-angle lens of choice for my A7 system, hands down. For Sony owners who love and adore ultra wide to wide, this could be your perfect lens in one simple zoom.




How about the slow f/4 Aperture? Does this pose a problem in real world use?

In a word, NO, not at all. With the excellent higher ISO performance of these Sony cameras the f/4 aperture never ever was a hindrance. In fact, for wide-angle zooms I do not feel f/2.8 is needed at all (when you have camera tech as it is today). Look at the Leica Wide Angle Tri Elmar..VERY expensive but it is an f/4 lens as well yet considered one of the best wide-angle lenses you can get (when used on a Leica M). It has a huge cult like following and even on a Leica, the f/4 aperture was never an issue due to the fact that with ultra wides, fast apertures are not needed.

Also, at f/4, this lens is sharp and has the quality one would expect for a stopped down lens. So shooting wide open is not a problem AT ALL with the 16-35. This means that there are basically no limitations on what aperture you can shoot with the lens. It will reward you with the same consistent quality throughout the range.





The lens also has optical steady shot inside which Sony says will give you a 4 stop advantage, and is another reason it is on the large side. When using it on the A7II you can choose if you want to use the 5 Axis in the camera or the OSS in the lens. I choose the 5 Axis in the body when I use it on the A7II.





My Conclusion on this mega short review?

With lenses there is not much I can say or ramble on about if the lens performs exceptionally well, and this lens performs about as good as I expected, if not better. For the A7 system it will provide problem free wide-angle shooting and while it will not have the character of something like a mega exotic Leica 21 Summilux, it will give you sharp, consistent, bold color and a clean image. Seriously guys, one of the best wide-angle zooms I have ever tried or used, up there with the Nikon 14-24! At $1,398 the lens is NOT cheap but when we look at other full frame lenses like this for other systems, this one comes in well below the others. This is mainly due to the slower f/4 aperture but as I said, f/2.8 is not really needed for a lens like this, especially on the A7 system.

If I had to give a score, I would give the Sony-Zeiss 16-35 f/4 a 95% –  HIGHLY Recommended. Just a few points taken off only for the large size (I feel they could have made it smaller, which would have made it PERFECT) but optically it is wonderful. 

Where to Buy?

You can buy the Sony/Zeiss 16-35 F/4 Lens at B&H Photo or Amazon Below:

B&H Photo 16-35 Page

Amazon 16-35 Page

More images below. All EXIF is embedded and images are a mix from the A7II and A7s. Click any image for a larger size. 


























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  1. In case my earlier request did not go through:
    Thanks for your review here.
    I use a Nex-7 and am dissatisfied with the kit lens for my wide angle needs. Would you recommend this lens or a different aps c lens with the highest level of sharpness with similar range?

    • Kit Lenses are usually not very good, and they never show the camera’s true potential. The Zeiss 16-35 f/4 would be an improvement. The Zeiss Batis line, 18, 25, etc are all fantastic as well, and bests the Zeis 16-35. Yes, these are full frame lenses but work very well on APS-C.

  2. Steve,

    Thanks for a detailed review with sample photos here. I want to get a good wide angle zoom for my Nex-7, the kit lens does not meet my needs for sharpness. Tried to go with RX1, but find it too cumbersome (slow focus and fixed lens). Would you recommend this lens (16-35 f4 full frame) as the sharpest lens in the wide angle range for my Nex-7? or is there an apsc lens that is equivalent that you can recommend?

  3. I really respect your reviews. I would appreciate your opinion. I am a landscape photographer using a Sony A7Rll. f4 or f2.8 doesn’t matter to me. Setting aside the difference in cost, for my landscape work would you have the Zeiss 16-35mm f4 lens or the new Sony 16-35mm f2.8 gm on your tripod? Which has better edge to edge sharpness and the least distortion etc.
    Thanks Mark

  4. I enjoyed your review so much and it was a good references. I also have the same lens for the most of my landscape shots. But my lens was stuck in the middle of zoom.
    I wonder you know who can fix the lens. Your advise will be appreciated.

  5. Tried this lens on a @6000 today. Effectively a 24-52mm 35mm equivalent on the crop sensor. I think it would make sense to use this lens rather than buy the 16-70 as it will work on the A7 series cameras fine and I was really happy with the results on the @6000.

  6. Interesting – This lens has OSS, but the A7II and A7RII both have 5-axis OSS built into the camera. I would think they could have saved some size and removed the OSS from the lens.

  7. Thanks for the review and great samples! I just started following your page on a regular basis over the last month and I find that I enjoy your reviews of lenses most.

    Any issues with this lens at 35mm regarding quality?

      • Hello Steve.

        first of all, thanks for your great reviews! I love your site!!!

        I have a short question regarding the image quality the Sony-Zeiss 16-35 F/4 OSS delivers. I shoot with a Sony A7R and also own the Voigtländer VM 21 mm / F 1,8 Ultron and the Voigtländer VM 35 mm / F 1,2 Nokton II. Can you recommend the replacement of these two lenses by the Sony-Zeiss 16-35 F/4 OSS in terms of image quality?

        Best regards from Hamburg, Germany,


  8. Steve, enjoy your site. Thanks. I am. Canon5D Zeiss lens shooter. I have had the SonyMark II for two weeks. The first one I received I sent back. It was NOT built like an a7, different bottom, no C4 button on back. From Amazon. Very weird. Anyway, when shooting with 16-35 f4, with B&H filter, and lens hood, at f8, 11, 14, I get vignetting in the upper right, lower left corners when shooting at 16mm. Have you experienced this? Is it me or the lens?

    • Steve…I am also having the same issues. Debating on sending back for another copy. Has anyone else had this issue? Or are the shots posted here corrected for vignetting in post processing?

  9. As a first lens as I’m looking to purchase A7S for photo and video and ofcourse the low low light performance, which one is better? This one or the 24-70mm f4?

  10. Great review Steve. I had this lens for about six weeks and judging by your comments, I think I must have received a complete dud. It had the worst chromatic aberration and distortions of any lens I have ever used on any system … It really was quite appalling. I have been desperate for a good quality sony/zeiss wide angle solution for my A7r and so I had very high hopes for this lens. But instead my experience has completely shaken my confidence in the whole Sony system to deliver at the wide angle end of things. I’m amazed at how different our experiences seem to have been with this lens.

    • Anecdotally, I’ve seen quite a few remarks recently on the variable quality nature of Sony (including Sony/Zeiss) lenses. I bought the well-reviewed 50/1.8 OSS, and got a malformed aperture and wild CA at wide apertures. Really wanted a good OSS portrait lens on APS-C, great shame. Got it refunded, but it has made me very wary of Sony’s manufacturing quality standards.

      • That’s interesting Grant. I have had two experiences like this with Sony Zeiss lenses now. On both occasions, I initially assumed it was me doing something daft but in the end began to realise that it was just a faulty lens. Not a great experience for me using Sony. The two primes, 55 and 35 have been fantastic but with both the zeiss zooms I have used have had serious flaws despite some great reviews. Like you say, quality standards must vary quite a bit.

  11. STEVE, don’t call this all the time “Quick Review”! Good and highbrow, especially camera & lens reviews require its time!

  12. Steve, you wrote: “When using it on the A7II you can choose if you want to use the 5 Axis in the camera or the OSS in the lens”. How can you switch the OSS on and off? I couldn’t find it in the menu. Thanks

  13. I know it’s less versatile, but how do you think the Voigty 21mm f4 would do on an A7s? I’m thinking it’s much cheaper and much smaller, but still very wide.

  14. I’ve had this lens for over a month now. It replaces my Olympus OM 24mm, 28mm and 35mm lenses and goes wider than what I had. It also give me auto focus (which I need at my age) and image stabilization to boot. This lens is sharper with better image quality all around. Yes it is larger, but takes up about the same amount of space and weight in my camera bag as the three OM lenses. For me the zoom is a big convience over changing lenses all the time. Coming from the Olympus 4/3 system 7-14mm (14-28mm equivalent) pro lens (another great lens) the Sony/Zeiss lens is smaller,lighter, cheaper and full frame without the the bulging front optics which I couldn’t use a filter with. This lens works for me.

  15. Steve, I really like this review and also so many good images. If one used the lens on an APS-C e-mount (assuming it wouldn’t be hopelessly out of balance!), would the crop factor come in making it a 24-50 equivalent?

  16. Among these are some – plenty – of the best images you have ever posted, Steve. Certainly a real lesson in wide angel shooting. I noted your comment that this lens could be used on an APS-c body. Would that make it 24-50 roughly? And what happens to aperture equivalent going that way?

    • Yes, you will get the crop when using it on an APS-C but f/4 will still be an f/4 – At f/4 on an APS-C you still have the exact light gathering of an F/4 lens. The image is basically just “cropped” – if I shot an image with the A7II and cropped it to APS-C size it would look exactly the same as what comes out of say an A6000. Thank you!

  17. Hmm, shots 7, 10, 12 and 27 show that the A7II still suffers from sensor reflections. The blue flare/halos by the sun. Better than the A7 but I was hoping it would be fixed by now.

    That flare shot through the window is just kickin! Nice.

    • I agree! Very noticeable flare that I also was hoping to be fixed. How can Steve say there is no flare?

      • In my month of use I had no flare issue. I was able to make the lens flare artistically much like the $3500 Leica 5o Lux does but that was done pn purpose in one shot. When shot into the sun on numerous occasions, no flare.

  18. Had a classic 18mm manual focus with built in switchable red, blue, green, yellow filters
    On Kodak Slrc full frame.
    Not being a landscape nor architectural photographer I had trouble finding suitable subjects.

    Zeiss 16-35 with tilt screen and OSS opens up so many architectural opportunities
    I think I’d be photographing architecture all day.

    For anyone publishing in homes and estates magazines they’d be so happy with this combo.

      • AF & FF add to size of the Zeiss.

        Sigma Superwide 2 : small 24mm F2.8 Full Frame : one fine lens I had it a short while.
        Sigma 18mm F2.8 m42 with switchable filters small compared to the Zeiss
        but once add adapter thats like 1.5inches extra.

  19. Very pretty lens and renderings. And a lot more subject isolation then I expected at F4 but then again it is Full Frame. Pretty decent price for this wide of a lens with this type of quality too. Pretty impressive all around. Nice photos Steve. This should make wide angle Sony shooters very happy 🙂

  20. Steve,

    While I do not own a Sony of any flavor I read and enjoyed your review. If you reviewed a can opener, I would probably have read it as well. I appreciate your “real world” style and the fact that you include a dverse selection of images.

    I then re-read your WATE review, a lens that I have been considering for a number of years. I noticed that most images were at 16mm. Since I am a 50mm, 35mm shooter, I have been considering the 16mm 3.5. Thoughts?

    Looking forward to your OXO can opener review.


  21. I think that Zeiss did the right thing by having f/4 as the maximum aperture. Forget thin DOF – for a lens this wide, you’d want at least f/1.4 or wider to have any meaningful subject-background separation.

    It’s possible that they will release a second version of this lens without the OIS. It will be slightly smaller and well suited to the A7II. But who knows? One thing I do strongly believe: Sony is on the right track: sensor shift is a better option than OIS. Old lenses, even from the 1930s, pretty much receive an ‘upgrade’ without a single modification. 🙂

    It’s worth noting that at this time, there is no DxO module for this lens AFAIK. Hopefully it will be ready soon, but I have no special information either way. This lens will have distortion, so if that matters, keep this point in mind.

  22. Great review and images Steve!

    Agreed – the wide-angle FoV can be challenging to shoot/learn – but also oh-so rewarding!

    The 16-35mm is the classic photojournalist zoom. It’s also a real ‘cornerstone’ lens of a given system – nice to see a quality one for the Sony FE line-up.

    Looking forward to picking up this beauty. Have a great weekend!

    P.S. – favourite shot… I love the sun-flare through the window, but the Jeep shot is just amazing!

  23. Thanks for the Review, Steve. I bet that A7ii + 16-35mm f/4 is just a bit lighter and smaller than Nikon D750 or Canon 6D with 16-35mm f/4. Hope Sony will bring out Wide Angle lenses with no OSS, so they can be smaller and lighter to take more advantage of using Mirrorless Camera 🙂

  24. It’s clear from the review that this is an excellent quality lens. For me, however, it suffers from the limitations of most of the Sony/Zeiss lenses for the A7 series, either too big and heavy for the body or not fast enough. Also, Zeiss is well known for its excellent prime lenses, but is a relative new comer to the zoom field. While this lens appears excellent, other Zeiss/Sony zooms have had criticisms.

    I own both an A7 II and and A7S and find that I can get much lower weight, better ergonomics, high lens speed and equal resolving quality from Voitlander M mount lenses with the Voitlander close focus M to E mount adapter. With a focal length in the 16-28mm range, auto focus becomes a bit irrelevant at f stops of F4 and above, since the depth of field is so great. Furthermore camera shake tends not to be a problem at these focal lengths. We old time photographers relied on depth of field considerations for setting focus and speeds of at least 120th second to nail a lot of our shots.

    Sony should move quickly to replace the A7R and A7S with its new in body shake reduction system. Then it should produce a new and better range of smaller Zeiss prime and zoom lenses without OSS, of lower weight and greater speed. There is no reason for such light weight bodies to be saddled with heavy clunker lenses.

    • Except you’re dealing with physics, full frame sensors will require full frame lenses. Look at the Canon/Nikon 24-70 2.8’s. Neither have IS but are large. It’d be comically large on an a7. Even if you eliminate IS, you can reduce the size/weight of the lens but let’s face itm you’re not going to be able to shoot the lens with a shrink ray to make them that much smaller.

      • While I understand your point that zoom lenses with vibration reduction and autofocus on board tend to be large and weighty, my point was that in the 16-24mm focal length range, because of the wide angle characteristics of the optics, one does not need either autofocus or vibration reduction. I would also add that one doesn’t need zoom either. A shot taken at 16 mm can easily be cropped in photoshop anywhere between 16 and 24mm without loss of image quality.

        So where does that leave us? I would propose an excellent prime lens in the 15 to 21 mm range. Here, there are small, light and fast lenses of excellent quality made by Voitlander at a fraction of the cost of the Zeiss/Sony zoom that will transform A7 series cameras from a body attached to a heavy lens to an ergonomically excellent lightweight instrument for all day carry around shooting. The Voitlander 21 mm f 1.8 is an excellent example of a lighter fast lens that allows great shots in extreme low light and with silent noise on an A7II.

        So be my guest if you wish with heavy slow sony lenses in this range focal length. For me, I’ll still take the light weight Voitloander primes with the Voitlander M to E close focus adapter.

        • I have the A7 II, A7s, Voigtlander close focus adapter, M240, MM, 12 M lenses and in my view, the best lens I’ve tried on the A7II to date, including all the Sony ones up to the 70-200 is the 16-35 F4.
          Absolutely stellar lens.
          Better than the 35mm F2.8 IMHO and that was my previous favorite.

          Seriously, the point of using this lens is for the convenience of a zoom and the AF. If I want MF and small and light, I’ll use a Leica lens on a Leica body, where it has lens correction and the sensor can handle the wide RF lenses.

          I shot it on the street last weekend and got some amazing pictures with it.
          The only problem I had was with the A7 II and it’s constantly shifting aperture dial, which Steve knows all about from me 🙂

          Would I use it as a street lens?
          No, I’d keep the 35 F2.8 for that but I would use the A7s there too.
          But for travel photography, absolutely.
          It is going to be permanently mounted to my A7 II for my forthcoming trip to Myanmar in a few weeks.

  25. Hello Steve and thanks for this review that I was looking forward to read.

    Do you think this lens performs better that the Zeiss ZM line on the A7II, like the 21 2.8 Biogon and the35/2? I mean would it be such a big difference in IQ?

    Thanks for the great photos!

  26. How would you compare its 24-35 range to the same range in the 24-70 F4 Zeiss?

    Just got my A7s today. Hooray! Thanks for all your advice.

    • I believe the 24-70mm is a bit better at 35mm. Personally I prefer the range of the 16-35mm used with the 55mm over the 24-70mm. I have only used them on my A7S so can’t compare on other higher res sensors but the 24-70mm on the S left nothing wanting IF that is a good range for you.

      • Thanks. I’m loving my A7s and the 24-70, but there are times you want ultra wide. All my NIkon DSLR gear is on Ebay!

  27. It would be interesting to compare this lens to the Fujinon 10-24mm f4.0 (15-36mm 35mm equivalent) that’s about 30% less expensive, and likely a bit lighter and just as well make. I too favor the 35-90mm range, but either for panoramic landscapes and seascapes, or for street shooting on very crowded sidewalks in any of the world’s great cities, or shooting interiors of palaces and cathedrals, a 15-35 OIS lens such as the Sony or the Fuji is truly invaluable. I too have never missed the f2.8 aperture, especially considering this lens has OIS worth 3-4 stops and the faster 2.8 primes do not. From a standpoint of sharpness and handling, I’ll put the Fujinon 10-24 up against the Zeiss Touit 12mm f2.8 that I sold to buy this lens.

    • The Fuji is an APS-C lens, not compatible with any full frame camera, so a different lens altogether for a different system. If you are a Sony user, this lens is it. If a Fuji user, the 10-24 is it. Both are fantastic.

      • Except for very low-light shooting, or enlargements over 20″x24″ or so, wold you say that full-frame vs APS-C sensor size really make a difference given the quality of Sony and Fujifilm (I suspect also a Sony product( sensors?

        • I don’t have a full frame but I would love to have the A7II. 24 mp in my apsc size sensor or 24 mp in a bigger full frame sensor. The bigger sensor will have better dynamic range and color every time. Not to mention the depth of field.

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