Since I currently have the Sony FE 35/2.8 ZA, 16-35/4 ZA, and the 24-70/4 ZA, I thought I’d post a quick comparison at two different focal lengths, 35mm, and 24mm. The diminutive 35/2.8 prime turned in a great review, and was one of the first lenses for Sony’s new FE (full frame) system. The 24-70/4 had some mixed reviews, including my own after the initial release, and was the first Zeiss zoom that was offered. The 16-35/4 so far has some very positive reviews, so I wondered how they would compare directly. I’ve been using the 16-35/4 for several months, mostly for interior work, and find it’s super sharp at all focal lengths, as long as you have an appropriate depth of field, say F/8 to F/11. At longer focusing distances, like outside, it’s maxed out optically around F/5.6, but may need to be stopped down for DOF issues.
Feel free to download these images and flip between them to see the changes. If you don’t want to do that, I’ll summarize my findings and save you some time.
The 16-35/4 is very sharp at F/5.6 throughout the frame, more noticeable along the right side. The 24-70/4 looks very sharp in the centers at F/4, but the sides are a little soft at all apertures.
All summed up, the 16-35/4 performs very well, and better than I originally guessed. The 24-70/4 did well at F/4, 35mm, but fell behind at 24mm, that being the lens’ starting point, and the middle of the zoom for the 16-35mm, so the 24-70/4 is at a slight disadvantage at 24mm.
This comparison does a good job at showing how the images sharpen up throughout the frame at each aperture. That’s why I don’t want to show just crops anymore, as I have done in the past on kurtmunger.com. In my opinion, displaying images this way is far more useful. Showing crops makes it easy to come to a quick conclusion, but not necessarily a well informed one. Hope this mini comp helps if you are looking for one of these lenses.
The 35/2.8 prime is superb at F/4, with a little extra contrast showing up at F/5.6. The 16-35/4 is a little soft all over at F/4, but sharpens up very nicely at F/5.6; pixel peepers will notice a tiny bump up in sharpness by using F/8. The 24-70/4 looks good at F/4, and really doesn’t improve by closing the aperture. You’ll notice the extra distortion when flipping between the other lens pics, and I’ve used lens compensation on all lenses.
Overall, the Prime is the best, but not significantly. The 16-35 at F/5.6 is as good or better in the centers and left side, but not quite as good as the right side of the prime. The 24-70 lags behind, but not by much; if fact the right side looks as good as the 16-35, and at F/4 it looks better over most of the frame than the 16-35/4. The winner is the prime, as it’s more consistent across the frame, and not necessarily the absolute sharpest; the 16-35 is slightly sharper at F/5.6.
Full size shots from Sony A7R, no adjustments other than auto lens corrections.
Sony Zeiss 16-35mm F/4 @24mm
Sony Zeiss 24-70mm F/4 @24mm
Click buttons for full size images.
Sony Zeiss 35/2.8
Sony Zeiss 16-35mm F/4 @35mm
Sony Zeiss 24-70mm F/4 @35mm