Review – Sony FE 16-35 F4 Zeiss lens (SEL1635Z)

Back in December 2014 we made the decision to move from Nikon to the Sony mirrorless camera system and bought the Sony A7r (we now use the Sony A7Riii). We purchased it with the FE 24-70 F4 Zeiss lens which has been an absolute dream to work with (we now primarily use the superior FE 24-105 f/4 lens but we still keep the 24-70 as a backup). At the time of writing this post, DXO Mark rated the Sony A7R’s sensor just behind the Nikon D810 and Nikon D800E by the narrowest of margins, the size and weight of this camera more than made up for the 3rd ranking (our Sony A7Riii sensor now equals the Nikon flagship model – the D850). We guess this is the reason why so many professional photographers are now flocking to the mirrorless cameras systems and selling all their DSLR gear. Having tested the Sony A7R and 24-70 lens thoroughly over a period of time we decided that it was so good that we were ready to purchase the expensive FE 16-35 F4 Zeiss and FE 70-200 F4 Zeiss lenses. This review will cover the wide-angle FE 16-35 F4 Zeiss lens. You can read a review of the FE 70-200 f/4 Zeiss lens here.

This is an extremely well-built lens and considering that it is a Zeiss lens this should be no surprise. It is almost identical in size and weight to the FE 24-70 F4 lens that we initially bought with the camera. It is so well built that, shortly after buying it was accidentally dropped off a tripod into mud & water! Although the fall was dampened by the mud and the lens hood it continued to work perfectly and considering that it is has a moisture and dust resistant design, it certainly lived up to this specification. The metal construction of the body and focus ring is sturdy, yet silky-smooth when zooming or using manual focus. The filter diameter is 72mm which fortunately is the same as the FE 70-200 F4 lens but different to the FE 24-70 F4 lens (67mm) so if using polarisers or other screw-in type filters you will need an adapter ring or need to buy extra filters. The only annoying thing we have found with this lens is the awkwardness of attaching the hood. Maybe it’s just us but we always seem to struggle with attaching and removing the hood compared to our Nikon lenses. This certainly is not a deal-breaker and maybe is something we need to get used to.

Vignetting has always been a problem for photographers using wide-angle lenses and 16mm on this lens was a concern for us when using a Filter holder with filters however we were pleasantly surprised to find that there is only very marginal vignetting which is easily corrected in post-processing. This is a huge plus for landscape photographers wanting a very wide perspective while being able to use ND & ND Grads without having to do considerable crops in post-processing.

Based on tests with the lens we have found that the lens is sharpest at F8 – F11 and although the lens only has a maximum aperture of F4 this is not a problem for us with our photography, however, may be a problem for those that specialise in low-light or astrophotography.

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)

PROS

  • Lightweight
  • Good edge-to-edge sharpness
  • Minimal flare
  • Excellent build quality
  • Minimal vignetting of filters
  • Lens stabilization
  • Dust and Moisture resistant

CONS

  • Expensive (RRP is $1779 AUD)
  • Not a fast lens (F4)
  • Fiddly lens hood attachment

SAMPLE SHOTS

These shots are unedited and were shot for test purposes only. They have only been lightly sharpened in Lightroom and converted to JPG. All images were shot using the Sony A7r mirrorless camera. See our conclusion at the end of the post.

Photography Planner
Shot at 16mm F8 1/100th ISO100. There is very slight vignetting in the corners which are easily corrected once the lens profile is used.
ON1 Photo RAW 2020

Shot at 24mm F8 1/250th ISO100

Shot at 35mm F8 1/200th ISO100

Autumn in Kyoto, Japan

Garden in Kyoto Japan during Autumn
16mm – f/11 – 0.4sec – ISO100

Yokohama, Japan

Yokohama, Japan
16mm – f/11 – 10sec – ISO200

Koya, Japan

Koya, Japan
35mm – f/11 – 3.2sec – ISO100

Shanghai Skyline, China

Shanghai, China
21mm – f/8 – 1/3sec – ISO640

CONCLUSION: With the amount of testing that we have done to date and for the images that we have shot in our professional work, this lens is awesome and strongly recommended for anyone using the Sony mirrorless cameras. It’s useful for any kind of photography work but Landscape and Travel photographers will absolutely love this lens. Its weight, functionality, build and image results make it a MUST HAVE for anyone using these cameras that want superb sharpness from edge to edge throughout the focal range. It may put a hole in your wallet but well worth the investment.

If you are interested in purchasing the lens you can get it on Adorama or you can Purchase in Australia

Click the banner below to see what deals may be available for this product.

Please Note: We may receive commissions when you click links and make purchases. However, this does not impact our reviews or recommendations. We try our best to keep things fair and balanced, in order to help you make the best choice.