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Gary Wolstenholme reviews the Carl Zeiss Vario-Tessar E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS T* lens for Sony E Mount cameras.
We go hands-on with the new Carl Zeiss 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS NEX E-Mount lens.
I've been using the Nex7 almost 2 years. While it can be fun to shoot with the few Nex primes, as well as my other legacy Nikon F mount lenses, the lack of a truly high performance mid range zoom had been frustrating to say the least.
In the past 7-8 months I had resorted to using the highly regarded Sony Alpha DT 16-50 f2.8 SSM with the LA EA2 adapter. However my copy of this lens is soft at all 4 corners even when stop down the f8... The center of frame is better than fine, very sharp and contrasty, but corners were all uniformly unsharp, meaning my copy of the DT16-50 f2.8 suffered from focus plane field curvature distortion. Physically of course this lens + the LA EA2 adapter is simply too inelegant when mounted on to the Nex7, much too heavy as well.
When the Zeiss 16-70 f4 was first released at my location, the Sony A7/A7r announcement had me holding back from rushing out to buy yet another Sony E mount APSc lens. However with the fact that FE lenses would not be rushing out to market finally sunk in my mind.
With the decision to keep my trusty old Nex7 soldiering on, getting the Zeiss 16-70 f4 came back on track, and last week I bit the bullet and went out to buy the Zeiss 16-70 finally.
First thing about it when fitted to the Nex7, the match is perfect... The size, weight and proportion simply just works... The lens is built to extremely high standards... Better made than usual Nex E mount lenses. It looks just like the bigger brother of the the puny kit 18-55 lens, and finally the Nex7 (or Nex6) had just been given the perfect mate.
Optically? Better than I expected, given Kurt Munger's unfavorable review... Yes at wide open, I noted a very slight veiling haze, and corners gradually less sharp than center, but just half stop down the lens had sharpen up nicely, even at the corners. One stop down at f5.6, this lens significantly outperforms the DT16-50 f2.8 + LA EA2 combo at the same aperture, where the latter lens is 2 stops down from wide open, and supposedly at its optimum optically.
I feel perhaps Kurt got his copies of the Zeiss 16-70 at the beginning of production runs, where learning curves hadn't been fully resolved, while by the time I bought mine, Sony's Thai factory had gotten things down pat. Of course that's only my conjecture, but I've not seen any other zoom lens in my modest collection this optically good. Sure the corners are never as good as center of frame, but which lens at any price is?
The autofocus performance with the Zeiss is also more accurate than the DT16-50, despite the latter lens being equipped with SSM. AF miscues at this time are certainly more due to the Nex7's aging AF technology when light levels falls, and contrast drops.
All in all, this lens more than any other brings me back to the days I shot professionally with my Hasselblad 500CMs and the CZ primes I used with them. Finally I have the almost perfect walk about lens for my Nex7.
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