Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA SSM ( Sony SAL-1635Z ) - Full Format Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Sony Alpha (Full Format)
Article Index

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published March 2010

This lens has been kindly supplied by Dieter Scherk!


The Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* 16-35mm f/2.8 ZA SSM is the first newly designed ultra-wide angle Sony lens since the introduction of the Alpha system. In fact it's also one of only two full format ultra-wide zoom lenses for Sony Alpha available today (not counting discontinued lenses) - the other one is the Sigma AF 12-24mm f/3.5-5.6 EX DG HSM. So it was about time to release a native solution for this range. Some may wonder about the term "Vario-Sonnar". "Sonnar" refers to the German word "Sonne" (sun) and identifies comparatively "bright" = "large aperture" lenses and a "Vario" lens is a zoom lens. The Zeiss ZA lenses are designed by Zeiss Germany but they're manufactured by Sony Japan based on Zeiss quality control standards.

The build quality of the Vario-Sonnar is very good based on a combination of metal and high quality plastic parts. Some users criticized the sheer existence of plastic in such a pricey lens but this does only apply to the middle part of the lens. The front and back portions as well as the petal shaped hood are made of metal. The physical length of the lens remains constant although the inner lens tube moves a little according to the zoom position. The focus and zoom rings operate very smooth.

The Zeiss lens benefits from an SSM ("Super-Sonic Motor") AF which operates extremely fast. The AF accuracy was fine on our test camera (A850). DMF ("Direct Manual Focus") is possible in single-shot AF mode.

Optical construction17 elements in 13 groups inc. 2x ED and 3x aspherical elements
Number of aperture blades9 (circular)
min. focus distance0.28 m (max. magnification ratio 1:4.2)
Dimensions83 x 114 mm
Weight900 g
Filter size77 mm (non-rotating)
Hoodpetal-shaped, snap-on, supplied
Other featuresultrasonic AF, DMF

Disclosure: When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in this site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network and Google Adsense.