Carl-Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS ( Sony SEL1670Z ) - Review / Test Report
Lens Reviews - Sony NEX

Review by Klaus Schroiff, published March 2015


The Sony's strategy regarding thei APS-C format E-mount system (formerly NEX) may appear to be a bit odd but it's nonetheless successful. Sony released about as many APS-C format cameras as corresponding lenses. Cameras are more attractive to talk about so the corresponding media coverage translated into visibility and a very decent market share - also because the cameras are really nice actually. However, the lens lineup ... well ... compared to other systems it just doesn't cut it honestly speaking. There are or at least were very few lenses targeting enthusiasts. With the rise of Sony's full format E system, the situation has eased a bit lately. However, as far as dedicated APS-C format zoom lenses is concerned, there are basically just two zoom lenses that can be identified as high quality offerings: the Sony E 10-18mm f/4 OSS and Carl-Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* E 16-70mm f/4 ZA OSS (not counting non-mainstream adapter solutions). Admittedly we hesitated to review the latter for some time. Initially there were many reports about QC problems thus we actually avoided a review till late last year. This is in so far somewhat unfortunate since the lens specs are highly attractive with an equivalent full format zoom range of "24-105mm" - a perfect general purpose lens actually. At around 1000US$/800EUR, it is rather pricey though so it better be good ...

The Vario-Tessar is surprisingly light-weight and compact and Sony managed to keep the build quality on a very high level. The outer lens barrel is made of metal based on a metal mount. When zooming towards the long end, the lens extends quite a bit. This inner lens tube is made of plastic. Both the zoom and focus ring operate smoothly. A petal-shaped lens hood (plastic) is supplied as part of the standard package.

We tested the lens on A6000 this time. The AF speed is generally good (less so on the NEX 7) although you still won't take it for sports photography. AF operations are also essentially noiseless. Typical for E-mount lenses, manual focusing works "by-wire". The implementation is really good and allows very fine grained focusing. The lens also incorporates an optical image stabilizer (Optical-Steady-Shot or OSS). Sony claims a gain of up to 4 stops by the OSS but we wouldn't sign that really. In the real life that's more like 2 to 3 stops.

Equivalent full-format"24-105mm f/6"
Optical construction16 elements in 12 groups inc. 1xAA, 2x aspherical and 1xED elements
Number of aperture blades7 (circular)
min. focus distance0.35m (1:4.3)
Filter size55mm
Hoodsupplied, petal-shaped, bayonet mount
Other featuresOptical Image Stabilizer

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