Review of the Sony Carl Zeiss DT 16-80mm f3.5-4.5 ZA lens

Product Overview

Overall rating:

90%
Image Quality:95%
Performance:95%
Value:90%
Overall score:90%
Features:85%
Design:85%

Pros:

  • Great technical performance and robust feel

Cons:

  • Manual-focus ring lacks silky smoothness

Product:

Sony Carl Zeiss DT 16-80mm f3.5-4.5 ZA

Manufacturer:

Price as reviewed:

£499.00

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When the Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar 16-80mm zoom was tested for WDC’s round-up of Sony standard zooms it performed unexpectedly poorly and looked like a rogue sample. That suspicion is backed-up by the results of this review, which was conducted using a different lens.



First, the 16-80mm’s MTF curves now have a textbook appearance. Maximum resolution is in excess of 0.3 cycles per pixel from wide-open to f/11 at all focal lengths and the fall-off at smaller apertures is nicely progressive. Any resolution performance above 0.25 cycles per pixel indicates a well-mannered lens and this lens exceeds such expectations. Second, chromatic aberration is all but invisible. It is true that taxing images (bare tree branches silhouetted against a bright sky) reveal colour fringes when examined at pixel-level but this manner of inspection is so severe that no standard zoom can escape totally unblemished.



Third, optical distortion is well controlled. There is significant barrel distortion (6.3%) at 16mm, falling to an insignificant level (0.1%) at 35mm, then switching to a small amount of pincushioning (0.6%) at 80mm. That said, even when set to its minimum focal length the lens produces a natural image quality in which distortion is not obtrusive. Equally pleasant is the way depth-of-field is rendered: there is a particularly soft gradation from in-focus to out-of-focus regions despite biting sharpness in the former. This trick is something of a Carl Zeiss speciality and is one of the best reasons for choosing this lens over Sony’s own lenses.

Handling is good thanks to a wide zoom ring closest to the camera body and a narrower manual-focus ring beyond. The zoom mechanism produces a continuous extension in the lens as it progresses from 16 to 80mm. There is a focused-distance window but no indications for depth-of-field.

It might be thought unfortunate that the maximum aperture is only f/3.5 and that this declines to f/4.5 at 80mm when other standard zooms achieve and even maintain a maximum aperture of f/2.8. But the 16-80mm has a 5x zoom, which is more than most of its rivals offer. The only lens that triumphs on both counts is the Olympus 12-60mm f/2.8-4 but that retails at over £600.

 

IMAGE QUALITY

(Below) There is a beautifully natural graduation from sharpness to out-of-focus blur when the lens is used wide-open (in this case at its 16mm focal length).

 

SonyCZDT16-80Daffodil.jpg
 
 
PERFORMANCE
 
The lines shown here are textbook perfect: there is excellent consistency and outstanding performance from wide-open to f/11.
 

 

SonyCZDT16-80chart.jpg

 

 

Sample images

Verdict

Having had a second chance to evaluate the Carl Zeiss 16-80mm f/3.5-4.5 ZA it is clear that this is a cracking lens. If you are a Sony user who demands the best, then this is the standard zoom for you.

Full Specification

Minimum Aperture:
f/22-27

Lens Mount:
Sony
Filter Thread:
62mm

Focus Method:
AF and MF
Other:
Soft pouch included

Minimum Focus:
0.35
Lens Construction:
14/10

Weight:
445g
Maximum Aperture:
f/3.5-4.5

(APS-C):
Yes
Dimensions:
72x83mm

Focal Length:
16-80mm
Maximum Format Size:
APS-C

  1. 1. Introduction
  2. 2. Sample images
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