Review Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS (SEL1635Z) for the Sony E-Mount

In the middle of November the waiting had an end and I was finally holding the long awaited wide-angle lens Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS (SEL1635Z) for my Sony A7r in my hands.

(Check out the price of Sony 16-35mm Vario-Tessar T FE F4 ZA OSS E-Mount Lens and Sony a7R Full-Frame Interchangeable Digital Lens Camera on

While I wrote about my initial experiences here, including a number of unedited photos for you to explore in full size for yourself and the story of me having to return my first copy of the lens due to quality problems, I now feel comfortable to share some more experiences of myself shooting with the lens. As I am currently traveling through New Zealand I basically am using it every single day and have produced the first set of images for my photo galleries with it.

You can find the photos of my trip through New Zealand here.

In summary I am now satisfied with the quality of the images that the lens is producing together with my Sony A7r.

Having to return the first copy of the lens left me very disappointed having desperately waited for the lens for a long time and even settling with the Samyang 14mm, f2.8 in the meantime for my landscape photography.

(Check out the price of Samyang SY14M-E 14mm F2.8 Ultra Wide Lens for Sony E-Mount on

After the exchange episode I was obviously very careful and scrutinised every single image in depth that I shot with the lens and by now am seeing good quality images being produced. However, I would like to highlight that I use the word “good” and not “amazing” or “outstanding”. Comparing the images with those that I produced and am producing with my Sony 24-70mm F4 Vario-Tessar T* FE OSS lens, it is clear that the 24-70mm is producing significantly sharper images. Obviously it is not fair to compare a standard zoom with a wide-angle zoom in that regard but as the lenses overlap in the range 24 to 35mm it is worth noting.

(Check out the price of Sony 24-70mm F4 Vario-Tessar T* FE OSS Interchangeable Full Frame Zoom Lens on

This observation is also being confirmed by DXOMark here.

Aside of the final image quality there is not much that I am interested in when looking at a lens. The build quality is really good as you would expect from a Zeiss lens and the handling is very comfortable having the experience with the 24-70mm lens.

In my personal opinion there is no alternative to this lens in the wide-angle area for a professional photographer using the Sony A7 camera system as it is definitely sharper than the 14mm Samyang lens and that is what you are looking for but for an amateur showing your photos on a computer screen or making the occasional smaller print I would say the price difference between the Samyang 14mm, f2.8 and the Sony Zeiss 16-35mm, f4 lens is too large to justify the investment.

To give you an idea of what images I produced with my new 16-35mm, f4 lens, please have a look at the following images and remember to check out the unedited photos in my previous post here.

Hobbits Missing
Driving from Raglan to the Te Toto Gorge along a coastal gravel road you pass this mazing hilly landscape that would have made the perfect setting in case you would have wanted to move the Hobbiton movie set closer to the sea.
Te Toto Gorge Sunset
What a better place to go surfing in new Zealand than in Raglan. A famous long left handed wave, awesome empty beaches and great backpacker accommodation! Surf’s up Ace!
Stream from Ruapehu Mountain
Hiking in the Tongariro National Park at sunset rewards you with the most amazing colors and views. Crossing one of the many streams coming down from Mount Ruapehu I got this capture with the water leading the viewers eyes nicely into the photo and up to the mountain top.
MY Sam Simon
Arriving in Wellington I am delighted to see the MY Sam Simon in the harbour. It is part of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society Fleet dedicated to disrupt or hinder illegal whaling, fishing and sealing operations. I find it quiet amusing that it was actually built in Japan, the very country who’s whaling fleet is now facing it when trying to perform their illegal whale hunting.


  1. Dzung says

    Dear Dirk. Thanks for your sharing. I am actually also looking for the Samyang 14mm f2.8 due to some reasons such as huge saving budget, or 2mm wider, etc. So i’m just wondering if you could make some comparison between the Samyang 14mm and the SEL1635Z, with some photos taken to illustrate your conclusion (which shows you have had some idea about it). The thing is, the SEL1635Z costs more than three-time the Samyang 14mm, but is it really worth for the money, is its quality three time better or something? I also checked the Dxomark score, but the result doesn’t confirm that. Thank you.

  2. Dzung says

    Thanks for your reply with a lot of interesting and useful additional information. It makes things much clearer in terms of which lens to go for. At this stage, i would prefer the Samyang over the Sony. The most concerned issue for me is Moustache distortion, but as you said, now it can be fixed with Lightroom tools. Your pictures taken by Samyang are impressed with very well-controlled distortion (after Lightroom, i suppose). Manual focus doesn’t bother me either; indeed, i even prefer it over the Auto focus mode for the accuracy (most of the time, except when catching movement). I have some other prime lenses and a zoom ‘kit’ lens EF 28-70mm. So there’s no need the range of 16-35mm. The Samyang is 2mm wider, which is significant for me to consider as well. The only thing now is it seems impossible to use filters with the Samyang 14mm. Currently i check on Ebay, and BHvideophoto (i dont know about Amazon), but no solution to this problem. Did you have any experience about this 😉

    • says

      Yes, I have experience with filters for the Samyang lens.

      I ordered the following at :

      1 x Accessories Filters – Samyang SFH-14 Filter Holder
      Samyang Filter Holder SFH-14 (SFH-14 )
      EUR 29.99
      1 x Accessories Samyang – Cokin ND8 filter for Samyang
      Cokin 154 ND8 filter for Samyang (COKND8SAM)
      EUR 64.99
      1 x Accessories Samyang – Cokin Graduated Grey Filter ND4 Samyang
      Cokin 121M ND4 Filter 160 for Samyang (COK121MSAM)
      EUR 69.99
      1 x Accessories Samyang – Cokin Graduated blue filter 160 series Samyang
      Cokin Graduated Blue Filter 160 series Samyang (COK123SSAM)
      EUR 69.99

      However, after placing the order, the shop contacted me as they had difficulties to supply the filter system and I decided not to place an order again as the announcement for the Sony 16-35mm lens was made in the meantime.

      So, there are filters out there but I guess you need to do some searching to find them.

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