I now have this lens for about 2 weeks. My findings will not be extremely technical as I like to describe my experiences with 'real' use. For people wanting to see technical comparisons, please go to dpreview or dxomark as all that info is already out there.
Now that we've got that out of the way; let's talk about this great lens! As a landscape photographer I love wide shots. I'm only shooting with the Sony E-mount system for about 3 months so it's only logical that at some point I would get the 16-35 lens. The lens has a pricetag though, so it's not for everyone. When I bought my Sony A7II, I immediately bought the Samyang 14mm f2.8 with it. I heard many good stories about it and the price was very low for the quality. Before I got the Zeiss, I did all my wide shots at 14mm with this lens. I managed to get lots of amazing photographs with this piece of glass, but I sometimes missed some crucial range.
That Zeiss pop
Now that I finally bought the 16-35 it's 90% of the time on my A7II. It's not as wide as the 14mm, but other than that it's great and the zoom to 35mm is extremely useful obviously. People that know my photography style know that I love colors. I can tell you, this lens does not disapoint. The colour rendering is great. Photos straight out of camera sometimes do not even need vibrance and saturation adjustments as they already look great. And the sharpness, just w-o-w. The sharpness has that typical pop that you would expect from Zeiss. From the few images I took with this lens, I had people already asking me (mainly on Facebook and Flickr) what lens I used. The colour combined with the sharpness makes it extremely pleasing to the eye.
It's sharp across the entire image, and even at F4 in the corners, it does not disapoint. Of course it gets a little bit softer but you can't expect anything else from a lens wide open. It's sharpest at 16mm, and loses a very little bit on the maximum zoom of 35mm. The distortion of this lens is very well controlled. It suffers from almost no distortion actually, even at its widest. When I take photos from architecture and the camera is leveled with the building, there's basically no distortion in the lines, which is great.
Compared to Samyang 14mm f2.8
So let's make a quick comparison to my previous landscape lens, the 14mm Samyang. While I always loved the Samyang, I'm obviously not using it that much anymore. That does not mean it's useless, at all.
- Both lenses are extremely sharp. The Samyang sharpness is also amazing, but it has a bit less 'pop' than the Zeiss.
- The Zeiss has zoom (doh) so it's more functional.
- The Samyang is wider with it's 14mm. This can be useful in some cases. With landscapes I usually say: one can never go wide enough.
- The Samyang is much bigger, BUT that's obvious as it's an f2.8 lens. The f2.8 on the Samyang is also still very sharp and usable.
- Because of the 14mm f2.8, the Samyang is still perfect for astrophotography. And that's the main thing i'll still be using this lens for! It's much faster AND wider than the Zeiss.
- There's not much distortion on the Zeiss. It's very well controlled. The Samyang suffers from heavy distortion but can be fixed in post.
- The Zeiss has a decent size and weight. A perfect lens to bring for travel. I'd never bring the Samyang travelling because of it's size and it's 'limited' use.
- The Zeiss is easy to use with filters, the Samyang is a real pain!
So, both lenses have their advantages, summarized I use the Zeiss 16-35 for everything regarding landscapes, except for astrophography. I'm still going to test the Zeiss for astrophotography later on. I can imagine it can be a great lens for the A7s, or the new A7rII in that regard (because they have better high ISO performance)
The sunflare of this lens is something else. I've never seen a flare quite like this. Most people absolutely love it and it can also be used in artistic ways There's some other flare and reflections too. I'm not sure what to think of that. I saw on many sites that the coating was very nice, but I still notice some weird reflections from time to time. Like weird reflections next to lamps or something. I'd have to experiment more with that to comment further and would also love to hear opinions from other people owning this lens. An example of the sunflare, straight out of camera:
The sunstreaks all have different lengths. It can be controlled with different apertures and different zooming. This shot was taken at f22.
As a landscape photographer I like to manually focus. The ring on the Zeiss lens is continuous which means it does not have a stop. So there are also no marks on the lens. I like to actually see what I'm doing so that's a minor disadvantage for me. Especially if you're focusing in the dark, it can be difficult to manually do so.
You can use all kinds of filters with this lens. Because of it's 72mm diameter circular filters can easily be used. 100x100 filters with a holder also work well. I currently use a Hitech 100x100 holder with a setup ring from 72-77. And another ring that was part of the holder that went from 77mm-86mm. All in all the setup works nicely. At 16mm I get some vignetting with a 10 stop ND filter but nothing I can't fix in post. The vignetting is basically gone from 18-19mm.
- Amazing image quality, real Zeiss pop
- Small compared to competition
- Easy to use with filters
- Artistic sunflare (can also be a disavantage if you do not like it)
- Very little distortion
- It's 'only' F4
- Focus system
- Noticed some weird reflection/glare issues. Will comment on that further or in the future.
Overall I can recommend this lens to all landscape photographers shooting with the Sony e-mount systems. It's not cheap, but it is worth it from my perspective. I'm sure this lens will perform amazing with the upcoming Sony A7RII and I can't wait to test it with that body.
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additional images taken with the Zeiss: