Check out how tiny this lens is, we're absolutely loving the form factor of the new Sony FE PZ 16-35 F4 G lens. PZ, if your unfamiliar stands for power zoom and even though this is not the first power zoom lens that Sony has produced, especially if you're used to their APS-C lineup of things, this really does stand out from the other lenses that came before it. So let's talk a little more about this, shall we?
Well firstly, what does power zoom stand for? In a nutshell, it's kind of like what we had when we were all rocking camcorders. So unlike a physical zoom where you physically turn and twist the rings on your lens, there are motors within the lens that are electronically controlled to replicate that same movement instead. In this case, there are XD linear motors present inside the lens, courtesy of Sony of course, that enables this electronic movement. So in essence, you'll be able to achieve a really smooth zoom for your shots in-camera as if you have the camera rigged up to an entire video rig, simply by just pushing onto the zoom slider that's located on the side of the lens.
To note, most of the previous Sony lens with the power zoom function were designed for APS-C only, such as the good old FE PZ 18-105 F4 G OSS lens that still a really solid choice till this day. However, this is the first power zoom lens from Sony that's designed for the full-frame sensor instead. But thanks to Sony's use of the E-mount, you can basically use it on either full-frame or APS-C with no worries of vignetting any longer.
Now let's talk design and it really is quite simple.
The most striking feature of this lens would be the 3 physical rings that you'll find on the lens itself. You of course get your focus ring just like any other lens, a zoom ring as usual albeit it controls it electronically but lastly, you'll also get an aperture ring. This last ring was a pleasant surprise because you would usually only use an aperture ring on prime lenses or fully manual lenses.
An aperture ring is a really nice touch as it allows you to change your aperture really quickly without diving into the menu of your camera and for us, it just feels really nice to use. In addition, the lens also provides the option to click or de-click the aperture ring via a sliding toggle on the side. In general, most photographers like it click as it provides an instant feel to grasp the aperture you're setting it to while filmmakers and videographers prefer it de-clicked as it allows a smooth transition of exposure without adjusting your shutter speed or ISO which are usually done in steps and extremely obvious while recording which would actually further exacerbate the issue during post-production.
Other buttons include a focus hold button just below the zoom slider which is fully customizable to any other function via your camera and right below would be the usual autofocus and manual focus locks. Lastly, you have an iris lock as well.
So now we dive into the quality of the lens itself. The lens feature 12 groups and 13 elements in total for better image clarity and to reduce as much chromatic aberration as possible especially in comparison to other lenses of this physical size. You'll also get 7 circular aperture blade which should provide really creamy and smooth bokeh.
Filter thread comes in at 72mm which and the minimum focusing distance at 16mm would be 0.28m while at 35mm, it'll be 0.24m.
And for the ultimate question, is it weather resistant? Well, it is. To a certain degree.
The lens is dust and moisture proof which certainly wouldn't win you any awards and definitely not the kind of lens you would want to go with in the most extreme of conditions. However, for day to day use and for slight rain and dust, it'll hold up fine.
But now let's backtrack a little and talk about the main feature of this lens, that power zoom. As mentioned earlier, you can adjust the speed of the zoom simply by how much force you're putting into the slider or how fast you're turning that zoom ring. Think of it like stepping on the accelerator in your car. It works on the same principles. But if you don't want to be touch the lens to utilize this zoom function, especially if it's rigged up to a gimbal and such, you can actually move that function over to the camera and utilize it that way. You can even customize the function of it on the camera itself and select different zoom speeds of up to 8 different steps. At the time of writing, the cameras that support this function would be the A1, A7SIII, FX3 and ZV-E10.
To add on, something that we really appreciate about the zoom function of this lens is that everything is done internally. The shifting of elements within the lens, all of it, are done internally. The barrel length of the lens doesn't change. This makes it awesome for videographers and filmmakers out there as that means that the overall balance of the camera doesn't shift no matter the focal length.
Goes without saying that this lens will also support and keep up with the great autofocus that Sony has. But it does have one drawback, which is the lack of image stabilization. Though anyone who purchases this lens would most likely be using it with a Sony camera in which most of them would feature in-body image stabilization. It's a downside for sure, but perhaps not too much of a downside practically.
At this point, we move on the real world testing. Definitely do check out our video review to see the results in action. But to sum it up briefly here. Focus breathing is really minimal on this lens. In fact, it is pretty downright impressive. Autofocus performance is to be expected from Sony and the power zoom functionality, while definitely have its quirks, performed admirably as well. Our only suggestion was that the preset 8 zoom speeds to be adjusted slightly. At the setting of 8, it could be just a little faster.
Photos wise, it is great. Overall sharpness and clarity is on point and the bokeh is really creamy and circular. As for colour fringing and bleed, that's pretty minimal as well. The only thing we noticed was that edge objects in the background that are starting to fall off and blend with the overall bokeh have a little bit of ghosting. But honestly, that 's not too much of an issue, especially considering this lens for what it is.
Again, please do take a look at the video review to really see it for yourself!
In summary, you might be asking yourself. If you already own a 16-35mm lens, is this worth a pickup?
That will depend, but we argue that this is certainly one of a kind. There is nothing else like it in the market right now to offer this much versatility in a package so small and light. This is perhaps the best all round travel lens for full frame at the moment. Yes, you'll be limited to F4 and it might start to struggle a little in low light conditions. But even so, the sharpness and overall rendition that you get from this lens is astounding and we just really really like it. Even at just F4, the bokeh is enjoyable.
At the moment of writing, there isn't an official price for this lens just about yet, so our thoughts might change depending. But as right now, this lens is certainly a solid package.