Despite releasing in 2013, the Sony 16-70mm F4 (Zeiss branding) has somehow still retaining a rather massive price tag regardless of age.
Although it was a fantastic lens upon release, there have been many other APS-C lenses that have come out since then.
So how does this old lens hold up to more modern offerings? Read on below.
Looking for a quick summary before jumping in?
- Decent build quality
- Optical image stabilization
- Nice all metal build
- Generally overshadowed by modern competition
Size & Weight
So first up, let’s talk about size and weight.
Although old, the Sony 16-70mm F4 maintains a typical compact mirrorless build, measuring 2.95 inches (7.5cm) long and weighing 10.8oz (308g).
Although this was quite impressive back when it released, some newer lenses such as the fabulous Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 offer similar specs whilst being even smaller and lighter.
Is the lens well built?
Being a Zeiss branded lens, you’d expect the build quality to be top notch, and yes, it’s pretty solid.
The lens is made from a nice mix of metal and polycarbonate, albeit with a plastic lens hood and cap.
Honestly, it’s not quite as nice as some newer APS-C lenses, such as the Sony 16-55mm F2.8, but this old zoom still feels built to last.
Aesthetics & Ergonomics
Ergonomically, the focus and zoom rings are rather small, but still quite grippy, making the day-to-day usage of this lens quite nice. Unfortunately doesn’t have any physical switches (like AF/MF).
As for aesthetics, beauty is always subjective but I think this is a somewhat ugly lens. The black metal barrel is a little plain, and the small Zeiss logo is the only thing breaking up the monotony.
Of course, who cares about the look of a lens as long as it performs well, right? Speaking of which…
As for image quality, there’s a lot to coveras the Sony 16-70mm F4 has such a large zoom range. My lens tests are never very scientific, and I usually just eyeball things by pixel-peeping.
To start, images shot at 16mm/F4 show respectably sharp centers, but there is quite a lot of softness in the corners. Stopping down doesn’t do much to remedy the corner sharpness at this focal length.
About mid-range at 40mm F4, we see similar results. Razor sharp centers and softer corners, even when stopped down a good bit.
When zoomed all the way in, the overall image runs a little softer but is overall much more consistent from edge-to-edge.
Again, this lens is a bit older (with how fast tech is advancing), so while it may have been top-of-the-line a few years ago, competitors like the Sony 16-55mm F2.8 or the Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 have started to beat it out in terms of pure sharpness.
Optical Quirks & Flaws
As for optical flaws, this lens suffers from one major issue: decentering. My copy was fine, but apparently over the years there have been many quality control issues, causing some lenses to put out absolutely awful performance. What most users suggest is to print out a sharpness test online after purchasing your copy.
Otherwise, distortion and vignetting are moderate, but easily fixable in post-processing. Chromatic abberations can pop up in high-contrast situations, but are largely removable with a single click in Lightroom. I’ve personally never been quite as bothered by CA.
Overall Optical Performance
Overall, the optical performance of this lens is solid, but doesn’t really stand up to more modern options. Sharpness is decent, but gets beaten out by the razor sharp Sony 16-55mm F2.8.
Besides that, the decentering issue makes it kind of a crapshoot as to whether or not you’ll actually get a good copy of the lens.
As for autofocus, it works well enough for the age. The Sony 16-70mm F4 (usually) delivers quick and reliable focus, but it can really slip up in low light.
Expect plenty of hunting issues when shooting in dark environments. Not really much of a surprise, but still, newer lenses generally don’t struggle as much these days.
For my fellow fans of manual focus, do note that the (small) focusing ring is focus-by-wire, making the MF experience usually pretty lackluster.
The ring is decently dampened, but there’s just something about a focus-by-wire system that just feels so inaccurate.
My Final Thoughts
This lens was top-tier when it debuted back in 2013, but nowadays some of the competitors have caught up. Before we round out the review, I’d like to offer a couple alternatives.
First, I have to to suggest the incredible Sigma 18-50mm F2.8. The zoom range isn’t quite as versatile, but sharpness is off the charts, its incredibly small, and, to top it off, is quite affordable.
Second, if you’re looking for a similar zoom range, consider the Tamron 17-70mm F2.8. It’s huge and it’s heavy, but image quality is great and the constant F2.8 aperture is quite nice to have.
Finally, the Sony 16-55mm F2.8 is arguably the best zoom for APS-C cameras. It’s razor sharp, built like a tank, but its incredibly expensive in comparison.
I would personally suggest going with one of my aforementioned alternatives, but either way, the Sony 16-70mm F4 is still a pretty decent lens.
It’s fairly sharp, autofocus usually works well, and it was small. If you’re dead set on picking up this lens, I’ll include purchase links below (consider buying used to save money). Thanks for reading!