In photography, standard zooms are the new black.
There’s a reason most manufacturers have all but stopped including 50mm primes as kit lenses with their cameras in recent years. It used to be that 50mm lenses offered much better optical quality and were much cheaper to produce than zooms, while still being quite versatile thanks to their normal focal length. The combination of all these factors made them ideal kit lenses in the eyes of manufacturers and users alike.
These days, however, standard zooms have improved so much that they’ve reached a “good enough” state for most people, and their increased focal range makes them by far the preferred choice by today’s standards.
Typical kit zooms usually cover the 28-70mm focal range and have variable maximum apertures, in most cases between f/3.5-f/5.6. They also sell separately for a few hundred dollars — even less in the used market, since pretty much everyone has one stuck in a drawer somewhere from when they bought their camera.
That is usually the sad fate of kit zooms: they’re good enough to get you started, but as you grow and start wanting more from your lens, they usually end up being left behind.
The natural step up in many of those cases is the more ambitious constant aperture zoom lens. These tend to offer a slightly wider focal range of 24-70mm, or even 24-105mm sometimes, as well as a constant f/4 maximum aperture throughout the entire zoom range. And then there are constant f/2.8 zooms for professional use, but that’s a story for another day.
Constant f/4 aperture zooms are extremely popular, and with good reason. The rule of thumb is that they take things up a notch in the build quality department, while also being better corrected than the corresponding kit zooms. That means distortion, chromatic aberration and sharpness are all improved, or at least they should be. At the same time, and unlike their high-end f/2.8 siblings, f/4 zooms remain light and compact enough for casual use.
The Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* FE 24-70mm f/4 ZA OSS — excuse the mouthful — is just such a lens. At a glance, it offers improved build quality and a wider zoom range over the Sony FE 28-70mm f/3.5-5.6 lens that comes bundled with most α7-series cameras these days. And being a Sony-Zeiss collaboration, its image quality should also be significantly better in order to make up for its considerably higher price tag.
As we’re about to see, these claims are all fundamentally true, but there are some caveats.
Build quality and ergonomics
The Sony FE 24-70mm f/4 lens is very solidly built. Being a Sony-Zeiss collaboration, the lens was jointly designed by the two companies and then manufactured by Sony according to Carl Zeiss specifications. Lenses are then quality-checked by Zeiss to ensure certain design and performance parameters are met.
The lens shares much of its build and design features with other Sony-Zeiss lenses, like the excellent 55mm f/1.8 prime lens we reviewed here. If you’ve already read that review, much of what you’re about to read in this section will sound familiar.
The Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens sports an all-metal exterior, except for both lens caps and the lens hood, which are made of plastic. It is also weather sealed, being rated by Sony as “dust and moisture resistant”, just like the α7-series cameras. What this means in practice is that, while you probably shouldn’t take it out under torrential rain, or dip it in water — definitely don’t dip in water — it should be just fine to use under a light drizzle. Of course, having really solid weatherproofing built into the lens would have been even better, but in order for it to be actually useful, Sony would also need to implement it in their cameras.
The cosmetic appearance of the lens is quite minimalist, with lots of straight, clean lines and very little in the way of embellishments — much like the other Sony FE lenses. Since this is a collaboration with Zeiss, the lens sports the famous blue Zeiss badge on one side of the barrel, and the Sony logo on the opposite side. There’s no aperture ring on the lens, which also adds to the simple exterior.
Roughly half of the lens barrel is devoted to the focusing and zoom rings, which makes using the lens easier and more comfortable. Both of these rings are made of metal and have the same textured surface that improves the grip.
The focusing ring is the one located near the front element. Even though it’s the narrower of the two rings, it’s still wide enough. There’s barely any resistance to it though, especially in the beginning. It takes only the slightest effort to get the ring turning, although resistance does build up a bit once it’s moving. If you set your camera’s focus mode to DMF, you’ll need to be careful to avoid accidentally turning the ring and messing your focus point.
The zoom ring is just like the focusing ring, albeit significantly wider. However, it offers quite a bit more resistance, which gives it a very solid and precise feeling in actual use.
The lens barrel has markings along the zoom ring to indicate the most used focal lengths: there are markings for 24mm, 35mm, 50mm and 70mm. The separation between these appears to be linear, meaning you have the same precision at any point within the zoom range.
The lens extends physically in length as you zoom in, measuring approximately 95mm long at its shortest — at the 24mm focal length — and extending 30mm more, to a total length of 125mm when zoomed in all the way to the 70mm focal length.
The included lens hood is made of plastic, but it feels nice and solid, and can be reversed for easy storage. It locks into place with a reassuring click, and it takes quite a bit of force to disengage it. Naturally, this may end up loosening up a bit after years of regular use, but the first impression is indeed excellent.
Unlike the 55mm lens, this one includes a decent front cap. It has a front-clip mechanism that makes it easy to use, even when the lens hood is attached. Despite being made of plastic, it still provides more than enough protection, and stays firmly in place when attached. This is admittedly nothing to be excited about, but after the disappointment of the 55mm lens cap, it is a welcome improvement.
The filter thread is 67mm, which is rather on the small side for a Full Frame standard zoom. For reference, the other f/4 aperture zooms for the FE system, the wider Sony Zeiss Vario-Tessar T* FE 16-35mm f/4 ZA OSS and the longer Sony FE 70-200mm f/4 G OSS, both use a larger filter thread size of 72mm.
Finally, the lens mount is also made of metal, with a very characteristic pinkish hue that is also found in some other Sony-Zeiss FE lenses.
Overall, the build quality of the 24-70mm f/4 lens is top-notch, with very little to complain about. Best of all, despite this solid construction, the lens still weighs a reasonable 430g, quite a bit less than comparable DSLR zooms.
The Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens uses a focus-by-wire mechanism. That means the focusing ring is not mechanically linked to the focusing system, which is instead operated electronically. Manual focus users tend to prefer lenses with actual, hardware-based manual focus implementations, like the Zeiss Loxia line, but this lens still manages to offer an excellent MF experience thanks to the many focusing aids built into modern Sony cameras.
When used in combination with features like focus peaking and magnification, it’s pretty easy to nail focus every time with this lens, and with a bit of practice it’s entirely possible to obtain results that are even competitive with the AF system. This is especially true in low light scenarios, where the AF system tends to hunt a little bit.
Turning the focusing ring is easy enough, perhaps even too easy sometimes. Due to the very slight resistance the ring offers, you may find yourself turning it accidentally sometimes if you’re not careful. The flip side of that is that you can make very fine adjustments with ease, so it’s not all bad news.
Most modern E-mount Sony cameras can be configured in DMF mode, meaning you can use the AF system to achieve general focus, then turn the focusing ring to achieve critical focus manually. In this mode, focus peaking is activated by default, but you can set the camera to use magnification instead, or both. This is a fantastic way to ensure you always focus exactly where you want to. With a maximum aperture of f/4, there’s usually enough depth of field that achieving critical focus is a breeze, but having the option to fine-tune it to such a degree is still great.
Finally, the lack of a depth-of-field scale and hard stops is unfortunate. You will need to keep an eye on the EVF or the LCD screen, which means this lens probably won’t cut it for those who like to use the zone focusing technique. For everyone else, though, the experience is pretty solid.
Autofocus performance is very good in good light, as is typical with most FE lenses.
The 24-70mm f/4 lens achieves focus in well under a second in pretty much any sort of scene, provided there are at least a few contrasty lines to help the AF system figure out where to focus. AF performance slows down a bit in dimmer conditions, as with most lenses, but remains perfectly usable in all but the darkest settings.
Focus accuracy is also excellent, although this is to be expected given the relatively modest maximum aperture of the lens — at f/4, there’s enough depth of field for focusing to be easy.
The minimum focus distance is rated as 40cm, but in practice the lens focuses quite a bit closer, especially at the wider end of the zoom range. It’s still not what we’d call Macro, though.
By setting the camera to AF-C mode and with subject tracking turned on, the lens is able to accurately track moving subjects in most situations when used on a Sony α7 II camera. Tracking performance may vary slightly when used on different camera bodies, but it should remain good enough to track most subjects. Obviously, the wider depth of field that comes with the f/4 aperture is of great help here, but the lens is still optimized for everyday scenes, not fast action or sports.
The 24-70mm f/4 lens is very quiet when focusing, but it’s not totally silent. There’s a faint whirring sound when the focusing motor engages, but it’s so low that you probably won’t hear it unless you specifically go looking for it. It shouldn’t be a problem for video, either.
Speaking of which, if you expect to use this lens primarily for video, you’ll be glad to know the lens doesn’t suffer from focus breathing at all. When a lens “breathes” it means the field of view changes as you focus closer to infinity. With the 24-70mm f/4 lens, the field of view remains the same regardless of the focus point. This is especially useful when you change focus from one subject to another one that’s closer to (or farther away from) the camera in the same shot, a common technique in cinematography called focus pulling.
You can see the lack of focus breathing in the following video:
Unfortunately, the lack of a clickless aperture ring keeps this lens from being perfect for video. That, and the fact it isn’t a parfocal or “true” zoom lens, so the focus point changes ever so slightly as you zoom in or out. The parfocal ability is usually irrelevant in lenses optimized for stills, but highly desired for video for obvious reasons. Being able to zoom in or out while maintaining your focus point is a huge benefit in moviemaking applications.
These two features, however, are considered niche by many, and therefore they are usually pretty expensive to get in a lens. At the end of the day, if you’re into video, fear not: it’s entirely possible to record excellent video with the 24-70mm f/4 lens as-is.
The 24-70mm f/4 lens uses Zeiss’ Vario-Tessar trademark. Tessar is an optical design created by German physicist Paul Rudolph in 1902. According to Wikipedia, the original Tessar design “comprises four elements in three groups, one positive crown glass element at the front, one negative flint glass element at the center and a negative plano-concave flint glass element cemented with a positive convex crown glass element at the rear.”
That’s little more than a history lesson, though, as modern lenses have nothing to do with the original Tessar design, other than the name. That said, it’s still a nice trademark today, which is why Zeiss continues to use it. Meanwhile, the actual 24-70mm f/4 lens has 12 elements in 10 groups, including five aspherical elements and one extra-low dispersion glass element that purportedly helps mitigate chromatic aberration at the long end of the focal range.
On paper, this sounds quite impressive. Now let’s see if those claims hold up in actual, real-world use.
Sharpness is always pretty good in the center, and reasonably good in the corners at focal lengths other than 24mm. Let’s take a look at each focal length in a bit more detail.
As you’ve seen, the main concern with this lens sharpness-wise is the poor resolution in the corners at 24mm. This is especially true at wide apertures, but the lens never really reaches great sharpness levels in the corners at 24mm, even when stopped down. It may be a product of field curvature, because the corners improve substantially when the focus point is on the edge of the frame, but even then, it’s nothing to write home about.
Whether this is a problem in actual use depends a lot on the type of photography that you do. If you want to shoot in low light and want sharp corners at 24mm, this is not a lens you want to be looking at. Instead, you will be much better off with the excellent Sony Zeiss 16-35mm f/4 lens, which is sharper in the corners and gives you a bit of extra reach at the wider end.
That said, if you’re not a pixel peeper, the 24-70mm f/4 lens is perfectly adequate for most uses, even at 24mm. It may not cut it for super specialized professional jobs, but it’s still a great lens. And at any other focal length, sharpness is actually pretty good across the frame, easily on par with some prime lenses of equivalent focal length, even at f/4.
The problem with this lens is not so much that its sharpness is bad, but that there are equivalent lenses for other systems out there that are definitely sharper in the corners and don’t cost nearly as much, so the value proposition of this lens suffers a bit when you consider the competition. Unfortunately, all of those other lenses require adapters and, depending on your camera, may not provide reliable and/or fast autofocus. As usual, it’s up to you to decide which tradeoff works best for you.
Bokeh and depth of field
Bokeh is a term that refers to the aesthetic quality of the out of focus areas in an image, not the extent to which they’re out of focus. Some factors that typically affect the bokeh of a lens are the number and grouping of its optical elements, the number of aperture blades it has, and whether those blades are rounded.
As mentioned before, the Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens has 12 elements in 10 groups, including five aspherical elements. It also has 7 rounded aperture blades.
This lens has a nice, creamy bokeh throughout the entire focal range. Of course, being an f/4 lens, the amount of subject separation you can get is limited, especially at the wide end. At 70mm and close distance, however, it is entirely possible to achieve a nice amount of background blur.
Transitions from in-focus to out-of-focus regions are pleasantly abrupt, as with most Zeiss lenses. This effect helps achieve the famous Zeiss “pop” and 3D effect many photographers crave.
Out of focus highlights display some onion rings due to the use of aspherical elements, as expected. They are circular across most of the frame, and only take a bit of a cat’s eye shape in the extreme corners.
Color rendition and contrast
In the era of Instagram, VSCO film and in-camera film emulation filters, most people are perfectly happy with applying a preset or selecting a filter and not doing much in the way of post-processing beyond that. As a result, native color rendition, contrast and rendering have become slightly less important than they used to be.
That said, there’s a reason many photographers continue to invest in high-end lenses. The rendering of some of these pieces of glass can be extremely unique, and sometimes it can be exactly what the images call for. It’s good to know that you can edit the files if you need to, but having a strong starting point is just as important.
The Sony Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens definitely owns up to its Zeiss heritage as far as rendering is concerned. The lens is contrasty straight out of camera, and renders colors beautifully. Zeiss lenses tend to render slightly more saturated colors than Sony lenses, and that tendency holds true here, as well.
Vignetting is light falloff that occurs in the corners of an image, particularly at large apertures.
With the 24-70mm f/4, vignetting is virtually invisible most of the time in actual pictures thanks to the lens profile correction available in Adobe Lightroom.
Without the profile, there’s some vignetting at 24mm and all apertures, as well as at all other focal lengths wide open. Let’s see how it affects each focal length individually.
Vignetting isn’t always an unwanted property though, and in fact many people enjoy the artistic effect it creates in some images. That said, the built-in lens profile in Lightroom can automatically correct vignetting at the click of a single button, making it a non-issue in practical shooting.
Chromatic aberration and fringing
Chromatic aberration (CA) and color fringing refer to the lens’s ability to capture a full range of colors of visible light at the same point. Heavy chromatic aberration typically appears in the form of purple or green fringing around the more contrasty borders of an image.
As you can see, there’s hardly any fringing to speak of here, and activating the lens profile gets rid of any remaining traces immediately. This performance is quite impressive, and probably has something to do with the 5 aspherical elements the lens has, as well as the extra-low dispersion glass element.
Spherochromatism is caused when spherical aberrations are not equally corrected for all wavelengths in visible light. It manifests itself in the form of a magenta cast in the region immediately preceding the focal plane (closer to the camera), as well as a greenish cast in the region immediately following the focal plane (farther away from the camera).
The Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens shows virtually no spherochromatism, even in scenes with plenty of out of focus highlights like the one above. For all practical purposes, spherochromatism is a non-issue with this lens.
Whatever the reason, the reality here is that you can shoot even the most contrasty scenes, and in the vast majority of cases, your images will be free from color fringes. Only when shooting at the long end, near 70mm or so, can you encounter some extremely minor fringes, but again, these are easily eliminated in post production.
Ghosting and flare
Lens flare may occur when a bright light source is caught in the angle of view of the lens, in such a way that its light rays hit the front element of the lens directly. Those rays may then bounce off other elements or even the sensor itself, producing several artifacts along their path. Lens flare usually presents itself in the form of severe haze and a pronounced loss of contrast across the entire frame.
Modern Zeiss lenses use the famous T* coating, which ostensibly reduces ghosting and flare to a great degree. As such, resistance to flare is quite good with these lenses, although it is still possible to encounter it on occasion.
The 24-70mm f/4 lens has excellent resistance to flare, maintaining very good contrast levels even in difficult scenes. Moreover, the included hood provides even more protection against flare, and since it’s reversible, you can always have it with you when you need it.
That said, it’s still possible to encounter some minor ghosting occasionally, especially when you have a very bright light source — such as the Sun — in or near the edges of the frame.
Distortion is virtually non-existent once the lens profile correction is enabled, and the lens usually requires little or no manual correction whatsoever after that.
It’s impressive to see a zoom lens that is so well corrected, even at the wide end. Now, there’s a difference between lens distortion — usually in the form of barrel or pincushion distortion — and shift, which causes vertical lines to converge towards or away from the center when the camera is not held perfectly level to the ground. That’s why buildings appear to bend in your pictures, because you’re pointing the camera up to get them to fit into the frame.
All lenses, including the Zeiss 24-70mm f/4, suffer from shift distortion, but it is more apparent at the wide angle end because that’s what people normally use to take pictures of buildings with lots of straight vertical lines. This effect is unavoidable and entirely caused by the laws of physics. When the subject plane — the building — is not parallel to the image plane — the sensor — then vertical lines converge because they are projected onto a non-parallel surface.
Shift can still be corrected in post production at the cost of some resolution and image area, but it isn’t a fault of the lens. If you don’t want to see converging vertical lines in your images, your best option is to ensure your camera is level, or to use a tilt-shift lens, which can shift its imaging plane relative to the sensor to compensate for this effect.
Additionally, if you shoot at close distances at the wide angle end, you’ll experience perspective distortion. This is also normal and unavoidable, but it is something to be aware of when using the lens. If you don’t want your subjects to appear distorted when shooting with a wide angle lens, be careful and try to keep a safe distance from them.
Real world usage and image samples
Using the Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens in the real world is a great experience. The solid heft, the nice metal build and the precise zoom and focus rings make it incredibly easy to operate. You’ll feel at home with it right from the get go.
The 24-70mm focal range is extremely versatile, and well suited for many types of photography.
At the 24mm end, it’s great for landscape or architectural shots. This will allow you to document every trip or vacation you take, without needing to carry a few extra pounds worth of glass. 24mm is wide enough to get almost anything in the frame, but should you ever need to go wider, you always have the option to shoot multiple images and stitch them together to create a high-resolution panorama.
24mm is also a great focal length to convey a sense of space, and to play with geometry. Wide angle photography has much to do with overwhelming our senses and showing us a new perspective, different from what we see with our own eyes. In that sense, arming yourself with a 24mm lens is a fantastic way to explore new places, as it will force you to get out of your comfort zone and think twice before you shoot.
The lens shows uneven performance at 24mm, with the center being quite good, but the corners lagging behind in sharpness and contrast. This shouldn’t be too noticeable in most real-world scenes, though.
Zooming in a bit more, to 28mm or so, we start getting into street photography territory. This is still a wide angle focal length, but now perspective distortion is better controlled, allowing for more people shots without looking too unnatural.
Moving over to the more traditional 35mm focal length, we enter the standard focal range, although technically we’re still in the moderate wide-angle category. 35mm is perfect for photojournalism, street photography, environmental portraits, and many, many other different types of scene. It could very well be the most versatile focal length there is. The Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens performs very well in this focal length, with increased sharpness and contrast across the frame. At this point there are no image quality complaints about this lens, at all.
Then we reach 50mm. We are now square in the standard focal range, and performance here is just as good, if not better, than at 35mm. Everything from street scenes to half-body portraits looks very nice with this lens, with plenty of sharpness and pop. Bokeh is starting to appear more easily now, and it looks nice and creamy. If not for the limited maximum aperture, this lens would eliminate the need to carry a separate 50mm prime for most people.
Finally, once we get to 70mm, we have decent reach for portraits, and with careful composition we can even achieve a nice amount of subject separation at f/4. Bokeh remains very smooth and creamy here, despite the very occasional fringe, and even though sharpness is not as high as in the midrange, it’s still more than enough for most types of shots.
The Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens has a minimum focusing distance of 40cm, which makes it not exactly ideal as a Macro lens. That said, you can still achieve decent results in a pinch. If you want to capture the occasional closeup shot, your best bet is to zoom into the 50-70mm focal range. The closer to 50mm you go, the better the sharpness, although you do sacrifice some reach. You’ll need to play a bit with the lens to figure out which compromise works better for you.
One problem that frequently occurs when shooting with this lens is that Sony cameras don’t display the current focal length in real time. This makes it difficult to know the focal length you’re at because the markings on the lens barrel are not very precise. Knowing the exact focal length is important when you’re shooting test scenes, where you may need to produce consistently repeatable results without cropping.
It may not be a deal breaker for most, but since there is literally zero downside to showing the focal length in the EVF or the rear LCD, why not give users the choice? The lens is relaying this information to the camera via the EXIF data anyway, so there’s no excuse. Hopefully this will be corrected at some point via a firmware update.
Low light photography is perhaps the area where this lens falls a bit short due to its rather modest f/4 maximum aperture. If you’re going to be shooting frequently in low light, we’d recommend going with a fast prime instead. Of course, you can raise your ISO value and still get decent results with most Sony cameras, up to a point, but inevitably, as you continue to raise your ISO there comes a point where image quality takes a nosedive. If you can choose, always go for fast lenses instead of high ISO values when shooting in the dark.
All in all, this is a lens that can do almost anything, and do it very well. Fans of sharpness charts may be disappointed with its in-lab performance at the wide end, but out there in the real world, everything about the lens feels and works as intended. Yes, there may be equivalent lenses for other systems that can be adapted and perform even better, but nothing can beat the convenience and integration of a native lens.
With the Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens, AF is fast and accurate, and image stabilization works like a charm. Furthermore, the manual-focusing aids built into modern Sony cameras make using this lens in MF mode a pleasure. You would need to sacrifice all of these very useful features in order to go with an adapted lens. That is a significant tradeoff, and probably won’t be worth the increase in corner sharpness for most people.
Room for improvement
The Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens is something of a missed opportunity. Sony had a chance to create a really, really great standard zoom, easily surpassing anything Canon, Nikon, or any other manufacturers have done before. What’s too bad is that they actually got about 80% of the way there, but punted on some aspects that are really essential at this price point.
For the money, these are some of the areas where we feel this lens should perform better:
Sharper corners, especially at the 24mm end. This is by far the worst performing aspect of this lens. Even Zeiss’ own MTF charts admit that the lens performs rather poorly in the corners at 24mm. That they decided to compromise on that area is unfortunate, especially given what they’re charging for the lens. Again, for reference, the similarly specced Canon EF 24-70mm f/4 L IS is much sharper in the corners at 24mm and just about as sharp elsewhere despite being an older design. It also happens to cost $400 less than the Zeiss. Ouch.
A faster f/2.8 maximum aperture. Admittedly, this might be a bit too much to ask for at this price point — after all, the corresponding Canon, Nikon and Sony A-mount lenses are all considerably more expensive — but if Tamron and Sigma can pull it off, why not Sony? There’s a rumored Sony FE 24-70mm f/2.8 G lens around the corner, so if you need a faster aperture zoom, you probably won’t have to wait much longer. Just be prepared to drop a pretty penny for it, because if history is any indication, Sony lenses tend to be priced significantly higher than the competition, especially at launch.
An extended 24-105mm f/4 zoom range. An f/2.8 aperture may not be achievable at this price point, but an extended zoom range surely is. There have been equivalent DSLR lenses out there for years, most of which are actually cheaper than this Zeiss lens, so there doesn’t appear to be any technical reasons holding Sony back from releasing such a lens in the future.
Tougher weather sealing. As mentioned before, a tougher, DSLR-caliber weather sealing system is long overdue for Sony. It takes both the camera and the lens to be equally sealed for such a system to be effective, so it’s not something you can achieve in a day, but it has to start somewhere. With that in mind, a 24-70mm standard zoom like this one — or, better yet, the rumored pro-oriented f/2.8 version — would be an ideal candidate to go first.
Display focal length information in real time. This has probably more to do with the camera than the lens, but it still applies. When you’re trying to achieve repeatable results, it’s important to know the precise focal length you’re shooting with. The fact that Sony α7-series cameras don’t display this information in the EVF or the rear LCD is baffling. There’s no good reason to omit it, so don’t.
Aperture ring with clickless aperture option for video. A nice feature that would surely be appreciated by video enthusiasts, as well as by fans of the manual shooting experience of old.
Parfocal ability for video. This is definitely a high-end niche feature aimed solely at videographers, but if it can be done without increasing the price by much, it’d definitely be nice to have.
The Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens is a solid all-around performer, but it has some significant tradeoffs — just as most lenses do. That said, it’s sometimes easy to look at equivalent lenses for other systems and feel that they offer more, for less. If you require a native E-mount standard zoom for your α7-series camera, then you can skip this section entirely, because the Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens is currently your only choice — although it does look like that may be about to change.
If, on the other hand, you can live with an adapted DSLR lens, then your options expand considerably. Let’s take a look at some of them.
If your camera supports phase-detection AF with adapted lenses (currently, α7 II or α7R II only), you can pick up a lens for the Canon EF-mount, together with the Metabones EF-NEX T Mark IV adapter. If you decide to go with a 3rd-party lens from Tamron or Sigma, you can also get them for the Sony A-mount, which you can use with the Sony LA-EA3 adapter.
Now, choosing between those two options is not trivial. If having fast and reliable autofocus is critical to you, the Sony versions will probably be the safer way to go. Sony designed the adapter themselves, so everything was made in-house. Metabones and other adapter manufacturers, however, reverse-engineer Canon’s focus algorithm in order to get their adapters to work, so there’s never a guarantee that it will work with future lenses or cameras. In any case, here are the different available options:
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di VC USD (Canon | Sony A-mount). Please note that the Sony A-mount version of this lens does not have image stabilization built in.
Sigma 24-105mm f/4 DG OS HSM Art (Canon | Sony A-mount).
If your camera doesn’t support phase-detection AF with adapted lenses (α7, α7R, α7S, α7S II, or any of the APS-C models), you’ll need to choose one of these A-mount lenses, together with the Sony LA-EA4 adapter:
Tamron 24-70mm f/2.8 Di USD. Please note that the Sony A-mount version of this lens does not have image stabilization built in.
Any of these lenses will provide similar performance, albeit with different tradeoffs. There’s not a right or wrong choice here, but be aware of the compromises you’re making when choosing an adapted lens. While most of these will be sharper than the Zeiss in the corners at the 24mm end, they may show more distortion, or have a more sterile rendering. AF will, in nearly all cases, perform worse than with the native Zeiss lens, as well.
Again, there’s not a right or wrong choice here, but making an informed purchase is essential.
In this day and age, it’s impossible to overstate the importance of having an outstanding standard zoom for every camera system. With that in mind, you can look at the Zeiss 24-70mm f/4 lens in two different ways:
1) It’s a very good standard zoom that provides great optical quality, while remaining light and compact enough to be used casually. Its build quality is outstanding, and the classic Zeiss rendering, contrast, color and pop are all there. In that sense, it’s hard not to praise this as an excellent lens.
2) It’s a lens that compromises in some important ways, most notably in corner sharpness at the wide end, and such compromises are unacceptable at this price point.
Here’s the pickle we’re in, though: both of those statements are correct. It’s absolutely true that the Zeiss 24-70mm is a very good lens when you look at it in isolation, but it’s just as true that there are equivalent lenses for other systems that perform significantly better in some non-trivial ways, and don’t cost nearly as much.
Both statements are correct, but whichever one is more important is for you to decide. For what it’s worth, it’s easy to lose perspective when thinking about a lens with a reviewer’s mindset. You start looking at its competitors and making comparisons that aren’t always representative of real world usage — there are still many pain points to using adapted lenses, for example, something the price difference doesn’t alleviate — and then you have the responsibility of telling people how to spend their money.
In this case, however, the choice is entirely yours. All I can say is that, once I started using the lens in the real world, I didn’t feel like I was missing out on extra sharpness in the corners, or anything like that. Instead, I was pleasantly surprised by how great it felt in the hand, how easy it was to work with, and how rich and detailed my pictures were when I looked at them in a non-pixel-peeping kind of way — as most humans do.
In this reviewer’s humble opinion, sharpness charts and laboratory tests have their place, but they shouldn’t be the primary factors guiding our purchases. Yes, your corners may be a bit soft under a microscope at 24mm with the Zeiss 24-70mm f/4, but that’s not something you’re likely to notice in actual use unless you specifically go looking for it. If you can make your peace with that, as have I, there’s plenty else to love about this lens.