Testing the Sony 16-35mm F4 Zeiss Handheld on the A7ii
If you’re new to these articles, you can find the first 3 posts here:
- Part 1 – What gear I chose and why
- Part 2 – Initial tests of the camera with the Sony 70-200mm f4
- Part 3 – Further tests of the 70-200mm for landscape shots
Today’s Test Setup: A7ii + 16-35mm
For today’s test, I decided to use the Sony 16-35mm f4 Zeiss handheld with the Sony A7ii. As with earlier tests, I let the A7ii figure out its own ISO and white balance. In most cases I used auto-focus and aperture priority mode.
I tested without tripod today as I wanted to see what was possible without one, and test some even higher ISOs to see where my breaking point might be in that regard. Below you’ll find my unedited shots SOOC which demonstrates the capabilities of this lens handheld.
Test 1: Channelling My Inner Pink Floyd Fan
My first test for today had me wandering around the local village looking for worthy test subjects. I particularly wanted to test lens distortion and the sharpness across the entire image.
What better test subject for distortion than a lovely brick wall?!
In the words of Pink Floyd: “Wrong, do it again!”
Before I dive into the detailed shots of the wall, I need to tell you that I had a serious WTF moment with my camera today. I want to mention it because it REALLY stumped me for a while. I’m hoping that exposing my silly mistakes as I get used to the A7ii will help anyone else who encounters the same issues.
When I first tried to auto-focus on the lovely wall below, the focus would constantly bounce back and forth. It just wouldn’t lock on. I tried various apertures and it got worse the narrower the aperture was. Super weird.
After much fiddling, it turns out that if your auto-focus is set to continuous it REALLY messes with static objects. I’d been testing that yesterday for moving targets and it was fine. The moral of the story seems to be to only use this occasionally and set it to “Single Shot AF” when you’re not shooting moving objects. Lesson learned!
Back To The Wall
Once I figured out that focus issue, I could return to trying to photograph the wall! Below are two shots, taken at 16mm and 35mm. I wanted to show you examples of the distortion and sharpness at the extremes of the lens. I took both of these handheld at f11 which should in theory be nice and sharp:
The above image was shot at 16mm and if you look at the very bottom, you can see the line of the wall curves up toward the edges. To me, this distortion is pretty minimal and Lightroom has had no trouble at all straightening out the wall.
If you click the image, you’ll see the full size jpq which shows you the detail and sharpness across the image. Remember this was shot hand-held so if there’s any minor blur across the image, that’s probably my fault! Overall, I’m really impressed with the sharpness – it’s lovely and sharp from the centre to the edges.
As with the 16mm, you’ll note some distortion here, as expected. Again, it’s really quite minimal and Lightroom does a fantastic job of straightening it out.
This shot was also hand-held and despite that it’s done a great job of being sharp throughout the image. I’ve uploaded the full resolution jpg if you’d like to see for yourself. Just click the image!
Test 2: A Difficult Indoors Shot
This test is probably a little harsh. I took the camera inside the local church which is REALLY dark inside, and has super bright back-lit windows. Not only that, I made the camera take this shot hand-held. Normally I’d use a tripod in this situation, but I wanted to see what it could do when really pushed!
Here’s the result:
As with the wall shots, clicking the image will show you the full size jpg.
Let’s tackle various aspects of this image in detail…
There’s so much going on in this image that I find it hard to spot distortion myself. If I let Lightroom adjust it, it does change the image quite a bit. Since Lightroom does a good job of fixing distortion it seems fair to move on!
Unless I’ve missed it, I can’t see any colour fringing in the image. If anyone spots some, let me know!
I think we’ve found my ISO / Noise limit! In this image, because there are a lot of smooth surfaces like the wood and shiny floor, the noise at 6400 ISO is pretty noticeable. That said, it’s still nowhere near as bad as my old gear would have been. If I really wanted to, I could probably fix some of the noise in post-processing. Realistically though, in most cases I’d be shooting images like this on a tripod at a much lower iso.
This is a touch image for the camera to capture. Those windows are so bright and the ceiling is almost black. Note I’ve said “almost black”, because the A7ii in all its dynamic range glory has managed to capture most of this image without clipping.
There is a tiny bit of clipping to the highlights, but there’s still enough information captured that I can rescue the window highlights pretty easily in Lightroom. Here’s a before/after:
All I’ve done here is a little bit of Lightroom noise reduction and reduced the whites/highlights. Given it’s such a small area of the image, I think most people won’t be looking this close, but it’s nice to know the information can be recovered if needed!
As with the wall images, the image is a consistent sharpness from centre to edges. Obviously this is a difficult test image for sharpness due to the high ISO and noise, but from the tests, I’m confident that a tripod shot at lower ISO would give fantastic results.
This was only a super quick test of the 16-35mm lens today. Overall it has performed very well hand held. The stabilisation of the A7ii combined with the Optical Steady Shot (OSS) of the lens results in some great images even when hand-held at slower shutter speeds. I’m pretty confident that I could take this lens out on most daytime shoots without a tripod and it would do well.
For darker indoor shots and long exposures, I’d definitely want to use a tripod. It’s also worth noting that the lens isn’t the lightest, so while I easily carried it around in my hand for a couple of hours, a monopod or tripod for support might be nice for long shoots.
Overall, the Sony 16-35mm f4 Zeiss is a fantastic lens to use – it’s sharp, feels lovely to use, and focuses well. The only downside of this lens that I can find would be the hefty price tag. However, it’s Zeiss quality glass and in this case, you really get what you pay for. If you can afford this lens, I wholeheartedly recommend it!
I’ve got a filter adapter on the way to make my 77mm ND and polarising filters work with the 72mm diameters of these Sony lenses. Once I’ve got those, I’ll take both lenses out for a proper landscape shoot with tripod somewhere scenic. Anyone fancy a photo roadtrip to the seaside? :)