Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens Review

Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens

Completion of this review awaits the arrival of the lens, currently scheduled to ship on June 24th.

The Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens covers the oft-required ultra-wide-angle to modestly-wid-angle focal length range in a compact, lightweight package, with a moderately-wide constant f/4 aperture facilitating those latter attributes.

Additional features, including power zoom, dual XD linear drive AF, and reduced focus breathing, make this lens a highly attractive choice for video capture.

Promised outstanding image quality combined with a moderate price additively ensures the popularity of this lens.

Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens Angle View

Focal Length Range

The focal length range is the first aspect to consider for zoom lens selection. Focal length drives subject distance choices, which determine perspective.

Often, one cannot back up far enough to get a large subject or vast scene in the frame, and in that case, an ultra-wide-angle zoom lens is the right choice. When a foreground subject is to be emphasized, rendered large in relation to a vast background (potentially in sharp focus), moving in close with an ultra-wide-angle zoom lens is the right choice.

What subjects are this versatile ultra-wide-angle zoom lens ideal for? That list is huge, but let's discuss a few of the genres most photographed by this lens class.

Which photography genre has the hugest subjects? While astrophotographers arguably have the largest subjects, this lens lacks the ultra-wide aperture ideal for that use. Landscape photography is a great answer to that question. It's a big world, and the 16-35mm focal length range is a perfect choice for capturing the beauty of our planet.

This lens gives us reason to go out and enjoy the great outdoors.

Another genre of photography with huge subjects, often including some landscape, is real estate photography, and this lens is a solid interior and exterior choice for this use. Directly related to real estate photography is architecture photography. This lens will take in massive structures even when a short working distance is available.

When photographing real estate and architecture, a level camera is often desired to keep walls and the sides of buildings straight/vertical in the frame, avoiding converging lines. However, it is not always possible, affordable, or convenient to get the camera to a height that permits the optimal framing with a level camera. This need is especially common when photographing building exteriors from ground level.

A tilt-shift lens is the ideal answer to that problem, but an ultra-wide-angle lens can also get the job done. Simply set up the camera in a level position, zoom out until the building (or another subject) is contained in the frame, capture the image, and then crop whatever is not desired in the frame, typically at the bottom, during post-processing. Basically, having a lens that takes in wide angles of view can circumvent the need for a tilt-shift lens (with resolution loss from the cropping being a downside) or pixel-level-destructive perspective correction.

Usually, the structures we photograph are built for people, and people are a good subject for this focal length range.

While a close-up perspective can look amazing in a wide-angle landscape scene, it is generally to be avoided when a person is the primary subject. We do not typically look at a person from really close distances, and if we do, that person becomes uncomfortable with us being in their personal space (and even more so when a camera is in hand). When we look at photos of people captured from very close distances, certain body parts (usually the nose) start to look humorously (to some) large.

Unique portrait perspectives can be fun, but this technique should not be overused as it quickly gets old. Get the telephoto lens out for your tightly framed portraits.

Still, wide-angle focal lengths can still be a great choice for photographing people. Simply move back and include people in a larger scene, creating environmental portraits.

The 35mm focal length provides a natural perspective and is a great choice for full-body portraits. The 16-35mm focal length range also works well for small up to large groups. Note that group photography requiring an ultra-wide-angle focal length to fit everyone in the frame often leaves those in the front row appearing considerably larger than those in the back row (the subject distance varies by a significant percentage). Back up or move the subjects closer together (front to back) to reduce the multi-row perspective issue.

The 16-35mm focal length range is the perfect option for the wide work at weddings, family gatherings, and other events, and for photojournalism and sports photography needs when the f/4 aperture is sufficient.

This lens, including the focal length range, size, and weight, is an ideal candidate for self-recording, vlogging, including on the optional Sony GP-VPT2BT Shooting Grip.

To explore this focal length range, we head to RB Rickett's falls in Ricketts Glen State Park (these examples were captured with the Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens).

Sony FE 16-35mm f/2.8 GM Lens Focal Length Range Example

16mm | 20mm | 24mm | 28mm | 35mm

Utilizing a smaller portion of the image circle means that APS-C sensor format cameras see a narrower angle of view, with 1.5x being the multiplier (FOVCF) for Sony's lineup. An APS-C imaging sensor will see a 22.4-56mm full-frame angle of view equivalent from this lens. While not as ultra-wide angle on the small format imaging sensor, this range continues to work great for landscape use, and it is improved for portrait photography.

Videographers will find the 16-35mm focal length range equally useful as still photographers, and this lens is highly optimized for video recording.

Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens

The Power Zoom Feature

Directly related to the focal length discussion is how those focal lengths are selected.

We have witnessed the decoupling of focus rings from the focus mechanics, enabling electronic control of focusing, and decoupling the zoom ring makes similar sense. This lens's quad XD linear motors drive the zoom mechanism electronically, making focal length controllable from the conventional-appearing focus ring, a sliding switch on the lens, the optional Sony Remote Commander RMT-P1BT, the optional Sony GP-VPT2BT Shooting Grip, a video camera, software in a remote control app (including Sony's Imaging Edge Mobile app), etc.

The power zoom feature enables a constant zoom adjustment rate that is otherwise difficult to achieve. With the power zoom, combine movements, including on a slider, jib, or crane, with focal length change to set your footage apart.

Note that, with the zoom ring disconnected from the specific focal length, the focal length numbers cannot be printed on the zoom ring, and no electronic on-the-lens feature (an LCD, for example) provides this.

Max Aperture

The lower the aperture number, the wider the opening, and the more light a lens can allow to reach the imaging sensor. Each "stop" in aperture change (full stop examples: f/2.0, f/2.8, f/4.0, f/5.6) increases or decreases the light reaching the sensor by a factor of 2x (a substantial factor).

Wide aperture lenses, allowing more light to reach the sensor, permit freezing action and handholding the camera in lower light levels and at lower (less noisy) ISO settings. In addition to allowing more light to reach the sensor, increasing the aperture opening provides a shallower DOF (Depth of Field) that creates a stronger, better subject-isolating background blur (at equivalent focal lengths). Often important is the improved low light AF performance facilitated by the increased amount of light reaching the imaging sensor.

A narrow aperture's advantages are related to reduced (often significantly) lens element size and include smaller overall size, lighter weight, and lower cost. Right, everyone loves those factors.

Because the aperture is measured as a ratio of lens opening to focal length, the focal length must be taken into consideration when assessing how wide a lens's aperture can open. At 600mm, f/4 is a massive opening. In a 16-35mm lens, f/4 is relatively narrow, and this lens was designed to take advantage of the small size, light weight, and lower cost advantages.

Wide apertures are not always needed especially in the ultra-wide-angle zoom focal length range.

Motion blur is caused when subject details cross over imaging sensor pixels during the exposure. Although this lens can be used with a very close subject rendered large in the frame, lenses such as this one are often used at normal (or even long) subject distances. This low magnification means those subjects' details more readily stay in their pixels, permitting the longer exposures required to compensate for the narrower aperture to still deliver sharp results, free of subject or camera motion blur.

Many of the uses for this lens mandate a narrower aperture, such as f/8 or f/11, to keep everything in the frame sharp, and photographers concentrating on landscape, architecture, real estate, etc. may seldom use the f/4 option.

Still, f/4 reduces this lens's capabilities modestly relative to the f/2.8 zoom lens options available in this focal length range. Those photographing moving subjects, such as at sports events or under the night sky where light levels are so low that the earth's rotation becomes a source of camera motion, may prefer a wider aperture lens over the increased ISO setting alternatively required.

It is hard to diffusely blur the background with the low magnification provided by an ultra-wide-angle lens. Such lenses render the background details small in size, keeping the background subjects more recognizable (and potentially distracting).

Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens and Click Switches

As usual for Sony FE GM and G prime lenses, the Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens, a zoom lens, features an aperture ring, permitting a manually selected aperture. The camera controls the aperture setting with the ring in the A (Auto) position. All other settings electronically force the aperture to the chosen opening. A 2-position switch on the bottom right side of the lens toggles the aperture ring between 1/3 stop clicks and smooth, quiet, non-clicked adjustments, ideal for video recording.

Aside from a slightly more complicated design, I find inadvertent aperture changes the primary disadvantage of an aperture ring (especially when photographing in the dark). In previous reviews, I mentioned that a lock for the ring would eliminate that issue, and this lens gets an iris lock switch. Perfect.

Image Stabilization

As mentioned, the shorter the focal length, the smaller subject details (captured at the same distance) are rendered, and the less still the camera must be held to avoid subject details crossing imaging sensor pixels, the source of motion blur. This lens features only ultra-wide to wide-angle focal lengths. Sony has omitted included image stabilization, OSS (Optical SteadyShot) in their recent wide-angle lenses, and not surprising is that the Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens also lacks OSS.

Still, image stabilization remains a valuable feature in any lens. Sony addresses that omission with Steady Shot IBIS (In-Body Image Stabilization) in their mirrorless cameras. In addition to reducing camera shake, the stabilized imaging sensor provides a still viewfinder image, enabling careful composition. Furthermore, sensor-based AF takes advantage of the stabilized view for improved accuracy.

With no IS switch on the lens, the camera menu must be used to enable or disable IBIS or check the current settings. This extra step is a slight impediment to working quickly, going from tripod mounted to handholding, for example.

Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens Top View

Image Quality

While image quality testing awaits the arrival of this lens, the MTF charts indicate the Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens is an outstanding optical performer.

Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens MTF Charts

The design of this lens is illustrated below.

Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens Design

[1] Advanced aspherical lens (AA lens) [2] Aspherical lens [3] ED (extra-low dispersion) aspherical lens [4] Super ED glass [5] ED (extra-low dispersion) glass

"Impeccable Sony G Lens design emphasizes a graceful balance between high resolution and gorgeous background bokeh that can enhance the artist’s vision." [Sony]

Focusing

"Two XD (extreme dynamic) Linear Motors deliver quick, quiet, low-vibration autofocus while maintaining compact lens dimensions. Tenacious, reliable AF can smoothly track subjects while shooting high frame rate photos or movies." [Sony]

This lens promises high tracking performance even at 30 fps while zooming, with tracking performance while zooming improved by approximately 2x over the version I lens.

Typically, an f/4 lens does not autofocus as well as f/2.8 lenses in very dark environments, but still, this one should perform adequately for most uses.

Sony's FE lenses consistently focus accurately, the number one requirement of an AF system, so I'd be disappointed to learn otherwise for this lens.

This is an internally focusing lens.

A customizable AF hold button is provided. With the camera set to continuous focus mode, press the AF hold button to lock focus at the currently selected focus distance, permitting a focus and recompose technique. This button also acts as a custom button, programmable to other functions via the camera's menu.

FTM (Full Time Manual) focusing is supported via Sony's DMF (Direct Manual Focus) AF mode with the shutter release half-pressed or the AF-ON button pressed. This lens has an AF/MF switch, allowing this frequently used camera setting to be changed without accessing the menu system.

The Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens has a fine-sharp-ribbed rubberized focus ring ideally positioned forward of the zoom ring. This ring is modest in size and raised noticeably from the zoom ring immediately behind it, easy to find.

This is a linear response MF ring, facilitating marks for repeatable distances.

Overall, expect this lens to provide a quality manual focus experience, with nice rotational resistance and no play.

Normal is for the scene to change size in the frame (sometimes significantly) as the focus is pulled from one extent to the other. This is focus breathing, a change in focal length resulting from a change in focus distance. Focus breathing impacts photographers intending to use focus stacking techniques, videographers pulling focus, and anyone critically framing while adjusting focus.

Sony promotes this lens having a minimal change in subject size through a full extent focus distance adjustment.

"Smooth Motion Optics (SMO) suppresses focus breathing to help maintain compositional accuracy when changing focus. This lens is also compatible with the Breathing Compensation function in select Alpha cameras." [B&H]

Unusual for a non-cinema lens is for accurate focus to be maintained throughout the zoom range without re-focusing. Per Sony, this lens is optimized in this regard.

Here are more Sony lens advantages for video:

A focus distance window is not provided, but a focus distance meter shows in the lower portion of the camera's electronic viewfinder during manual focusing.

With a minimum focus distance of 11.0" (280mm), this lens has a 0.23x maximum magnification spec. Interesting is that this lens has the same minimum focus distance as its predecessor but creates a higher maximum magnification. Likely this difference shows the PZ lens having less focus breathing.

ModelMFDMM
Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens7.9"(200mm)0.38x
Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens11.0"(280mm)0.21x
Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 DG DN Art Lens11.0"(280mm)0.14x
Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM Lens11.0"(280mm)0.14x
Sony FE 12-24mm F4 G Lens11.0"(280mm)0.14x
Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Lens11.0"(280mm)0.19x
Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens11.0"(280mm)0.23x
Sony FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS Lens11.0"(280mm)0.19x
Tamron 17-28mm f/2.8 Di III RXD Lens7.5"(190mm)0.19x

Need a shorter minimum focus distance and higher magnification? Mount an extension tube behind this lens to significantly decrease and increase those respective numbers. Extension tubes are hollow lens barrels that shift a lens farther from the camera, allowing shorter focusing distances at the expense of long-distance focusing. Electronic connections in extension tubes permit the lens and camera to communicate and otherwise function normally. As of review time, Sony does not publish extension tube specs or manufacture these items, but third-party Sony-compatible extension tubes are available.

This lens is not compatible with Sony teleconverters.

Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens Side View

Build Quality & Features

"World-class design and technology come together to deliver a compact, lightweight lens that also includes focus, zoom and aperture/iris rings and power zoom for unprecedented mobility and handling. [Sony]

While an "M" is not attached to the "G" in the name, meaning this lens is not a member of the Grand Master lineup, Sony's G lenses are always well built.

Rings and switches consume much of the FE PZ 16-35mm lens's fixed size, and Sony notes that this lens's overall balance remains constant for gimbal or drone-mounted movie recording. Engineering plastic is utilized for the exterior construction.

The Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens features a dust and moisture-resistant design, ready for outdoor use in challenging conditions.

All seams are sealed, the buttons and switches have silicone rubber gaskets, and a rubber ring seals the lens mount.

Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens Weather Sealing

The front lens element is fluorine coating to avoid dirt and moisture adhesion and make cleaning considerably easier.

With the Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens, Sony claims "The world's lightest full-frame F4 wide-angle power-zoom lens." It is also the only full-frame F4 wide-angle power-zoom lens among the lenses we currently cover.

Still, this is a compact, lightweight lens, weighing 30% less than its predecessor.

ModelWeight oz(g)Dimensions w/o Hood "(mm)FilterYear 
Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens19.1(540)3.3 x 3.9(84.1 x 99.8)772021
Canon RF 15-35mm F2.8 L IS USM Lens29.7(840)3.5 x 5.0(88.5 x 126.8)822019
Sigma 12-24mm f/4 DG HSM Art Lens40.6(1150)4.0 x 5.2(102.0 x 131.5)2016
Sony FE 12-24mm F2.8 GM Lens29.9(847)3.8 x 5.4(97.6 x 137.0)2020
Sony FE 12-24mm F4 G Lens19.9(565)3.4 x 4.6(87.0 x 117.4)2017
Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Lens24.0(680)3.5 x 4.8(88.5 x 121.6)822017
Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens12.5(353)3.2 x 3.5(80.5 x 88.1)722022
Sony FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS Lens18.3(518)3.1 x 3.9(78.0 x 98.5)722014

For many more comparisons, review the complete Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens Specifications using the site's lens specifications tool.

Fitting is for a compact lens to have relatively narrow filter threads — 72mm in this case. 72mm filters are common, facilitating filter sharing.

Standard thickness circular polarizer filters commonly increase peripheral shading when in front of focal lengths this wide. Therefore, a slim model such as the Breakthrough Photography X4 is highly recommended.

Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens Mount ALC-SH172 Lens Hood

The Sony ALC-SH172 lens hood is included in the box. This semi-rigid plastic petal-shaped hood has a matte interior designed to avoid reflections. An advantage of this hood shape is easier installation alignment (simply learn the small petal to the top orientation), though a round-shaped hood better enables the lens to stand on its hood. This hood offers some physical protection and, especially at wide focal lengths, optimal protection from bright light.

Sony also includes a case with this lens.

Price, Value, Wrap Up

The Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens has a mid-level price. For what this lens promises to deliver, that price makes it appear a solid value.

As an "FE" lens, the Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens is compatible with all Sony E-mount cameras, including full-frame and APS-C sensor format models. Sony provides a 1-year limited warranty.

The reviewed Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens will be online-retail sourced.

Alternatives to the Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens

When the FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens was announced, Sony already had the FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS Lens in the lineup. From the names, we see the Zeiss "ZA" branding and "OSS" (Optical Steady Shot) drop off, with the "G" and "PZ" Power Zoom added.

The ZA lens was optically a strong performer — except at the long end. Still, expect the G lens to outperform it over the entire focal length range, especially at 35mm. We often reach the extents of the zoom lens in our hands, making the full extent focal length image quality especially important.

The Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens vs. FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS Lens comparison shows the PZ lens considerably lighter and modestly shorter. The ZA lens is slightly narrower. The PZ lens has the namesake power zoom feature, reduced focus breathing, and a higher maximum at the same minimum focus distance — 0.23x vs. 0.19x. The PZ lens has Dual XD Linear AF drive vs. SSM. It also has a fixed length. That the newer PZ lens costs noticeably less than the ZA lens makes this decision a no-brainer.

Does a wider aperture have value to you? The Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Lens shares the same focal length and provides a 2x wider aperture. Those photographing subjects in motion in low light, including the night sky, will especially appreciate that aspect.

The Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens vs. Sony FE 16-35mm F2.8 GM Lens comparison shows the 2x wider aperture directly translated to a 2x weight gain. The volume of the f/2.8 lens is similarly larger, with a larger filter size included — 82mm vs. 72mm. The PZ lens has the namesake power zoom feature, reduced focus breathing, and a higher maximum at the same minimum focus distance — 0.23x vs. 0.19x. The PZ lens has Dual XD Linear AF drive vs. SSM. It also has a fixed length. While the price difference is not 2x, the f/2.8 lens costs nearly that much more than the f/4 lens.

It is always interesting to look across systems when comparing lenses. While not Sony camera compatible, the RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens is Canon's closest option. Obvious from the names is that the Canon lens has significantly wider focal lengths available, has 5.5-stop-rated in-lens image stabilization, and does not have power zoom.

The Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens vs. Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM Lens comparison shows the Sony lens considerably lighter and noticeably smaller. The Canon lens has 9 aperture blades vs. 7 and focuses considerably closer, turning in a 0.38x maximum magnification vs. 0.23x. The Canon lens is moderately more expensive.

Use the site's tools to create additional comparisons.

Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens

Summary

The diminutive Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens is a great option for ultra-wide through wide-angle coverage.

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Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens
Sony FE PZ 16-35mm F4 G Lens
Bryan Carnathan
by Bryan Carnathan
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